The 2012 Esri UC – Condensed to a Google+ Hangout

I’ve not been able to get my blog post out on the future of Esri given ArcGIS Online is in our laps, but that won’t stop Steve Citron-Pousty and myself from giving our take on what Esri is doing. Bonus points for Steve given he didn’t even go to the event, but we know that won’t stop him from having an opinion. Stop by at 10am tomorrow (August 1, 2012), Google+ Event page is linked here

Wrong Week

Steve, pictured on the left, joins James to talk about what went down at the 2012 Esri UC


Google Maps is More Accurate Because They Say It Is

Google says its map is accurate because they made it:

“The challenge of using multiple sources of information is conflation,” said Brian McClendon , the head of Google Earth and Maps. “There is no way to mix the best of one company’s product with the best of another.” By owning all of the information, he says, Google can more readily check the quality of the information it’s getting, and subject it to Google-type computer analysis using things like computer vision, machine learning, or GPS data, as well as humans checking some data.

Bull shit. There is no difference between getting data from some hippie riding one of those Google bicycles and vetting it or getting data from TomTom and vetting it. If I worked for Google Maps I’d kill myself.

And he got a nice dig into OpenStreetMap as well.

Of course, the other companies might try to get their map information from the fast-growing opensource map project called OpenStreetView. Mr. McClendon said, however, that this was one case where many contributors did not necessarily produce better results, since they were working from different standards. “Merging data from multiple sources of truth is hard,” he said, “and mapping is the best example of that.”

Wow, my head hurts.


I still don’t know what ArcGIS Online is

Heres Johnny

Esri Marketing is knocking on my email inbox

OK, so lets try and figure out what ArcGIS Online is. I sure as heck can’t make sense of what Esri marketing is telling me, it’s all contradictory marketing nonsense. So here are my theories.

Geography Network 2.0

Well it is possibly the spiritual offspring because we couldn’t figure out what that was for either. Plus while Esri hosts a lot of data for you, it sill is a reference point for that slow ass ArcGIS Server you have running on that ancient Dell PowerEdge server on that DSL line your IT department hasn’t figured out still exists.

ArcGIS Server NG

ArcGIS Server is a huge drain on Esri. The technical support effort they put into supporting people who have no right trying to install server software must be enormous. Plus 9.3, 10.1, SP1, SP2, SP3, SP4, SP5, etc are all confusing and who knows if you have the right version. By migrating all you to a hosted solution, they can take away your right to install ArcGIS Server incorrectly and make sure you continue to pay maintenance.

Google My Maps for ArcGIS

People use Google Maps to share information freely. Why shouldn’t they use ArcGIS for Online instead? Quick, get that to the marketing team!

ArcGIS for Cloud

Oh my yes. The cloud is like the information superhighway meets the world wide web. In the middle, ArcGIS Online.

I thought this was what we were calling ArcGIS Online. I’m totally confused.

ArcGIS for Content Management

Wait, I already debunked that.

Here is my fear for Esri. They are forcing everything new through ArcGIS Online and it ends up screwing up some of the more innovative products their teams are creating. At this point, do you really think Esri Maps for Microsoft Office has any hope given it requires ArcGIS Online?

Update: Sean McGinnis and All Points Blog have similar thoughts.


Are There Any Surprises Left at the Esri UC?

Back in the old days, when I was young and good looking, the Esri UC was an event of mystery. Basically, we knew nothing about Esri’s direction and features in new applications. Heck, we didn’t even know what great new extensions were going to show up, or things like MapObjects IMS. I was thinking about this last night when someone asked me what I was most excited to hear about at the Esri UC. After thinking about it for a couple seconds I had to answer, “Nothing”. Now that isn’t that I’m not curious about ArcGIS Online (breaking through the marketing speak) or hear about new features of software. It’s just I can’t imagine during the Plenary that there will be anything that I’ll say, “Wow, that’s news to me”.


