Data.gov Geo Viewer — Lipstick on a pig?

So with great interest I read Marten’s blog post on the new Data.gov “Geo Viewer”. Marten’s got a ton of reasons why its great and why it fails, but for me it didn’t work at all. I just get this FAIL message below:

Data.gov error

I mean maybe I could figure out what went wrong, but since Data.gov gives me no details about datasets I just move on.

Of course it could be one of the many problems Marten showcases, but I will say the “share this” works great. In all seriousness putting a “preview” map on Data.gov isn’t going to change a thing about how worthless Data.gov is for actually finding data. You can of course put your comment in the little box at Data.gov and I’m sure they’ll forward it on to “top men”.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yoy4_h7Pb3M&w=560&h=315]

Of course this brings up a huge point with how big a failure Data.gov has been. Just going to the “Ideas” page for Data.gov, you are presented with a big middle finger.

What would I like Data.gov to look like in July 2010? No really, I totally trust the government to do right by data. Nothing says that nobody from the Data.gov crew looks at that Ideas page more than that simple statement. Rather, it is more of an exercise to make citizens feel part of the process, distracting them from actually doing something about it. Maybe it would be better to just go through ESRI to get things fixed.

NITF for ArcGIS 9.3.1

Now you might be asking, why would some obscure ESRI extension supporting 9.3.1 be news? Well if you work with NITF data, it is important to you. Plus you are probably on a government computer and ArcGIS 10 is a distant dream.

Anyway NITF for ArcGIS now support 9.3.1 so if you are rolling with ArcGIS 9.3.1, you can now work with NITF again. Hold the line guys!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htgr3pvBr-I&w=560&h=315]

2010 ESRI International User Conference Opening Plenary – Live Blog

NOTE: WIFI ISSUES AT THE ESRI UC

I’ll be blogging the opening plenary this morning. Just refresh this page as the morning goes on and get the latest news.

8:30AM: Jack takes the stage and welcomes everyone to the 2010 ESRI UC, the 30th. Jack seems quite excited and wanting to get the message out. Jack goes into his highlighting of maps created with ESRI software. I’d personally love to see some historic maps that were highlighted at ESRI UCs past and show how far we’ve come.

8:35AM: Looks like the WiFi just crashed, so much for live blogging 🙁 Some idiot is probably streaming video.

8:40AM: Abu Dhabi won the “Making a Difference Award” for building a geo-infrastructure using ESRI software. They view infrastructure as similar to the human body. Not too much detail there, but it is an interesting way to look at things, plus they seem quite successful.

8:50AM: The theme of the conference is “Vision”. Jack dropped into the concept of Computational Geography (which of course became GIS). Jack ties into the convergence of technology with geography at the middle. Jack views the key drivers as mobile, crowd-sourcing and other LBS technology to create a web-based geospatial platform.

9:00AM: Jack introduced a company called CityCourced which “mobilizes citizen involvement”. So its the idea where you and your GPS mobile phone are able to feed that data back to your “geodatabase”. Nothing really new here in concept, but it appears to be in the wild. Nice that they got a great speaking slot to introduce their product. Lets see if governments jump on this before saying it will change the world. I don’t see much here about cities that are getting involved with this product (if I’m filing a report, I want it to go to my city, not just sit on CitySourced servers). How they integrate into these cities will probably make or break the service. API is here.

9:05AM: Jack goes into crowd sourcing and social media. I always wonder how the geodatabase works with both? As long as you use their APIs. 😉

9:07AM: ArcGIS 10 is outlined; Jack says it is easy, powerful and everywhere. ArcGIS is Desktop, Mobile or Web on Cloud, Enterprise or local. ESRI is focused on what Jack called “intelligent maps”. These are basically all the aspects of GIS and loaded into a map where you can interact, query or edit the map.

9:11AM: ArcGIS 10 has hundreds of improvements which ESRI says will improve productivity. Jack says ArcGIS is open; standards based and then open API’s.

Big news, ESRI is publishing their REST Interface as an Open Standard like they did the Shapefile.

9:14AM: ArcGIS Mobile is finally beginning to take off. iPhone, Windows Phone (LMAO), Android and of course the old ArcPad. This all ties back into Jack’s hope that citizens will use ESRI technology. Putting ArcGIS in the hands of everyone.

9:16AM: At ArcGIS 10, ArcGIS imagery support is very improved. From what I hear this could be the biggest raster release that ESRI has ever done. I’m not involved with imagery anymore, but it all looks pretty sweet.

