The Year in Review – 2019 edition

Jan 9, 2020 | GIS

2019 was weird. If you want to stop there that will sum it up. This will be a long post.

2019 started as an anniversary for me. It was 10 years I have been full time in this business – by that I mean “I have fed myself and existed for one decade doing this”. Small dates took on more meaning. Small ripples turned into waves and small noises amplified. If you look back at 2009 I had recently left my job at the feds and started consulting, had recently become an ESRI business partner, and was recently single. 2019 – I’m still single, 10 years as a company, and up to my neck in Open Source. Looking back over the 10 years was a journey. Interns had come and gone. One employee came and went. I moved. Moved back. Lost Friends. Gained some new friends. People died. People were born. Screwed up some jobs. Nailed other ones. It has been a long year of looking back. On Dec 31st I went to bed early and woke up Jan 1 somewhat relieved I wasn’t dealing with this even number anymore. I actually got up and worked Jan 1st 2020.


 I did two things I hadn’t done before this year: Made every new client sign a contract and started stepping away from the small jobs. I know – “You’re insane you always do contracts”. Well my normal base of clients didn’t either want them or refused to sign them. I have signed a lot of contracts. I’ve occasionally did them. Just not regularly. It’s no longer negotiable. In a lot of cases small jobs take as much effort in some cases as large ones. Couple that with “No Contract” and it was turning into a gamble I was starting to lose over 2019. I looked for larger jobs. NRGS refused some smaller clients. I networked/advertised more than I had done in the past.


NRGS made the IT Vendor List in North Carolina. With that I became (as far as I can tell) the only vendor centered on Free and Open Source Software for Geo. That took some time and some work to put together. The effort will hopefully be worth it this year as I start advertising that contract.


I spent half the year solidifying the TN 911 database I created for Henry County. Parts of it have been running for over a year now with no breakages and no crashes. That became a product I could market and sell. Out of that I actually got the NENA 911 standard running in QGIS/PostGIS but hadn’t said anything about that (well I just did). I started offering support for what people had called the “OpenGeo Suite” and the “Boundless Suite”. I’m just not calling it by anything that can get me sued. No I don’t build installers for them (already been asked). I hadn’t come up with a name yet…maybe “The software formerly known as the Boundless Suite” and then make some symbol for it….like Prince. It’s not anything magical – you too can install PostGIS/Geoserver with extensions. I’ll do it for you if you hate doing it though.


Oh – and I did one more thing. Offer a services based support contract. If you had QGIS/PostGIS/Geoserver/ETC running and wanted support here I am. I will continue advertising that this year. I’m making this more than “maintenance” as I’m actually going to work on your project/system/provide some sort of value add to your organization. Two organizations  signed up for it – I was a bit dumbfounded by that as I really didn’t expect anyone to sign up. I’ve done this before and had no takers – but this time people agreed and contracts went out.


My biggest questions of the year:
  • Can we switch to QGIS?
  • Can you help us fix our data?
  • Do you support open source software and how much do you charge?


Training took me to Denver Colorado and Dumas Texas as well as Downtown Chattanooga.

Todd Barr brought me out to work with his employer on moving off Arc to QGIS. So I spent three days teaching a class out in the “flat part” of Colorado. Learned something about drones and watched as an organization worked with Amazon Services. Out of that the one day QGIS class was revamped to two days and there is a third day sketched out. Is there a need for 3 days of QGIS training? I have no clue. Maybe specialized training for companies is where that lies.

You occasionally get to meet a twitter person in some far away place called COLORADO – I present @geofeminina.

I went to Texas. I went there under Respec and taught a three day class for their client that was making a move from Arc to QGIS. Yes there is a theme for the Training.


The city of Chattanooga brought me in to talk to their Environmental people on using QGIS. So I did a one day class on “You too can do things with data”. It was a good experience. Someone yelled “Holy Sh*t” in the middle of class when they accomplished some analysis task they had been struggling with. While I do condone as much profanity as is appropriate – that caught me off guard and made me laugh in the middle of class more than I should have.



February took me to the North Carolina GIS Conference. Yes I jumped in car and drove the long way to the middle of North Carolina. It’s a Good conference. It’s a great blend of open source and proprietary. Yes – there is a lot of “We made a story map” but you also get a GRASS Developer and some other open source aficionados roaming the hallways.

