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Does GIS hand holding mean I’m a girly-man?

Sunday, April 24th, 2016

As a kid I was a typical boy. Always playing football (soccer), climbing trees, bleeding from a new wound, exploring, covered in mud. I remember hitting my teens and still wanting to do the same. But I realized a new, nagging internal pressure had surfaced. The scene in the Jungle Book where Mowgli follows the beautiful girl to the village, hypnotized, yet looking back at Ba-loo and his other friends, somehow always rang true with me. From free living independence I began to change. For the better no doubt. But I went from nose picking boy, to boyfriend then husband. I began to enjoy simple things like holding hands. Things which would have horrified me as a kid. I began to be guided down a different path by my wife: “More civilized, less smelly man” as she describes. Even to a point now where “manscaping” I will tolerate.

By ‘hand holding’ in this post I’m really talking figuratively. Guidance down a different path I mean directly. When I was a young lad I saw the world in a certain way. My wife gave me a different perspective, showed me a new path. A path, on my own, I would never have known existed (ok, I’m overstating a little here). A path I would have once shunned as “girly”. My wife made me curious, encouraged me to put aside my entrenched thinking, and open my mind to new possibilities.

Mobile Asset Management: Taking GIS and Work Orders OFFLINE

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Let’s jump into a topic which is much discussed: offline mobile GIS asset management. A problem which lacks good solutions. In this post we will cover the nuts and blots of how offline works for GIS and work orders. We will also share a little secret which might surprise you. Onward.

Many mobile GIS based work order systems are built for laptops. Complex interfaces, hard to use in the field. Often offline needs a full download of all system data: inefficient, slow, and super hard to administer.

Our focus in this post is true offline mobile GIS work order apps. Mobile apps built for tablets not laptops. Simple interfaces and easy offline uploads and downloads. These are new generation offline mobile GIS work order apps.

Deconstructing the problem to find a solution using GIS

Wednesday, April 13th, 2016

Last night was heart wrenching. My daughters U15 soccer team began their new season after promotion, last year, to the top P1 bracket. Up against the best teams in this age group in Utah, last night they played the best team in P1: Celtic Storm. A fast, good passing team with top players in all positions. Our Blue Knights team started on the back foot. Though under pressure and feeling panicked in possession, they held firm. 0-0 at half time. The second half started much like the first, resolute defending relying on break away’s. Celtic were becoming frustrated. But kept pressing. We were tiring but still in the game forcing their goalkeeper into an outstanding save. Still 0-0. Then with 20 seconds left. Celtic crossed from the right. A mis-communication between defender and goalkeeper and an easy tap in for the Celtic forward. 1-0. And end of the game.

I fell to my knees in despair.

How then does this related to GIS? Patience dear reader.

After the game, the coach and I sat down and started deconstructing. Forgetting, for a moment, the many positives we saw during the game.

Now my GIS Manager has showed me .. what should I do next?

Monday, April 11th, 2016

I thought Adam Carnow’s recent LinkedIn post was terrific: Why hasn’t my GIS Manager showed me this?. Adam and I share similar thoughts when it comes to spreading the word about GIS. We should all now be actively involved in outreach; showing colleagues and customers the power of cloud based GIS (WebGIS).

I’m going to advance Adam’s discussion a little more here. There is a theme in the comments on his article: “Lack of understanding (platform components, concepts, benefits)”. To put this a different way: now you have discovered you have more tools in your toolbox than you knew, what should you do next?

I’ve found the only way to understand and share benefits, is by doing. Finding a problem to solve with WebGIS. Narrow your focus. Forget the complexity. Is there an organizational problem you can solve using GIS? A project which will help pull the pieces together for you? A solution which would get the attention of management? Start there.


GIS and the Queen of England

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

So I received a call on Monday. The voice on the line said “One must have crumpets with ones tea”. “Who’s this plonker?” I thought. A trace of New Jersey in the accent gave it away. It was Joe fresh back from his trip to London. His visit to Windsor Castle (with the Queen in residence apparently), had turned our Joe ‘posh’.

Joe relayed the story of his trip to me. Windsor Castle, he said, was particularly interesting. A huge, confusing stately home. His group debated whether to wander alone or hire a guide. “The best 20 quid we’ve spent” was Joe’s comment. The guide made the tour far more enjoyable, Joe and his group got to see the things they wanted and discovered much unexpected and new.


