Topology Errors

31 July 2005

Fix My Blog Search Engine - Please

Writing this blog has forced me to get up to speed with blog search engines so I can monitor the GIS blogosphere. A useful post on the subject comes from Read/Write Web that compared the market share of Technorati, PubSub, and Feedster. This is a category that is ripe for Google to dominate since I subscribe to all three because none of them provide a complete picture. I’d love to use just one service.

My input to the blog search engine developers is that the user experience should be like sifting gravel. I get my fine grained tuned search results first (very specific queries using Boolean operators) and I view those posts in their entirety. Next, I get medium grained material and scan the synopsis. Finally, I get course grained material where I can scan headlines. And most importantly, I don’t need to see the same post in all three levels of searches. Plus I’d like the ability to easily rate each post and white list and black list blogs. And I’d like to know other people’s post ratings and white and black lists so that I can set a threshold based on the blogosphere ratings of individual posts and blog authors. If all you blog search engine developers want some more ideas, drop me an e-mail.

30 July 2005

Which Web Mapping Service Does Your Mom Use?

Some GIS’ers question a report that states, “ComScore also noted a bump in traffic to map sites, led by MapQuest, with 45.7 million visitors in June, Yahoo! Maps, with 21.3 million, and MSN MapPoint, with 5 million.” They ask, Why isn’t Google Maps on the list? My reply is that MapQuest has the first mover advantage and it’s going to take a while for the general public to discover that Google Maps provides features not found in MapQuest or Yahoo! Maps. And then we’ll see if they find the new features compelling enough to switch. Frankly, I’m just happy that my Mom knows how to use MapQuest and I'm not looking forward to providing her tech support if she switches to Google Maps.

This reminds me of my friend Steve telling me about Google! beta (note the "!") back in 1998 when I and the rest of my techie friends were using Alta Vista. (My Mom was using Yahoo! at the time.) I thought thanks for the tip but I’ll stick with Alta Vista. Not until a few weeks later, after I had scanned 40+ entries in an Alta Vista web search without finding something that I knew existed, did I evaluate Google. (I had to e-mail Steve for the link because I forgot the URL.) The first item in the Google search results was exactly what I was looking for and I was immediately hooked. Several years later, my Mom also switched from Yahoo! to Google (note the absence of the "!").

In the late 90’s, searching the web was a hit or miss affair that was fixed by Google. In 2005, the public is not frustrated by their web mapping service. And, I’m not certain that they are looking for more functionality either. As a result, this could be a long slow process for Google Maps/Google Earth/MSN Virtual Earth (GM/GE/MVE) to overtake the leaders. The people reading and writing blogs are not indicative of the mass Internet Audience. Rather, we need to keep in mind, “Which web mapping service does my Mom (and everyone else’s Mom) use and is she likely to switch to GM/GE/MVE?”

28 July 2005

Dynamic Mapping vs. Dynamic Mapping with Dynamic Data

I’ve been watching the news out of the ESRI User Conference. The GIS blogs combined with the new ESRI UC Blog are a pretty good source of data. Sometimes there is an advantage to processing data from afar rather than up close. (At least that’s how Warren Buffet explains why he doesn’t have his investing office in NYC.)

Google Earth introduced “3-D Dynamic Mapping” combined with local search. It’s very cool although after you’ve virtually visited Gibraltar or the old city of Jerusalem, there isn’t much reason to visit those same places again. Once all of us have virtually visited the Pyramids in Egypt or the Grand Canyon or the Greek Isles, there may not be much reason to fire up Google Earth. Indeed, Junior High Geography class should be changed forever, but I expect the rest of the United States using the Internet to get driving directions will use MapQuest or a similar service for the foreseeable future. The key is that the geographic data in Google Earth/Google Maps/MSN Virtual Earth (GE/GM/MVE) isn’t current. As an example, I can’t use Google Earth, zoom to San Diego and see 10,000+ ESRI users lining up for the Thursday night party in Embarcadero Park. In fact, the image for the baseball stadium (PETCO Park) shows the stadium under construction although it opened on April 8, 2004.

