Homework, Part II
Last year about this time I wrote an editorial
on "homework" wherein I suggested that geospatial professionals
needed to be sure they were up to date with some mapping, Web and other
technologies. Part of what sparked that was an increase in e-mail
queries that seemed (to me) to be solvable with a bit of homework. I'm
getting more questions all the time, so here are this season's homework
I'm finding more and more terms I don't
understand as I explore articles on technology and the more technical
geoblogs. I suspect many of you are, or will soon be, in the same boat.
So this is a good time to look up some definitions! Here are some terms
you'll be hearing more and more in the coming months and years. Some of
these we have explored and will continue to explore at Directions
REST (REpresentational State Transfer)
Photosynth (That's a Microsoft product.)
OpenStreetMap (That's an open data project.)
MAPPS (That's an organization, one quite different from URISA and GITA.)
CMS (Content Management System)
Rails/Ruby on Rails (That's a language/application framework.)
Homework hint: consider using Google's "define" syntax to pull up
definitions. In a Google query box type: "define: REST" (no quotes) and
it'll dig up definitions.
2. Build your own Mashups
I'm sure you read about the Google My Maps tool where you can annotate
and save a map. I'm sure you also read about the ability to add several
Google Mapplets (Google Map applications) together on a map. You may
not have read about Google's experimental tools that will map search
results by time (timeline) or space (Map View). Reading is good, but
did you actually try out those free tools?
Go to Google Maps and choose the
MyMaps tab. Then choose Create new Map. "Digitize" your child's walking
route to school (or the bus stop) or your commute to work.
Go to Google's page of Mapplets (choose Add Content from My Maps) and
add a few together to make a whole new mashup.
Go to Google Labs Experimental
Search and test out the Timeline and Map Views - they put search
results on a timeline or map!
3. Watch YouTube
I know, I know, there's lots of junk there, but
there's also lots of educational stuff. Try searching on geospatial.
Among the goodies I found: Google Developers Day US -Google and the
Geoweb. I expect we'll be seeing more conference presentations and
educational material here all the time.
Find and watch an educational geo-video on YouTube. 4. Patents
If you've had one ear to the news, any news,
you've heard quite a bit about patent infringement lawsuits. (I keep a
running list of geo ones
in the news at All Points Blog.) How much do you know about patents?
I'm not suggesting becoming an expert, but I think it's valuable to
"know your way around" a patent.
Visit the Department of Commerceâs United States Patent and Trademark
website and review a geo-related patent. Note that you can search
issued patents and patent applications. Perhaps this one
from Local.com is of interest (geographic search on the Web)? Or this one
from GeoResearch (Interactive automated mapping system)? Note the time
frame from application to issuance. Note the multitude of claims. Note
how some of the ideas seem far from innovative, also known as "obvious."
5. Map Errors
We complain about them. Our neighbors complain about them. But my
experience is that few of us do anything about them! Come on, you know
of a street that's misgeocoded or misnamed. You know of a street that
used to go all the way through, but no longer does. Have you told those
who maintain the data? These days it's not hard - we have two large
U.S. providers and each offers up a website for suggested changes. You
simply identify which data is "wrong" and send off a message.
Go update a map! Tele Atlas MapInsight NAVTEQ
Map Reporter 6. Play a Game
I strongly believe there'll be tighter connections between video games
(online and console) and virtual worlds (Second Life) and our realm of
geospatial technologies as we move into the future. How this will play
out, what we will learn from those disciplines/experiences and what
they will learn from us is still unclear. But for now, get a feel for
how they come together.
Play a game. Try Microsoft's online Live Derby 2007, with data
from Live Search Maps. It's a car driving game.
7. Do a Salary Check
How well does your salary as a geospatial practitioner match with the
rest of the country? (Sorry, there's only U.S. respondents - I think -
in the survey I found. If you have sources on the rest of world, please
share!) What positions pay better? Is that where you'd like to head?
What about getting certified as a GISP? Would that get you more money?
For free, online, you can have a look at some of the results of URISA's
latest salary survey in its press
release and some results from GISPs (pdf) at the
GISCI website. If you have access to a company or public library you
may have access to the entire electronic document. Have a look, and
consider if you are where you want to be money-wise and career-wise.
8. Contact the vendor!
I receive quite a few queries with questions on the order of "Does
Oracle 10g do this?" Rarely do I know the answer, but I can point folks
to the product's webpage and the contact page for the appropriate
vendor. A reputable vendor has contact information for such questions
clearly noted on its website. Use it! If you don't get a timely answer,
then perhaps this is not a vendor that really wants your business.
This is a homework assignment for when such a need strikes. Don't
e-mail me, don't bother your colleagues. First explore the product
website - can you find the answer there? No? Then, find the Contact Us
page and phone or send e-mail, as appropriate. 9. Go Window Shopping at Your Local
We note regularly at Directions how consumer products are
impacting our professional products and vice-versa.
So, see what's out there. I was surprised how few software products
related to geospatial were on the shelf at my local MicroCenter. There
were a few trip planners/GPS solutions and a few business contacts
solutions, and that was all. Are these going away or being sold
elsewhere? Check out the GPS counter. There are many choices - what are
the differentiating factors? Are these the same or different from those
in the professional realm, both in terms of GPS hardware and software
(user interface, data)? I think much can be learned exploring these