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!
I had a call the other day from a potential client. I actually hate that term – “potential client”. That’s an apt description for everyone these days. I went in and spoke with them and they were suffering from a GIS problem I’m seeing everywhere. They had a need and spoke to a sales person on fixing it. The remedy was actually a pile of software and hardware and I’m pretty sure the salesperson walked off with a nice bonus. I’m not sure of the final cost to potential client. They weren’t happy. I’m guessing they were invested to the tune of 50k or better. Software and some hardware and that didn’t count training and the consultant. In fact they are now so strapped budget wise they will remain a potential client.
Because of the client space I inhabit I struggle a bit daily with the idea of a GIS. A lot of times people mistaken me for the open source zealot. I’ve got a copy of ArcINFO (it’s that name till I die) and I regularly use all the other FOSS4G tools like gdal, qgis, postgis, and geoserver. I use fulcrum. I use a lot of software. What I’ve been telling people that it’s not the name brand of the software you are using. It’s more process than the software. There are a lot of great tools out there that are free or low cost.They aren’t as pretty as the commercial variety – but they work just as well. As I tell people – a clip is a clip and a buffer is a buffer. All GIS software has the same goal – some of the software speaks with an accent.
If you are debating starting a GIS – Find someone who isn’t a salesperson and sit down and ask them what they would do. If they only mention designer brand E please remember it’s 2014. Educate yourself. You might need to talk to several people. Ask a lot of questions. Offend. Ask why every chance you get. Ask who your consultant is affiliated with – are they a “business partner” and what does that get you.
In many of my talks lately I’ve been asking people how their budgets are holding up. That’s an important topic for me since I’m a consultant. Many times I’m hearing pretty much the same thing:
- Don’t sell me more software
- I bought some software and it’s not helping
- Maintenance is killing us
If you’re starting a GIS (and yes there are several of you out there) – explore your options. If you run to ESRI or any large commercial firm expect a sales job. I can almost quote verbatim what you are going to here if you are a manager speaking to sales people. Just remember sales – this is going to make buying a used car seem pleasurable depending on who you are talking too. Please remember at the end of the day the only thing that matters is your data.
If you start exploring the Open Source GIS space you are going to get a lot of kick back. To quote two great examples of what you are going to hear:
- People who use free software should work for free.
- You will never get support from “those people”. They think everything is free and they are here like we are…so if you use the free stuff it’s going to break and you are going to look like an idiot.
I’ve actually heard the above – it’s quite wonderful and extremely humorous considering the source of both of those quotes.
If you are starting a GIS please consider the following:
- Decide what data you need. Does it exist already? Do you need to go out and collect it? Can you collect it or do you need to hire someone to do it.
- Look at your software needs. How much do you want to spend. Look at open source. Look at the commercial stuff. Can you mix and stretch those dollars just a bit more than you think? BTW – you can mix and match. All you need is a process.
- Budget – Budget for a year. Budget for two. Then Budget for five. Budget like this might be successful. Look at your software also. Are you going to spend enough on software you could hire someone else? It happens. That’s a huge argument (for me) for mixing in open source. Jobs. Hiring someone does more for your community than paying more money for software.
It’s 2014. Software doesn’t have to be from one vendor. Your entire GIS setup doesn’t have to be a mono-culture. Servers (think cloud (another word I hate)) are cheaper than they ever have been. Pick the right software and you don’t have to spend a fortune on a workstation. Worry about your data. If you spend more time worry about your software than letting your data work for you you are doing it wrong.
I stumbled on this article and it made me chuckle. It shouldn’t at all. I guess given what all we’ve been experiencing with the OSM Crowd I’ve gotten a bit jaded (way more than Carol) about the whole ecosystem of OSM. I’ve got a blog post coming about the entirety of OSM….and I’m not sure exactly how to put it all together without coming off as a goob.
The article for GIS Lounge starts off with “scholarships for women to attend state of the map” and ends with “scholarships to State of the Map US isn’t restricted solely to women”. I get it. If there was ever a spot where more women are needed – it’s OpenStreetMap. Like with most mapping things – group is male heavy. I’ll even go with white male heavy. We need more women in the field. OSM needs more women contributing. We do here in the US. We do in the whole GIS industry.
My current theory is the OSM community is actually quite small. There are 1,000,000 accounts. I would put active users probably less than 50,000 after doing some reading. I could probably even narrow that down some more (half). It’s a small group. It’s a loud group with no central ruling body and it’s all truly crowd sourced. Self forming groups. Self forming committees. To me a group that fears the new user – they need the new user though. They really need the disruption of the new voice.
I say they don’t and I can point to dozens of instances where this isn’t true. I can point to a lot of people who happily want new people, innovation, and change. I spent last weekend working in the US Virgin Islands fixing roads and mapping cities. I may spend some time this week working in Athens Ga. AthOSM is coming shortly. I plan on continuing my disruption.
“Hollywood can do it why can’t you?” was the sentence that about put me over the edge back in 2000. I had inherited a “position” where I was going to be the “ortho guy”. Essentially the guy that took 9×9 scanned aerial prints and made orthoimagery out of them. Correct scaling issues and incorporate an elevation model. We had a scanner, we had software, and I had a slight idea of how it worked. Not a great idea so that’s why you had support, manuals, and a list of phone numbers of people I could call and go “I don’t know why but the RC30 Camera report hates Fiducial 4”. I had one job where I was just trying to piece together some imagery and it wouldn’t pull together. I had a bad survey point and one of the bosses said “”Hollywood can do it why can’t you? Just put it all together and “fly” over it. Like Hollywood…”
Anyway – yes – People used to strap cameras with film in them to planes to get aerial photography.
I saw two things that made me remember that stupid story over the last month or so. This article kicked off the thought train.:
Planet Labs: They are tossing out a “flock” of satellites from the International Space Station to image the earth. What they lack in pixel resolution they make up for in timeliness. Almost constant earth monitoring from these small satellites. Brand new imagery. Constantly. I can only imagine the headache of storage.
Sky Box Imaging: Video from a satellite. That’s all I can say on that one. Video. Imagine overlaying your data on video.
So yeah – Hollywood.
I do an terrible amount of soul searching from time to time.
Questions of why I do what I do surface – I answer them and go back to work. Some days I get a lot done – some days I don’t. Some days I get easily distracted. I can truly say that the data has gotten boring. Not the work or the clients – it’s the story behind the data I care about. I could care less why you are sharing your data out on some godawful piece of software – but I do care why the data exists and why you are sharing it out. Why is it important to you?
I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people. A month or so ago I actually got to stand with this man and his wife while a very good friend snapped the picture. Yes – I finally met Atanas Entchev. If you’ve paid any attention over the last few years Atanas has quite the story to tell. If you get the chance ask him. We drove down the street in New Jersey and Carol asked “Where does he live?” and I said “I think it’s right where the guy is standing out in the street recording out entrance”
Through a random bit of happenstance during one thanksgiving dinner at Cracker Barrel I live tweated the entire event. On a good day my family can be quite the event – this day proved extraordinary. One man took note and laughed the entire time. Today he announced an addition to the family:
I love QGIS – one of the guys who has went out of his way to answer questions and just talk to me from Australia has been Nathan Woodrow. The man is a coding machine. The man is a father and today I learned of a subtraction to his family.
Like I said – it’s the stories that are so much more valuable than the data these days. Read away – make notes. Remember why you do what you do.