There are no OMG moments anymore

Is this a bad thing though? I’d say no because I’d rather know Esri’s plans for ArcGIS well before things actually happen. ArcGIS 10.1 is a huge release, but we are all taking that for granted because we’ve heard so much about it over the last few months/year. We’ve known what features in 10.1 are critical to our workflows and we don’t need the plenary to show us what “10 new features of ArcGIS 10.1 might be awesome”. I love that I can plan for updates for my workflow before the UC and then use that time to ask specific questions of Esri staff rather than the stupid, uninformed questions we all asked years ago.

The followup I was asked was what do I get out of going to the Esri UC if I’ve already seen it all and I prefer to go to the Dev Summit? For me, it’s the networking. Meeting WeoGeo’s customer, partners and friends. Seeing fellow developers and geospatial geeks that I rarely see. Meet with Esri staff to talk about how I envision WeoGeo using Esri technology and how we see WeoGeo Market and WeoGeo Library integrating with ArcGIS.

One thing that I’m really excited to show is all the great new data we have in WeoGeo that you can access via the WeoGeo Tools for ArcGIS
WeoGeo Market

We’ve got this great new Coastal Water Quality dataset that I think is going to be awesome for biologists working on human impact on the shores and beaches of the world.
CIESIN Indicators of Coastal Water Quality

And we’ve got some great new partners we hope to announce in the next month that will bring unique datasets available in all our supported formats (raster or vector) so you can use it with your applications as you see fit. These aren’t dumb web services that you can’t run analysis on but the actual data that you’ll own and be able to use as you see fit. Summer is going to be great!


Mr. Dangermond Answers Your Questions

It’s that time of year again, where Jack takes a couple of minutes out of his busy schedule to answer all those important questions about Esri. As always, I pull out some of the better questions and answers so that you don’t have to read the whole thing.

Q: What is the meaning of this year’s User Conference theme, “GIS – Opening our World?”

We always come up with a new theme to help us sell t-shirts, mugs, and mouse pads.

Q: What are the current trends in the GIS world and what is Esri’s strategy with respect to them?

Here are the current trends where we think we lead: * Platforms: ArcGIS for XX is everywhere.

  • Crowdsourcing: We like crowdsourcing now.
  • The Cloud: Yea boy!
  • GeoDesign: By putting Geo in front of design, we make it our own. Those stupid CAD users still think they design worlds. In reality, they just design sewer systems.
  • Big Data: It’s data, but bigger.
  • Location Analytics: We read about this in Wired Magazine just last month.

Q: As GIS becomes easier, what will be the role of GIS professionals?

You’ll become a chair moistener in Sector 7G.

Q: Does ArcGIS integrate with other business applications?

Seriously, all you really care about is Excel, but here is a list of other names you might have read about in Business Week.

Q: What is Esri’s geospatial portal technology? How is it integrated with metadata?

We ignore James’ advice and name everything portals.

Q: How is ArcGIS Online useful to traditional GIS users?

Users can do everything they normally do with their “out of maintenance” ArcView license, but have to actually pay to use it. Party is over free-loaders!

Q: How do you contrast Google Maps and ArcGIS?

While they are quite different in that everyone uses Google Maps and nobody uses ArcGIS…

Q: What is Esri’s technical direction and strategy?

We are going to spend money on R&D so that nobody can compete against us. Seriously, who is our real competitor?

Q: How is Esri doing?

Personally, we are a little stressed out working on the UC, but the vacation after will be well earned.

Q: What distinguishes the Esri family of products from consumer mapping?

You call that a GIS?

Q: What is Esri’s position about open source and its products?

If you use GDAL, you need to thank us. Plus we figure out a way to mention ArcGIS Viewer for Flex in an open-source question. That’s how awesome we are.

Q: How is Esri supporting integration of building information models (BIMs)?

Not possible, but we’ve got partners who will spend your money.

Q: What is the Esri product road map?

GIS goes to 11!

[editor’s note: how did they answer this question without saying “cloud”?]

Q: What is Esri’s strategy for providing support across multiple devices?

