Boreds

I’ve been on a lot of boards. OSM. Mid South ASPRS. GA URISA. TNGIC. Four of the five are hard to deal with. The Georgia URISA board never quite was that difficult. There is the normal insanity that comes with every board. Resignations. Anger. Drama. Conferences. Workshops.

I appeared at my first conference in 2006 by calling in sick to my normal job and coming to Athens Georgia for 3 days. Went to talks. Went to meetings. Went to the social. They had rented out a bar that I’m pretty sure had changed names 4 or 5 times since 2006. I passed by it Tuesday night on my way to the 2014 Social. We left the 2006 social in a taxi. One person jumped up and said I DON’T WANT TO GO HOME. So we ended up at the Georgia Theatre. I think I was there until 2 or 3 in the morning watching some band that has no doubt changed names 4 or 5 times since 2006.

Tuesday night I found myself sitting at the Georgia Theatre with one of the original “don’t wanna go home” group from 2006. Since Then I’ve changed positions on the board 4 or 5 times….North Georgia Subchapter Chair, Education Chair, VP, President, and Finally IPP. At some point during educations chair I had a meltdown – divorce. I didn’t really feel that the board was very cohesive at that point. So I had to make my first confessional – “This meeting I planned won’t happen unless everyone helps because well……” and they all came – every one of them…from up to two hours away. So I sat at Gainesville state college with a group of people who understood more than I thought and talked about some mapping application called OSM no one had heard of….. So I got through that meeting and kept going. It was always a nice break coming to Atlanta from Chattanooga for the meetings. I actually miss the drive back to Chattanooga last night. I typically would take the longest way home possible to sit and think. Last night I didn’t have my normal texting buddy….I had a 10 minute commute to the duplex. I piled into bed and here I sit.

I’m a firm believer on boards need fresh blood. If you don’t it gets stale. It’s a problem with one of the boards I was on – no one wanted to let go. So it’s got just painful and I resigned. I resigned from the OSM Board because I sucked at treasurer and I could barely get a handle on my account much less another one.

So now what? I’m not quite done – I’ve got two more emails to send, one more function to preside over, and I can go gentle into that good night for a bit. I’ve got a few more things I want to do…a few more problems I want to cause….but I don’t have to do it while on the board for Georgia URISA……Because they would always win for my attention.

Georgia Theatre

 

Community will fix Itself

Sort of – doesn’t mean it can’t get pushed in a direction.

Last weekend I had a phone call and I was going over some OSM related things and in the course of the conversation I said something to the effect of:

  • OSM seems to have had a profound lack of jackassery in the last few months
  • To which the caller responded with – “the Community will fix itself – it takes some time but it happens”

If you read back through the blog posts you can see where there was a lot of heart burn with OSM and the community from this side.  I’m still short with a lot of the mappers I dealt with until I decide it’s OK not to be.

Yesterday’s conversation went something like (with a completely different person) “Have you seen the discussion on OSMF?”. Nope.

To recap in two sentences and I will butcher this no doubt:

  • One voice: There is a problem with the number of women in OSM – there aren’t enough.
  • Every white tech driven 23-38 year old male: What problem?

It’s a problem. It’s a problem with me also. I guess I would call it more of a perception problem. I joke. I’m southern. I will push whatever imposed boundary is in place with a joke at times. Yeah – I know “WOE IS ME”. Heh. Not really.

So in the last year I’ve heard:

  • You’re an ass.
  • You’re a racist.
  • You hate women.

To be honest I don’t hate anyone. Now – there are people I will go out of my way to not deal with and that list is pretty neutral with regards to anything but brain material. I try my best (if the opportunity presents itself) the right solution/person into a job regardless of anatomy. I had huge conversation on gender with a friend and realized I understood nothing on the subject (it apparently has nothing to do with the dangly bits if you get my drift). So I’m trying to correct that. I don’t have enough friends period. Especially friends who are wonderfully different with regards to religion, sex, or skin color. It’s a hazard of this field. We are white, male, and unfortunately in my case follicly challenged.  I will completely own being an ass at times. It’s a hazard of me being me.