9:20AM: Content is key and ArcGIS 10 brings ArcGIS.com into the desktop. The community basemap program got its own video. We’ve been talking about a national map, and it appears it took ESRI and their investment in the technology to make it happen.

Bing Maps is also free to all ESRI users including ArcGIS Server.

9:25AM: Bernie Szukalski gives his demo of the ArcGIS.com data using ArcGIS Explorer Online (or whatever they call it these days). The community basemap is just beautiful. I wonder if the City of Tempe takes part? The World Imagery basemap has really taken off. I’ve been using it instead of the Bing Aerial map because I think it is higher quality and it is free for anyone to use. ArcGIS.com has lots of great content including OpenStreetMap.

9:30AM: Break time – back at 10am for a look at ArcGIS 10.

9:30AM: Here comes the cloud. Jack says cloud computing will change the way we work, on-demand (of course ESRI licensing isn’t on-demand, but that is a story for another day). Really the story is extending existing deployments right now in 2010.

9:33AM: “The Next Big Step” – ArcGIS.com ESRI’s cloud storage solution today. What is interesting is that hosting is “coming soon”. ArcGIS.com will host your data simply and probably extremely cheaply. Glad I’m not a GIS hosting company. ArcGIS.com is a network of distributed services – as apps or maps. What is nice about ArcGIS.com is that the services are accessible via their APIs.

9:37AM: Bernie gets working again and shows the ArcGIS.com. The UI is nice, but it uses the weird star rating system. I think ESRI should just put a thumbs up button there. How does one rate a map with 5 choices? They say it is either one star or five stars. Just put a thumbs up button there and move on. Making a map with ArcGIS.com is simple and easy. Tags are weird as well, does tag searching work? Just use a search box to searchthe description.

Basically you discover data in ArcGIS.com and then add it to your basemap. You can add content via ArcGIS Online, the web or any ArcGIS Server (no WMS yet). Basically you end up creating a mashup you can share with others. These maps are also easily consumed in ArcGIS 10. ArcGIS Online is built into ArcGIS 10, so you can consume web services without leaving ArcGIS 10.

Bernie also demo’d the ArcGIS for iOS on the iPad. As I said earlier, the UI is just wonderful. Take note devs, this is how maps should be consumed on mobile devices.

9:50AM: Jack says ArcGIS opens GIS for everyone – clearly ESRI is focused on getting as many people using ArcGIS 10 as possible and easy to use clients is how it will be done. Will ArcGIS 10 transform GIS? We’ll see, but it sure will affect how everyone works with ArcGIS. He asks everyone to go to ideas.arcgis.com to help direct where ESRI goes with their software. I’m sure the site is therapeutic for many users 😉

10:00AM: Break time!

10:30AM: ArcGIS 10 will be the focus for the next 90 minutes. John Calkins is out hitting on the point again that ArcGIS 10 is a complete system for geographic information. It looks like the focus is on abstract demos rather than just giving us the beef on ArcGIS 10 Desktop/Mobile/Server.

10:35AM: First up is productivity; ArcGIS 10 productivity highlights. Of course they do some sort of weird government demo of infrastructure. Searching is demonstrated, finding both datasets and symbol sets. Optimized Map layers allow you to load data into a group that allows you to pan around without refreshing of the data. The new editing tools are really slick, the template editing stuff really changes how you work, leveraging rules set in our geodatabase. The data validator extension is really useful because it finds and documents the issues in your data.

10:45AM: ArcGIS Mobile on a tablet running Windows XP? Sexy! Well now we are on to an ArcGIS Viewer for Flex and of course we see the edits made on the old busted Windows XP Tablet. What is nice is the same workflow that happens on the desktop comes across to the mobile. Same methods of editing on Desktop – Mobile – Browser.

10:52AM: Map Automation; ArcGIS 10 brings python into Desktop/Server. ArcPy could change how GIS Analysts work with data analysis. Bob Pool a GIS Manager from Washington State is giving the Python demo himself. Migrating AML to Python scripts is up first (Migrating AML’s in 2010?). Python editor is now built into ArcGIS 10. No one will be using VBA to automate ArcGIS Desktop moving forward.

11:00AM: Imagery demo is up now. ArcGIS Server can now render a mosaic on the fly. I’m out of my league here with imagery analysis, but imagery analysis inside a browser is impressive. The image analysis tools are nice because they can fix bad looking imagery. All done on-the-fly and with no modifications to the original data. What was the company called again that did image analysis? Erdas? They have no place in ArcGIS 10 anymore.

