Topology Errors

16 August 2005

Unprofessional and Undisciplined

After reading “ESRI and Google and major uphill battle”, I was certain that Berlin Brown didn’t know much about GIS or ESRI so I dismissed him as a cranky malcontent. James Fee has taken the time to illustrate the errors so I won’t rehash those points. I am interested in the human psyche and was curious to understand why someone who obviously didn’t know the GIS industry would take the time to post about something in which they were ignorant.

A few web searches blew away my assumptions when I learned that Berlin has extensive technical knowledge of ESRI’s products. It appears that he is currently working as an intern for an ESRI customer (City of Atlanta). My curiosity was satisfied when his resume mentioned that he wasn’t interested in following stupid business processes or rules. He realized that his resume was unprofessional but it didn’t matter because he was a programming genius who was also a team player. Yep, that’s the kind of young talent that I’m looking to hire—an undisciplined free spirit with no regard for the processes or rules of the corporate team. In sum, he is unprofessional and wears it as a badge of courage. Today’s blogosphere has an overabundance of these folks. With time, I expect that the voice of the professionals in the “center” will drown out these voices in the fringes.

03 August 2005

Absolute Power …

I’ve got many friends who are sick and tired of blogs and bloggers. Their most common complaint is that blog entries are gumming up Google search results and they want the ability to deselect blog posts from search results. Yet, their attitude springs from a deeper source. The result garnered from the combination of two common sayings explains the font of their attitude.

1. The (power of the) pen is mightier than the (power of the) sword.
2. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Therefore, the unedited pen corrupts absolutely.

Rank speculation with no insider knowledge (the kind not worth identifying specifically) does more than make you look silly. It reduces your own credibility and also raises credibility concerns with all unedited pens. This is another reason why corporate blogs will co-opt the majority of amateur blogs. Corporate blogs will add journalistic process and ethics to the formula of timely, relevant information delivered in small, easy-to-handle chunks. Amateur bloggers who want to retain credibility will have to learn how to self-edit.

02 August 2005

Stroking the Ego

Seth Godin has a superb post that explains why people spend time blogging with little hope of financial gain. His analysis explains recent events in the GIS blogosphere and helps to predict the future. If you didn’t click the previous link, I recommend reading about the magic word.

Recent Events

The Sensationalism of the Past Few Months
Undeveloped ideas were picked up and passed on as news by some of the GIS press. A reprinted letter from Dimitri (the Unamapper) to the new (at the time) editor of GIS Monitor was a watershed event. Posting an 1,800+ word excerpt from a rant that basically called 98% of the GIS community stupid for paying more than $250 for software was a classic case of ego stroking. It opened the floodgate for the posting and reposting of other inane ideas. I use the term Unamapper because that letter reminded me of the Unabomber Manifesto. I’ll admit that I honestly find these types of treatises fascinating but wouldn’t pass them on as news.

The Recent Lull in Sensationalism
Nothing coming out of the GIS press or blogosphere in the past week has made me shake my head. I’d like to take credit for this recent lull. However, I’ve been to the ESRI User Conference in past years and know that experience was far more influential. ESRI puts on a “really big show” (to quote Ed Sullivan) that strokes the egos of all attendees. And I don’t mean that ESRI patronizes the attendees, but instead reminds them of the importance of their work and makes them truly feel special. Most people leave the conference jazzed about GIS. Anyway, the GIS press and blogosphere’s egos were sufficiently satisfied this past week so they did not have to resort to attention-getting antics.

The Future

A Rise in the Number of GIS Blogs
Right now there are less than 25 GIS blogs with a recent history of regular posts. The low cost of entry is going to result in an explosion of GIS blogs. Starting a GIS blog is easy and inexpensive. By this time next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if information was posted regularly to over a thousand GIS blogs.

Notoriety for a Few
The rise in useful RSS feeds and ubiquitous RSS Readers (slated for Longhorn/Windows Vista) will provide a marketplace for a few GIS bloggers to gain a large readership. These few will look for ways to monetize their notoriety (analyst papers, books, survey results, advertising, consulting, etc.) The existing GIS press should be looking over their shoulder since their competition will dramatically increase. As an aside, Topology Errors won’t be one of those few. First, I enjoy my day job far too much to spend a whole lot of time covering the foibles of the GIS Press and GIS Blogosphere. Second, far more people are interested in implementing GIS to solve problems than watching the machinations of the GIS Press and GIS Blogosphere.

Obscurity for the Rest
Providing a steady stream of relevant and concise information is difficult and time consuming. Although there will be many blogs, the majority will last as long as a shooting star on a summer’s night. The hoped for monetization of notoriety won’t happen and many bloggers will return to activities that help pay the mortgage and other bills.

Co-opted by the Corporation
What percent of the web pages that you read in the past week (outside of blogs) were written and posted by someone who wasn’t paid? In contrast, the early days of the web (prior to Bill Gate’s embracing in 1995) were ruled by amateurs. Even now, a list of 200 popular feeds includes a fair percentage where the posters are paid by the hour rather than simply motivated by ego/notoriety. The ESRI UC Blog was an indication of how fast this trend will happen.

I see a correlation between these predictions for GIS blogs and the future of the Open Source movement. I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts on this.

01 August 2005

Squeaky Wheels

This morning I chatted with colleagues who just returned from the ESRI User Conference. Their notes from the closing session indicated that Jack Dangermond seemed to address most of the big concerns prior to the question and answer period. Because of the Preconference Survey and feedback in the message system during the conference, ESRI seemed pretty well in tune with the desires of GIS professionals. My colleagues mentioned that several times during the question and answer period Jack restated an audience member’s comment to the entire audience to find that only 5% of the people agreed with the proposed position. With quantitative feedback mechanisms available using the Internet, companies don’t have to respond to squeaky wheels since they’ve already got a good handle on their users’ concerns and values. That’s good news for the silent majority who’ve quietly cursed the squeaky wheels around us. As an aside, I believe that squeaky wheels make up a higher percentage of today’s blogosphere than “meatspace”. With time, the squeaky wheels will be balanced by the majority who will no longer remain silent.