Have I ever told you the story of how I received a scholarship to Morehouse? Remind me at some point….. It’s a true story of my high school life.

So if you want to watch the OSM Community discuss – https://lists.openstreetmap.org/pipermail/osmf-talk/2014-September/thread.html#2493 – It won’t be hard to pick out the thread where the discussion is occurring.

Question is – do you force equalization? Maybe until the community equals.

My biggest two things I’m proud of in OSM currently:

  • Got a call from the federal Government when one of the kids I worked with at a high school mapped a Nuclear Plant. They were not happy. I responded with “She mapped what she wanted to – that’s all the info I will give”.
  • One kid I helped with is still mapping two years later – she’s mapping for the EBOLA outbreak while she’s at college.

Anyway – women in tech. The minute you say there isn’t a problem that’s  the first sign there is one.

Time to go teach an OSM workshop…….

Low Balling K-12 GIS Education

This is another one of those posts that I started….stopped….started….then decided to take in a completely different direction.

K-12 education is all the rage these days in GIS. It’s gotten so popular I’m starting to question if anyone talking about it has actually set foot in a school. I’ve talked off and on about the high school I’ve worked with. I haven’t worked with them that much over the last year because I’ve been busy and distance has been an issue. Friday I found myself back at the school to load software.

They’ve got a new computer lab – I talked about it. I ended that article with “nothing bad can come out of volunteering”. I stand by that.

BUT

Back a few months ago ESRI donated software for K-12 education. I tweeted about it – my tweets were not kind. I was called out and back tracked as well as I could because I was wrong on the tweeting end of things (Imagine that). Essentially the schools get ArcGISOnline for free. Friday (September 2014) I spent time loading QGIS and ArcGIS on the new computer lab at the high school. They’ve got 20 something computers. The plan once again turned into flash drives and shoe leather. So I started. Log into one “bank” of about 7 computers and start uninstalling qgis. By the time I had walked to computer 7 I could start installing QGIS at computer 1. By the time I walked to the end I could start installing ArcGIS (desktop) on computer 1.  It was a repetitive thing and I was good with that.

So shortly after the ESRI announcement another announcement came out – GISCI was pushing GISPs to help get the ESRI donation into the schools. As a consultant I had a bit of heartburn about that – I like to donate my time. I can understand an organization jumping on the bandwagon. “GISP GeoMentors will be required to help set up ArcGIS Online accounts at local schools and tutor teachers on ArcGIS Online use and administration.” Yeah….No. If I’m volunteering I will volunteer. I’m all in – like with my clients. I’ll bleed by the time this is done. At one time I had signed up with the geomentor program – never got a call. So I will do what I want to do.

I went to public schools. I could tell you stories all day about my school. Granted this was way back when and there weren’t a lot of computers. There wasn’t much of anything new – it was probably by all accounts a Title 1 school (if that existed in the late 80’s). The school I go to is Title 1. They stretch dollars for everything.

Halfway through my install the kids appeared – which was good because in 30 minutes I was starting bank 2 of 4 on the upgrades. IMG_20140926_103202Then it became fun.

Part of our problem (as GIS People) is we don’t fully understand K-12. I couldn’t get 4 computers to log in – one kid determined I was logging into the domain and not the local admin account. She fixed it. I’ve talked about kids being spatially aware. You can thank Google earth/maps for that and their smart phone. Kids understand geography. They may not understand the relevance – but place they get.

They started getting ahead of me. I had one flash drive and I should have planned better so individual assignments started getting handed out. I assigned one kid to license ArcGIS once it had installed. I put one in charge of downloading QGIS. Suddenly the network choked. What should have been a 5 minute 200 something MB download turned into 15…then 20 minutes. A lot of the kids have chromebooks now. “WHAT! WHY? I’M SO OLD”

Another computer choked and rebooted. One just wouldn’t act right – all the computers are identical.

Right now the kids are mapping for the EBOLA outbreak for HOT. That was another conversation I won’t rehash but the teacher ties in the EBOLA outbreak with the news (which kids don’t watch) and next they are going to work on the Palestinian map (if you remember there was a little bit of issue between them and israel before the nude celebrity pic leak).

We need data – the local county has donated some of their GIS data. Can you help us download it?

I can do that and click – teachers computer has a virus which sprang to life. “Did you know your computer has a viru….”. Yes. I’ve asked for something to be done and I’m still waiting. “OK – Lemme fix that”.

By the time the kids left we had 80% of the computers finished. I kicked off the download on the computer that is now virus free and “4 hours and counting”.  It’s a 4GB download.

So I sat there. GISP’s donating expertise for Education is a bit of a low ball deal. Low Ball for those who haven’t had any relatives who were used car salesmen is where you present a great offer – but IMG_20140926_105654then change the terms of the agreement – it gets more expensive after completion of the deal. It’s a great thing to donate software. It’s a great thing to ask GISP’s to donate their time for an anomalous objective. It’s not a great thing to cherry pick a school which is what you will have to do to feel successful. “I’m going to the private school – they all have tablets”. It is your time and you can do what you want with it – but I will call shenanigans if you don’t sweat it a bit.

When we finished up “Can I turn on the projector I want to show you guys something in OSM?” Ahem and she points up. “You’ve HAD THIS LAB FOR A YEAR…OR MORE”. We will get one eventually.

So I’m not telling you to not volunteer. I’m encouraging you to volunteer. BUT – I’m encouraging you to go in and fix things. Some schools will run with the K-12 arcgisonline donation and do fabulous things.

What you won’t see advertised is what I’m pointing out. A lab that was gained through  grant writing . Computers that don’t act right. A missing projector. Computers with a virus. When I left the download was somewhere near 3 hours from completion. It would have been easier to drive to the county department and load the data on a flash drive and come back. I’m tired. We never touched GIS.

So I make you an offer – it’s the NRGS “Get your arse in a school” initiative. Go to your local school. Not that school. The one that is having a rough time of it:

  1. Go find someone that might teach GIS or at least knows what it is.
  2. Find out if they have computers and fix them. If they can’t be fixed try to get them new ones.
  3. Figure out how to make the teachers life easier.

Enable the teacher to do more with their equipment. If you succeed – then go in and start talking about GIS. Call ESRI to figure the K-12 donation thing. Load QGIS. Load ArcGIS. Explain GIS. Use Google Maps. Use Google Earth. Explain the science of location.

I hit one school. With travel and everything that was one day. One day to get things working to where I could explain GIS on Day2. That’s not mentioned in any press release. How many are prepared to spend Two days. Three? Four? A Week?

There are probably over 20 schools in the county.

You’ve got to want to hurt to make this happen. Not just hope you get a GISP point out of it. If you’re there for GISP Points you are there for the wrong reason.

 

 

 

 

49 Responses on the QGIS Support Poll.

Before I post the results a bit of “thinking”…..

It was an interesting poll. Scientific? No. Slightly revealing? Yes. I’m going to redo the poll and make it permanent on the website – I also want to make the results on permanent display. Maybe it can be a running indication of what people are thinking with regards to open source and support.

So I teach QGIS classes and it’s interesting. I keep a log of who comes to the classes and mental notes of things said before and during class. About half the people are Government. Another 25% are from a university, and about 25% are private business. Throw in the occasional non profit and student or person I let in for free just to mess with the percentages a bit.

When people come and take the QGIS classes the general attitude is:

I want to see what that “Free stuff” does. It can’t be all that good – because it’s free. By the end of class most feel “I can use this to supplement my GIS Program”. That’s partially what I preach these days is to care more about your data than your unforgettable brand of software. That’s not entirely fair because software does matter. If you’ve sunk $250,000 into an ESRI Solution I’m not going to tell you to junk it and walk away.

Since I didn’t ask people if I could post their comments I wont’ repeat them verbatim:

  • There is a market in <not the US> for commercial support of QGIS
  • This poll is misleading because QGIS isn’t ESRI Software (I did a terrible job paraphrasing that one – but I’m pretty sure I know where this one originated from…)
  • I need programming support more than technical support. I need plugins written.
  • Some users require (need) paid support to get their companies to support it.
  • QGIS has commercial support in the UK
  • I only use QGIS when I can’t do things in ArcGIS so I won’t buy support.
  • QGIS is making inroads into the university environment.

Is NRGS going to provide commercial support? Eh – I have no clue. I argue it in my head that it’s a good thing and a bad thing. I use QGIS for probably 70% of my project based work. I’m still using ESRI for most cartography and for random things I can’t get FOSS4G to do easily. I picked up a client that I’m going to be discussing quite a bit and I’ve two directions for a end “product”. Based off conversation this week the client will be a mixed software environment with an open source back end and a commercial front end (maybe). This is all still in the design phase.

With all of that…..

Screenshot from 2014-08-24 11:00:55

 

 

 

Finding Nemo….errrrrr Data.

This all started off with a small project I am doing for a non profit. The project will possibly get a bit larger as time goes on but we are still in the beginning stages of it. My client has no knowledge of GIS. They’ve been haphazardly locating hospitals with which to work and placing them on a map. Which to us seems crazy, but to them it gets the job done. I’ve been trying to put together an estimate for work and there are way too many unknowns. One estimate had me way to high….one had me way too low.

So yesterday I started digging. I won’t name states – but I will give you an overview of the process. I start this with “They’ve been hand digitizing hospitals”.

  • My first thought was the National Map…except something like Hospital locations are way outside the scope of that project.
  • My next guess was census which seems to have some hospital locations but they are polygons. I would like better than centroid and I would like something more “authoritative” coming from the states.

I decided to visit each states “GIS” setup…department….portal….website…..library. This takes place over 5 hours….I think…maybe more.

  • With two of the states I was able to google “Statename Hospital shapefile” and find exactly what I was looking for in less than two clicks.
  • Every major university has a half-assed page devoted to GIS links. Yes I said half-assed. Most of these aren’t curated or maintained.
  • In every search mapcruzin was ranked at the top or close to the top for data searches. I have 0 idea where this data came from – so much so I didn’t care to even investigate it.
  • One state’s search returned metadata (Yay) which pointed me to an online link that was dead (Boo). I vented over twitter and ended up using the Internet Wayback Machine thanks to @jalbertbowdenii.   He then pointed me to the new states data “portal” and I found that data. I had been searching for “Statename GIS Data” and was really coming up empty. All that came back was a website with no clear link to data. Lots of pics and mentions of awards and presentations…..but data.
  • One state search lead me exactly to that states data portal. A search on that portal for “shapefile” returned 0 results. After some exploring I discovered a second link to another portal which was down for maintenance. I ended up emailing the admin who has pointed me in another direction. There was another link that took me to a google map of all the states hospitals with no way to look at the data – just the map.
  • One state had all of their data as either “statewide” or “county”. If you didn’t find data in one you had to look in the other one. Of course hospitals were called “acute care health facilities” or something that to me said “here is where I will be at 70″ and not in a hospital. Data was in a executable zip file.
  • One states search had me register with their data portal. I downloaded the data only to find it in an ESRI personal geodatabase format. I have ArcGIS Desktop so I opened it and exported it out. I could have done this in QGIS – but time. This website also had a ton of .e00 files. What are those you ask? Look it up kids.
  • One state’s data portal was being replaced…or had been. So all of their links were dead. One link did work – the states Health department where a search for hospitals returned a 50 some odd page PDF with hospital information and addresses scattered about.
  • Right now I’m down to 2 emails and I’ve got the region covered in hospitals. except now I’m up to 8 hours of time spent on something that shouldn’t be this hard. I know 8 hours compared to hand digitizing all this data is nothing…but….8 hours to find location data for hospitals? I’m not searching for the nearest fast food restaurant. I’m searching for a building to provide health care.

So I’ve decided that the idea of accessible GIS Data must really be a joke on some level. We hear about it. We talk about it. Vendors tell us how open their product is and how data is being shared. I’m up to 8 hours in my search. Crazy that they were digitizing this data by hand? Not so much when you look at what you have to go through to find data. How hard is it to find data relating to hospitals for your state. Look. In some cases it will be easy…in some……it’s really a joke. Open data doesn’t mean much if you can’t find it.

No two states had the same setup. Almost all on some level were discussing their “data portal” or “GIS Portal”. Only in one instance did metadata come into play….and it had the wrong online linkage. Why not put your metadata up as a page with the right online linkage? 10 states, 10 pages, 10 links, and 10 downloads. Silly – because you don’t get to spend half a year building a portal with pics of people and awards and presentations.

For those of you with data portals that are jut that – spots to share and download data. THANK YOU.

Except – I can download Mars Geology Shapefiles. Use Google for that and it’s the first return….

 

 

ArcMap won’t kill off ArcInfo Workstation

If I remember correctly I was in Knoxville and we had gotten the first look at ArcMap 8.0. It’s been too many years ago to care or to count – I just remember sitting there going “Dammit – I spent all this time learning AML and Avenue”. The word being passed around as I remember it was ArcMap was the beginning stages of killing off ArcView 3.x. ArcView had made tremendous in roads and had pretty much became the go to standard for all my clients when I worked for TVA. Workstation was safe. I loved workstation. For all it’s command line craziness I knew one thing – if someone said they were using workstation they had a clue as to what they were doing. One of the managers with strong ties back to Redlands said during the class “This will kill off workstation”.

As time went on – Workstation on Unix slowly moved to Workstation for NT. ArcMap turned up in the office slowly around 2001 when XP finally appeared. Eventually I opened workstation less and less as coverages were replaced with shapefiles and shapefiles were pushed into a geodatabase. Eventually we moved into SDE which killed off a beautiful workflow we had set up with ArcINFO workstation. We started hearing about pushing maps into 3-D and onto the web. I still hear about pushing maps into 3-D and the web.

For the last year I’ve watched ArcGISOnline creep into everything. It’s not a bad thing – but I don’t really consider it a great thing. Call me your crazy uncle who turns up to thanksgiving late in a rusted out jeep, but I’m still not convinced the data is secure. I will say the same for any “cloud” environment in which you don’t hold the kill switch.

So anyway – I spent the morning reading up on ArcGISPro. Watching videos. I started having flashbacks. ArcWorkstation won’t be replaced. Arcview is safe. Deprecation. Will Arcmap run with workstation….Will ArcGISPro run with Arcmap….

I won’t even get into 3D.

For the record – it may take a few years but I consider this the preliminary announcement for the end ArcGIS for Desktop. The desktop platform has gotten stale. This is it. The next “revolution” will be ArcGISPro. Still with the tiered licensing from what I can figure out. “Hi you’ve just purchased ArcGIS Profesional Basic for Desktop”.

Innovation is great. Getting ESRi into 64bit for the desktop has long been overdue mainly because I still consider Desktop to have too much 80/90’s workstation core at it’s heart. You have to rewrite it to get rid of it. If you are going to rewrite it you might as well start killing off the old product line. Software changes and it’s not a bad thing….but – there’s a lot of “transformational” talk during this video.  Which usually means transforming your budget also.

It’s worth the watch – if only to remember the palm springs demo that was rolled out for years. I do miss the palm springs demo.

 

Charlie

So you know you’re getting old when you get random emails telling you a former co-worker has passed on. I’ll add him to the list. We all get old – life etc. Of course I’m telling everyone the obvious.

So my former life at TVA was a mixed bag. I hate politics. I hate red tape. Those two single things made me a complete pain when I worked at TVA. There were two GIS shops in TVA – one in Chattanooga and one in Norris TN. Of course the one in Chattanooga was better – since that was the one I worked in…or at least that’s what I believed. The other shop in Norris was headed up by Charlie Smart. Charlie never was one to get excited about red tape or politics – I would sit through a meeting and would almost immediately go “this is bullsh*t” because – well – see the previous few sentences. The only time both shops were together was news of a re-organization. Charlie would almost always sit there smiling and go “well – that was a good meeting”. Charlie had been doing this a lot longer than I had – and he was used to the ebb and the flow. It was something I could never get used to when I worked there. I guess you could say I’m better at it now. Somewhat.

Charlie was doing GIS at TVA back in the 70’s. Who knows if it was “GIS” at that point. Science so new people are most likely going “This will never work”. When I came along he was probably 30 years into his career. He also was into shooting high powered rifles at a gun club. People would tell me to speak up when talking to him.

Anyway – I never had a chance to work with the man enough. He retired shortly after I left.

So Joyce, Bruce, Scott,..now Charlie….The list goes on.

2692641_220w

There are weeks like the last two were I think I’ve been doing this way too long.

Hard Work

Sunset
Sunset Above the Clouds

“An idea I live by comes from a John Wayne movie called Rio Lobo.  John Wayne and Jack Elam are on one side of a crick shooting their guns at the bad guys on the other side.  John Wayne looks down at Jack Elam and says “Scatter gun’s useless.”  Jack Elam says “Don’t mind if I shoot, do you? It just makes me feel better.”

“I love that attitude.  If you don’t shoot, you have no chance of killing the bad guys on the other side of the river.  If you don’t shoot, you have no chance of making a basket.  You have to be willing to try.

“I balance that with an idea I take from Clint Eastwood’s movie Magnum Force.  Toward the end of the movie, Clint Eastwood squares off with a dirty cop who’d tried to kill him.  He secretly activates a bomb in the cop’s car and as the cop drives off his car blows up.  Clint Eastwood says “Man’s gotta know his limitations.”

“That’s the other thing I think about when I’m coaching.  Everybody should understand what they can and cannot do.”

Roy Williams, Hard Work: A life on and off the court

For those of you who do not know, I was born and raised a Tarheel fan and that definitely gets me in trouble this time of year living in Kentucky.  I may bleed the wrong color blue (powder instead of big), but at least once a year and often twice one of my favorite teams has to lose.  But these words of wisdom comes from a coach who just earned the title of fastest to 300 wins in the ACC and they seem to be particularly applicable to me the past few days.  Plus, Coach Williams is fiercely competitive which is a trait I can relate to entirely too well.  Tonight, I am hoping my fellow Kentuckians will forgive my “incorrect” powder blue preferences and unite with me to beat the true enemy.  Go Heels.  Beat Dook!!!!

SnowLine
Snow Line
SnowyFarms
Snowy Horse Farms at Dusk

I first heard this quote (thanks to Audible audiobooks) as I drove on snow-covered roads to the airport to attempt to do some remote sensing.  I wasn’t particularly happy about this outing because if you think about the percentage of land that had good remote sensing conditions last weekend is incredibly low.  And Kentucky had just received some more snow.  So much snow that our first attempt of flying Saturday had been thwarted completely.  I was totally skeptical and ready to turn around and go back to bed.  But, after about an hour of scheming, we took off.  We almost had to go back, though, because I didn’t have video so I couldn’t tell if the camera door was frozen shut or if the vide was just being finicky.  Scary and embarrassing at the same time.  But, I managed to get things working and it turned out to be a pretty successful day of 20 lines spread across four states (AR, TN, MS, and KY) and 395 images.  (It has been QC-ed and everything was accepted!!!)

SunsetProp
Sunset on the propeller

If I had gone with my original gut feeling and not shot the imagery, I would have been really frustrated.  Not to mention the fact that I probably would have been driving back on roads that were still nasty from the snow we received overnight.  Instead, I worked.  When I drove home that night, the roads were nearly clear and we had several hundred images “in the can” so to speak.  Productivity! And, along with that, we were smart and knew our limitations on Saturday.  Yes, we probably missed some photography but we were safe.  And, yes, I love my job.  Writing very detailed FGDC Remote Sensing Extension metadata one day and flying the data the next!

But this quote is one I am going to try to take to heart in more ways than just remote sensing because I truly believe that hard work has the potential to pay off in all aspects of our lives.

Code Like Crazy

A mentee came across my “mentoring coordinator” desk.  The mentee was looking for a mentor who would help with programming skills and career paths.  While I am in no way qualified to help with either of these questions, it has me thinking.