11:13AM: Network analysis improvements are the next demo. Network analyst has always been a hugely valuable. There has been much in the ArcLogistics area, but ArcGIS 10 doesn’t miss upgrades as well. The new Location-Allocation tool gives some great site selection tools to users. And that segue into an ArcLogistics demo. I love the ArcLogistics online (with Business Analyist Online, these two tools really just kick ass) and the simple web based tools are going to be analysis to anyone.

11:22AM: Apple iOS demos are next. Business Analyst Online (BAO) will be available soon for the iPhone/iPad for free. I love BAO in the web browser, but the iPad/iPhone app puts that power into your iOS device. Again, like ArcGIS for iOS, the UI is simple and easy to use. ArcGIS for iOS (which was demo’d earlier) was show again. Under featured content you’ll find a Rupert’s Places to go in San Diego available on your iPhone or iPad. Very nice!

10:26AM: 3D has been a big focus for ESRI at ArcGIS 10. You can now edit or perform analysis in 3D in ArcGIS 10. The problem I have with this is that you still need those ArcGlobe or ArcScene apps, why they can’t just roll it all into ArcMap is beyond me. 3D won’t be part of workflows if I have to start ArcGlobe/Scene every time I want to work with 3D data. The 3D demo was similar to what we’ve seen at the DevSummit/BPC, but at this point all this stuff is shipping. Support for SketchUp models is very welcome, but ArcGlobe is depressing.

10:36AM: Space and Time, 4D. Time in ArcGIS has always been somewhat of a PITA. I mean there has been NetCDF support, but the UI was never really aware of it. Now not only ArcGIS Desktop supports time, but the APIs do as well. Tweets to find oil demo was interesting, but I’m not sure it really shows off mobile analysis with social media. Time aware attributes are going to need to be entered with geo-data moving forward. Maybe ArcGIS 10.x can automatically tag edits (I know geodatabases can do this, but it should be done to any data edited in ArcGIS)

10:50AM: ESRI President’s Award went to the City of Frisco, Texas. Susan Olson, the GIS Manager for Frisco accepted the award.

11:00AM: Lunch!

ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap Available as Open Source

Marten Hogeweg says that the ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap is available on CodePlex as an open source add-in.

Adds Marten:

If you want to contribute to documentation, best practices, or code, send your codeplex account to mhogeweg at esri dot com and I can add you to the list of contributors.

You Wichita lineman can get editing those OpenStreetMaps right away

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qoymGCDYzU&w=560&h=315]

MapQuest goes OpenStreetMap – At Least in UK

MapQuest, in that ever battle to stay relevant, has chosen to move toward OpenStreetMap. Says the Wall Street Journal:

The company [MapQuest], a subsidiary of AOL, plans to announce Friday morning that it is launching a site in the U.K. based on a project called OpenStreetMap, which is dedicated to user-created mapping. The OpenStreetMap project has caught on most quickly in Europe, which is why MapQuest is starting there, but AOL also will devote $1 million to support the growth of open-source mapping in the U.S. The site has a U.K. address http://open.mapquest.co.uk but users can navigate to user-created maps from any country.

While we’ve all worked really hard here in the good old USA to improve the maps, clearly there is still a ton of work to get done (especially with building the networks), but $1,000,000 (doesn’t it look bigger when you use those zeros?) should help get this moving. CloudMade tried to fund this through their Ambassador program, but pulled the plug when progress was slow in coming. AOL is clearly committed to the program and probably happy to spend their dollars on funding OSM than shipping them off to Navteq (er Nokia) and their competition. How long before Microsoft decides that they are done funding Nokia’s Ovi Maps effort through licensing and joins OSM or moves to Tele Atlas?

Now if AOL gave me that million dollars and asked me to figure out how to build out the USA, I’d go ahead and hire the top 10 German OSM contributes and set them loose on America. It would be done in two weeks. Seriously though, the USA map needs a ton of work and the quality of the map compared to Europe is probably the only thing holding back OSM.

MapQuest has more details on their blog.

Here comes AOL!

Ready to Head to the 2010 ESRI International UC

I’ll be bugging out this weekend to San Diego for the annual ESRI love fest. If all this Twitter, Foursquare, Facebook, Backchannel stuff has you screaming “no more”, don’t worry. I’ll be live blogging the show as usual starting Monday morning at the plenary. The UC can’t be placed in 140 characters so I don’t bother.