Reading the UC Q&A, David Maguire's Blog, and the reporting on the recent Press Conference with ESRI, National Geographic, and Geospatial One Stop leads me to believe that ESRI is looking at providing “Dynamic Mapping with Dynamic Data”. It won’t compete with GE/GM/MVE since the available content will be very different. Instead of strictly consumer content, it will provide an application with a 2D or 3D globe interface that uses the National Geographic map archive as a set of rich base maps and can access all the data on Geospatial One-Stop. At least that sounds like the vision. We’ll see what they deliver.

25 July 2005

You Got to Give It to Me

Below is an e-mail quoted in its entirety. (Name withheld since it was an e-mail.):

You seem somewhat bitter in your posts. I'm one of those silent GIS folks that doesn't write a blog, nor do I have and wish to even try. I tend to agree with most of your posts (The only one I haven't agreed with is titled "Interesting Versus Useful" and it has been your worst) but you seem to personally attack people (or at least your sarcasm isn't getting to me) and I don't think that enables me to really use your posts as backup to my own thoughts.

My reply e-mail in its entirety:

Thanks for your feedback--I really appreciate it. I haven't been called bitter in years although I use satire all the time outside of the blogosphere. Blogging is a different communication medium that I've only used in the past to communicate with people who already knew me. I'm still finding the proper "voice" and your feedback will help.

I'll admit that I'm jaded by the sensationalism found in the some of the GIS press and user blogs. That is what caused me to start this blog. Sometimes I'll fight fire with fire (using sensationalism) and sometimes I'll take the high road.

And I’d love to hear your feedback.

UPDATE, 30 July 2005

Other people agreed with the comment about my "Interesting vs. Useful" post. My circulaton and hits (according to Feedburner) crashed into their lowest level in the 24 hours after that post since the creation of this blog. I recommend Feedburner to all bloggers as a way to receive immediate feedback on how each individual post is being received.


I went to ESRI's web site to double check some information in the Preconference Q&A and stumbled on a link to the ESRI UC Blog. They reported that registration exceeded 12,000 as of Friday. This could be interesting. David Maguire (ESRI's Director of Products) recently started his own blog which has seen its share of unfriendly comments. That motivated me to add a comment moderation feature on this blog. Anyway, we'll see how ESRI handles the situation.

24 July 2005

Mind Reader

This morning I played with MSN Virtual Earth long enough to start formulating an impression. As I was getting ready to write a counter point to the positive buzz I was seeing in my RSS feeds, I received a new post from Stefan. He took the thoughts from my head and saved me the trouble. Thanks, now I can go run chores this Sunday morning.

The Good on Google

I wanted to help counterbalance the sensationalist blogosphere buzz about Google Earth and its effect on the GIS software companies. I don’t recall any buzz about an interview between GeoWorld editor Matt Ball and John Hanke who is in charge of the Google Earth product line. It’s an example of the type of straight forward journalism that isn’t getting picked up because

  1. The GIS publications vie for our eyeballs and could never mention a competitor.
  2. It isn’t yellow journalism that stirs up a flurry of comments.

Three days into this blog and I realize that I can’t just link to the Bad and the Ugly. Hence the post title—it’s not a typo. Here is an excerpt from the interview showing John Hanke’s perspective on Google Earth competing with GIS software.

I view it as a compliment to GIS. There might be some small areas of overlap where people are using GIS to do simple consumer kinds of jobs, but for organizations where people are using GIS to do real analytics that is not something that is part of what we are offering. I think to a large extent we are wetting people’s appetites for using geospatial tools more.

23 July 2005

An RSS Cure for “Missing the UC Blues”

I’ve been to the ESRI User Conference before and I’ll have to experience it virtually this year. Some of us have to rotate spots with our colleagues. However, it seems as though the blogosphere will keep me abreast of the announcements. Since my colleagues were traveling on Friday, I learned of the new Image Server before them and I’ll bet before most of the rest of the conference attendees. A quick search of the Preconference Q & A provided more information than David Maguire’s post. Because of the use restrictions, “Danger Will Robinson, publicly accessible and linked web page is restricted to ESRI users only and shall not be redistributed”, I won’t provide a link. But it is question #1 under Raster and Imagery. So remember--only you ESRI users can go looking for it.

