Thank You, Keith Masback

If you’re lucky, you’ll meet people throughout your career who provide the necessary influence, whether they realize it or not, that you need at the time. One such person for me in recent years has been Keith Masback, who recently concluded a 10-year run as the CEO of the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF).

Geospatial intelligence, or GEOINT in Beltway jargon, is most closely associated with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), where the term was coined in the post-9/11 timeframe. The USGIF was formed shortly thereafter as the non-profit educational and outreach arm of the GEOINT community.

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Data Is Hard

Where I work, we have developed a nuanced philosophy to describe the niceties of collecting data, managing it, validating it, and preparing it for use: “Data is hard.”

This was brought to light in a very public manner by the vandalism that was displayed on basemaps produced by Mapbox. The responses by Mapbox  and their CEO, Eric Gendersen, are good examples of how a company should respond to such incidents. Kudos to him and the team at Mapbox for addressing and rectifying the situation quickly.

The Gordian Knot
By jmerelo [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Speculation quickly ran to vandalism of OSM, which is one of the primary data sources used by Mapbox in their products. That speculation was backed up by the edit history in the New York area, but it is interesting to note that the vandalism was caught early in OSM and never came to light is OSM itself. In this case, the crowd worked as it was supposed to.

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The Consulting Mindset and the War on Cubicle Body

I’ve been debating for a while whether I wanted to write this post, as the subject matter deviates greatly from the technical and professional writing I normally offer here. I decided to do so because my recent dive into fitness is intertwined with my professional life and affects how I approach my day, so I think it has bearing on my life as a 21st-century tech worker firmly planted in middle age.

I need to thank everyone who follows me on social media for putting up with my various “war on cubicle body” posts. You have been part of my publicly crowd-sourcing accountability for my fitness-related goals. I’ll dig into that more deeply later on.

I have been somewhat surprised, on social media and in person, to the reception “the war” has received. I expected the reception to be positive, which it has been, due to the supportive nature of the people in my extended circle. I was more surprised by the number of people who have told me it has motivated them to kick-start their own journey. I am truly humbled by that. Finally, I’ve also gotten a good dose of the expected “I don’t know how you do it” and “Where do you find the time?” comments. Because this begins to get at the conundrum faced by many tech and information workers in today’s society, I decided this post may be relevant. Settle in, there’s no TL;DR nor will I split it into parts.

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FOSS4G-NA 2018: People

A couple of my Spatial Networks colleagues and I spent most of last week in St. Louis, Missouri at the FOSS4G North America conference. Following up on attending the international FOSS4G conference in Boston, this is the most time I’ve spent with this community in quite a while. There has been no particular intent to stay away, but the ebbs and flows of life can result in absences from the scene.

I’m always struck by the diversity of imagination and content at every FOSS4G event and this one was no different. I am relative late-comer to FOSS4G events, having not attended one until the 2011 conference in Denver. That was the year of what I call ‘yet another javascript library’ because it seemed there were a lot of geo-centric libraries presented that year. It was also when I first saw CartoDB. The content, from my viewpoint, was very tech-focused, due primarily to a lot of new tech arriving on the scene and shaking up how even the more forward-leaning FOSS4G world was thinking about doing things.

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Lately…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, owing to 2018 getting off to a quick start. At work, we wrapped up the year at Spatial Networks by putting the finishing touches on a strategic plan that calls for the company roughly doubling in size next year. This has been reflected in our aggressive pacing of hiring across a number of disciplines, and it promises to continue.

I just celebrated my first anniversary with Spatial Networks and it’s been a great experience. Coming from a federal consulting background, I’ve learned a lot about the software-as-a-service business and have had a lot of opportunity to exercise the technical leadership skills I had been looking to expand.

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Belatedly, TUgis 2017 Keynote Text

In March of 2017, I gave the keynote address at TUgis, Maryland’s geospatial conference. Despite a few requests, I’ve been remiss about posting the text until now. The following lengthy block quote is the address as I had written it. It differs slightly from what I actually said, but I can no longer recall the on-the-fly changes I made. The original text is pretty close, though. It was written before some of the announcements by Microsoft and Amazon later in the year, but that simply serves to illustrate the pace with which trends discussed here are moving.

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Thoughts on the Updated Geospatial Data Act

Over the summer, I wrote a post commenting on a piece of legislation known as the “Geospatial Data Act of 2017.” This legislation, or something similar to it, comes up every few years and has yet to get signed into law. In my post, I raised concerns about language that would have defined the use of private-sector entities in the collection of geospatial data assets covered by the legislation. I won’t re-hash the concerns I had at the time, but you can read my original post.

I am happy to say that the bill was re-introduced on 15 November 2017 (GIS Day 2017) as HR4395 and S2128. In this new version of the bill, the language that concerned me has been completely removed, and, with that, any serious objection I may have had with the bill.

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Harvey and Fulcrum Community

There was a time in my consulting career where I was providing GIS software and database support to the US federal critical infrastructure protection community. Part of that work involved ‘event response,’ which most often took the form of natural disasters. I never deployed, but a lot of my co-workers did.

Ground truth was always the biggest problem. We were always trying to get a sense of what conditions were like on the ground with as little latency as we could manage. With the technology of the 2003 – 2007 time frame, that was a significant challenge. Whether notepads or spreadsheets or custom data collection extensions deployed on ToughBooks, we tried just about everything we could think of. Some of my co-workers even managed a forward-deployed ArcIMS server to try to get anything useful out of the affected areas after Katrina.

Fast-forward to 2017 and we’re dealing with the unprecedented aftermath of Harvey in the Houston, Texas area. I find myself in the fortunate position of working for a company, Spatial Networks, that has a technology I wish we had back then. In addition to the technology, the company has the will to open it up and put it in the hands of whomever needs it.

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FOSS4G 2017 Recap

It’s been almost two weeks since I returned from FOSS4G 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts (USA), and I wanted to take a little time to regroup and get caught up before settling down to write about it.

It was a busy week, highlighted for me and the Spatial Networks team by the first-ever Fulcrum Live event. Held on the second day of workshops, it was our first user conference for Fulcrum, the mobile data collection platform by Spatial Networks. The event went off without issue, so we are very happy about that.

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