If you are going as well, feel free to stop by the WeoGeo booth where I’ll be most of the week or beers at night (heck do both).

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDhz_mVcVCQ&w=560&h=315]

The Geography of LOST

A fun website to explore on a Friday (not that you need my help on being distracted) is this project put together by Jonah M. Adkins, GISP of Newport News, Virginia. Geography of LOST: Retrospective is a project by Jonah where he mapped the island from the TV show LOST using ArcGIS Desktop. The maps are quite impressive cartographical and the style just catches your eye. What is even more impressive is his work has been featured in io9, the New York Post and Entertainment Weekly.

The blueprint is particularly eye catching! Great job Jonah!

Test Drive on the Wacom DTU-2231

I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to test out the Wacom DTU-2231 for the past couple weeks. I’ve been seeing quite a bit of Wacom at the ESRI UC and other conferences and it would appear they are making a big push in the professional GIS world. With ArcGIS 10, I couldn’t pass up the offer to give the Wacom DTU-2231 a try.

While the Wacom can be stood up like a monitor, it is best experienced laying flat (like a workspace). This gives you an opportunity to lean on the device and work better with whatever apps you are using at the time. I wasn’t sure at first about putting my hands on the monitor/tablet, but it feels so natural and it mimics how we used to work with cartography before GIS came along (yea, all that pen and paper stuff is coming back to me now).

The Wacom DTU-2231 on my desk

Now the monitor itself is crisp as anything I’ve seen and it runs at a native 1920×1080 giving it full HD resolution. The maps just leap off of the page because they are so crisp. The pen was something I wasn’t used to as previous tablets I’ve used had heavy pens that required to be put in a recharger when not in use. This one has a battery-free pen which means the pen is lighter and you never have to worry about it not being available for use. Once you get used to using a pen directly on a monitor, you never pick up the mouse again. The pen is pressure sensitive, but I couldn’t tell if ArcGIS could tell (I’m sure it didn’t). Other apps of course do take advantage of the pressure making it fun to work with.

Using the Wacom with ArcGIS 10 was my main goal. ESRI’s new editing tools seem like they are meant to be used with tablets. The freehand drawing capability really changes how you sketch out maps in ArcMap. Since I came up through the “Planning” side of GIS, I’ve made more site plans than I care to recall. Usually they are a result of someone drawing something on a map that you printed out and then you attempt to either scan that map back into ArcGIS or you draw it in unnaturally with your mouse. The old adage, you can never have too many nodes usually means your arm feels like it will fall off making those curves.

But with this Wacom tablet, I was able to sketch directly on top of an aerial image, as well as let others sketch what they wanted to see on the map. This meant that we worked directly inside my geodatabase speeding up my work. Plus with the new template tools in ArcGIS 10, we were able to pick exactly the right kinds of symbology as we edited.

ArcMap is ready to go out of the box for use with the Wacom DTU-2231

ArcMap is ready to go out of the box for use with the Wacom DTU-2231

The planner was able to put points down where she wanted them which in turn went directly into my geodatabase

Putting grassy areas down was as easy as drawing them on paper, but in this case they take on the properties of the geodatabase.

As I said above, the whole experience working with geospatial features with the tablet was liberating. I’ve been frustrated for years by planners who ask from broad, smooth curves that by no fault of my right arm, cannot be drawn using a mouse. The pen speeds up any editing of geodatabases and in turn gives results back to the planners quicker than we were able previously. Not scanning in tracing paper or vellum into ArcGIS on its own probably pays for the unit itself.

Also the new editing functions of ArcGIS 10 are a huge change from how people have edited GIS data in any platform before. I’ve also said symbology was as important as the data itself for presenting and the template tools, the storage of these tools inside the geodatabase, all epic.

I’m looking forward to working with this Wacom tablet some more. Its funny in that when I’m working on a computer that doesn’t have it attached, I get very frustrated now having to use a mouse. If you are going to the ESRI UC next week, make sure to stop by the Wacom booth (Booth 2713)?to see it in action and play around with it yourself. I’ve heard ESRI will have a bunch of them around the exhibit hall and in sessions so I’m sure you’ll see it just about everywhere.

Ladies, do you want your GIS Analyst working with the Wacom DTU-2231? Of course you do! Swan Dive!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLTIowBF0kE&w=560&h=315]

Note: Wacom provided the DTU-2231 to me for evaluation purposes.