If you buy ArcGIS for Server, you can use our apps on iOS and Android to view it. Real client/server stuff that makes you think back to the 1980s. Plus we’ve got a weird Mac App Store application on its way so we can say we are in the Mac App Store.

[editor’s note: they do realize that Mac’s have web browsers, right?]

Q: What does it mean that ArcGIS is a complete system?

It means don’t look elsewhere.

Q: When will Esri provide full support for KML/KMZ?

We do, it’s called Safe Software FME.

Q: How can I add spreadsheet data to my map?

Automagically of course.

[editor’s note: I bet this was the number one question asked by the average Esri user]

Q: How is Esri leveraging electronic dissemination for its software products?

Automagically of course.

[editor’s note: seriously, who wrote that question like that? What are we, a bunch of university professors around here?]

Q: What are some of the big differences between version 10 and version 10.1?

Well first off, we put a “.1” at the end…

Q: Why should I migrate my desktop to 10.1?

Because if you don’t, all this cool stuff you’ll see at the Esri UC won’t work for you.

Q: Will ArcGIS be supported on Windows 8?

ArcGIS for Metro, sounds lovely, doesn’t it?

Q: 10.0 has bugs. Can you assure me that 10.1 has fixed these problems?

No, but you can assume 10.1 has bugs, even new ones. Have fun finding them!

Q: What is next after 10.1?

If we give you native 64-bit on the desktop, will you stop bugging us?

Q: Will VB script ever go away, replaced by Python?

Despite the writing on the wall, you losers won’t stop using it. Bless your hearts.

Q: Which programming language should I invest in as an ArcGIS professional?

Python, python, python…

Q: What role can the cloud play in my ArcGIS implementation?

It can easily quadruple your monthly costs.

Q: What does cloud mean for desktop and server users?

It means that when it rains, it pours. Think about it!

Q: Regarding ArcGIS Server licensing in the cloud, will we see elasticity (true utility model) or legacy licensing persisted?

Our business model is based on legacy licensing.

[editor’s note: seriously when will you get on board with a solution I can actually implement?]

Q: I have security requirements, how do I decide to upload my data in ArcGIS Online or host it on premise behind my firewall using ArcGIS for Server?

We have a professional services team ready and willing to help you figure that out.

Q: Can I deploy ArcGIS for Server in Microsoft Azure?

No, stop asking.

[editor’s note: Stop it, Amazon does everything you want]

Q: What is the future of ArcGIS Desktop? Will it be replaced by ArcGIS Server?

No, we’d prefer you to pay for two products separately.

Q: What will be in the next release of ArcGIS for Desktop?

ArcGIS 11, it will do everything you want until we drop those features.

Q: Why has Esri discontinued shipping ArcInfo Workstation with the 10.1 release?

Because all the guys who wrote it have died.

Q: What progress has Esri made with CAD data and GIS data compatibility?

While it doesn’t really do anything, ArcGIS for AutoCAD is a free tool to get you to stop asking.

Q: When will ArcGIS for Desktop be able to take full advantage of 64 bit processing capabilities?

This release could take a while!

Q: Can I develop web and mobile applications with ArcGIS and HTML5 now?

Not only that, but you can also use Dojo!

Q: What is the future of the Web ADF and ArcGIS for Server Manager Web Applications?

Seriously, the Web ADF was our bad…

Q: What is the future of ArcIMS?

Not, good at all.

Q: Did I hear correctly that ArcGIS for Server Basic Edition will include basic web mapping capabilities?

Why yes you did, your ears still work.

Q: What are my options for deploying mobile GIS?

Well, you’ll probably want to use Google or Apple, but here is a list of products we’ll talk about that you probably won’t use.

Q: How do I get my data on a smartphone/tablet device?

By using a new piece of software called a web browser.

Q: How difficult is it for me to develop applications that will run on multiple mobile platforms?

Easier than you think, but don’t use Flex.

Q: What’s the vision for ArcGIS Online? What are its capabilities?

ArcGIS Cloud Online is Esri’s open cloud platform for GIS cloud organizations to web-enable cloud their maps and cloud-related geographic cloud information for cloud sharing with cloud their users.

