Donate to Planet Geospatial

I’ve got the Planet Geospatial donation page up so you can now put your money where you mouth is. I’ve got my donation cardboard sign up so do what you must.



The One Where Gary Goes All Hardcore

Gary Gale of Nokia joined us and we talked about Nokia HERE, OpenStreetMap, Nokia Community layer, 3D mapping, indoor mapping navigation, “non-car” related map content, and what he thinks is the future of mapping. The IRC log was full of comments as well so make sure you check that out too.


This Week’s Hangout:: HERE with Nokia

This week’s hangout is going to be great. Gary Gale of Nokia. Gary is a Director at Nokia and ex-Yahoo! Geo team member. Nokia has been in the news quite a bit the last few months with Amazon, Yahoo!, Microsoft, and others using their maps to power their applications. And just last week Nokia released Here Maps for iOS so there is surely something to talk about. We’ll also get into how Nokia views OpenStreetMap, developers, and maybe why people continue to favor Google Maps over some great competition. The fun starts at 10am PST over at WeoGeo Video.

We’ll be talking on the IRC channel again so either show up to the Hangout page on WeoGeo or better yet, point your IRC client to #hwjf on



Planet Geospatial:: The Way Forward

Please Read

OK, so we talked it over and I think we’ve got a plan of action.

  1. Planet Geospatial is going nowhere. I’m going to keep it running because so many people have told me how much they use it. The stats clearly showed this, but sometimes you just need to hear it from users.
  2. Please send me additional feeds for the service. I’ve added probably 20 new blogs since last week and I’d love to add more. Curating good content requires the community to help. So email me what you enjoy reading so others can to.
  3. I mentioned the CSS needed to be updated. You all see it as I do, these feeds are dirty and cause problems with the page formatting when it renders. I’m clearly not a CSS guru so I’d like to hire someone to make it much better. Some people have volunteered and I appreciate it, but I think we require some kick ass help. Thus I’m going to be smart and pay for a CSS stud to fix things the right way.
  4. One of my concerns with spending time on improving Planet Geospatial was that I wasn’t sure how many people really valued it. I’ve gotten a ton of feedback on this but I think we should both put “skin in the game”. I’m going to set up a PayPal donation link here this week and whatever people donate will be put to improving Planet Geospatial. Based on feedback, there will be two options, a bulk donation option and a subscription option. There is no expectation that everyone donates. Clearly you need to determine if Planet Geospatial is of value to you and if so you still may not feel like donating. That’s ok, just keep reading and that’s enough. I only expect anyone to donate because they want to improve the service and keep it free and clean.

Thanks for the feedback everyone!


Thinking About the Future of Planet Geospatial

Planet Geospatial has been around for over 7 years. It started on Planet Planet, moved to WordPress, then back to Planet Venus platform. I’ll be honest, it really doesn’t cost me much in time or hosting fees. It runs as it always has, an hourly CRON job that builds the simple HTML page. Formatting gets wacky sometimes because most GIS bloggers can’t bother to close all their HTML tags, but that’s another story.

So even though I spend almost no time running it, I still think about it. I get about an email a week from someone who wants their blog added, wants to know why their blog isn’t updating (spoiler: stop using Feedburner), or even that they’d rather get their Esri news elsewhere.

I’ve enjoyed working with Planet Geospatial and I still have it as a tab on all my browsers. But what to do, what to do?

I’ve decided there are three ways to go:

  1. Sell
  2. Take donations to fund a new resource that has more value
  3. Let Planet Geospatial die a quiet death in peace

Sell Out


I’ve gotten an offer from someone who wants the domain to probably throw ads all over the place and probably destroy it for most users. They know that this is the case, but they don’t really care. I’m not emotional about it, if selling makes sense, I’ll do it. I would have rather had someone else offer money for the site and continue it as a GIS resource. But I’m not sure anyone really wants to do that.

Let It Die


This is easy, I just keep doing what I’m doing. Add/remove blog feeds as emails come. Honestly, if I spend 1 hour a year doing this I’d be surprised. Since this is how I’ve been running Planet Geospatial for the past couple years so you can tell I don’t find it rewarding.