Nantahala Outdoor Center on the way to the NC GIS Conference

I made the FOSS4G-NA Conference out in San Diego. That was fun. It would have been more fun if I hadn’t caught a bug halfway through the conference. Granted it’s not a huge  like some conferences – but it’s a good time had by all. It’s a good crowd and well worth your time.

I made the TNGIC Conference and taught one class on QGIS. I did a couple of talks. Annoyed a lot of people. I struggle every year on the idea of getting a booth or just being a “mobile booth”. So if you ever see me at TNGIC sitting in the vendors area drinking a coke and eating whatever snack is out – “Welcome to my Mobile Booth”.

The biggest smallest conference happened in Chattanooga this year – The QGIS Chattanooga Conference. We had 50 people ranging from Canada, California, New York, Georgia, Boston, and Florida. We blew out the Tap House with half the conference coming out for a social. So what am I going to do in 2020? News is coming shortly.


If you go back to the first paragraph I had mentioned the work anniversary. In mid 2009 I was recently single and my neighbor brought me a cat. I said “I don’t want a stupid cat” and out of spite I named the cat Stupid. I shortened it to Stu.

For almost 10 years to the day Stu became my shadow. We talked. We hung out. We did some bird watching and some ball fetching. In a quiet house you’re going to do one of three things: talk to no one, talk to yourself, or talk to your pets. Stu grew on me. It was a rough relationship though. He desperately wanted to be the alpha male and that is my job as the bringer of food and the provider of cat litter. We would battle over who was running the show. He hated the cold so this time of year found him in my bed or hiding in a giant comforter I left crumpled on the floor for him.

In early 2018 Stu got sick. One trip to the vet left me with two possibilities. One treatable. One not. We tried the easiest treatment and one year later the problems resurfaced. I pretty much knew what the problem was….. I went to Texas for training and got a call from family: “He relapsed hard. He has a month at best”. I came home and he lasted a few days. I went to the vet and had him put to sleep. He was ready. I wasn’t ready.  I owe Stu a blog post. I have yet to be able to make one I’m happy with. It’s a tough thing losing a pet. It’s harder when you’ve attached a lot of emotional baggage to the pet. I had no clue that had happened. There is no doubt some psychological study that has this all laid out and fully explains my end of things and why. It did make me deal with a lot of baggage I had been ignoring since day 1 in 2009. So if there is a silver lining to this story I walk into 2020 with a clearer head.

Social Media

Linkedin is crawling with Fake Accounts. I started deleting people and refusing to “connect” if the connection was out of Russia, The Middle East, India, or an account with a glamour photo with no background image. I don’t pay for the service. It’s never helped me get work as far as I can tell. So I use it but sparingly.

My personal facebook account became harder to find. I clamped down on the service – thanks to politics I’ve unfollowed probably 1/4 of the people up there. Removed all the apps from my phone. I actually became a heavier user of whatsapp but I’m attempting to leave that one this year. If you follow my facebook business page you’ll notice posts are falling off as I’ve decided it’s not worth the effort I was putting into it. I will keep posting info – but maybe once a week or twice.

I started using twitter more than I had – with that increase in usage also brought the removal of a lot of accounts that were posting political info or just things not related to Geo. I started deleting my tweets slowly. I signed up for a service and I’m working in keeping nothing longer than 1 year. Which I think I have to manually delete anything older than 2011. That’s slowly happening.


Did a lot of Hiking.

I did a lot of Canoeing.

I need to do more bike riding and I have no good picture of that. I expect to get a new bike this year.


Giant Shout Out

A job resurfaced this year I’d been working off and on to land for 6 years. I didn’t get it.  My random shout out goes to – Michael Terner. I did a lot (and have done a lot) of talking to him about business and about life in general. He offered advice as he always does and it’s good advice. I have said and will continue to say not having a business background has hurt me – so I tend to rely on people for advice and direction. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. His advice has always been solid and great. The best part is the advice is just the facts. I get to make my own mind up and “follow my bliss”.  I did. It was a good thing.


Anyway – the year that was. Work was done. Sweat was produced. Overall it was good. I look forward to 2020 as things get serious around here and I start the uphill hike of growing by the end of 2020.




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