I am passionate about metadata and every once in a while I meet someone else who is either also passionate about metadata or has had an interesting interaction with metadata and lived to tell the tale. A very small number of the people will tell me about their metadata mis-adventure while the rest of the people around us will slowly edge away from us as we discuss the necessity of the proper keyword thesaurus or some other metadata minutia. Those “other” people, well, they just don’t know what they’re missing. At the ASPRS / JACIE co-located conference in Louisville, KY in March I was lucky enough to catch the JACIE session on NED. Little did I realize the presenter, who had some great metadata information in the presentation, was someone I had spoke with on the phone about LiDAR metadata. I was extremely lucky as she sat at my table for lunch the next day. We exchanged some great stories. First, I better preface this with a sad warning. If you are all lucky enough not to have nightmares (or dreams) about work related topics in your sleep, you will not be able to relate to the rest of the story. You can, however, laugh with me…at myself…yes, and I suppose you’ll be laughing at me. But I don’t mind since I laugh at myself as well. Once the panic settles down about not doing something major on that dataset I will laugh but anyway, one with the story itself. When the presenter and I were talking at lunch she mentioned one of her coworkers had a metadata nightmare. The coworker said to herself in the nightmare, “I can’t use this apple, it doesn’t have metadata!” So the presenter wrote some metadata for the apple. Bounding coordinates of an orchard and everything. It sounded like an absolutely awesome way to chase away work-related sleep states to me! I just love this type of interaction and it is the reason I go to conferences. I have conversations with people who “get” my passion! And, you never know when this type of a connection will help you! I called on them for more metadata advice in late April. So sometimes it is who you know, but it is also who you connect with even if it is on a strange metadata topic!
The main way I was introduced to GIS was through Esri Virtual Campus Courses. I’m not being critical at all, in fact I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed my Esri Virtual Campus Courses and I kind of miss the Learning Pathways. I really do think Esri Virtual Campus courses are an excellent way to learn Esri software. And, those same courses have valuable GIS concepts in them if you can parse them through ArcGIS’s tools. Even so, I have not been taking Virtual Campus courses lately. I am sure Esri hasn’t slowed down on their training seminars, but I have not seen any of interest. But when I saw the revised Creating and Editing Metadata in ArcGIS, designed specifically for 10.2, I was in. I figured it would be repetitive since I did take their “original” course with exactly the same title. I didn’t care, though, because I needed something to get me back to looking at how much better (or maybe make me miss ArcGIS 9.x again) metadata was in 10.2.
What I did not figure is that it would make me feel as if I am a GeoJournalist. From Middle through Undergraduate school, I was very active in various forms of school journalism. It started with my all-time favorite course entitled “Effective Communications” in eight grade that had us editing the middle school paper. I’ll show my age and state that our typing courses were on AppleIIe’s and we were designing the paper on “happy” mac’s in PageMaker. We even cut the color out of mylar. And, the course was the first real photojournalistic tasks I had. It lead me to the sidelines of many sporting events…ok, enough reminiscent history.
So, I’m sitting down to read through the materials and in the key definitions, the metadata definition feels an awful lot like the 5W’s (and an H)…just about data. I’m immediately taken back to my Effective Communications class, discussing how to write interview questions that extract the 5W’s from the subject. Yes, I know, I was reminiscing again. Sorry. But, the point is that metadata really is answering the 5W’s and ESPECIALLY the H about your geospatial data and I like that explanation.
I made it another section in the course and started to reminisce again. I have always been a firm believer in the A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words concept since I am a photographer, and I often think of metadata as the writing on the back of the “analog” print or the Digital Asset Management information for digital photos. I thought they were going to use the tired old writing on the back of a photograph, but instead they basically used captions and said “Each photo can tell you something, but its photographic value is limited if you do not have other information.” Thus, captions. If I had used their examples in my eight grade effective communication class, I would have failed. But I guess they don’t want you to write those thousand words down.
Unfortunately, the rest of the course was downhill from there. Yes, they showed the all-important method of changing from Item Description to your standard of choice, but they didn’t really talk about the tips at the bottom or anything else. In other words, my general frustrations with how ArcGIS handles metadata are still well founded. And, yes, I suppose that translates to still missing ArcGIS 9.x!
One funny part was that Esri HQ seems to have one of the same problems I have. If you edit your metadata in ArcGIS, it reports stuff that you don’t really want to have reported…like file locations. This is something that, if you’re delivering to a client, you will have to update on the final drive you deliver. There certainly are wonderful things they collect (such as the exact version of your software), but the file location is definitely not one of those wonderful automatically collected items. Anyway, I was amused that they blurred out that portion of the data.
My final review is that I suppose I have to thank Esri for a trip down memory lane with this Virtual Campus course. I have a few new ideas of how to define metadata when I’m teaching it. But overall I still find it tragic to still miss ArcGIS 9.x. But, what that really means is that I should be working on building my own interface. When I do accomplish that, I will share.
“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!!!!
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!!!)
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.
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 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.
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!