Twenty Percent of GIS Data isn’t Spatial

OK, well maybe not but everyone has a theory about where that quote from last week came from. Here are some of them:

  1. Some professor (usually from New Jersey) came up with it in 1988 (or 1987)
  2. Roger Tomlinson coined it in the 1960’s
  3. Oracle/IBM/Sybase/Informix did a study in the 1990s
  4. Kellogg report on AM/FM in utilities back in the early 1980’s [H/T: David Sonnen]
  5. Jesus

I think this is a classic case of the old telephone game we played as kids. Eventually when you get far enough from the source, you can’t trust anything. The 80% (or any number you wish) is really just anecdotal at this point. All data is only once removed from being spatial so the number is almost irrelevant. David Sonnen put it very well on Google+:

Like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy, it’s a lovely myth. If you’re trying to do real work, it’s not useful.

Oh and yes the San Francisco Giants have a 5.5 game lead on those stupid Dodgers. Yes it is happening again.



The Atlantic Looks at How Google Builds Maps

The Atlantic – How Google Builds Its Maps—and What It Means for the Future of Everything

The office where Google has been building the best representation of the world is not a remarkable place. It has all the free food, ping pong, and Google Maps-inspired Christoph Niemann cartoons that you’d expect, but it’s still a low-slung office building just off the 101 in Mountain View in the burbs.

I figured they had offices, but I’ve clearly underestimated the ping pong factor. Time to get Paul to buy some ping pong tables for the offices.

The big takeaway (if you don’t like reading liberal leaning publications) is that humans are still critical to getting these maps accurate, even with the computing power of Google. I can’t imagine a more depressing job than shifting these roads around, but someone has to do it and I’m glad they do.


I’m sure the ping pong makes it all worth while.


The One Where Tyler Bell Defines Big Data

This weeks hangout is now up on YouTube so if you missed my very special guest, Tyler Bell, you can enjoy his definition of “big data”, some old Yahoo! Geo projects that are still alive (and one that isn’t), place data and of course the part where he wishes he had a JSON feed of his credit card purchases.

As I mentioned on the show, next week will be something new. Madeline and I will have an open discussion where we’ll be talking about what it means to be a GIS Professional in 2013 (it’s almost here guys) and taking questions from you using Google Moderator. If you want to have me comment on a subject, whether it be my love of Flash or how I think the Dodgers are going to choke away the baseball season again, you can post the question and vote up others. I’ve already populated it with a couple of questions I get asked weekly.


This Week’s Hangout: It’s Just Data

This weeks hangout should be tons of fun. My ex “This Week in Maps” co-host (is that what we were?), Tyler Bell joins me and Madeline to talk about just about anything location. Tyler works for Factual so there is bound to be some discussion about big data, location business models, Google buying patents from deCarta and why we all are still standing. Should be fun as always! Join us on the WeoGeo Hangout page tomorrow!



80% of Data is Not Spatial so Stop Claiming it is

If you told me 80% of data has Chuck Norris in it, I’d believe that, but this statistic that GIS people keep throwing out has got to be stopped. The quote usually goes like this:

XX% (generally 80%) of [some form of data] has a location/gis/geospatial/spatial component.

Every couple of months, someone asks me for the origin of this stat and I’m generally not able to provide it. Just yesterday Tyler Mitchell asked on Twitter:

If you search for the phrase in Google, you’ll find it referenced by Esri, Microsoft, and just about anyone else who wants to feel better about their lifestyle choice. The bottom line is though there is ZERO real analysis to this stat and was probably created over beers.

Now it could be that the stat is true. I’m horrible at darts, but sometimes I do get a bullseye so maybe we all nailed it with this one. But until someone can actually back this stat up with real facts, I’m calling bullshit and you should too. Stop throwing it into your PowerPoint slide decks and executive summaries.

The Dude

The Dude wishes you’d stop using this quote.