Q: What are the basic capabilities of ArcGIS Online?

You can view maps. That’s pretty basic, right?

Q: Does Esri plan on including data sharing (similar to a GIS FTP site) within ArcGIS Online?

Layer Packages lock you into our software. Thus you’ll want to use them. We’ve been waiting to mention them.

Q: What is the difference between ArcGIS Online, ArcGIS Online for Organizations, and self-hosted ArcGIS for Server capabilities?

We suck at names and we understand why you are confused. We ourselves don’t know the difference between, ArcGIS Online, and ArcGIS for Server in da cloud.

Q: Can I use ArcGIS Online personally?

What are you, stupid?

Q: What is Portal for ArcGIS?

We love to name things in weird ways. Rather than keeping with the normal “ArcGIS for…” naming convention, we throw things around in different ways.

Q: Is ArcGIS Online like Google Earth and Google Maps?

In some ways yes, it is a thing.

Q: Can international users subscribe directly to ArcGIS Online? How will pricing work?

You’ll wish you lived in the good old USA after talking with your local distributor.

Q: What is Esri’s content strategy?

We view data as driving software sales. Thus we give away data our partners want to sell in the hope your users will buy more of our software.

Q: Who owns the data that has been shared in ArcGIS Online?

Unlike Google, you own your data and we won’t sell ads around it.

Q: What distinguishes Esri’s demographic data from other data vendors?

In a blind study, nobody could see the difference between the data because they were blind.

Q: When will ArcGIS support direct access to spatial DBMSs?

We do with 10.1, but we still want you to use our geodatabase format.

Q: What is happening to ArcSDE?

It died and not too many people noticed.

Q: What is the best way to manage imagery?

Well ArcGIS of course.

Q: What is the best way to serve imagery?

Well, ArcGIS of course.

Q: What is the role of ArcGIS Explorer Desktop in ArcGIS?

Wait, we know the answer to this. Just give us a minute.

Q: Is VBA supported at ArcGIS 10.1?

No, but we’ve got workarounds because you people haven’t been listening.

Q: Is ArcGIS open?

It depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is, jerk.


It’s Just Data

Glenn Letham pointed out that there has been a ton of talk about DWG and WeoGeo in the past few weeks. He’s right in the sense that DWG is a new format of ours, but not a new direction. WeoGeo has always been about getting data to users in platforms that they need. Just that simple. DWG to us is the same as Shapefile, ECW, or even GeoJSON. Glenn got it figured out:

That’s totally right. GIS is a user of data, just like CAD is, or BI, or even Excel. What we’re trying to do is get that data, whatever it is, in the native format of that platform. Thus it makes sense for us to have both Esri formats and AutoCAD formats in our system. Take this Undersea Communication Cables and Landing Stations layer:
Undersea Communication Cables and Landing Stations

Why should GIS software packages have all the fun? Of course, it shouldn’t and remember this works both ways. There are some great CAD data out there “locked away” in DWG formats that aren’t always readable inside of GIS software packages. We just enable that for every vector dataset in WeoGeo. Sweet!

This is a different philosophy from some other companies. They’d rather engineer plugins to tools to enable their GIS services into apps. This is great for their business model, but not for your workflow. Simplicity is how you get people to actually use data, not some huge add-on that requires lots of money, time, and effort to get working. As a co-worker said years ago to me while she was trying to order some demographic data, “Just give me the damn data!”. Exactly, we give you the damn data in your preferred format.

When you list your data in the WeoGeo Market, your data is accessible to users on any supported platform without you having to do a thing. Out of the box support for hundreds of formats. Brilliant!



