What Ever Happened To…?

By Adena Schutzberg

Remember all the hoopla about an announcement of a new mapping website or new location-based app or a new data capture technology or a new GIS book? It might have been from a private company, a student or the federal government. First, there was a rush to explore it. Then lots of buzz on Twitter and blogs. Then, not long afterward, typically, most of the people who seemed interested went back to their day-to-day responsibilities and forgot about the once exciting, shiny new thing.

Do any of those new offerings “make it”? I checked in on a few geospatial efforts of particular interest to me to see how they were doing after a few months or a few years.


Issuemap.org, a quick and easy way to map csv or Excel files with geographic references, first popped up in September 2010 when it was demoed at a conference. It was officially announced in February of this year. Forbes, among others, featured the new site and it appeared in blogs, magazines and tweets.

Since then I’ve found few details on the site about updates or enhancements. A retweet on March 9 from IssueMap, from @seangorman notes: “Check out updates to http://IssueMap.org - map styling, zoom level saving, and template spreadsheets.” The @issuemap twitter account has a total of 25 tweets since launch, and 122 followers as I write this. Alexa, a company that provides tools and analytics for websites, does not indicate a rush of traffic over the last few months.

Status: Active
Future: Unclear

In 2004, the Department of Labor gave out a series of grants to help grow the geospatial workforce. A $1 million grant went to an organization called Kidz Online for the Geo 21 project (pdf). Among Kidz Online’s plans: the creation of three online “courses” that introduced GIS, GPS and remote sensing to high school/junior college students. I was a subcontractor on that effort and was very excited about the value of the end product.

The project website is now held by an unknown owner and is not hosting any of the promised content. The Kidz Online site is still up, but hosts old content (last copyright 2009) and a slew of Google ads. In 2006, Kidz Online teamed with Lockheed for an educational contract to serve the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (press release) but I find no further information on that effort. The former president and founder of Kidz Online is still involved in education but now focuses on aquaculture education.

Status: Defunct
Future: None

BLM GeoCommunicator
At its launch in 2001 the Bureau of Land Management’s GeoCommunicator was one of the first U.S. government geodata portals and interconnected with Esri’s Geography Network (now retired). In February 2011 the BLM notified users (What’s New page) some data were being removed due to concerns about accuracy.

This includes the removal of all of the BLM land and mineral information coming from LR2000 including oil and gas leases and agreements, coal leases, oil shale leases, renewable energy, rights-of-way, unpatented mining claims, land patents, withdrawal, land disposals, exchanges, etc. as well as the non-BLM federal surface management agency data (USFS lands, non-federal lands, state lands, other agency lands). Data that is not managed by the BLM was also removed from the map viewers. 

On May 13, the BLM announced GeoCommunicator’s streaming map services (ArcGIS, ArcIMS, and WMS) would be diminished effective May 23, 2011. “The reduction in data reflects the lands and mineral data that was removed from the interactive maps,” from those cited above, best I can tell.

Status: Operational, with data limitations
Future: Unclear

GIS for Dummies
The 2009 book by New Mexico State University’s Michael N. DeMers promised quite a lot. “Learn all the hardware and software necessary to collect, analyze, and manipulate GIS data,” was just one bullet point. The reviews were mixed. One GIS user noted, “For the price, I strongly recommend this book; you are really getting 90% of a GIS textbook for 20% of the cost.” Others felt it was too detailed and theoretical for someone who just wanted to get things done. By the way, DeMers just won the Association of American Geographer’s James R. Anderson Medal of Honor in Applied Geography.

Status: $16.49 at Amazon
Future: Second edition questionable

Do the quick ups and downs of these (admittedly not representative) efforts tell us something about the state of geospatial technology? Perhaps the uptake, use and disuse reflect trends occurring across all technology areas. Or perhaps users of these tools, like many in today’s world, suffer from an attention deficit disorder of some kind. My sense is that regular geospatial technology users and providers, along with casual users, have such high expectations that if the offering does not deliver 80% of the expected return within 80 or 800 or 8,000 seconds of its implementation, we may well remove the bookmark from our browser or place the physical product in the discard pile.

Published Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Written by Adena Schutzberg

Published in


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