I’ll be honest, I really don’t follow Esri as closely as I used to. Not so much in that I don’t care to learn about what they are working on, more just that they do so many more things these days. It’s honestly hard to follow along sometimes, but every once in a while I see something that catches my eye.
Esri is now offering a new option in our Community Maps Program for contributors to have Esri share their data with selected Esri partners and other organizations (e.g. OpenStreetMap) that maintain popular mapping platforms for businesses and consumers. If contributors choose to share their data with others, Esri will aggregate the data and make it available to these organizations in a standardized way to make the data more easily consumable by them and accessible to others. It will be up to those organizations whether they choose to include the data in their mapping platforms. Where the data is used, attribution will be provided back to Esri Community Maps Contributors and/or individual contributing organizations.
I have to admit this intrigues me. Not so much that Esri is trying to insert themselves into a process, but that it makes sharing data easier for users of Esri software. In the end that’s probably more important than philosophical differences of opinion about closed fists and the such. The data is shared via the CC by 4.0 license that Esri uses for the Community Maps AOIs. I really like this, anything that helps share data much easier is a good thing for everyone, including OpenStreetMap. I’m sure we’ll hear more about this during the Esri UC later this month but it’s still a great announcement. I’ve always been a big users of OSM and getting more organizations to update their data in OSM is a huge win in my book.
I started blogging in May of 2005. Right before Katrina hit and everything we knew about GIS disaster response changed. Katrina was that moment where the static image PDF of a map changed to a map service that ran on almost any modern (at the time) web browser. Immediately every GIS map server that was out there became irrelevant at best, dead to the world at worst. Remember though, Google bought Google Earth almost a year before Katrina and Google Maps didn’t launch until early 2005. The tools that created this disaster response revolution were in place, but not too many people used them or had heard of them. But less than 6 months after Google Maps hit the web, Katrina response was almost entirely driven by their tools.
If you look at my blog entries from September and October, you can see attempts by Esri, Microsoft, Yahoo! and others to try and address this new paradigm of mapping but none of them stuck. Everyone, and I mean everyone, was using Google. Esri ArcScripts back then probably had 50 tools to convert SHP to KML or MXD to KML. We had tools like Arc2Earth that specialized in making maps easier with Google. And while Esri tools were still being used to generate the data, the display was happening on other platforms.
This of course gave rise to the Neogeography revolution. I’ll spare you the bare breasted Andrew Turner graphic but at this time we had so many people doing things with GIS that had no idea what GIS was let alone what Esri was. The limitations on getting started with mapping went down and all you needed was a computer and a text editor to make a map. My blog is littered with examples of Neogeography, from EVS Islands to all that great Flickr mapping that Dan Catt and crew did back then. People didn’t ask for permission, they just did it. It all culminated in what I consider the greatest crowdsourced disaster mapping effort, the wildfires in San Diego back in 2007 (feel free to choose the Haiti response over this, that’s fine. I really like the example of using Google My Maps in your backyard for this).
But something happened after this, it isn’t that people stopped mapping. Look at OSM growth. The amount of crowd sourced data continues to grow exponentially. But responses to disasters seemed to be run by Google and Microsoft themselves. Tools like Google My Maps continue to exist, but I truly can’t recall using one in the past 10 years. Or if the disaster was not interesting enough for Google, you’d see people using government websites to get that information. The Esri mapping had finally caught up that people would use the fire maps from the DOI other 3 letter agencies without complaining. The citizen effort moved to Twitter where it continues to show great promise, just not as a Google My Map. Take a look at the Bush Fire here in Arizona on Twitter. So many great posts by people but maps are either static images shared or links to traditional InciWeb maps.
This brings us full circle to COVID-19 mapping. Think of the best and most up to date COVID websites. They are built on Esri technology. Google has websites, Microsoft has them too. But the Esri dashboard has finally had its moment in the sun. I wonder if this is because the market has matured, that the tools have matured or the data set lends itself to a more scientific approach to display rather than simple lines and points. The Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Maps & Trends website is the bible for this epidemic.
GIS is no longer a side show on this response. I’m guessing that because this is more structured government data, Esri is uniquely positioned to be in the middle of it but even then, their tools have come a long way from the ArcIMS/ArcWeb madness that we dealt with during Katrina. COVID-19 dashboard is the opposite of Neogeography and that is OK. The influence of the citizens on mapping is clearly shown in the Esri tools we deal with today. They still drive me nuts from time to time but let’s be honest, they really do work for this situation. As we close out 1/2 of the way through 2020, hopefully we can keep the need for disaster response to a minimum.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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….