Showing 10 result(s) for category: ideas

Ready to Go: Making the Most of Recent Geocortex Product Development


Think of this free 45-minute webinar as a highlight reel of the most noteworthy Geocortex product development that occurred in 2012, with emphasis on technology that is available right now for you to implement at your organization in the coming year.

When: Wednesday, January 9th 2013 @ 10 AM Pacific Time
Presenters: Drew Millen (Geocortex Product Manager) and Steven Myhill-Jones (Latitude Geographics President and CEO)

Please register now for this webinar; registration will close on January 7th.

Jack Dangermond on the economy as it relates to GIS

Although the sound quality isn’t ideal, Directions Magazine has posted a video of an interesting interview with Jack Dangermond at ESRI’s Federal User Conference in Washington, DC last week.

Jack’s a guy who knows what’s up, so I was keen to hear his thoughts. The video includes Jack’s perspective on how economic conditions have been impacting organizations that use GIS and the vendors who serve them.

At the five minute mark he notes a trend around big custom one-off implementations done by integrators getting questioned these days, with COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) solutions that do 90% of what folks want right out of the box being put in their place. Though we’ve observed it at a much smaller scale than what Jack is referring to, as a company that offers COTS solutions on top of ESRI’s COTS technology, this is a trend from which we’ve certainly been benefiting.

From global to sector-specific trends, the interview covers considerable ground. Definitely a worthwhile ten minutes.

Computer Screens and Application Design

We’re doing lots of viewer design work these days, and I’ve been thinking about the dimensions of viewing devices. In recent years, a couple trends have affected the way users look at geographic information. Literally. Dimensions have shrunk (think mobile devices) or dimensions have widened (computer monitors). Let’s look at the latter.

The squarish 4:3 aspect ratio was the television standard until not that long ago when things went 16:9, and squarish to wide happened with computer monitors as well. I’d guess this had something to do with CRT technology, but it could be something someone just picked long ago. Certainly, movies have been “widescreen” since the 1950’s (in part to differentiate their product from TV). After putting up with black stripes and shrunken movies for a while on our TVs, they went 16:9 with the advent of HDTV, which is fairly close to movie theater dimensions. Most computer monitors are widescreen now too.

I don't know the answer, but I wonder if widescreen has proved popular for viewing because it is closer to how we can see the world when we “go broad”—and also partially due to the fact that movies (usually the superior visual entertainment) are best watched in that aspect ratio. Simply, we all understand widescreen is better.

Back in my erstwhile amateur film directing days, I always found shooting non-scenic widescreen to be a lot more work, because if your focus isn’t horizontal (i.e. the scene) then you have to consider a lot of what’s going on in the background to properly frame a vertically oriented point of viewer focus (e.g. a face). When we look at scenery, we shift to a wide dimension of attention. When we concentrate on something like a face, the periphery fades and we naturally concentrate more along the lines of a 4:3 aspect ratio. I got to thinking about this while sitting in on web mapping design sessions recently. I expect that when we focus on an average task on our computer, we don’t have a widescreen focus. We’re concentrating on something specific. We see this observed correctly with text on most websites (kept within standard page width), but not with lots of new applications.

Is widescreen inherently better for computer users? Maybe, maybe not. Widescreen or multiple monitors are great for people working between multiple windows/applications they have open, but I’m curious how often when focusing on an application they go beyond requiring 4:3. I still prefer a more squarish monitor because I prefer to focus on one task at a time (I Alt-Tab between windows) and, believe it or not, I don’t watch movies at work. Most of the time I look at the computer I’m working with text, and I’d find my wide screen flipped on its side (more like a piece of paper) to be more relevant. I’m not suggesting that 4:3 monitors are better. Perhaps 16:9ish is the right for a computer monitor so we can go wide when we want to, but for applications, an assumption of widescreen as the ideal blank canvas is probably ill-advised.

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.