ArcGIS or Google Maps?

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016


This is a question we are asked often: should we use ArcGIS or Google Maps to solve our WHERE challenge?

You know our usual answer……. it depends!

ArcGIS or Google Maps?

Why would we say that, aren’t Esri and Google bitter rivals, offering similar mapping solutions?

Actually No.

Your choice depends very much on your WHERE challenge. Let’s provide two examples.

1) Bike Trail Map – Imagine your WHERE challenge is sharing with bikers the route of a trail. You have collected data on the trails route, drinking fountains, restrooms etc en-route, have taken photos at various points on the trail and would like to include a directions option for those trying to find the trail. What stands out here in this description? Simplicity. This is a simple WHERE question. Though ArcGIS can provide a solution, the simplicity here lends itself well to Google.


Approach GIS like you would a doctor’s appointment

Friday, April 1st, 2016

doctor GIS 

Nobody likes going to visit the doctor. It usually means there is a problem. A problem for which you are looking for a solution. Here is an all too common conversation between patient and doctor:

Doctor: How can I help you today?

Patient: I have a terrible pain in my knee.

Doctor: What did you do?

Patient: I was tackled while playing soccer and fell awkwardly. How much will it cost to fix my knee do you think?

Doctor: We will need to run some tests.

Patient: Ok, the tests will be free I presume. I really just want to know approximately how much fixing my knee will cost.

Doctor: Tests take time, and give us an accurate picture of your problem so we can provide a solution. And no our time (and expertise) is not free.

Okay, that is not a real conversation. Nobody would ask a doctor such cost based questions. In fact as soon as we walk in the door of a doctors office the $ clock starts ticking.

Are you the Eddie the Eagle of GIS?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016


You know Eddie the Eagle. The fearless British Olympic ski jumper. With only 2 years worth of experience a man who competed against others who had been jumping since childhood. Looked down upon by the horrid British toffs who still control skiing in the country.

Though he finished in last place at the Calgary Olympics, Eddie was the peoples favourite. Why? Because against all odds he trained and won a place to compete in the Olympics. Over the course of his career, Eddie fractured his skull twice and broke his jaw, collarbone, ribs, knee, fingers, thumbs, toes, back and neck. He lived hand to mouth, saving all his money for training. Eddie embodied the Olympic adage:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”


5 Things GIS can learn from Donald Trump

Monday, March 21st, 2016


As a Brit living in the US, I do find the theatre that is American politics amusing. It would seem little changes whoever becomes President. And yet in the run up to the election we all have to suffer this onslaught of debates, discussions, opinions. On and on.

This election season is particularly charged. The presence of Donald Trump seems to have stirred the pot. An odd character. It would seem a person Americans either adore or loath. I was thinking about the presidential elections over the weekend and realised we in GIS have much to learn from Donald Trump.

Keep things Simple

Some might argue that it is the candidate who is simple. But take a look at his messaging, like it or hate it, simplicity is at its core. No need to explain. Whether we are talking to clients or our non-GIS colleagues, we in GIS need to keep our messaging just as simple.


I know how to use GIS .. I think?

Friday, March 18th, 2016

I was tempted to title this blog post “I know how to get the most out of GIS .. I think?”. But I’m thinking here about both GIS and non-GIS users.

Much of what I will focus on here is cloud GIS. Cloud is a new paradigm for GIS. A shift from just desktop or Web, to a holistic truly shared system. And its a dramatic change. Esri call it WebGIS:

In simple terms cloud based GIS allows your data to be published, mapped and made available from a central location. You can then view and interact with these maps on any device wherever you might be: in the office, at home, outdoors. Anywhere. No more data stored only on your local PC. No more single source shapefiles. A completely collaborative environment. Cloud based GIS requires new ways to think about and interact with GIS.

Cloud based GIS makes the technology available to everybody

Read that sentence again. That is why so often you hear GIS revolution mentioned. And me harp on about GIS moving from the periphery to the core. Cloud based GIS means we can now integrate GIS with other systems. Big corporations familiar with business systems: CRM’s, ERP’s etc are beginning to use GIS integrated with these systems to answer new location based questions.


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