For about 10 years, until this Fall, I played a minor role in the desktop mapping and demographics industry as the founder and President of a data publishing company called Wessex, based here in Chicago. On September 1, 1998, after that company was purchased by Geographic Data Technology (GDT), I got not a few calls and emails encouraging me to do "Wessex II." But I am very happily here, and not there, and I'd like you to understand why.
In 1989 I attended a demonstration of desktop mapping (MapInfo's DOS version!), and I've been enthralled ever since. Seeing information on a map was and is so often the most efficient and powerful route to business insight. I thought then that the technology would soon become ubiquitous, the "spreadsheet of the 90's." Perhaps we were a decade too optimistic.
Wessex was formed largely to tackle one barrier facing adoption of this technology: the relatively high price of core data that was required by almost all applications of mapping. Wessex developed and published US Street maps and core census demographics and published them at about 1% of then-prevailing prices. As Bill Davenhall, now ESRI's Health Solutions Manager, said in 1994, the "Wessex effect" made it feasible for thousands of new organizations to consider adopting business mapping on the desktop.
" ... we must aggressively reach out to the tens of thousands of individuals who could and should be benefitting from mapping technology, but haven't been effectively told about it. "
By 1996, however, one of the biggest remaining barriers seemed to me to be the absence of an evangelizing voice at the center of the industry. A voice which could serve users with tips, reviews, and examples of "best practice" uses of mapping and demographic analysis across all of its business application. A voice that would aggressively reach out to the tens of thousands of individuals who could and should be benefitting from the technology, but hadn't been told about it.
This past summer, I learned that Denny Parker and Nora Sherwood had been thinking along the same lines. Denny was of course the founder of the GIS World and Business Geographics monthly print publications. Nora joined Business Geographics magazine as its first professional editor. Subsequently Denny and Nora were married, sold the publications, and turned to other ventures. But the desire to "do it right" by mapping and business never left them.
GDT now owns Wessex, and GDT founder and President Don Cooke has convinced me that they mean to preserve its character, product line, and pricing scheme as a provider of low-end desktop mapping data.
In the meantime, Denny and Nora have agreed to join me, and some of my comrades from my Wessex days, in attempting to leverage the incredible tools of the Internet and the World Wide Web on behalf of the mapping and demographics community. We've been lucky enough to recruit Joe Schwartz as our Editor.
I hope you'll be pleased by our efforts. I know that we'll do a better job quicker if I hear your comments and your suggestions. As we say in Chicago, Vote Early and Vote Often!