Facebook Acquiring Mapillary is More Than You Think

I’ve been working on this blog post all weekend and I’ve rewritten is many times. It comes back to the confusion about why Mapillary and Facebook are now part of the same team. I wrote down about 10 guesses as to why Facebook decided it needed Mapillary and they needed them now but Joe Morrison did such a a good job outlining many of them I’ll share it here. Go read and come back after you’re done, I’ll wait.

Welcome back, now what do I think about this? Hard to say honestly, I can talk myself out of any idea. Get back at Google? I don’t think things are that emotional, sure they probably should own their own mapping solution as sending all their users on to another platform is leaking out their secret sauce and probably a boon for Google. But this isn’t something they haven’t been working on and I can’t see how as amazing Mapillary is, that it moves the needle on this at all. Any work toward a Facebook Maps platform has been done and is probably close to happening. I could see that amazing Mapillary team being an acqui-hire that could help in the long term given their expertise with Open Street Map.

Computer vision, AR/VR and the rest *could* be a reason but remember that Facebook owns Oculus and has done so much in AR that again Mapillary is a rounding error on this. While Oculus has not paid out the way I’m sure Facebook hoped it would, the engineering and development teams there clearly have influenced Facebook. Mapillary, as amazing as those guys are, just don’t have the horsepower that existing AR/VR/CV teams do at Facebook. Again, maybe an acqui-hire.

Place database is of course the holy grail of mapping. The maps are a commodity, but the places are not. But let’s be honest, there are very few companies that have better place data than Facebook. They might have not had street level view data but they sure had more pictures of these venues than almost anyone else. I get that people like street view data but how often do people really say, let me see a street view image from 2011 when they are look at directions. THEY DON’T. Street view is the coffee shop mapping example. It sounds interesting, looks great in demos but in the end not as important as a 3D world built from satellite imagery and lidar. But wait, that’s where Mapillary does come in.

The mostly likely reasons I feel that Facebook bought Mapillary was because of their expertise with Open Street Map and OpenSfM. Facebook is one of the largest users of OSM out there so bringing in a group that is as if not more experienced with OSM helps move the needle with their mapping efforts. The second thing Mapillary brings is their skill making 3D worlds out of imagery. As I said, who has better pictures of venues than Facebook? Start stitching those together and you get an amazing 3D city that is updated quicker than driving stupid cars down streets. Encourage people to take pictures and they update the 3D world for you. That and they they get some of the best OSM ninjas out there all at once.

Now what happens to the crowdsourced data? Will people continue to participate given there are few companies who are more reviled for data management than Facebook? That is what I’m most interested in, Mapillary the product, does it continue? Time will tell.

Shifting Gears

Today was my last day at Spatial Networks, which many of you know as the creator of Fulcrum. Back in early 2019 when I left Cityzenith, TQ asked me if I would join the team to help out with the Professional Services. I could list all the great people here I worked with but you all know them already so just take this as my thanks to them for the great time. I wish everyone there the best and hope they continue their journey toward something amazing.

Myself, well usually when I leave a company I take a vacation (Hawaii for WeoGeo, honeymoon for AECOM and Snowboarding for Cityzenith), but between COVID and weather, I’m sticking home. My wife joked that I always try and go to Hawaii after a job but alas not this time. But that is OK because I’m not interested in waiting for my next job, I’m actively looking. Summer is here so I’d rather be working on something amazing than sitting outside in the pool. So if you’re looking for someone to help you, send me an email.

You can also sign up for my newsletter, I’ve got the next one coming out tomorrow morning!

Automation or Scripting

When I think back to my first exposure to GIS, it is through ARC/INFO. Just me and a command line. Everything was written in AML which made everything I created a script or even an app if you take the parlance that seems popular these days. I’ve beaten the drum about scripting and GIS so much on this blog that I feel like I don’t need to rehash it except to say that if you ain’t scripting you ain’t living.

But is scripting as important as it once was? I scripted AMLs because that was the only way short of typing in commands one at a time to build anything, and you sure as heck couldn’t visualize anything without AML (well you could, but not in anyway that you’d share). Do we script as much anymore? I was looking at my automations in my life last night and there is so much that I use Zapier for that there really isn’t anything in my house that happens without a trigger. I think today we use works like “automate your workflows” rather than scripting but that is just the low-code ontology that permuted into our vocabulary.

Regardless, the future of GIS is not scripting. That is writing Python or JavaScript and then running that file to see a result. It will be taking triggers and attaching them to actions to see results. The best part of this is that it isn’t hard coded to anything, they just wait for something to happen and then do something.

A Rube Goldberg contraption.
You just take an trigger and attach an action.

GIS really is set up for this, almost everything you do is an action. The trigger is your mouse button but do you really want to be clicking your index finger all your life? But don’t be sad, this future doesn’t devalue your experience, it enables you to bring it to where it is needed. Output of GIS is more likely to be Salesforce or a BI tool than a PDF moving forward. That’s the biggest win for everyone.

