10 Years Ago on Spatially Adjusted – “Being Open Doesn’t Guarantee Success”

I never “celebrated” 10 years of Spatially Adjusted mostly because I forgot about it.  I was cleaning up the site earlier this week and noticed there was some good content back then, it definitely had a different tone but hey, I’m 10 years older now.  I’m going to post a “best of” link every week to a 10-year-old article for the rest of the year.  Some of it will be thought-provoking1 and some of it will be laughable.  At any rate 10 years ago this week there were a couple posts about hurricane tracking that were interesting given that it was about Katrina, but this one caught my eye.

Being Open Doesn’t Guarantee Success

All the openness in the world won’t make any product successful, but listening to your customers will. The feeling that I’ve gotten from ESRI over the past year is that they have finally begun to realize that their road to continued success is supporting users like us. Don’t confuse the hype surrounding Google Maps/Earth with them being open and listening to their customers. There is no company that likes to hide behind their logo more than Google and they will do whatever it takes to not have to be open. There is a reason people are beginning to realize that Google is the next Microsoft (while Microsoft seems to have becomethe next IBM). Believe me, ESRI has a LONG WAY TO GO before they are as open as we’d all like them to be, but they do listen to their customers and that is a start.

Well the whole post is sort of like that, me claiming that Esri has been more open than Google or others.  The context with this is they started allowing their employees to blog and contact people directly, it was a big shift from the traditional call a phone number support.  So we were all so excited to see Esri employees blogging and responding to our articles.  Well eventually it all collapsed into a corporate marketing blog cycle but at that moment it looks like we felt like Esri was changing.


  1. disclaimer: probably not

GaaS: The Future That Wasn’t

Years ago in the Arc/Info world, we used to perform most of our geoprocessing in ArcInfo Workstation on Windows.  But when we needed to really get work done, we’d use a HP-UX beast of a server to handle some of the more complex geoprocessing.  It was really easy to do right, Esri even use to have some tools to help you accomplish this.  I remember thinking that very soon we’d be able to offload most geoprocessing on remote constellations and then just get back the results.  My personal workstation wouldn’t be bogged down with processing and the server would be doing what we paid good money for.

Well we didn’t know what we were talking about at the time was “GIS as a Service”.  Mostly because we didn’t think of clouds anything more than rain makers.  But the idea of offloading our geoprocessing was something to a person we’d wager would be built into GIS by now.  Of course products like ArcGIS Server and FME Server can run processing remotely but it is not built into workflows.  You have to go out of your way to author scripts that can handle this. I’m curious why things worked out this way.

It could be that with Arc/INFO on Unix going away there wasn’t servers that could handle geoprocessing.  Or it could be that workstations these days are so fmefast that you don’t need to remote process.  Maybe I’m just old and stuck in my ways that I want to use an Unix server for processing, maybe put a couple of Perl scripts in there and call it a day.  But I think I’m disappointed that we just haven’t seen that much uptake on remote geoprocessing.  The only workflow I’ve used this on that was supported by the software is authoring on FME Desktop and running those workbench scripts on FME Server.


moonbaseI guess we always assume there will be flying cars and houses on the moon but we’re left with airport departure TVs that show the blue screen of death, smartphones that can be hacked with SMS and our credit cards being stolen left and right.  The reality of GIS in 2015 is it is still enterprise work being done in a workgroup fashion.  GIS isn’t taken seriously by IT because we don’t take ourselves seriously.  Hiding in a corner “doing GIS” is how we’re seen by others.  Time to break the mold.

Esri Geodatabase Archive Updated

Something I started in 20061 is still widely used.  I created it originally as I was trying to create ArcGIS 9.1 Personal Geodatabases with ArcGIS 9.2.  It wasn’t possible then to create older Geodatabases but Esri eventually added in functionality to create older versions.  The reason we need these is that you can use older Geodatases in newer versions of ArcGIS but not the other way around.  So if you are on ArcGIS 10.2 and your client is on ArcGIS 9.3, you’ll have a problem sharing data.  But if you have a 9.3 version Geodatabase, then you can save your data to that version and share away.

I like this archive because each one of these Geodatabases was created with that version of the software.  They will work perfectly since they are natively created. So next time you need to have a 8.3 Geodatabase2, you’ll have a native Geodatabase to work with.  Bookmark and use!

