Minecraft as a Geodesign Tool


The Geodesign Summit (when did they drop the CamelCase?) is happening next week and I’ll be elsewhere or I’d totally go. You all know I’ve had a soft spot for Geodesign and it’s always a good time. Plus Bran Ferren is keynoting so that’s worth the price right there.

Now those with kids know there is something that is bigger than any other game out there right now. Minecraft is played by my son and his friends more than any other game out there. On the Mac, Xbox, iPad, iPhone; it’s crazy to think about how such a simple game has taken over for today’s connected youth (did Qualcomm really try and call them “Generation M”?). I won’t spend my time explaining it here, but it breaks down the whole world into blocks. You can build, destroy, create and battle your environment by yourself or with friends. Sort of like SimCity, but not constrained by products. You get raw materials and build as you go.

So I was playing along with him last night and I got to thinking. The blocks in Minecraft are a great way to symbolize man’s impact on the world. Start mining for diamonds and pretty soon you’ve got either a huge hold in the ground or a mountain that looks like swiss cheese. It all came to me when Connor said he wished he hadn’t dug such a big hole because the sheep and pigs kept falling into it (that’s pretty funny out of context, but you’ll get over it). So while I was building my Fort out by the sea, he went back to restoring the hillside so it not only looked good, but could support trees, flowers and bushes. We talked about creating a rail line between our two forts and he wanted to make sure it was routed around area’s he wanted to protect.

Now I’m very proud of my son for those good choices and it seems like the speed at which you can work with the blocks in Minecraft would be a great tool for showcaseing what GeoDesign really is. My great friend Dale Lutz wrote a super post on this a couple months ago.

So imagine my surprise upon learning that Mojang and the United Nations were teaming together in the cleverly named initiative “Block By Block” to encourage the use of Minecraft in crowdsourcing urban planning, giving youth “the opportunity to show planners and decision makers how they would like to see their cities in the future”.

I know there will be awesome CityEngine, SketchUp and open source analytical tools presented. Those are needed of course, but I’ll tell you I sure wish I was there to give a lightning talk on Minecraft and Geodesign. Jack always says the key to good Geodesign is iterative evaluation. I can’t think of a quicker or easier tool than Minecraft. Let’s get that FME 2014 reader/writer out there Safe!

Day 1 at JS.Geo13

Day 1 has come and gone at JS.Geo13, but now you can see the slide decks as they get populated on the JS.Geo homepage. As of this morning, there are four slide decks posted for Leaflet, Ubisense, Vizzuality (CartoDB) and MapBox. Click over to view and enjoy each one. I bet you didn’t realize you could do so much with a text editor and a browser.

Oh really

Esri Press:: Python Scripting for ArcGIS

This week I noticed Esri Press released a new book titled Python Scripting for ArcGIS.

Python Scripting for ArcGIS is a guide for experienced users of ArcGIS Desktop to get started with Python scripting without needing previous programming experience. Experience with other scripting or programming languages (Perl, VBA, VB script, Java, C++) is helpful but not required. Readers are expected to have good general ArcGIS skills and a basic understanding of geoprocessing procedures. There are 14 chapters with corresponding exercises on an accompanying DVD. Also included is access to a 180-day trial of ArcGIS for Desktop 10.1

So my first reaction was one of bewilderment at the price:


I mean that’s a bit above the normal price for professional GIS book (which run about $60) and of course much more above general python books, which run about free. But let’s not get too tied down on the price. I mean if your career depends on using ArcGIS and you want to learn Python, $80 shouldn’t be an impediment to making yourself more desirable.

Ah, but don’t fear. I Amazon has Python Scripting for ArcGIS at a much more reasonable $50. Plus Amazon has the first chapter available for review so you can see if it will work for you.

If you’re interested in the author, his University webpage gives a little bit of background. I don’t have the book so I can’t give a recommendation yet. It is still preorder so I guess we’re going to have to wait a bit, but to save $30, why not? If people get the book, let me know how it is and I’ll make sure to share it with everyone else.

GeoPackage Comment Period is Open

The comment period is open for the GeoPackage.

The candidate OGC GeoPackage (GPKG) Standard provides an open, non-proprietary, platform-independent container for distribution and direct use of all kinds of geospatial data. The GeoPackage container and related API will increase the cross-platform interoperability of geospatial applications and web services in the mobile world. Standard APIs for access and management of GeoPackage data will provide consistent query and update results across such applications and services.

What’s not to love? I described the need for the GeoPackage from the perspective of WeoGeo over on the WeoGeo Blog:

I have gotten a lot of feedback on my blog and twitter saying that an OGC format like GeoPackage is stupid, bloated, and destined for failure and that we should all continue what we are doing because the market will decide. To me that is just sticking your head in the sand. The market is searching for something besides SHP and GeoTIFF and is waiting for leadership. There is only one organization that can get this implemented across the world (well Google did a pretty good job with KML before that became an OGC format) and that’s the OGC. They are secretive, obfuscated, backwards and their website is a classic case of poor user interfaces. That said, I’m VERY hopeful for GeoPackage becoming a standard.

The GoePackage is going to happen, that’s not in doubt. But if you don’t take the time to comment on the GPKG (I even like typing that) you lose all right to complain about it later. You’ve been warned. I feel like this guy trying to wash a car today. Don’t let this opportunity out of your grasp.

Car Wash

1 More Week Until FME 2013 Drops

Strange Brew

Ever year like clockwork, Safe Software unveils their next generation FME release. There is of course a boatload of new features in FME 2013 but here are some I’m really looking forward to:

  • GeometryValidator – One validator to rule them All
  • Joiner – supports Google Fusion Tables among other new formats
  • FeatureColorSetter – All the ColorSetters are now in one transformer. Much nicer!
  • JSONFormatter – gotta have that
  • AutoDesk IMX Writer – I can’t tell you how many of my CAD friends have migrated to AIM.
  • CouchDB Reader/Writer – Finally an excuse to use it more.
  • SpatiaLite Reader/Writer- Natch

I’m holding my breath on Macintosh OS X Workbench support and a Minecraft Reader/Writer. Probably gonna have to wait for FME 2014…

But all that will be revealed next week at their “Unveiling FME 2013: A Special Launch Day Event”. I’ll be there and you should too.

I guess 80% of data has a location component

Four months ago I made a big deal about the “80% of data is spatial” myth.

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.

Generally it was attributed to a couple people, but nothing substantial. I mean putting it in your PowerPoint slide deck hurts no one, right?

Well linked off the front page of Esri is their Location Analytics page describing whatever that is and right in the middle is:


Well there you go, it must be true because I can’t imagine Esri using that quote without research. I wish they’d put a description at the bottom to see where that came from, I really want to know.

My own feeling is that the quote should go like this:

100% of data has a spatial component you haters

Feel free to reference this page for your presentations.