This post describes the construction of a simple, lightweight geospatial data service using Node.JS, PostGIS and Amazon RDS. It is somewhat lengthy and includes a number of code snippets. The post is primarily targeted at users who may be interested in alternative strategies for publishing geospatial data but may not be familiar with the tools discussed here. This effort is ongoing and follow-up posts can be expected.
When I was in college, I had a psychology professor who posited that you could train a cat (a dodgy proposition at best) to take a circuitous route to its food bowl by only rewarding that behavior. He was clearly a behaviorist and was convinced that you could completely condition the instinct to go straight to the food bowl out of the cat. To my knowledge, this professor did not own a cat and never attempted to test his assertion.
I was reminded of this after reading my friend Atanas Entchev’s post in reaction to the PostGISDay hangout panel discussion. In his post, Atanas describes difficulty in convincing customers to consider open-source geospatial tools. These customers and prospects are comfortable with their proprietary tools and associated workflows and are reluctant to consider switching. I have encountered this attitude many times myself so I take no issue with the observation. Barriers to exit are real considerations, regardless of the new technology being considered. Organizations align themselves around their tools to achieve maximum efficiency with them. I discussed these issues at a talk I gave last year to the New Jersey Geospatial Forum about how organizations can extend their existing geospatial technology investments with open-source technologies. These issues are very real for any organization with a mature, extended investment in a particular technology stack.
It’s the morning of November 21st, but not for long. You open one eye. Just one; it’s best not to rush such things. Apparently, you finally came to rest in the ball pit you all made using the squishy globes from myriad conferences past. A cursory scan tells you the GIS lab is trashed. It starts to come back to you: the rousing game of “Pin the Certificate on the Khakis.” Yes, there are your pleated khakis on the wall with everyone’s training and GISP certificates stuck on or around them with pushpins. Someone won in what would have been a most painful way if the khakis had been on your body. The loin cloth fashioned from the old hard-copy topos (which you are still wearing). The fact that you let the intern talk you into finally opening a Twitter account and your glee at discovering you could attach photos to geocoded tweets with your BlackBerry.
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).
I spent the day yesterday at Towson University attending the TUGIS 2013 conference. The new one-day format was a firehose that showcased the diversity of geospatial work occurring across the State of Maryland. The keynote by Learon Dalby was well-received and the content of the conference was generally substantive. While the day was a sprint, there was one workshop that really caught my attention more so than I would have thought from its title.
A while back, I blogged the availability of a GDAL/OGRplug-in for ArcGIS desktop by Ragi Burhum at AmigoCloud. At the time, I was hoping to dig into it fairly quickly but that didn’t happen and I’m finally getting to it. Anyone who has followed this blog for a while knows that I have had more than a passinginterest in integrating new datasourceswithArcGIS over the years. This comes from the fact that, as a technology geek, I am fascinated by all forms of technology and enjoy the process of integration and, as a consultant providing services to the Federal Government, most of my customers have standardized on Esri tools. Integrations such as GeoRSS, PostGIS, GeoCommons and GeoJSON have directly benefitted my customers for real-world applications so I continue look for ways to remove the barriers between them and the data they seek.
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.
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: