A Trip down Memory Lane

Sep 13, 2023 | address, TNGIC

I guess I’m keynoting the West TN TNGIC Conference.…or I’m just the first speaker. I received a call and it went either “Hey we want you…” or “Hey the first four people cancelled so….”

I didn’t want to talk about The 911 project or the latest FOSS4G thing – so after sleeping on it for a week I decided to do a “10 year look back” at the US Virgin Island Project. So if you didn’t know, 10 years ago I had walked off a 5 months-ish extravaganza in the Caribbean. I was the the Sub of a Sub of a Sub. The on-the-ground guy. The person who had to wrestle through every problem you could have with computers/people in 2013 on a tropic island.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about that project this year. That was my “big” project as I was contemplating shutting down business and doing something else but changed my mind when this happened. I received a call in 2012 and “Hey do you want to do this job” and I spent 6 months watching this thing be a month from starting. I ended up down there in March of 2013 and was there off and on for 4 or 5 months.

If you’ve never been to the US Virgin Islands it’s a pretty amazing place. I found myself sitting at a Bed and Breakfast for 4 months with the Godfather of the islands – Ronnie Lockhart. The Lockharts were a well known family and he was an interesting character. I took for granted while I was there how great of a guy he was. Everyone knew him. If I needed something he had to do nothing more than make a phone call and go “Tell them Ronnie sent you”. He passed away this year. I hadn’t spoken to him in some time and I noticed his Facebook page went stale and a little bit of searching He was gone. Rumor had it he was going to be shot over the Bay in a firework during Carnival this year. I hope the rumors were right.

The one thing I learned from this project was “Diversify your GeoToolbox”. I’m pretty sure the client wanted an ESRI workflow and that wasn’t going to work because of the logistics of the field in 2013. I was using all these “brand new to me tools” like openjump and postgis. That partially failed because of logistics of the field. I did discover QGIS during that period – QGIS 1.7 Wroclaw.

That was also my first dive into Fulcrum. It was also my first time working remotely and having to manage people and expectations. We had three study areas. The first was extremely tough because I didn’t have the tools. The second area was had because I hadn’t quite got the work flow figured out. The last area was smooth thanks to a lot of people and a lot of work.

The process we built around qgis, fulcrum, some arcmap, and a lot of printing worked. We pre-printed door hangers. We had two teams and I could tell you pretty much how many houses we would collect by day by area. Everyone had Fulcrum and a paper map and a pen. You started and ended the day in the office. We bought lunch for the teams. The last thing you did was sync your work back to the cloud and we knew shortly what was left for the next day. We took photos. We collected data. It was awesome.

My talks 10 years ago were “This was Amazing”. This talk will be “Not a lot was going right those 5 months but we made it work”. I’m going to talk people and software. Things I got way wrong I hopefully don’t get wrong any more. Diversity which was a long talk I had with Ronnie on why things didn’t always go right in the USVI. It should be fun – so if you’re around Paris TN show up October 12th 2023.

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