ESRI Live Storm Tracker

Link – Storm Tracker

I had been meaning to blog about the ArcWeb Services Hurricane Tracker, but I got sidetracked at work. How come no one at ESRI blogged it either? In fact, ESRI had a whole site up running with it. Of course no RSS feed means many missed it.

Update – Ray Carnes notes in my comments that it did get released on the RSS feed today. Looks like my reader didn’t pick it up till tonight. Still would have been nice to know about it sooner, but at least they tried. I’ll keep an eye out because it looks like ever more storms are on the way.

NIMBY for Google Earth

For those not familiar with the term “NIMBY” look here

Link – EarthHack.net via Ogle Earth

Who gave Google the right to web publish photographs of my backyard so detailed that you can see the details of my landscaping? Or which side of the driveway I park my car on?

Yes, I know these photos have been available for a long time from Keyhole, and Yes, I know that they currently don’t need my permission to publish these images. But at what point should we collectively be able to assert control over these images? In the past the idea of spying on individuals from space has not been a credible threat, but if the resolution of the available images improves at even a linear rate then within a few years you’ll progress from being able to find my backyard, to being able to find the grill in my backyard, to being able to see what’s on the grill in my backyard. And that cannot be permitted.

If this lack of control goes unchallenged then the inevitable result of improving camera resolution, increasing frequency of satellite passes and improving data compression and transmission rates will be effective quasi-real-time space surveillance on an individual basis.

How can that possibly be left unchallenged?

So I am proposing a two pronged approach to defeating this hijacking of our collective privacy; first, establish that Google/Keyhole has the capability to modify individual images on request; secondly, create a legal requirement for them to do so. These are concurrent activities, and the first one begins today.

Sigh, I’m almost willing to chip in some money to buy this guy some tin foil. How long will it take for people to actually realize that Google isn’t taking these pictures?

ArcMap Feature Layer to KML

Link – VBA code for Google Earth KML paths

ArcObjects VBA code to take a feature layer, split it up into line segments, and then generate a valid KML file. It’s pretty basic, and you have to hard code some values, but it does the job. It will work with either lines or polygons, and it shouldn’t matter whether it’s a shapefile or a coverage. Just make sure that your layer is projected into lat/long first.

Looks like Jim’s code is now on ArcScripts.

If Google has a platform, it is an advertising platform, not a developer platform

Link – Google Is an Advertising Company

If Google has a platform, it’s an advertising platform, not a developer platform. I’m not even saying Google should have a developer platform, I’m just saying they don’t. Any software that uses Google as a back-end for web search could be modified to use Yahoo or MSN by changing a few lines of code. Google Desktop might be popular, but it’s nowhere near as cool as Yahoo Widgets (a.k.a. Konfabulator) in terms of acting as a developer platform.

A good assessment of what Google is. For all those thinking Google Earth is the next GIS platform, think again. Google only views it as a way to push ads on to your desktop.

Walt Eis has a comparison of ESRI’s ArcWeb Public Services and the Google Maps API

More Web Mapping

Here’s a quick and dirty comparison of ESRI’s ArcWeb Public Services and the Google Maps API. Both are free to use and offer developers a way to display geographic data via the Web.

Walt has a nice quick look at the features of both ArcWeb Services and the Google Maps API. In response to Walt’s comment:

Anyone with space on a cheap shared host can use Google’s API, but without SOAP services it’s difficult to use ESRI’s product.

He should have a look at Andrea Rosso’s blog where he shows you how to use PHP and Perl with ArcWeb Services and Sean Gillies’s post on using Python with ArcWeb Services. Of course it is still SOAP, but almost any website hosting service gives you access to Perl, PHP or Python.

Being Open Doesn’t Guarantee Success

I’ve been reading up on some blogs over the past few weeks and a common theme is that because ESRI is “proprietary” they will fail in the long run and I just don’t see that happening. There is much confusion with how open some products are. For example many people say that because the Google Maps API is out in the open it will push ESRI off the map. I don’t see how Google Maps is any more open than ArcIMS or ArcWeb Services are. All 3 are commercial products and just because Google Maps is “free” (and to a lesser extent ArcWeb), that doesn’t mean that people will abandon paid for server products such as ArcIMS or ArcGIS Server any more than they abandoned Oracle or SQL Server for MySQL. In fact I’d say that Google Maps is more closed than ESRI’s products are because you can’t see what they are doing behind the scenes. Google is probably more secretive than ESRI is about their future plans and unlike ESRI they don’t even seem to listen to their customer (mostly because Google Maps customers aren’t paying a dime for tech support) and users are forced to create their own forums for support. Some would argue that this is a good thing, but I’d say being out on a limb like that could mean that Google could cut you off at any second and go in a different direction. ESRI hasn’t done this because their customers have direct access to the programmers at ESRI and they in turn listen to what people want making sure that the rug isn’t pulled from underneath them (take the continued “support” of ArcView 3.x as a perfect example).

Now what if we look at a true open product like UMN Mapserver? There is more support there for developers than there is for Google Maps. But does Mapserver create pressure on ESRI to conform to OGC standards? You bet it does because ESRI listens to their customers. I would also wager that the growth of Mapserver hasn’t really hit ESRI that hard as the total marketplace has grown so much over the past few years. ESRI is by no stretch of the imagination the first company one might associate with “standards-based open architecture”, but I believe their continued support for open formats shows that they do understand people want to connect to as many data sources as possible.

All the openness in the world won’t make any product successful, but listening to your customers will. The feeling that I’ve gotten from ESRI over the past year is that they have finally begun to realize that their road to continued success is supporting users like us. Don’t confuse the hype surrounding Google Maps/Earth with them being open and listening to their customers. There is no company that likes to hide behind their logo more than Google and they will do whatever it takes to not have to be open. There is a reason people are beginning to realize that Google is the next Microsoft (while Microsoft seems to have become the next IBM). Believe me, ESRI has a LONG WAY TO GO before they are as open as we’d all like them to be, but they do listen to their customers and that is a start.

You don’t feel like ESRI listens to you? Let me know in the comments.