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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Wilson Center to Discuss FCC National Broadband Map

One of the most compelling recent success stories for open-source geospatial tools in the Federal Government has been the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) National Broadband Map initiative. It has been a very visible example of the stability, scalability, flexibility, and power of open-source geospatial tools. The Woodrow Wilson Center will be hosting a case study … Read more

Cutting Tiles for ArcGIS Server Using TileMill

There’s been a lot of talk about TileMill and CartoCSS lately, with good cause. TileMill makes it very easy generate beautiful map tiles using the Mapnik engine and CartoCSS provides a familiar method to author the cartographic representation of spatial data. As Brian Timoney points out, CartoCSS has the added bonus of making best practices shareable via copy-and-paste.

Naturally, the best way to take advantage of TileMill is to export your tiles to MBTiles and use MapBox hosting. If that’s not an option, you can pretty easily self-host with TileStream. That said, there are some organizations that, due to larger GIS workflows, IT policies, and a host of other legitimate reasons, need or choose to use ArcGIS Server to do map hosting. For those organizations, TileMill is still an option to create attractive basemaps, within certain constraints.

So I set out to see if I could bridge the gap between the two. Two blog posts pointed the way. A while back, Dan Dye blogged about how he had forked mb-util and added support for exporting WeoGeo tilepacks from MBTiles. Also, a co-worker of mine, Eric Mahaffey, had blogged some time ago about how to use Arc2Earth to manage tile caches across air-gapped networks. Using these posts for guidance, I was pretty sure I had all the pieces I needed.

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Carving Up GIS StackExchange

So the data server that I was working with was having issues and, while waiting for the IT staff to resolve things, I decided to browse the GIS StackExchange site. It’s been online for quite sometime now, though I am only an occasional user. One thing led to another and I found myself playing with the StackExchange API, which returns various information for a particular site in a JSON format.

One of the things that got people excited about the site was that it was neutral territory, not directly controlled by a particular vendor or organization and it remains one of the few places where you can see hyperbole-free discussion of Esri tools right next to that of open-source tools and general GIS concepts. Since it’s been online for a while now, it has a lot of posts covering many different topics. I had some time on my hands, so I decided to pull the information for the 100 most “popular” tags, using the StackExchange API. With JSON in hand, I parsed into a CSV with Python and loaded the data into Excel to take a look.

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Mapping GISPs Again With Leaflet.markercluster

So I’ve been playing with Leaflet a lot lately. It’s become my lightweight mapping library of choice. There’s a lot it doesn’t do so I keep OpenLayers and others in the rotation as well but Leaflet is direct and to the point so I use it when I can.

Click the image to go to the live demo

A while back, I stumbled onto the Leaflet.markercluster project on GitHub, which adds a clustering layer type. I wanted to try it so I revisited my old GISP heat map demo (Silverlight) and decided to rework it. I was happy to finally get a chance to strip out the plug-in, anyway.

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Favorite QGIS Resources of the Moment

I’ve been dabbling more with Quantum GIS (QGIS) lately. I’m not doing anything particularly sophisticated but it’s a great viewer for some data types (SpatiaLite, GeoJSON) that aren’t supported by my commercial desktop GIS so it’s helping me validate outputs of some applications I’m writing.

While I’ll never be a real cartographer, I am interested in doing a little more. Here are the resources that have been helping me the most lately…

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Using GeoIQ Analytics in .Net Applications

A few weeks ago, I posted about some .Net wrappers I created for the GeoIQ API. Due to ongoing project work, I have continued to extend them by adding methods to wrap GeoIQ analytical capabilities. Despite the recent acquistion of GeoIQ by Esri, it’s my understanding that GeoCommons and existing GeoIQ installations will continue for some time. That’s good, because analytics on the GeoIQ platform are powerful and fairly easy to use. This post will demonstrate how to use analytics in a .Net application.

As previously posted, the .Net wrappers can be found on github here.

The GeoIQ platform offers several functions to analyze data sets hosted on a GeoIQ instance or GeoCommons. I have not yet wrapped all of the functions but am working my way through them as I can.

For this post, I will intersect the locations of US GISPs as of 1/26/2011 with the Maryland Zip Code Boundaries to produce a data set containing the locations of GISPs in Maryland, depicted in the map below.

Don’t worry, none of these are me.

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GeoIQ & Esri

Okay, everybody calm the hell down. Anyone who thinks that the Esri acquisition of GeoIQ is strange hasn’t been paying attention to two things: 1) the direction that Esri says they want to go and 2) what the GeoIQ platform really is. I would be very surprised if GeoIQ becomes the 2012 version of Atlas GIS. This acquisition/merger makes more sense than may be initially apparent.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_eyFiClAzq8]

It’s no secret that I’ve worked with Esri tools for a long time and my recent work with the GeoIQ platform has been well-documented on this blog, including work integrating the two platforms at the API level. Based on what I’ve seen from both companies, here are thoughts on why I think this move makes a lot of sense:

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CartoDB/Leaflet Sample Update

A while back, I posted about some experimentation I did with Leaflet and CartoDB in the wake of FOSS4G in Denver. I recently had the chance to go back and update that sample with some spatial queries. At the time of the original post, CartoDB was still in beta and spatial queries didn’t seem to work, despite the fact that the back-end was driven by PostGIS.

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