22 July 2005

A Tale of Two Posts

While the GIS blogosphere fills my RSS Reader with news (sic), a GIS neophyte (Stefan Geen) explains the success of Google Earth. After comparing the two, please remind me why I subscribe to the current crop of GIS blogs.

A few weeks ago I enjoyed a breathtaking hike in the mountains. Instead of sharing pictures with my friends, I simply e-mailed them a KMZ file of the destination showing the lake nestled in the mountains. They could recreate the hike by "flying" back to the trailhead. Yes Stefan, you nailed it. Google Earth is social software.

Safe KML

A few hours after my previous post, Adena’s Directions Magazine followed up with a no nonsense issue that included a great article on KML and the guys at Safe Software. Thanks Adena, that’s useful information.

Interesting Versus Useful

All Points Blog commented, “Read this interesting perspective on how Google/ESRI/open source are bumping into each other”. Interesting is a word loaded with multiple context. Jerry Springer is interesting. Howard Stern is interesting. But, so is Google Earth. I’m not going to take the time to dissect Hobu’s post. It's sufficient to say that it represents the type of sensationalism that caused me to jump into the GIS blogosphere and I wouldn’t recommend that type of post if I were in Adena’s position.

If you’re looking for something useful rather than interesting, I recommend O’Reilly Radar. See a recent post on OGC Integration with Google Maps. An older post succinctly covers the economics of Google Maps.

Sustainability is where Google Maps falls down, by the way. Google Maps also has no business model. It's not self-sustaining to give away infinite maps when the maps cost you. The obvious business model is to syndicate their local advertisements as they've begun doing with Google Local. That way I can build a killer app using maps, using Google's map component, and I syndicate Google's local ads for them.

21 July 2005

Disclaimer This

Referring to Spatially Adjusted – July 20

Chris seems to think that personal opinions are just that and I totally agree, but if you put your company name on your post/blog/email you are bringing your place of work into the discussion.

The legal side of me wants to argue the point but the human side of me (backed by more than a year of blogging experience) understands that this is the over whelming majority viewpoint. That’s why my blog is aggressively anonymous. (Believe it or not, some organizations have blogging policies.) In addition, the Spatially Adjusted post shoots down those silly disclaimers that mention the company name in one breath and attempt to disavow association in the next breath. My recommendation is to add one more sentence to your disclaimer. Although I am not a spokesperson for <insert organization name>, I realize that most people will consider my personal opinions as company policy. Oh, and you may as well add it to your e-mail signature. Here is the complete disclaimer in an easy to copy format.

Disclaimer: I work for <insert well-known company or high visibilty government agency> but all the opinions here are my own. Although I am not a spokesperson for <insert organization name>, I realize that most people will consider my personal opinions as company policy.

Thank you James—great point!

20 July 2005

Let It Go!

Referring to: Spatially Adjusted – July 18
“I don't think ESRI could have played that article any worse as the first response was poorly thought out and then to retract it only made it worse.”
An ESRI employee posted a comment to a Directions article under the usual ‘opinions are my own and do not reflect the blah, blah, blah.’ Then, for whatever reason, this individual asked Directions magazine to remove his comment. I don’t see a connection between that scenario of personal opinions posted/retracted and ESRI (The Company) playing the article badly.

In addition, Spatially Adjusted links to a recent blog posting that states,
"Anyway, the point is that Mr. Baker's comments, whether sanctioned or not, illustrate ESRI's fears about openness."
Every developer working for a commercial software company is keeping an eye on the open source software movement to see if they will continue to be able to make their mortgage payments and send their children to school. Once again, I don’t see the connection between a personal posting and ESRI (The Company).

Moreover, the comment posting and removal scandal happened more than a month ago. That was Before Google Earth (B.G.E.) and I’m surprised that it is still being discussed. What do you think?