This Week’s Hangout with Marc Prioleau

We’ve got a great one this week, Marc Prioleau joins me to talk about the mobile location space and how quickly it continues to evolve. Just last week Apple bought WiFiSLAM which aims to improve indoor location for mobile devices. The mobile space is full of hype and failed products but Marc has a knack of pushing through all that for great insight. You can watch live right here on this blog tomorrow at 11am MST/PDT.

OSM PLUS Conference Set for June 10th

You can now register for the OSM Plus Conference which will happen in San Francisco on June 10th, 2013. Steve Coast has been talking about getting a professional OSM conference going and it’s great to see that it is finally going to happen. Professional OSM you say?

OSM PLUS is new and focused on professional users of OSM data and toolchains commercially, academically, in government and elsewhere. It is a paid-for event and we expect it to be more of a conversation than a traditional presentation. Many professional users have similar concerns and expectations for OSM. We want to explore these in an environment focused on coming up with solutions.

If your business uses OSM or you consult on it, you totally should be registering for this conference. Where else are you going to interact with people who are not only using OSM data, but building companies around it. So right after SOTM US, stick around for OSM Plus. I’ve already registered.

MAPPS Proposes Geospatial User Fee

MAPPS proposes a user fee with this teaser:

A user’s fee could provide sustained funding for national geospatial data, but how?

This is a huge problem in any country, not just the old red, white and blue. In this crowd we all know how important public domain national geospatial data is. But how to fund it?

working group of the Management Association of Private Photogrammetric Surveyors (MAPPS). The trust fund will, theoretically, provide an additional source of revenue to supplement federal appropriations for geospatial contracts for national-scale, national-scope, national-coverage geospatial data sets. In a time of perceived or real public suspicion about anything that appears to be a new tax, why even consider this geospatial user fee?

I encourage you to read the whole article. Now I don’t agree with a user fee one bit, but MAPPS does bring up some a sobering fact, our geospatial infrastructure is crumbling. Maybe it’s because I live in Arizona, but I just don’t see taking users and then giving the money to another broken government agency as a solution. Especially one that has made suspect decisions with their geospatial dollar (, GeoPDF). But clearly we as an industry should propose something.

I’m of the mindset to just open public domain geospatial data for crowdsouring. That in my mind is the only sustainable way to grow geospatial data that the public can use. Taking me and then using that money to build another GIS silo is throwing good money after bad. I’d like to see MAPPS get behind the crowdsouring model but I’m not exactly hopeful.

I’ll be giving a talk in April at the APLS Conference as to why the surveying community needs to embrace crowdsouring and why the crowdsouring community would greatly benefit from their participation. I expect rotten vegetables to be thrown at me, but hey, it’s a start! Hey, it gets a thumbs up from me!

Thumbs up

Use Esri GIS and Your Data Becomes Inextricably Intertwined

We talk about open data quite a bit but clearly if you use the Esri platform, it has huge hidden costs to get that data out.

The Supreme Court of Ohio today denied a writ of mandamus sought by Portsmouth real estate appraiser Robert Gambill to compel the production of certain public records by Scioto County Engineer Craig Opperman.

So the courts usually don’t help liberate data we’ve paid for, not really big news here. But what caught me eye was the cost Gambill has to pay because Scioto County made a horrible business decision to lock their data up in Esri’s silo.

In a 6-1 per curiam opinion, the court held that Opperman met the requirements of the Ohio Public Records Act by offering to provide Gambill with a copy of the county’s electronic database containing deed information and aerial photos of all property in the county if Gambill paid the estimated $2,000 cost of separating that data from proprietary mapmaking software protected by U.S. patent laws that is “inextricably intertwined” with the data on the engineer’s computer.

$2,000? Wow, why would it cost that much to deliver the data?

But the engineer’s office cannot separate the requested raw data from the exempt Esri software files.

Oh snap, the engineer’s office has paid probably millions of dollars on a proprietary GIS system and it locks the data up in “Esri software files”. Not only do taxpayers foot the cost to create such a crazy GIS system, but then they double pay when they want the data back out. The court says:

Gambill may obtain paper copies of maps and aerial photographs of properties in Scioto County by inputting search terms into the computer at the engineer’s office and paying the cost for each document printed.

Legacy GIS

Clearly Scioto County is locked into the 1970’s with this Esri GIS system. I can only assume you input the data into a Prime Computer terminal and get a dot matrix print copy out the back. Ah but big GIS consulting company with huge overhead to the rescue!

“Notwithstanding the inability of the engineer’s office to separate its requested electronic database from the exempt Esri software, it received an estimate from Woolpert—the company that the engineer’s office had hired to make its information system compatible with that of the auditor’s office after the auditor’s office updated its system in 2007—to extract the underlying electronic data from the intertwined exempt software. Woolpert estimated that it would cost $2,000, plus the cost of a hard drive. The engineer’s office then passed along this quote to Gambill. … Opperman acted reasonably in asking Woolpert to provide an estimate to extract the requested electronic data from the exempt Esri software files

Oh my Woolpert! Way to sock it to the taxpayer. At least one judge sees through this nuttiness. Emphasis mine…

Justice Paul E. Pfeifer dissented, stating that in his view “The county engineer in this case has intertwined public records with proprietary software and expects citizens seeking public records to pay an exorbitant price to untie the knot. A person seeking public records should expect to pay the price for copying the records, but not the price for a public entity’s mistake in purchasing inefficient software. … The holding in this case encourages public entities desiring secrecy to hide public records within a software lockbox and require individual citizens to provide the golden key to unlock it.”

Seriously, now many times are we going to go down this path with these silos?

Huge hat tip to Brian Timoney!

Hangouts with James Fee:: OpenEnterpriseGeo

Thanks to Alyssa Wright of OpenGeo for joining me today to talk about their new Enterprise Console, what open means to OpenGeo and women (or diversity in general) in GIS.

The IRC chat log is archived here.

We are hoping next month to have a nice diversity hangout with women and others who would like to talk about how to improve the environment. If you’ve got suggestions, please email me any suggestions. We hope to start planning the panel next month with Alyssa’s help.