Special thanks to @GIS_katie for providing the updated blank ArcGIS 10.3 File and Personal Geodatabases.


  1. Take a look at the url to see what it was originally about

  2. You totally know that day will come

Google Map Maker is Officially Back in the USA

Well good news for those who want to help a down on its luck company like Google update their maps.

Google Map Maker, the tool which allows anyone around the world to contribute information to Google’s worldwide map, has re-opened in 45 countries after going live again in 6 countries two weeks ago. The product was temporarily shut down in May after it was discovered that some nefarious edits to the map, like geographic polygons shaped to depict an Android peeing on what is ostensibly an Apple logo, were being approved.

If you want to help Google, just go to Google Map Maker and start editing.  Just know your edits will get locked up and used to make a ton of money.  Here in the USA you can’t create polygons yet but I suppose that will be back soon.

Google Map Maker is Back

Google Maps Gets Lost in Photos

Look I love iOS but I still use Google Maps as much as possible because it works better than any other mapping service out there.  But I’m beginning to wonder what Google is thinking by adding some new features.

Now Google is looking to capitalize on this ongoing trend with a new feature in Google Maps that encourages users to share their “foodie pics” with others by posting the photo to Google Maps itself.

It could be that I live in a car town and navigation is the reason I use Google Maps but the idea that I would use my mapping app to take pictures of food is a bit out there.  I mean don’t they have their own social media network to handle this?  Oh right

AAA’s TripTik Still a Thing

It’s always interesting to hear about the latest mobile mapping apps but I thought this was interesting.

Its signature TripTik is still going strong, the auto club says, even in the age of in-dash GPS and Google Maps. The TripTiks come free with AAA membership.

AAA is not only still making TripTiks but they are still giving them out free.  Given the article doesn’t give ages but they sound from the older generation.  TripTik is still around but it’s day is numbered.

ArcGIS Server Revisited

Legacy GIS System
Legacy GIS System
We were talking this weekend about how much serving up GIS data has changed in the past 3 years.  GIS Server used to be so important to many of my friends companies to the point they spent tens of thousands of dollars on it a year.  But no longer, each one said that they stopped paying for server because they all use other options.  Now before I go on, I want to say this isn’t about sales data of Esri products.  It’s more about changes in how people are sharing spatial data.  Feel free to replace ArcGIS Server with your favorite GIS server package1.

GNOCDC-RepopulationI gave a talk years ago about something we did at the GNOCDC mapping recovery from Hurricane Katrina.  You can see the slide deck here and watch the video here.  Basically it was the seeds of what we are going through right now.  It wasn’t that what we were doing back there was very unique, it was just a realization that GIS can’t be hosting “enterprise” data in a “workgroup” environment.  Just like Katrina basically broke the GNOCDC GIS servers, it has become clear that there is almost no way for an organization to use classic GIS servers without putting a lot of load balancing and networking decisions in front of them.

For most companies this is just way too much infrastructure and licensing costs.  We’ve seen the rise of CartoDB, Mapbox and ArcGIS Online2.  Each has pluses and minuses and while there is overlap, they all do things unique to themselves.  But what the big attraction for each is that you don’t have to manage the constellation yourself.

The biggest drawback each said was the unknown in licensing.  Most hosted GIS plans are costed in ways that GIS people aren’t familiar with.  Mapviews?  Nobody has analytics on that until you put it in these services.  100,000 map views sounds huge doesn’t it?  But how do you really know?  Service credits?  We’ve wondered what that even means for years.  But I’d wager beers that even with the unknown, you’ll still save money over your ArcGIS Server license or other maintenance you pay for hosting your own GIS server.

We’re at a crossroads here.  People have begun to start realizing standing up ArcGIS Server, Geoserver or other map servers makes little to no sense in the new marketplace.  Paying for hosting maps is cheaper in the long run, has more availability and is easier to use that classic self hosted mapping solutions.  ArcGIS Online for all it’s confusion is beginning to be leveraged by users and everyone I knew at the Esri UC knows what CartoDB and Mapbox do.  Back in the old days of WeoGeo, we had to prove what we know now every day.  The cost of “doing it yourself” is magnitudes higher than paying for hosting.

Tide is changing…


  1. title is a bit of SEO, right?  Heck I’m not even talking about ArcGIS Server in this post.

  2. or whatever it is called these days