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Thoughts

Howard Butler Wonders if ESRI Understands gPhenomenon

Link – The Google Phenomenon and ESRI’s Dilemma – Hobu, Inc.

In the GIS world, Google (er, Keyhole with Google’s resources rather) has changed the game. If you’re a long-time GIS’er though, you might not think so. In this post I describe stuff that any Open Source developer has experienced – mindshare, hackability, and momentum – and why these are important to both ESRI and Google in the race to be the dominant developer platform for GIS in the near future.

OK, I made up gPhenomenon, but we all know what Howard is talking about. The new server side GIS is now expected to be “hackable” because of Google Maps and their API. I suspect as Howard does that ESRI will open up some sort of ArcWeb Services tools at the User Conference, but the question is how will they be received by the programming community. Howard thinks that the same programmers that are drawn to Google Maps API will be turned off of the “complex GIS” backend of ArcWeb Services and he might be right. I think it is a shame that ESRI will wait until the User Conference to announce such a move, but it shows that they are still in the “old world” mentality of magazines, email newsletters and press releases. The time between the release of Google Maps API and an open ArcWeb Services might be too great to catch up. The example I before was the gMap Workout Tracker and how far it has come in just about two weeks. Another two weeks and who knows what they will accomplish (not to mention who wants to change a backend that late in the game)?

Howard then takes ESRI to task for not understanding the open source community. I’m not really involved (yet) with it, but I’m not sure that it really is that important to their business model (beyond interoperability and perception). Google sure doesn’t really care about open source as most of their tools are not, but business reality forces them to work with the community and the perception is that they do it very well. Howard uses the Directions Magazine open source article from a about a month ago to illustrate his point of ESRI not understanding their users or community. I don’t think ESRI could have played that article any worse as the first response was poorly thought out and then to retract it only made it worse. I’ve talked at great lengths on this blog about how blogging can help companies talk better with their users and it would appear that ESRI needs to take that to heart. ESRI doesn’t have to fear open source anymore than Microsoft fears Open Office. ESRI employees are going to make “bad posts” in the future for sure, but removing them will only draw attention to them. The best thing about putting your foot in your mouth is that you can easily remove it. Better yet, blog about it.

Categories
Thoughts

ESRI is losing the blog PR battle

It is pretty hard these days not to see daily news of Google Maps, Google Earth or MSN Virtual Earth. Click on any one of those links to see all the blog posts about them in Technorati. Bloggers can’t get enough of these services, but us long time GIS folks know that we’ve been doing this stuff for years with and without ESRI’s help. Google Earth is pretty much the same as a demo I saw Jack Dangermond give a couple years ago. Of course while we all know this, what about the average user who is now interested in these kinds of geospatial products. Go ahead and click on the Technorati ESRI tag link below.

Technorati Tag: ESRI

A whole bunch of my posts appear. That is it. People are finding my blog by using that tag, but they aren’t being directed to any ESRI blogger sites. Currently there are a couple of ESRI bloggers, but none of them are able to make the kinds of posts that would be required to get the ESRI name and their services in the blogosphere more. I’d love to see someone take every new Google Maps API website and show how ESRI has been doing this for years. When someone posts about how Google Earth is going to be the end of ESRI, a nice history of the immense task it was moving from ArcInfo 7.x/ArcView 3.x to ArcGIS 8 and how successful ESRI has been since then would be perfect.

When you currently find stories about ESRI in the blogosphere, usually they are just “reprints” of ESRI press releases similar to the ones that Directions Magazine posts. Sure there is good content out there, but it gets lost because there is so much noise. ESRI has begun to offer RSS feeds, but again it is only on their press releases. Hearing about how some city in the mid-west saved millions of dollars because they used ArcGIS is nice, but people want to read about the Northrop Grumman Touch Table that was demonstrated at last years conference. That was impressive, maybe not practical for most people, but it got everyone excited. These kinds of implementations of ESRI technology occur every day of the year, but we only get to read about them in ArcNews or ArcUser and by that time it is old news.

So what should ESRI do? First they need to find a PR blogger. Someone like Robert Scoble or Jeremy Zawodny who can help bloggers learn about ESRI and show the world what they are doing. It doesn’t have to be a “professional” blogger such as them, but it should be someone who knows how the weblogs interact and can leverage tools such as PubSub, Technorati and Feedster. Second, they need to get their project managers and staff blogging. It is easy to look at Microsoft to see how they have grown doing so, but companies such as General Motors are jumping on the bandwagon and you can see the results with the amount of bloggers that are commenting about their posts. Third, they need to offer up more RSS feeds of their existing content. I’m sure there are plans to do so, but the latest support documents and ESRI Developer code samples are difficult to find.

I went to BlogPulse to see how the keywords “ESRI”, “ArcGIS” and “Google Earth” rated over the past month. You can see on the graph below that there is almost no blip for ESRI, even with the increased focus on GIS brought out by Google Earth.