DWG in WeoGeo

One new feature of WeoGeo I’ve been pushing hard for is CAD support in WeoGeo Library and WeoGeo Market. The last release of WeoGeo added this support and I can now say that EVERY vector dataset in WeoGeo is now available as DWG format as well as those traditional GIS formats. Sharing data between GIS and CAD is now much easier thanks to our backend running on Safe Software’s FME Server which as we all know gives us the best tools to convert between GIS/CAD and just about any other format.
WeoGeo Market

Every vector layer in WeoGeo Market is now available as DWG

I love this because now tons of great “GIS” datasets are available to CAD users. Need historic Tornado Tracks inside of your design projects? Now you can select them and bring them right inside of your CAD application as native DWG.
Natural Disasters: Historic Tornado Tracks 1950-2010

If you or your staff use CAD at some point in your workflows, try downloading any of our datasets (most of it at no cost) as DWG and bring it in. Brilliant!


Esri Eliminates GeoIQ

So the answer to the age old question, “What are the boys down in the lab doing?” has been answered.

“We are excited to join the Esri family, integrating our technology and extending the Esri platform,” says Sean Gorman, founder of GeoIQ. “Esri’s approach to ‘GIS for Everyone’ is transformational in the industry and is very closely aligned with GeoIQ’s vision, so we are extremely excited about working together.”

I think Sean threw up in his mouth while saying that. That goes against everything GeoIQ has said about Esri for the past couple years (most assume the old @FakeJackDangermond twitter account was a GeoIQ sock puppet).

GeoIQ staff will join Esri at a new software development center located in Washington, D.C. and extend the ArcGIS platform with special emphasis on federal government clients in the areas of self-service mapping, analytics, big data, content streaming and social media.

Heh, GeoIQ staff extending the ArcGIS platform? I can only assume Sean made a deal with the devil (the real devil, not Esri) and lost. Now he’s got to work for Jack for a little while before they let him go. That’s what you get for trying to change the world guys, eaten by the beast. Despite having to give up control of his company to Jack, Sean looked pretty happy leaving the office this morning.

Slim Gorman

Andrew Turner should be able to fit in really well at Esri D.C. I pulled this quote from Andrew near the bottom of the press release about the File Geodatabase, “We wants it, we needs it. Must have the precious.”

Andrew Gollum

The bottom line is clearly here:

Esri opens the door for us to operate within the ArcGIS platform and to directly work with their millions of users.

Thus you see the problem with all these geospatial government contractor startups. There is one company in that space and it is Esri. Either you work with them or you don’t work at all. GeoIQ lasted as long as they could, but they clearly needed an out. At least their staff will work with a company making money hand over fist in D.C.


Autodesk on the Future of Design

I’ve talked about what Esri calls “GeoDesign” once or twice on before, but that is mostly from the GIS professionals perspective. Design usually happens in CAD, not GIS. So for digital design (or whatever we are going to call it) having architects on board is critical. I thought this interview of Autodesk VP Phillip Bernstein has some great perspectives on Design and how architects need to embrace change.

The firm that treats BIM software like a Xerox machine is going to find itself back on its heels. The transition from the non-digital to digital processes is very fundamental, much more so than the shift back in the early ’90s from hand-drafting to CAD—[that change] involved a lot of hardware and training, but it wasn’t a shift in the frame of reference or in the business model. It was a shift in responsibilities.

That goes for GIS folks too. Says Bernstein:

…spend time thinking about what your firm will be doing in five years. If you think that your firm is going to be doing the same thing that you’re doing now, you’re really wrong.

That’s sound advice for everyone. The future is more interaction between CAD/GIS/BIM and if you’ve got no plans in place for that convergence (this doesn’t count) you are going to be irrelevant in the future. You’ve been warned.

Little Red Book

Be very careful, this book may only tell you half the story.


The Paper Map Era is Over

Not that I needed to tell you, but paper maps are a dying breed:

Transportation departments around the country are in the middle of readjusting their spending amid times of falling revenue, and paper maps could be on the chopping block, said Bob Cullen, spokesman for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

I mean who really wants a paper map other than neck beards (I know who you all are)? Plotters are already the dot matrix printer of our times. They’ll stick around until they break or need more ink toner, then the plug will be pulled and we can all move on. My first job in the industry was “Plotter Operator”, don’t let that be your last.


Take one last picture with your plotter and toss it out the door