Personal Geospatial Workflows, July 2016 Edition

It’s hard to believe, but I last touched upon this topic over two years ago, when my family and I were living in our between-houses rental. One of the goals I had when building our current house was to create a space where I could more effectively work from home. To that end, I have a dedicated office that I’ve been working toward optimizing for my technical work.

One advantage of a dedicated space, which I did not anticipate ate the time, is compartmentalization. One of the dangers with working at home is the blurring of the boundary between work time and personal/family time. In our old house, I definitely felt that as I was working from the dining room table. Now, I can more effectively shut the door and step away. I’m not perfect at doing that, yet, but I am getting better.

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As a consultant doing federal work, I don’t get to work off-site all the time. I’ve been fortunate, however, to have worked a few projects over the past couple of years that have allowed it, so I’ve taken advantage of it as much as possible.

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Esri User Conference 2016

Aside from a day at the Esri Federal GIS Conference, I’ve been laying fairly low from geo industry events for about the past year. There’s no single reason for that; it’s been more that a combination of things like work deadlines or family happenings have taken priority over conflicting conferences and events. I’ve generally been watching from afar, finding tweet streams and their attendant embedded links to be particularly effective.

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I had been considering heading out to San Diego for the Esri user conference this year. It’s the largest gathering of geospatial people in one place every year. Even if you are not an Esri user and can’t attend the event itself, it’s worth going and being in the vicinity as 15,000 geographers descend on San Diego. Even Mapbox is getting into the game on this.

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Revisiting Two Old Friends: ArcGIS and PostGIS

Back in the dark old days of ArcSDE, when it first started to support PostgreSQL/PostGIS as a back-end data store, I did a series of posts about how to work with it. Of course, working with PostGIS in ArcGIS was a theme of the early days of this blog, through my association with zigGIS. Although it’s been the case for a while, I’m feeling a bit happy today that it’s now as simple as this to work with (vanilla, non-geodatabased) PostGIS in ArcMap. (Post continues below the GIF.)

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You might ask “Why not just work in QGIS?” and you would have a valid question. QGIS is a perfectly fine desktop PostGIS client. As a matter of fact, I went almost two years without a functioning copy of ArcMap and using QGIS as my primary desktop tool (which is why I’m exploring the capabilities of ArcGIS 10.4 now). Sometimes, projects dictate what tools you need to use. The data-level interoperability implied by the support shown above has me thinking about hybrid workflows to allow shops (especially small ones) that have need for final products to end up in an Esri stack to still exercise a measure of choice with regard to tools. It may be time to re-tool that old series of posts for the state of GIS tools circa the middle of this decade.

Toolbars

The convoluted user interfaces of most desktop GIS software is something I revisit from time to time. James’ most recent issue of his SpatialTau newsletter got me thinking about it again. A while back, I got caught up in a Twitter discussion about it. Tools like geojson.io and TileMill have fantastic interfaces, but they also perform narrow functions (data editing and map composition, respectively).

For a while, I’ve been thinking that this might be an approach worth investigating: rather than one piece of software with everything in it, a suite of tools dedicated to different aspects of the typical GIS workflow. This would not be a panacea as some tasks are just more complex than others. (Think of all of the editing options available in any piece of CAD software, and this is devoid of any analytical tools.) As attractive as this approach seems to me in concept, I suspect it would break down in execution. I think it could end up multiplying the problem with many overly-complex applications instead of just one.

Over the last year or so, I’ve become somewhat enamored of another approach: the search tool. This requires a little back story.

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A Brief Retrospective

This is the time of year where retrospectives of the previous twelve months become all the rage as content providers have column inches and/or pixels to fill up while skipping out the door on holiday breaks. As an independent blogger, I have no such requirements and the topic of this post, while retrospective, has nothing to do with 2014.

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ArcWhat? I Just Want My Map.

TL;DR:

What follows is probably my last post related to the Esri User Conference and is highly Esri-centric. Open-source readers may want to jump off here, or exercise a willing suspension of disbelief.


A couple of posts ago, I did something that I generally try to avoid. I took Esri to task for its confusing product names without really offering any thoughts on how to make things better. I don’t really like it when people do that to me so I’ll try to correct that here. It bears noting that I was not the only person feeling this way at the UC. I was happy to see Adena’s post over at Directions touch on this and it also came up in a number of conversations I had while I was in San Diego.

Here are some things that I think may help. They represent most of the stumbling blocks I typically encounter when doing consulting/integration with Esri-centric users, especially new ones.


Spaghetti”. Licensed under Wikimedia Commons.

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Personal Geospatial Workflows, May 2014 Edition

I have been spending the past few weeks dealing more with data and mapping than I have in quite a while. It’s given me a chance to regain my footing with map-making, reconnect with some end-user tools like Arc2Earth, and build a little more proficiency with things like GDAL, QGIS, and TileMill. Of course, I’ve been able to sneak in some coding as I’ve identified gaps in my workflow.

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