Thank You for 10 Years

My last few posts have been bit…shall we say…retrospective, so I won’t dwell there too much this time.

The beginning of this month saw the ten-year anniversary of my first post on this blog. A lot has changed during that time in the geospatial industry. I am fascinated by the tools, concepts, and issues that were important to me a decade ago.

A quick skim of posts and comments reveal a number of relationships that began through this blog, jumped over to social media, and eventually found their way into real life. More than any technology that I may have written about, the people I have come to know as result of writing this blog are invaluable to me.

So I will leave it at this, today: To everyone who has read, shared, re-posted, commented, clarified, or otherwise participated in this endeavor with me, thank you. I can only hope that the value you have received from this blog approaches a fraction of that which I have gained from you.

I can’t wait to see what the next ten years has in store.

Post GIS

Early in my career, I was interviewing for a job with a large, three-letter, consulting firm. I was going to be the “GIS guy” on the team. The interview was wide ranging and went well. We eventually got around to the topic of dynamic maps on web sites. To place this in the proper technology context, this was 1998.


As it happened, I had some experience with web mapping as I had just implemented ArcView IMS for my soon-to-be-former employer. Avenue and HTML, FTW!

The hiring manager, being a mainline IT guy and a tech geek at heart, began to postulate how they must work. In this mind, there was a database full of small JPEG or GIF images that you queried and sent to the browser, based on the user’s current map extent. This, of course, was preposterous to a “GIS guy” like me.

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A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to a Calendar

The call for maps for the 2017 GeoHipster calendar has closed and review is underway. I haven’t begun collating the responses yet, so I have no idea how it will turn out, but I can say that, for me, the process so far has been personally rewarding.


I was not involved in the making of the 2015 calendar. When it came time to considering doing one for 2016, I volunteered to coordinate the process; with no idea what to expect. We had quite a response and I was impressed with the quality of the work received. Because it was my first time through, I was pretty consumed by the process and probably didn’t get to give as much consideration to the art that was before me.

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Quick Takes From the Southern Maryland GIS User Group

  1. The Fall meeting of the Southern Maryland GIS User Group happened on 5 October 2016. I’ve been involved with the organizing committee for two years, now. It’s been a learning experience trying to build a consistent community in a rural area. In addition to my colleagues of the organizing committee, I’ve met a lot of geospatial practitioners with whom I would not have crossed paths in my usual federally-focused work.

This meeting was a major milestone for us in that it was our first “sell-out.” We distributed all of the available free tickets, filling our venue to capacity. The meeting was superbly coordinated by Erick Pate of the Calvert County, Maryland government.

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The 10-year anniversary of this blog is rapidly approaching and it is not lost on me that it has been laying rather fallow of late. I know others with long-running geospatial blogs have experienced similar situations at around the decade mark, and that only seems natural. If you are living your life well, the motivations and interests that prompt you to start an online presence such as this evolve over the course of a decade.


When I started this blog, it was simply to create the kind of resource that I had been looking for: code-heavy posts that showed how to accomplish tasks I was working. I did that in the hope that others would find it useful, but also to serve as my own personal archive. Now, such resources are abundant as companies and projects recognize the need to engage via blogs and social media.

Of course, all such outlets now seem to be some sort of “official” arm of a company or organization or project. It seems to be increasingly difficult to find a “sole-proprietorship” blog that’s being kept current. It’s not for me to say whether that is positive or negative. I speak from experience when I say it is difficult to maintain such a venture over time, and I certainly see where being part of a content team has advantages.

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Bring Out Your Maps!

It’s time again to get into calendar-making mode. A new call for maps was issued over on GeoHipster for the 2017 calendar. We had a lot of fun last year seeing the creativity from the worldwide geospatial community and we are looking forward to this year’s batch of maps. We also learned a lot from the process last year, so we’ve refined the guidelines.


This year, we’ve added a student track in which three months are reserved for the work of undergraduate students. It’s our way to support those who are just getting started. We hope it helps in some way.

One thing that jumped out at me last year was that the creativity in our community knows no bounds in terms of technology. Last year’s calendar featured maps made with a full range of proprietary and open-source geospatial tools, graphics software, and even cross-stitch (as in needle and thread).

So keep and eye out. We plan to, once again, have the calendar ready for holiday purchases. And bring out your maps!


Other People’s Code

It’s something of a running joke that, you hand existing code to a developer, that developer will stay up all night completely re-writing it. I wish I could say it was completely a joke but, not only have I seen it happen numerous times, I’ve done it.

Counter-intuitively, some developers find it easier to use an existing application as a storyboard for a re-write rather than simply digging into the existing code. This is because programming is not only an extremely mental activity, it is quite psychological as well. When you are asked to take over existing code, as has happened to me a few time recently, you are not only learning the code, you are are also become familiar with how the previous developer(s) approached problem solving. You must train yourself to think like the previous developer in order to understand their approach.

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