My first thought is that the programming language choice doesn’t matter.  A solid base in object oriented fundamentals would be more important than choosing a language.  They’re ever-changing and the next best thing is around the corner, and the older stuff is  constantly undergoing revision or threatening to become extinct.  (Ahem, VBA, I love you…but…I wish I’d never met you.)  That leads me to training sites such as Lynda.com and GeospatialTraining.com.  Lynda doesn’t have anything specifically GIS, but their fundamental courses are excellent and teach JavaScript, perfect for the next step into GIS related training through GeospatialTraining.  There are always other courses through universities or your favorite web training system.  Some searching may be required, but there are tons of virtual courses out there on programming.  Better yet, there are in person training places such as, you know, the hosts of this blog.  (And, by the way, I found this link while writing and it is a very good read.)

My next bought is that different places have different language specifications.  Often because they do different things (duh…web, server, desktop applications).  Since I really can’t talk about career planning, I can’t imagine how to find out what programming language your next job would desire.  Based on my own experience, though, I would recommend picking an open source language because those have seemed more stable over my years of experience.  The rest of my story is strictly a narrative, but maybe someone else will see the crazy path I took and find it useful.

So, personally, my paths of coding language choices has been forked and has several roundabouts and even a few dead ends.  My first exposure to programming did not go very well as it was a hurried introduction to C++.  I was running away screaming.  Then, in order to be accepted into a program, I had to take a programming course. Luckily, the second time it took.  I had a much more relaxed introduction with C++ that I loved.  It was so awesome that I almost changed career paths and went to programming full time.  Although I look back on the choice to stick with the spatial route now and then, I’m glad I’m spatial.  (Yes, you are supposed to read that special.)  But that well-taught introductory course paved the way for me to dabble in Perl, Avenue, VBA, Python, JavaScript, and, yes, I’m old enough to have even played around in AML.  Best of all, when I received my first job I was able to say I knew how to program.  I was even lucky enough to be able to jump from C++ to C#.

Every once in a while I get frustrated because, let me tell you, for ArcObjects, Visual Studio Express doesn’t work so well! If you can’t tell, I learned that the hard way.  I had a piece of code functioning in Visual Studio, switched it to express and nothing.  I rewrote the whole thing, checked all the logic and then finally realized it was just that I was using Express.  That put me off coding for a while.  Especially because the help for Express couldn’t tell me why I was having such a hard time.  Everything should have worked, but it sure didn’t.  So, hiatus.

Speaking of hiatus, I think it is incredibly important in learning to program to set attainable goals.  It should be logical to anyone who has had any programming experience that they need to make a change and then debug.  But…well…every once in a while I forget this and bite of way more than I can chew.  Thus, I’ll code like crazy for a spell and then nothing for a long while.  Goals.  Small ones. They’re good.

Back to the story.  There’s the fun fact that I can only use Avenue on an XP machine since ArcView 3.x doesn’t like Windows 7.  That’s pretty useless.  And, just when I thought Esri had a great training solution to switch from ArcView 3.2 to the impressive ArcGIS Desktop, which I partially did, I am now running into ArcGIS’s threat to do away with VBA for years now.  Great.  Now I have two piece of useless code.

The moral of these stories is that finding a language you can write without any expensive IDE and software ‘s flakey support and keep small goals.  You can always branch out later.

Shout out: This weekend (February 21-23, 2014) Code For America is doing “Code Across” with events many, many places.  There are some GeoGeeks involved (I’m excited Lyzi Diamond is in Lexington, Kentucky) and it is just awesome.  So check it out.

Side note: if you are interested in signing up for a mentoring, I recommend two options: URISA’s Mentoring program through the Vanguard Cabinet and ASPRS’s Mentoring program through the Young Professionals Council.  Both are seeking mentors, mentees, and mentoring coordinators.  I am actively involved in both so please feel free to complain directly to me if you don’t hear from us in a timely manner.  So far, though, I have heard great stories and also had excellent experiences.  It is always a tremendous amount of fun to have a conversation that doesn’t start with an explanation of what you do!