NoGIS Term Appears; First MeetUp Already Held

The folks at Trulia hosted a NoGIS MeetUp on Wednesday April 6 on the west coast.

Perhaps you've not yet heard this term. I first heard of it about ten days ago ago. I'll be honest: it didn't impress me the same way neogeography didn't impress me. And, while it's being compared to the SQL/NoSQL distinction, I don't find that a comelling comparison just yet. (I wrote about NoSQL earlier this year.)

So, what does NoGIS mean? Here are some definitions and resources:

Sean Gorman (GeoIQ):

I believe what we are seeing is a new class of computational problems that traditional GIS is not well structured to handle.

I'll add: NoGIS is that which addresses those problems. Sean does note that NoGIS does not preclude traditional GIS, in fact it may well have some overlap with it.

- Sean Gorman at the GeoIQ blog

Mano Marks (Google):

NoGIS: Round Two of Neo vs. Paleo Geography?

That's his title and it's really his point.

- Mano Marks at Random Markers Blog

James Fee (WeoGeo):

As with anything, everyone is quick to say we’ve all been doing this since the 1960′s so ignore it and move on unless you’ve got one of the following to accomplish:

  1. Give talk at some 2.0 conference, NoGIS will put fannies in the seats.
  2. Want to write a book; clearly we need textbooks on the subject.
  3. Need differentiator between your product and ArcSDE/PostGIS/SQL Server/Oracle Spatial
  4. Just like to shoot the *#()^$ about crap

I can't disagree - neogeography ended up, for me, to be just like geodesign, a name for something we are already doing. I concluded we should just "do" what ever geodesign is and worry less about it's definition in my recap of this year's GeoDesign Summit. I suspect just doing NoGIS would work, too.

- James Fee at The James Fee Blog

Here are the tweets tagged #nogis; that's probably a good place to follow action from last night's event.

My Take

New terms for new visions, technologies and problems are a necessity in any field that's growing and changing. They help us speak about where we are now and where we are going. But let's not forget much of their use is in marketing these new visions, technologies and problems. That marketing may be formal (used in marketing materials, trademarked, etc.) or it may be less formal and not associated with a single company or organization.

And, let's be honest: since Esri became the biggest player in GIS, the goal of many marketers has been to distinguish their offerings and vision from those of the Redlands-based company. Some years ago, in a marketing job, I noted that Esri owned the term GIS, so my company needed a new one that we could own. That term, geoengineering, didn't make such a big splash and has reverted for most people to its original use, referring to engineering the earth. Other marketing efforts have come and gone as well. I'm sure I'm not the first to think up the term NoEsri.

I do like the idea of a new class of problems driving a new set of technologies to solve those problems. That's how I understand the current NoSQL database options; they are responses to databases not doing what is needed. I'm a bit less clear about what GIS is not providing that NoGIS adds, but perhaps that's still being determined/compile. So far it seems to include ease of use by non-experts, quick return of maps to the screen, not so much analysis...  Only time will tell if those and other properties really create a new paradigm or set of technologies.

Published Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Written by Adena Schutzberg

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