Fund a New Planet Geospatial


The last option as I see it is to get some donations from readers to give me funds to hire a developer to create a new aggregator built for how we use the Internet in 2012. I thought about taking people’s time donated (GitHub style) to create something, but I think if I went this route I would want to pay someone to get it done. This seems possible as I don’t think I need that much money to get it done, but do people even donate money to niche web projects anymore? I know I do, but my gut tells me I wouldn’t get more than $10 bucks.

Why Not Just Sell Ads?

Well, ads suck these days, they don’t get enough revenue to justify their existence (note to self, remove that stupid Google ad on the right). Plus, the core of Planet Geospatial is not my work. I don’t like the idea of selling ads around other people’s work. Plus, 99% of them would just be for the 2013 Esri UC, right?


So what is next? I’m not sure, I’m not going to make a rash decision here. The offer for the domain is still valid so that’s got at least another month of life left. For every person who says they’d donate, 10 tell me that I’m crazy (but they don’t say if they’d give a buck or two). I’m curious what you guys think?


This Week’s Hangout:: Talking Shop Part 2

Quick programming note! Luc can’t make today’s hangout, but we’ll still have tons of fun. I’ll also be talking about the future of Planet Geospatial.

This week is going to be a great hangout. Luc Anselin, Director of the GeoDa Center for Geospatial Analysis and Computation at Arizona State University, joins Madeline and James for a Hangout. We’ll talk about using Python to perform GIS Analysis, open source tools, open source in Education and why the Arizona State Sun Devil football team will destroy that stupid UofA team on Friday. Arizona State’s GeoDa Center is a great resource for GIS analytical tools such as OpenGeoDa, PySAL, R-Geo and others.

We’ll be talking on the IRC channel again so either show up to the Hangout page on WeoGeo or better yet, point your IRC client to #hwjf on



Dont Be That Guy Gis Day Edition

– esri

For some reason the GeoHipsters were all up in arms yesterday that Esri has a trademark on “GIS Day”. I’ve not seen Esri defend that trademark at all against even the crazy stuff I do with it.

Companies trademark things all the time to protect them from people who would destroy a brand. If anything Jack is the kind of guy to take one for the team and trademark GIS Day so anyone can use it to promote GIS without fear that it will be used by porn sites (think about it). Sure Esri promotes their software in their presentations, but that’s what we all do on that day. The core concepts work anywhere so don’t get stuck in the weeds.

GIS Day is nothing to be afraid of. Plus Jack was hipster well before you were born.

Jack Hipster


Natural Earth 2.0 is Available

Last week Natural Earth 2.0 was released. It is no secret that Natural Earth is one of my favorite worldwide datasets and we at WeoGeo use it quite a bit. We’ve updated WeoGeo Market to now have the latest Natural Earth data. The vector data is available in many GIS or CAD formats and with all 26 layers.
Natural Earth: 10m Vector

The raster data is also available in many formats and with all 49 layers.
Natural Earth: All Rasters

The WeoGeo data team was able to create some really beautiful preview tiles of the Natural Earth data. The airports and harbors in the preview tiles are symbolized with Maki Icons. The data team continues to output beautiful work!


The One Where We Agree, You Got To Do What You Love!

This week’s hangout was very special. First, it was the longest show we’ve ever produced, over 1.5 hours. Second, we were lucky enough to get 3 great guests; David DiBiase of Esri, Kenny Miller from the State of Maryland, and Jessica Touchard, Senior Recruiter with GeoSearch, Inc. We took some questions from the IRC chat and those that were proposed via Google Moderator. I really hope this is a great resource for those who are looking for their first job, a new job, or a new career in GIS.

As always, the IRC log with some of the URLs is available on the WeoGeo Video page.


GIS Day 2012 — A Reflection

I normally don’t reflect on GIS Day, mostly because I forget when it is. But given I’ve got a GIS Day event this year, I’ve known the date for quite some time. I started blogging way back in 2005 and I thought I’d think back to how I was doing GIS then vs. now.


The hardware looked like this, I was on some sort of Dell Precision laptop (M60 or something) with a 20”+ monitor. I’m sure the laptop was a beast for the time, I do remember running through Atlanta’s airport with it on my back so I can assure you it was heavy. At that time I was split between two worlds, GIS analysis, and GIS development. In support of the former, we had a fancy color laser printer and some huge HP plotter that was pushing out planning scenarios for our military clients. There was of course some Dell server in the background with some drive array and tape backup that I always forgot to change out.

