August 11, 2008
ESRI User Conference 2008 Report – Plenary Session
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor


by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News

ESRI User Conference 2008 Report – Plenary Session

By Susan Smith


Jack Dangermond,President, ESRI

Jack Dangermond,President, ESRI

This year’s ESRI User Conference opened with president Jack Dangermond presenting a number of awards.


First off was the “Making a Difference Award,” issued to Rosario Giusti de Perez and Ramon Perez of Grupo ESRI de Venezuela for their work on analyzing urban poverty in Venezuela culminating in the book they wrote of the experience: Analyzing Urban Poverty: GIS for the Developing World.


Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary, Department of the Interior

Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary, Department of the Interior

Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. Department of the Interior also received the award, and outlined some of the jobs he does to “make a difference,” such as deciding whether to name polar bears an endangered species, using GIS to help make that decision.


He also announced that the Department of the Interior will be making their entire archive of Landsat data available to the public via the internet by the end of the year at no cost. Kempthorne also created the Geospatial Advisory Committee, and Jack Dangermond is on that advisory board. A new Geospatial Information Officer (GIO) will enforce geospatial in all nine Interior bureaus.


The Enterprise Application Award was awarded to Mohamed Abd El-Wahab Hamouda, director of Planning and Projects at CGIS, Centre for GIS, State of Qatar. The President’s Award was bestowed upon Jim Querry, director of Enterprise GIS, Division of Technology, City of Philadelphia.


For other award presentations, see the


The environment was brought up by Kempthorne and remained a thread woven through the conference this year. Changes in our sustainability are evident in the impact on the natural world, noted Dangermond, in the climate, biodiversity, natural resources, energy, economy and security.



Jack Dangermond’s keynote wove concern for our “rapidly changing world” which is increasingly driven by population growth and human action – in with how we abstract our world, reason about the world, how we organize and communicate, which led to GIS changing the way we work. From there, GIS creates more sustainable action, by raising awareness, saving resources, improving efficiency and making better decisions.


GIS implementations follow three basic patterns: desktop, server and federated. These three patterns are the foundation for web GIS.


Web GIS involves harnessing all that is the web with GIS and making it part of the infrastructure. Dangermond offered a view of the future, in which GIS professionals will implement this infrastructure.


They will author and service GIS knowledge, offering high quality maps, 3D visualization, analysis and models, data management workflows, authoritative content, and rich web applications. They will construct libraries of shared GIS services that will reach both GIS professionals and those not involved with GIS.


The foundation of it is the geodatabase which organizes and manages geo data. One ingredient of the geodatabase is a rich comprehensive, information model, which supports any type of data. It also has scalable storage environments. Mr. Dangermond said that the geodatabase is as easy to use as shapefiles, and has extensive capabilities.


John Calkins gave a “Top Ten Countdown” list of timesavers for ArcGIS Desktop,

ArcInfo, ArcEditor, ArcView and ArcReader 9.3 for desktop productivity which culminated as a result of user comments:


10. Bookmarks are much easier to access. The Bookmark Manager has been redesigned so you can arrange them in the order your want., can update the extent of an existing bookmark, and can save to a file.

9. Pause Labels – allows users to suspend labels, and turn them on with a single click after navigating through a file.

8. Keyboard Shortcuts – allows users to step through data through time, with the new keyboard shortcut you can hold down the alt key so you can step through the time series, which is good for those who use group layers.

Clip a raster or image to a graphic shape so that you can define a graphic shape or polygon, then use that to extract a DEM underneath.

7. Transparent Legends – In an example, the transparency is set for a noise level, but the color brightness on the map doesn’t match that on the legend. In 9.3 can simulate the layer transparency and colors match better.

6.Table sorting, aliases and joins, allow you to now use advanced sort options. You have the option to change from field aliases to attributes of parcels, when you perform table join, and you’ll see field aliases are persistent.

5. Reverse geocoding finds addresses using a geocode locator that you can find on the map and label it with the correct address. This can be used to add addresses.

4. Convert graphics to features – Select graphics and they will be automatically converted with all those symbology and attributes intact.

3. Identify shortcuts and HTML popups – In 9.3 you can use identify tools, identify buildings, and navigate to update symbology.

2. HTML popup enables dialogs, updates as you navigate around the map and gives you different options for how you look at your attribute information.

1. Focus on software quality. The most sought after feature, which will eliminate random crashes with an error reporting system like that which you see in Microsoft. In 9.3, you can automatically and anonymously indicate to the development team that the system has crashed.


On the development team, a significant change is the crash reporting system. When you send an error report it tells where the crash occurred. Calkins said: “We compare it against all known issues. We scan and if we find a match we mark it as occurring more frequently. If it’s a new issue, it’s sent to a programmer to work on it. If you’re a developer we have a way to identify if it’s your software or our software that is causing the problem.”



ArcGIS Desktop Leverages the Web


ArcGIS Online is the center of this effort. The recent
agreement between ESRI and Microsoft will give ESRI ArcGIS users will have access to the robust mapping and imagery content provided by the Microsoft Virtual Earth platform inside ArcGIS Desktop and ArcGIS Server. Having Virtual Earth seamlessly integrated into ArcGIS 9.3 Desktop, will give ArcGIS users the ability to easily add base maps, perform data creation, editing, analysis, authoring, and map publishing with one-click access. The base map and image service will be fed through ArcGIS Online to users.


Users can also serve data out through ArcGIS Online via KML streams and can access geodatabase attributes which are embedded inside KML. Demonstrating “Using and Sharing Data on the Web” was Damian Spangrud, who noted that ArcGIS Online contains many other layers including high resolution imagery, and adds context and details to GIS information. ArcGIS 9.3 adds more subscription services.


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