Esri google blogpulse1

As the 25th ESRI International User Conference is upon us, I also thought it would be nice to see how they keyword ESRI compared against the Where 2.0 conference. I wonder if ESRI will see a similar spike later this month. With the lack of bloggers talking about ESRI these days, I sincerely doubt it. To ignore the blogosphere is ignoring your customers.

Esri where blogpulse1

Categories
Thoughts

ESRI is losing the blog PR battle

It is pretty hard these days not to see daily news of Google Maps, Google Earth or MSN Virtual Earth. Click on any one of those links to see all the blog posts about them in Technorati. Bloggers can’t get enough of these services, but us long time GIS folks know that we’ve been doing this stuff for years with and without ESRI’s help. Google Earth is pretty much the same as a demo I saw Jack Dangermond give a couple years ago. Of course while we all know this, what about the average user who is now interested in these kinds of geospatial products. Go ahead and click on the Technorati ESRI tag link below.

Technorati Tag: ESRI

A whole bunch of my posts appear. That is it. People are finding my blog by using that tag, but they aren’t being directed to any ESRI blogger sites. Currently there are a couple of ESRI bloggers, but none of them are able to make the kinds of posts that would be required to get the ESRI name and their services in the blogosphere more. I’d love to see someone take every new Google Maps API website and show how ESRI has been doing this for years. When someone posts about how Google Earth is going to be the end of ESRI, a nice history of the immense task it was moving from ArcInfo 7.x/ArcView 3.x to ArcGIS 8 and how successful ESRI has been since then would be perfect.

When you currently find stories about ESRI in the blogosphere, usually they are just “reprints” of ESRI press releases similar to the ones that Directions Magazine posts. Sure there is good content out there, but it gets lost because there is so much noise. ESRI has begun to offer RSS feeds, but again it is only on their press releases. Hearing about how some city in the mid-west saved millions of dollars because they used ArcGIS is nice, but people want to read about the Northrop Grumman Touch Table that was demonstrated at last years conference. That was impressive, maybe not practical for most people, but it got everyone excited. These kinds of implementations of ESRI technology occur every day of the year, but we only get to read about them in ArcNews or ArcUser and by that time it is old news.

So what should ESRI do? First they need to find a PR blogger. Someone like Robert Scoble or Jeremy Zawodny who can help bloggers learn about ESRI and show the world what they are doing. It doesn’t have to be a “professional” blogger such as them, but it should be someone who knows how the weblogs interact and can leverage tools such as PubSub, Technorati and Feedster. Second, they need to get their project managers and staff blogging. It is easy to look at Microsoft to see how they have grown doing so, but companies such as General Motors are jumping on the bandwagon and you can see the results with the amount of bloggers that are commenting about their posts. Third, they need to offer up more RSS feeds of their existing content. I’m sure there are plans to do so, but the latest support documents and ESRI Developer code samples are difficult to find.

I went to BlogPulse to see how the keywords “ESRI”, “ArcGIS” and “Google Earth” rated over the past month. You can see on the graph below that there is almost no blip for ESRI, even with the increased focus on GIS brought out by Google Earth.

Esri google blogpulse1

As the 25th ESRI International User Conference is upon us, I also thought it would be nice to see how they keyword ESRI compared against the Where 2.0 conference. I wonder if ESRI will see a similar spike later this month. With the lack of bloggers talking about ESRI these days, I sincerely doubt it. To ignore the blogosphere is ignoring your customers.

Esri where blogpulse1

Categories
Thoughts

Users debate costs of Google Earth vs. ArcGIS

Konquest Online posts about their thoughts on Google Earth (dead link):

“I think that GIS producers should be humbled by the work that has been done at
Google and Keyhole. It’s not perfect yet, but it was developped in about one
year, has a great interface and is free. I’ve only downloaded Google Earth, but
they also offer the software in two other flavours: Google Earth Plus (which features GPS integration, higher print resolution and more powerful annotation features) and Google Earth
Pro
(with a ton of features and can be compared with commercial GIS) But the Pro version is still priced only 400 US$/year, compared to the 10 000+ $ needed to acquire ESRI’s ArcGIS.”

While I too am quite impressed at the ease of use that Google Earth brings to desktop GIS, lets not lose site of the fact that is is only a viewer of GIS. ArcGIS, while more expensive allows GIS analysis as well as viewing the same and more GIS datasets that Google Earth does. Also ArcView is “only” about $1,500 and the 3D Analyst extension is about “$2,500”, much less that the $10,000+ figure quoted above. To compare Google Earth with ArcGIS is about the same as comparing Word Pad with Microsoft Word. To even list all the functions that ArcView does beyond Google Earth would take pages on pages of this blog. Don’t lose sight of the purpose of Google Earth, nor what ArcGIS is about.