Software-wise, it was all ArcGIS (Desktop/Server). I started blogging right before I received our ArcGIS 9.1 disks so I’m sure I was using 8.3 over 9.0 at the time (avoid even release numbers I always say). Maps were authored using ArcInfo and plotted usually from PDFs. We had SDE running in the background, but mostly we used personal geodatabases because our clients used them. Scripting back then was done with VBA. Damn, that sounds all so depressing.

Esri Moon Eye

My workflow back then seems so antiquated

On the development side, I was pure .NET. Back in 2005, we still stuck to it because our clients were using it. We authored our own .NET API for ArcIMS, but I can’t remember if we ever shared it. I think that would have been Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003 era because VS 2005 didn’t really arrive until 2006 (stop putting years in product names people). I remember trying to use ArcGIS Server for development, but the product was clearly not ready for production then.

If you look at the first blog post, you can see I was looking for other solutions than the ArcSDE/ArcGIS Server/.NET stack. MapServer, PostGIS, and PHP (yea I suck) were where I was putting my spare time into. Of those three though only PostGIS is something I still use today. Oh and this was my introduction to the wonderful Sean Gillies.


Funny how hardware changes. I no longer do GIS analysis beyond donating time to non-profits, so I no longer need my own plotter, laser printer, tape backup, or Dell server array. My primary work computer is a 2009 15” MacBook Pro. This thing continues to be a workhorse and besides upgrading the hard drive to 1TB and memory to 8GB, it is as stock as it was when I got it the day I joined WeoGeo (how’s that, one computer since I joined a cloud-based company, makes sense though). I’ve got a 23” Apple Cinema display and I backup my laptop using an Apple Time Machine Capsule. I’ve also got a basic Dell Optiplex under my desk that I VNC into when I need to use Windows, but that rarely happens anymore.

The new hotness!

Software side I use PostGIS for most of my GIS analysis. Doing everything in a database is awesome. PostGIS sits on my laptop, but I do have a mirrored copy on AWS. I use QGIS mostly as my GIS package with help from GDAL/OGR (scripting is the way to go!). Cartography is done with either Mapnik or TileMill depending on my mood. We use Safe FME at WeoGeo so if I need to do any file conversions I’ll leverage a VM with FME on it in a pinch. I really dislike running virtual machines so FME and ArcGIS rarely get used on my laptop because of the lack of Mac OS X support.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote any .NET code. 70% of anything I write is Python followed by 25% JavaScript and then 5% Ruby. I don’t use any IDE, just BBEdit, and a browser window to discover awesome Python libraries. I’ve been meaning to start sharing my Python code on Github, but most of it is either poorly written (possibly all of it) and so specific to my needs it might not be worth it. Maybe one day I’ll sit down and pull out the awesome. I create most of my tiles using Wetsaw and Dan Dye’s fork of MBUtil and the WeoGeo API


The biggest change I see is not using Esri as much as before. I’ll be honest though, the ONLY reason I don’t use ArcGIS Desktop is that it isn’t available as a native Mac app. Same with FME. Initially, it was difficult to change my workflows away from tools I’ve used for years, but the end result is that I’ve got a nice native workflow without the need to start up a VM. Plus if Esri and Safe ever get around to releasing native software, I can go back to using them in addition to the awesome open source tools that are part of my life. I probably peaked as a .NET developer back with Active Server Pages (well at least to .NET 2.0) so even by 2005, I was looking at transitioning beyond what I felt was a bloated IDE and tools. Python seemed perfect (even to a Perl geek like me) and I’m glad I committed to it back then.

The other takeaway from this that really surprises me is my hardware. The fact I can do cutting edge GIS on an almost 4-year-old laptop tells you how crappy the Windows/COM stack is. I’d love to replace this work computer with a retina laptop, but it might also be fun to see how long I can last.


Fry Squint

Safe FME is supposed to be running on Mac soon so I suspect I’ll be using more FME next year than I am now. Esri seems to be moving away from ArcObjects and in doing so will eventually have a native Mac version for ArcGIS Desktop. I doubt that this will happen in 2013 though even if we start seeing a Mac client appear. PostGIS/QGIS/GDAL/OGR/Mapnik is a nice tight multi-platform stack. Clearly, everything is in place for open source GIS replacing proprietary GIS. I’ll happily bring ArcGIS Desktop back into my workflow when Esri supports my platform, but for now, I’m enjoying what I have.