Lessons from Maps and Old Code

Taking over someone else’s code is hard. There is probably no better look at how a person thinks than looking at their code. It can be tempting to trash their code and start from scratch. This temptation often runs into conflict with a sunk-cost fallacy that says “The previous person spent so much time on this that they had to understand the problem far better than me and maybe my time would be best spent learning from their code.” The really tough part about this is that it’s not always a fallacy.

My own encounter with this dilemma came early in my career – early enough that the code in question was written in AML. The company I worked for at the time had just transferred me to the offices of a large water utility to take over the development of their cartographic production system from a developer who had recently moved on. I had never met this developer and he was already gone, so I only had his code to work from.

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GeoJSON on GitHub: Now What?

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.

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