Showing 10 result(s) for category: Ideas

The rules are changing with online maps

Recently there have been a few articles contrasting traditional paper maps and online maps.

A BBC article claims that online maps are “wiping out history”, while a Globe and Mail article, “Map-making mania”, explains how “amateur cartographers are going high-tech to make the most unexpected online maps – and ticking off old-school mapmakers along the way”.

With the changing mapping medium, my personal feeling is that the rules with online maps are changing - to be successful we must strive to give the users the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the fewest number of clicks…

The value of data (even the historical stuff)

Our friends at the Oklahoma County Assessor entered ESRI's GIS in Action video contest. The folks at OK County Assessor are one of our customers that I most admire. They're passionate about what they do, they've got their priorities straight, and they get things done.

Their video reminds me of working with historic map data from where I live. Back in 1998 I was at a map library and found a stack of aerial photos of Victoria from 1928. I got permission to scan them and did some rough georeferencing of them using a recent Victoria ortho. It was absolutely fascinating to see how much Victoria had changed in seventy years. In fact, comparing the landscape between 1928 and 1998 profoundly changed the way I think about growth (especially in our region).

When ArcIMS was released a couple years later, I couldn't get permission from the copyright holder (a government agency) to make them available over the web through an ArcIMS service (on a volunteer basis no less). I guess someone got worried about the massive opportunity cost associated with losing out on licensing revenue associated with sepia aerial photos from 1928. Not that they had any model for licensing them even if someone did want them. I love my country, but our misguided geodata policies have impaired decision-making in the places we live. Things are slowly improving, but we need to be aggressive in changing the geospatial data status quo in cases where it is quietly failing us.

The Monk and the Riddle

Speaking of the "Latitude Library", I just finished reading an interesting book recently added to our inventory, "The Monk and the Riddle". Written by Randy Komisar, self-described virtual-CEO and technology entrepeneur, the book is quick to reveal the roots of its unusual title (no clues here though!), but slow to reach its point: its the journey that matters, not the destination. Set within the context of new technology ventures, Randy presents the central premise of his book (and the driving force behind new arrivals to Silicon Valley and the so called SPDs at Bear Stearns) as the "Deferred Life Plan"; dedicate every waking hour to work today in order to enjoy life later with all the commensurate toys. Having lived the Silicon Valley lifestyle for several years, I could immediately relate.

Overall, I found the book largely readable due to its intriguing anecdotes about Randy's numerous technolgy ventures - I'm a sucker for business non-fiction. Dissecting the successes and failures for technology ventures is infinitely more interesting than anything fiction writers could come up with! Conversely, I felt the premise of the book missed its mark - the "Deferred Life Plan" is a well worn cliche. Or is it? For those reading the book, perhaps it will beg the question: "Am I doing what I'm truly passionate about?" Regardless, I recommend checking it out.

Books: A Top Performing Investment

I just read Peopleware for the first time last night. It's a classic I should've read years ago.

People are generally pleased with a 15% return on an investment. For me, business and technology books provide a return on investment that is often orders of magnitude greater. In fact, at Latitude, we have a bottomless book budget because we’ve learned the insight gained from a single chapter can provide a massive ongoing ROI. Indeed, the books we’ve read have profoundly influenced how we function as a company, our business strategy, and how we relate to the world.

I sometimes go online and order a dozen books at a time. The only cost I consider with a book is my time to read it; I can get through an average book in an evening or two. While it can be hit and miss, the Internet makes it fairly straightforward to distinguish the wheat from the chaff (similarly, I won’t even consider watching a movie now without first reviewing the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes).

Stepping Back and Looking Back

Steady, gradual change is easy to underestimate when you're up close to something.

While working on my GISWORX (Dubai) keynote for next week, I opened a few of my 2003-2004 PowerPoint presentations that examine the significance/future of web-based GIS technology on society and decision-making. Despite the fact that I don't feel like the fundamentals change all that much day-to-day, I was struck by the fact that most of my forward-looking presentation content from 2003-2004 is now happening. Core aspects of the "road ahead" sections from these presentations have arrived and I can replace my slides with real-world examples that are mainstream (if not yet ubiquitous).

