A Perhaps-Premature Recap of My Year

The calendar is inching up on the nine-year anniversary of this blog and it’s starting to feel like it’s been that long since I’ve actually written anything. It’s been an interesting year and the last couple of months have been no exception. It’s probably a bit early for a year-end recap but I feel the need to clear my mind so I can focus on what comes next.

I started the year splitting my time between two projects: one was implementing a geospatial data publication workflow for a US federal civilian agency. I was part of a large team and my role was to work out the ingest, registration, publication of all data types. That project got me elbow-deep in Node, PostGIS, GeoServer, and also gave me some exposure to the Voyager search API. I found the whole experience pretty exciting as we had a really strong implementation team. As a result, I learned a lot and , hopefully, was able to teach a few things along the way. It was the kind of experience you hope every project can be. My involvement wound down toward the middle of the year.


The other project I was working on was, and is, for a long-standing customer supporting one of their key applications that’s built on a legacy technology stack. I was specifically tasked with integrating some external application services into their core system architecture and with exposing some of their services in a manner compliant with a government-produced system called the “Ozone Widget Framework” (OWF). That kept me current with .Net while keeping a foot in the JavaScript world. Interestingly, our customer was recently directed to migrate to a full open-source implementation so my worlds are converging as we plan a transition away from Microsoft and Esri technologies.

The latter half of the year hasn’t involved much geospatial work for me. I’ve experienced those cycles in the past since complex systems often have many non-geospatial requirements that will take priority any different points in the lifecycle. I’ve managed over the year to stay active in that area in a couple of ways. First, I attended the GEOINT Symposium for the first time in my career and found it pretty interesting. Much of the subject matter was very reminiscent of topics in hot debate last decade but there’s been a plethora of new technologies developed to smooth many of the cumbersome workflows we dealt with then. I was surprised, however, at how much I had retained despite a few years away from direct involvement in that area.

I also had the opportunity to attend two small, one-day conferences: JS.GEO, which I have written about previously, and the Satellite Summit (SatSummit), hosted by Mapbox. In all of my years in geospatial, I’ve kept earth observation and its related technologies and workflows at arm’s length, preferring instead to work with vector data in my applications. I once had a coworker who said you were either a “pixel pusher” or a “vector bender” and I’ve always fallen into the latter category. As a result, SatSummit was a bit of a firehose for me and I learned a lot. The disruption that small satellites are having in what has traditionally been a fairly staid market segment is compelling. There was really too much to cover in one post but it’s an area I plan to delve into more. Suffice it to say that I’m happy I went.

I’ve also been involved in the advisory board of GeoHipster. This a has been a great way to work with professionals in the geospatial industry with whom I would not normally get the opportunity. It’s been fun experiencing the energy behind it and it’s been a great window into community-building. I also dipped a toe into academia this year by teaching a course, which I am preparing to reprise this spring.

I’ve continued some long-standing work I’ve been doing with David Puckett, developing a monitoring and evaluation system for an NGO. That’s been fascinating work for a couple of years, giving us insight into the operations of the development community. The nice part is that the system is at the point where we are implementing features that they’ve wanted for a long time and it’s rewarding to see the value it adds to their business insight. This system has “just enough geo” to be useful without it becoming the 800-pound gorilla. I’ve done back-end API development while Dave has worked his UX magic. The time-to-market on this project has run rings around most federal work I’ve done and it’s been exciting to deliver working, useful code rapidly and often.

So, it’s been a fairly diverse year. I get the sense that all of this is building toward something but I can’t quite get the shape of it yet. I’m certain it will come into clearer focus and, until it does, there’s no shortage of opportunities to explore.