15 Years of Spatially Adjusted

Hard to believe Spatially Adjusted gets it’s driver learners permit next year, but it’s true. Hard for me to believe that I was sitting on a ranch outside Brownwood, TX (on AOL dialup no less) thinking about how to learn more about open source GIS software. For reasons I cannot remember, I thought why not blog about it. This blog has been in my life for so long I really can’t recall what I did before I had it. But hey, I’m so happy to have written all these blog posts, even the bad ones, because I have learned so much.

Me taking the time to post only the best ideas…

I can’t even imagine what the next 15 years will be like, but we’ll leave that up to the future. While I don’t post here as much as I used to, feel free to subscribe to my weekly newsletter, where I attempt to keep up with my off base opinions.

PostGIS in Action – Third Edition

If there is one book I’d recommend anyone to get in our industry this is it. Way back in 2009 I wrote about the first edition:

Looking at the table of contents reveals that this should be the book for learning how to use PostGIS in your GIS applications. I’m really intersted in Chapter 13, “First look at WKT raster”.

Of course that book was on my desk for years and eventually it was updated in 2013. But that was over 7 years ago, technology changes and so has PostGIS. You can now get the long awaited 3rd Edition in the Early Access Program. I’ve started reviewing it and there is so much in there as this is going to be a significant update. PostGIS 3.x should be a big deal in it as well as PostgreSQL 12.

Buying this book is a no-brainer for anyone.

Italian Baseball Stadiums in GeoJSON

I’ve been working at cleaning up all the GeoJSON-Ballparks records this past month. While the MLB stadiums and many of the AAA minor league teams have been updated, the international and small market teams have not. Some were out of data by almost 5 years. Long tail baseball stadiums are what they are and I’m working on automating much of this moving forward. The last two leagues that I’m updating are the Italian Baseball League and the German Bundesliga League. I hope to finish Germany tonight but I did post Italy yesterday.

Ballparks of the Italian Baseball League in GeoJSON

While Italy can’t go out and enjoy baseball just yet, at least their top tier baseball league has been mapped. If you’re looking for some live baseball, check out streaming Korean KBO League league (I’ve been watching the Giants of course). The next live stream will be on March 25th at approximately 7:40pm PDT.

No More Boot

So the doctor said my boot can come off my foot. Things are looking really good which I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

So I’m not clomping around all over the place which should make my wife much happier.

No, this wasn’t me exactly, but imagine the sound and you’ve got it. Those hardwood floors I put have an amazing echo…

Well I’m not out of the woods yet, I still can’t do much beyond walk and even that still hurts. But at least I don’t wake the baby girl as I walk around the house. I see the doctor in 3 more weeks (assuming the world doesn’t come to an end) and then maybe I start therapy.

Bing Maps and COVID-19 (Updated)

Update (03/23/2020): It looks like Microsoft has made some good changes. They now tell you when the data was updated and the news links work much better. I can see myself using this over other maps because it is so simple. Simple is quick.

There are no shortage of COVID-19 maps online. EVERYONE has one so why even bother posting one? Well I looked back on my blog posts and the last time I posted anything about a Microsoft map was back in 2006 and that was when it was called Virtual Earth. Well here it goes, the Bing COVID Tracker.

According to the info section, the data is from the CDC, WHO, ECDC and Wikipedia. It is a pretty bare map and if you didn’t see the Bing logo in the upper left or the Microsoft credits in the lower right, you might not even think it was a Microsoft product. There is no notification as to how often the data is updated but it appears that when I’m checking at the time of this post, it is current for the past hour. If you click on a state you get information about the cases and links to news articles about COVID-19 in that state. Pretty basic as you can see from the Arizona view below. COVID and Biden…

This feels more like a mashup than a multi billion dollar companies attempt to education the public to the threat of COVID-19. A real shame as events such as this usually bring out the best in technology, this attempt by Microsoft feels so very dated. At least I got to post my first Bing map….

Self-quarantine Blog Cleaning

I’ve spent the last week cleaning up old blog posts. You won’t see them live just yet, I have a dev version of this blog that I’ve been playing around with. What I’ve done is search all posts for any links that don’t go 200 and then either attempt to find a corresponding version in the Way Back Machine or if a source doesn’t exist (using CSS) make a modification to the post indicating that the link is no longer valid.

Touching 2400 blog posts is dangerous stuff…

I’m also cleaning up the categories and tags which I think have little value anymore. I think at one point people subscribed to tags/categories in a blog, but search really has taken that over. So the complexity of tagging or categorizing posts really doesn’t make sense. I mean I like to think someone is coming to my blog and saying, “Hey look there, he’s got a category for Virtual Earth” but I seriously doubt it.

I’m also playing around with AWS Lightsail. I’ve been using it for this dev version of the blog and I might try it with production. Linode seems to be cheaper, but I like having more of my things on AWS rather than a little bit all over the place.

I hope to push up the changes to the blog here this week. I really feel that given I have almost 2400 blog entries with over 400,000 words. Checking old blog posts has really shown me how much we’ve lost. So many people, blogs and information has been lost forever. This is a shame because I learned so much by reading what others had written. I hope that while not every one of those 400,000 words has value, the majority of this blog helps people and in turn, preserving what I’ve written will always be a priority.

I had to have written something at some point worth saving…