Surprises as I look back? I didn't forsee the incredible shift from Java towards .NET that we've observed, I overestimated the probable future influence of WMS/WFS, and Google entering the spatial realm wasn't on our radar screen (it hadn't happened yet).

Though we sometimes make major strides forward overnight (e.g. leveraging new capabilities possible with ArcGIS Server), as I cobbled together examples of innovative developments from the last couple years I noticed that many of the "breakthroughs" happened incrementally through innovative pilot projects and the addition of relatively minor new capabilities. When examined together, it becomes clear the technology is actually evolving very quickly.

United States of the World

Back in 2005 Steven posted a map in the office kitchen, showing US States named for countries with a comparable gross domestic product (GDP).

I noticed the United States of the World map that Steve had clipped out of the Globe and Mail, as well as a remake in the Strange Maps archive:


The blog comments suggest that the accuracy of the source data may be in debate - an interesting way to compare world economies nonetheless.

Cost Recovery?

I was parsing through my inbox last week, and was reminded that the topic of access to government-produced geospatial base data continues to challenge society. While it isn’t a sexy issue, it is an important one.

On a separate note, I have an idea… Governments should recover the cost of building local roads by charging citizens a hefty up-front fee if they want to use them. Roads are already built, you say? So? They were costly to build, and putting the burden on taxpayers is unfair to people who are shut-ins and don’t travel on the roads.

Think this is a bad idea? What about charging folks for geospatial base data that taxpayers have already paid for, resulting in that data not being used by people who need quality information to make decisions about the world around us?

Both represent infrastructure investments. Both provide value only when they are used. And the negative long-term economic consequences of withholding either far exceed the revenue we might collect along the way (history has shown such revenues tend to be meager).

I think the main reason the "cost-recovery" model even exists is because geospatial data is abstract enough that policy-makers with noble, fiscally-responsible intentions didn’t understand that the economics of geospatial data are the same as the investments we make in things like roads and elementary schools. They pay off later; and if we try to make them pay off right away, we muck things up. I also presume that they weren’t aware that, even stripping out all the negative long-term impacts on society and the economy, "cost recovery" usually costs far more to implement than the revenues it actually brings in. Unfortunately, this model is very hard to remove once folks realize it probably wasn’t such a swell idea after all (due to inertia, cross-licensing agreements, and the smattering of folks who actually paid for the data who’d be understandably irritated if said data became free).

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

I've always been fascinated by the Hollywood game "the six degrees of Kevin Bacon". Its a pop-culture version of the well known "six degrees of separation" idea - we're all seperated from anyone on the planet by, at most, six people. Except, in the "Kevin Bacon" version, you interconnect Hollywood stars via Kevin Bacon.

I'm in Corpus Christi, TX right now at the ESRI SCAUG conference, and was thinking of this concept as it relates to my predicament: I flew here on American Airlines and narrowly averted getting stuck in Seattle as their MD-80 fleet was grounded for FAA inspection earlier this week. With the cancelling of so many flights, surely everyone would know someone this has affected? Well now you know one more (or the first) - me.

I just checked the American Airlines website for information related to my flight home tomorrow and it won't load - presumably becuase the other 100,000 or so displaced passengers are looking for the same information I am! Anyways, I hope I make it home tomorrow - but I can think of worse places to spend a weekend.

Picked up a cold on my way home from the DR

I just got back from 10 days vacation, with a cold, which I caught somewhere between the Dominican Republic and Victoria.

The "Pandemic Spread and Airline Travel" map from Infonaut's Map of the Moment shows a map image from NASA, showing flight patterns over the USA.

Watch this video to see a 24 hour view of the air traffic over the Continental US – you can see how infectious diseases can be spread, quickly.