It’s been a pretty good week for us at Zekiah. We announced two new contract wins and I’m pleased to say that we’re not done yet. After final paperwork is done, we should be able to announce a couple more. These are the things that make small-business ownership worthwhile: doing good work, building relationships with our customers and then leveraging our track record to be able to work with new customers. Project execution and business development help us build the foundation necessary to be a good place for our employees to work and we try hard every day to make sure that we are such a place.
A year ago, I used the StackExchange API to facilitate an analysis of tags on GIS StackExchangeto see what people were talking about on one of the largest and most successful vendor-neutral discussion sites in our industry. In that post, I stated “It would probably be good to revisit this in a year to see how things have changed, if at all.”
Well, a year has passed so I decided to do it again. I used the same scripts and approach I used last time in order to be consistent. Since this is one year later, there is one key caveat. My analysis last year looked at the top 100 tags since the start of the GIS StackExchange site. Since I ran the same query this year, the new results are compounded so what they so are last year’s results plus activity since then. Essentially, you are looking at “that plus this.” The pie chart below shows the breakdown.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted as the usual wind-down of summer and wind-up of the school year has had me otherwise engaged. What follows are few developments over the past few months that have floated through the transom of my geo-awareness.
There has been a bit of buzz the past couple of weeks over the ability of GitHub to render GeoJSON and TopoJSON files automatically using and embedded Leaflet map and MapBoxtechnology. This buzz is quite justified as it presents an easy way to simply publish and visualize vector data sets. In the weeks since the initial announcement, the community has begun exploring the limits of GitHub’s capability. Probably the two biggest limiting factors are individual file size limits and API rate limits. Some, including myself, are exploring strategies for maximizing the ability to store, disseminate, and visualize data within these confines. For the near term, GitHub will probably not be the place to store terabytes of data or act as the CDN for a high-volume mapping application. That is perfectly fine and there is still a great deal of value to be found within GitHub’s current generous constraints.
While the majority of the geospatial world was at the Esri International User Conference in San Diego last week, I was at a different conference in Orlando, Florida. This was my third time attending the Children with Diabetes (CWD) Friends for Life (FFL) conference and I’ll be there as often as I can for the foreseeable future. It’s beneficial in many obvious ways; enabling us to keep up with the latest developments in diabetes research and technologies as well as keeping us refreshed in terms of diabetes management best practices.
The unexpected thing for me over the years has been how the lessons I’ve learned at FFL have begun to translate into other aspects of life outside of diabetes. (I do not have diabetes myself but I am a parent of a person who does.) This year, perhaps because the ongoing Esri UC was somewhere in the back of my mind, it provided a different lens through which to view my approach to my professional activities.
So GitHub announced that you can now automatically view any GeoJSON files that may be in a repository inside an interactive map driven by MapBox technology. This simple enhancement to GitHub is probably one of the most significant developments in the geospatial industry in years. I’ll explain a little later in this post. It’s also important to view this new capability as a great, but limited, first step. I’ll discuss that a little later as well.
While it’s cool to click on a link and just see a map, it doesn’t take long to wonder about how you can use this capability beyond viewing data in GitHub. What follows are three ways to capitalize on GeoJSON in GitHub. Not all are directly related to the new mapping capability, and two have been possible for a long time. That said, the GitHub announcement may draw interest from users who have not previously considered either GitHub or GeoJSON, so I hope these approaches will be useful.
A while back, I posted about my desire to see GeoJSON supported as an output format from ArcGIS Server. I found myself needing that capability so I recently completed, and posted to GitHub, a first cut at a server object extension (SOE) for ArcGIS Server 10.1 that enables output of GeoJSON via an HTTP GET.
Using the SOE is fairly straightforward. If you download the code and build it (ensuring you have installed the ArcObjects SDK for .Net), you can simply move the project outputs to your target machine and use the ArcGIS Server manager to install the SOE. Once you log into the manager application, click “Site” at the top of the page and then “Extensions” on the left. Click “Add Extension” and browse to the .soe file. You should end up seeing something like this:
Those are my words, not theirs.
It came to light today that OGC has decided to withdraw the GeoServices REST Specification, also known as the “ESRI REST API,” as a proposed standard. I will not take up the relative merits of the specification or the implications of OGC potentially adopting an industry-developed specification that has so much implied workflow embedded in it. With this decision, three facts remain unaltered:
- The ESRI REST API will continue forward as a widely-used de facto standard in the form of ArcGIS Server installs and other emulations, such as that in Arc2Earth.
- GeoJSON will continue forward as a widely-used de facto standard in the form of numerous open-source implementations.
- OGC still has no JSON syntax.
Yes, twelve years after the birth of JSON, five years after the release of the ESRI REST API and its embedded JSON syntax, and five years after the release of GeoJSON 1.0, OGC is still has no entry in the JSON space. Between Esri and GeoJSON, the utility of JSON in web mapping applications has been roundly proven. In the ESRI arena, find me anyone who willingly uses the SOAP API these days while the adoption of support for GeoJSON across the open-source GIS world speaks volumes. The industry has voted with its feet and its code as to what it prefers.
Thanks to LinkedIn, I saw that Dr. Art Lembo of Salisbury (Maryland) University is leading an “Open Source/Enterprise GIS Summer Bootcamp” at the university from June 3 – 7, 2013. All of the salient details, including contact information, can be found here (PDF).