A Reader's Guide to Geoblogs

December 8, 2006

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Blogs Grow
I've seen a bit of a turn around in reaction to geospatial blogs in the last three or four months. Until about midsummer, when I'd rattle off the news of some new acquisition, announcement or tidbit in a hall conversation at a conference, I'd get a blank stare. The stare was usually followed by, "I didn't know that!" I'd reply, "You have to read our blog!"

Beginning this fall, I've been greeted with, "I read your blog everyday!" That tells me that our community is finding value in the immediacy and informality of blogs. I also know that our stats indicate that readership of our All Points Blog (APB), and I suspect other blogs, grows steadily each month.

Here at Directions we are also learning from our polls and surveys that more and more geospatial professionals are getting more and more of their news from the Internet. In the United States we have but one monthly print publication focusing exclusively on geospatial technology.

Blogs play a very different role than formal publications. In particular, blogs:
  • provide quick turnaround on breaking news (few are copyedited, including ours)
  • offer quick and dirty analysis and opinion (something that was limited, I'd offer, in the geo print media of the last 10 or 15 years)
  • allow discussion via comments and/or trackbacks (we've had to turn off the latter at APB due to uncontrollable spam)
  • offer perspectives from around the world (something challenging from both a content and monetary perspective for traditional print publications)
  • include many individuals who'd never contribute an article, but who are happy to share their opinions via a blog
All of these realities, and others, are drawing those in our community to check out and sometimes launch blogs. I want to offer a sort of "reader's guide" to geospatial blogs. I can't cover them all and apologize in advance if I don't mention a favorite!

If you can only read one blog:
I feel confident that the geospatial blogosphere will agree with me that if you can read only one blog it should be James Fee's aggregation of blogs, Planet Geospatial. He captures in a single webpage and RSS feed selections from the recent posts to almost fifty geospatial blogs. It's absolutely worth your time to check this site/feed once a day. I can almost guarantee you will find something worthwhile there each time you visit. Fee hosts his own fine Spatially Adjusted blog, too, and I'd like to give him the Directions Media Special Achievement in Blogging Award for 2006 for his work on both of these.

If you are an ESRI user:
You'll want to keep an eye on Spatially Adjusted for its typically high-minded discussion about that company and its way forward. For now ESRI lists but two blogs on its website (one for UC and one called Geography Matters with submissions from users and others), but I understand more are to come. One appeared between my writing this and press time: an official ArcGIS Server blog. James Fee comes to the rescue again with a list of what he's found in the ESRI space. Of particular interest, are blogs on specific areas of GIS such as Don Kuehne's blog on CAD/GIS interoperability and the ArcPAD team blog. Senior Executive David Maguire covers releases and other corporate topics at his GIS Matters blog.

If you are a Google Maps/Earth user:
The Google Maps/Earth communities are graced with many blogs, three of which I want to call out. Stefan Geens at Ogle Earth, Mike Pegg at GoogleMapsMania (Google Maps mashups) and Frank Taylor at Google Earth Blog (Google Earth only) cover just about everything you'd want to know. They keep an eye on the Google blogs and provide further insight such that you may not need to follow the Google ones at all. Just so you have a feel for how the blogosphere works: I don't know any of these bloggers personally, but I read them regularly and we exchange e-mail now and again. Geens, by the way, is in Sweden, so he typically has news earlier than the U.S. folks!

If you are an Autodesk User:
You'd think there'd be a few Autodesk Infrastructure Solutions Division (ISD)/GIS blogs, but there aren't many. From the utility/enterprise side, Autodesker Geoff Zeiss offers his view at Between the Poles. Zeiss is also a big open source/standards proponent, so there's some discussion of those topics. Pete Kelsey, the relatively new evangelist for Civil at Autodesk, offers The Dirt. Autodesk provides a list of its blogs which cover the breadth of its products. And, if you are looking for an aggregation (think Planet Geospatial for CAD) of AutoCAD-related blogs (mostly by non-Autodeskers, including such hotshots as UpFront Ezine's Ralph Grabowski, TenLinks editor Roopinder Tara, and AECNews.com editor Randall Newton), you'll want to check out Cadopolis' AutoCAD page/feed.

If you've got special interests:
GeoRSS your thing? It's got a blog.
OpenGeodata? It has one too.
Maps? Paper and otherwise. Try The Map Room.
O'Reilly fan? (Tim, not Bill) O'Reilly Radar covers many topics including geospatial.
Open Source? There's not one key blog - but watch SpatialGuru (Tyler Mitchell), Ames, Iowa (Howard Butler), GeoTips (Paul Ramsey) and Import Cartography (Sean Gilles).

Some interesting people:
These folks take on a variety of topics, but their perspectives and experiences in geospatial technologies make the posts worth exploring.
  • Ed Parson writes at EdParsons.com; he's soon to be ex-CTO of Ordnance Survey.
  • Jeff Thurston writes at VectorOne; he edits GeoConnexion and lives in Germany.
  • Allan Doyle writes at think and runs a non-profit, eo/geo, among other things.
  • Three PhD students (Sue, Jesse and Frank) at West Virginia University blog, podcast and now vidcast about geo-related topics at Very Spatial.
As I noted, this is not meant to be a complete list or full index, but rather a starting point for your explorations into the blogosphere, if you've not yet been there.


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