My “learn python because you are a programmer” pissed off a couple people. Look, either embrace change or be replaced. The idea that you’ll sit at some desk, string together ArcGIS Toolbox wizards doesn’t end well. This only results in you getting paid minimum wage with no where to go. The reality of the world we are in is the only thing you have to separate yourself from the 7 billion other people in the world is your flexibility and skills. If you don’t stand out, you’ll be nothing but a chair moistener in sector 7g.
Now that doesn’t mean you can’t use ArcGIS, quite the contrary. It is still one of the best tools to do much GIS. But you need to augment your “Esri skillz” with other toolsets that will give you a leg up when you want to get out of the cul-de-sac.
I had beers with a new friend of mine last Friday and we were talking about how to expand your skillset in ways to benefit your professional growth. Of course I mentioned Python but she already knew that. Python is great because it is not disruptive at all and works well within the Esri silo. The other application I recommended to her was OpenGeoDa from Arizona State University.
GeoDa is a free software program that serves as an introduction to spatial data analysis. OpenGeoDa is the cross-platform, open source version that runs on different versions of Windows (including XP, Vista and 7), Mac OS, and Linux.
What does that bring to the table? Open source, cross-platform spatial data analysis. It is sexy just saying that. With 70,000 users, GeoDa is clearly established and will help you get a better understanding of what actual geospatial analysis is. Wizards only hide learning from you and cause you to be a button pusher. Esri likes this because it allows them to sell more ArcGIS licenses to anyone who can use a mouse, but it won’t make you more valuable.
Of course learning a database, PostGIS, etc can help as well as Brian Timoney points out. But tools such as OpenGeoDa can be integrated into your workflows easily and give you the skills to make yourself much more valuable to organizations. Much like Paul Ryan, you need exercise (in this case you skills, not your biceps) to keep your focus.
My hangout with Nathaniel Kelso was very interesting because he talked about how Stamen was doing amazing visualization work for Facebook and others. That’s the future, not migrating the old way of doing things “to the cloud”. Onwards….