Recent Diversions

Work in the new all-remote world has actually been quite busy, and I realize I am very fortunate to be able to say that. But we know what they say about all work and no play. For me, play often involves cracking open an IDE, especially since work for me isn’t centered on that anymore. This post is a loose roundup of extracurricular activities that have gotten some attention lately.

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Rural Broadband – An Anecdotal Look

I spent the better part of a decade and a half building geospatial applications in support of infrastructure analysis. Not infrastructure in the modern tech sense of containers and cloud providers and orchestration, but infrastructure in the classic sense of roads and rail and telecommunications. If we consider infrastructure through the lens of the ISO/OSI layered model, I spent a lot of time looking at the physical layer.

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Personal Geography

Human geography or anthropogeography is the branch of geography that deals with the study of people and their communities, cultures, economies, and interactions with the environment by studying their relations with and across space and place.

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_geography)

I was catching up with my friend and former boss, Tony Quartararo, a couple of days ago when our discussion got around to behavioral changes we have made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lock-downs and social distancing guidelines. Not surprisingly, given our backgrounds, geography figured in strongly.

The use case we discussed was grocery shopping. Both of us admitted to limiting our choices of venue to those that we knew from memory, so that we could gather groceries and proceed to the exit as expeditiously as possible. This has the effect of geographically constraining our choices to our immediate locality. Even in the case of large chain grocers, the floorplan of each store varies widely.

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Attribute Transfer in PostGIS Using Spatial SQL

Data conflation is a meat-and-potatoes task in most GIS workflows. There are numerous reasons one might need to get data from one data set into another. Perhaps you want to attach a new geometry type to existing attributes or a table. Or maybe you need to pull attributes from one or more data sets into a single, “master” version. I have seen this latter use case referred to as “attribute transfer.” In an interactive, desktop setting, this can be tedious, but it’s a task at which spatial SQL excels.

Here is a simple example that uses just one line of spatial SQL (or two lines if you need to add the column) to do the heavy lifting. First, some table setting. This example takes the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases from the Johns Hopkins university county-level data (a point data set) and transfers it to a polygon data set of the US counties. There’s one caveat at the end of this post.

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Open – Beyond Technology

I am currently reading the book “Fierce Conversations” by Susan Scott. I am on hiatus from teaching my leadership course this year, so I am taking the opportunity to refresh my content and my perspectives. The basis of the book is fairly simple:

Our work, our relationships, and our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time. While no single conversation is guaranteed to transform a company, a relationship, or a life, any single conversation can.

Susan Scott, Fierce Conversations: Achieving Success at Work and in Life One Conversation at a Time

This has gotten me thinking in general about conversations that have impacted me throughout my career, whether with colleagues, direct reports, supervisors, customers, or mentors.

Recently, I had an interaction on Twitter that got me thinking about a long-ago conversation in a different context that, although I had never thought much about it, had an effect on how I view the role of technology in solving problems. That Twitter interaction is here:

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Put Planet Geospatial to Work for You

I’m happy to see that James has decided keep Planet Geospatial going. It’s been one of the more consistently valuable resources in the community since its inception and it’s good that it will continue.

While I’m looking forward to seeing how James evolves Planet Geospatial, there are ways to more efficiently extract value out of its current state right now. At its core, Planet Geospatial is an RSS feed. RSS can safely be called “venerable” nowadays, but it still does what it does very well.

Two of my favorite tools for culling down the firehose that is Planet Geospatial are IFTTT (the title of this post is a riff on the IFTTT motto) and Evernote. If you’re not familiar with IFTTT, you should be. It reminds me of a more-intuitive Yahoo Pipes and it allows you to mix channels, triggers, and actions to automate processes of your choosing. It’s become by preferred method of synchronizing my blog with social media and for filtering data sources. It also drives the Unofficial QGIS Info Twitter account.

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Personal Geospatial Workflows

I’ve had a couple of people ask me recently about the geospatial tools I use. Year-over-year, that answer changes but here’s how I answer that right now:

As a Federal contractor, I spend a lot of time working with the Esri stack during my work day. A few years ago, I added a few open-source geospatial tools into my tool set and, since then, have also done a respectable amount to consulting work them as well. The balance between the two varies over time, depending on the requirements of individual customers and projects. Lately, commercial customers have seemed much more interested in open-source tools while my government customers are sticking with Esri. Since those observations are based on the the extremely heavy filter of my own recent experience, I’d be hesitant to draw any larger conclusions from them.

I’ve always believed that proficiency with a wide range of tools makes me a better consultant and integrator, so I am always exploring and trying new things. With those commercial customers, and in my own personal side projects, my recent workflows have gelled around a core set of tools, both commercial and open-source:

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