Top Ten Geo Stories Of 2015


flickr photo shared by Calsidyrose under a Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) license

My mind has been brewing for some time (since early December) on how to summarize and capture the year in “geo.” I deliberately cast a wide net with “geo” mainly to capture my personal interests in geospatial technology and also geography.  As I’ve been marinating and doing research on this post, I’ve had some great conversations with some folks in the great state of New York (Bill Johnson, Frank Winters, Eric Herman, Jeff Herter, and others on the NYS GAC. Additionally, a great #geowebchat on #topgeostoryof2015 with Alan McConchie helped to broaden my perspectives as well. I’m a GIS Instructional Technologist at a small Liberal Arts College in upstate NY, so my geospatial focus tend be more academic, but also focused on emerging technologies. My goal is to put together an interesting list and I’m hopeful that it helps someone who may have missed one of these stories over the past year. Additionally, another goal for would be some interaction with other like minded folks about these stories to further our collective thinking and understanding (either on Twitter or elsewhere).

Enough small talk folks, let’s jump right in.

10. First Ever GIS Analyst In A Hollywood Movie

That’s right. A character in a movie actually is a “GIS Analyst.” He also tries to explain what he does a couple times in the movie. If you are involved with GIS or mapping, you know how difficult it can be to describe what you do to others. The name of the movie is “What We Do In The Shadows.” (I watched it on HBO Go). Spoiler alert: you can also see all the parts where Stewart describes his job in the youtube clip above (just over 1 minute long). I personally think he does a good job describing GIS, and is treated a little unfairly by the crowd of vampires. Definitely check out the entire movie.


 


flickr photo shared by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com under a Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) license

9. Register Your Drone

The big news in drones for 2015 came late. It came in the form of a “drone registration” program, which, as of this writing, 45,000 people had registered. Folks to pay stiff fines if not registered by Feb. 19, 2016. Interestingly, the AMA (Academic of Model Aeronautics) is recommending to their members, primarily hobbyists, to hold off on registering. In other drone news, 2,672 folks were approved for commercial uses of drones as of mid-December. This approval takes the form of a section 333. Overall… 2015 was a huge year for drones and the emergent regulatory environment.


 


flickr photo shared by dno1967b under a Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) license

8. National Geographic Sells Out

In 2015, Fox became a 73% stakeholder in National Geographic Partners. While this was a long time coming for NatGeo due to decreased readership, the layoffs hurt, and the brands’ integrity has been brought into question. There was quite a bit of chatter online when this all happened, and I am curious what the future holds.


 


flickr photo shared by Javier Arce ☄ under a Creative Commons ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 ) license

7. Mapping Startups Rule 2015: CartoDB, Mapbox, & Mapzen

Mapping based startups made some real strides in 2015. A lot of folks were hired this year and these companies are picking up some serious talent. Other location based companies made great strides in 2015 as well: Waze and Uber all showed the world that there is still room for innovation in Location Based Technologies. Make sure to check out the offerings from CartoDB, Mapbox and Mapzen.


 


flickr photo shared by Ben Husmann under a Creative Commons (CC BY 2.0) license

6. Google Kills Some Mapping Solutions

Google Earth Enterprise and Google Maps Engine are shutting down. Esri, CartoDB, and others were quick to partner and announce transition programs for former Google customers. My understanding is that some of these enterprise solutions require a lot of Google employee handholding, and perhaps focusing on API’s makes more sense for Google’s hands-off business model.


 


flickr photo shared by U.S. Department of the Interior under a Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

5. Obama Signs Funding for a Well Rounded Education, Includes Geography

I’ve long known that geography was an unfunded mandate under No Child Left Behind (interpretation…it’s important, but not important enough to fund it). I dug up this post from 2003 to show it. Long story short, after 12 years, president Obama signs the “Every Student Succeeds Act” which gives some opportunities for funding geography education. The Association for American Geographers (AAG) is optimistic about the inclusion of geography and potential funding opportunities, as outlined here. You can see some of AAG’s work to support Geography Education here.


 


flickr photo shared by alexchaucer under a Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

4. Digital Map Storytelling

It seemed like everywhere I was seeing story maps in 2015. Esri provides some nice tools for story maps, story journals, and ArcGIS Online is making this type of data exploration and storytelling even easier. But, they are not the only platforms around. Map Story continued to make strides in 2015, and a student of mine did a comparison on some of the other platforms for digital map storytelling as well, featuring Storymap JS, Odyssey.JS, Omeka Neatline, and the Esri Story maps. I’m impressed with the new interfaces and ease for building map based story websites that I saw over the last year.


 


flickr photo shared by alexchaucer under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license

3. New Indexing System(s) for the World’s Locations

In 2015 we saw What3Words emerge as a new way of describing locations in the world. Move over Lat/Long, because 3 random words are here to reference every 3 meter by 3 meter square on earth. In 2015 we started to see w3w integration, and you can browse industry applications examples. While a three word indexing system is an innovation in itself, we also saw the truly universal language of emoji applied to a global reference system as What3Emoji also emerged in 2015.


 


flickr photo shared by velkr0 under a Creative Commons ( CC BY 2.0 ) license

2. The Promise of Open Source

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but QGIS hit some sort of tipping point in the last year, and it is becoming a standalone viable a solution as GIS desktop software, and even a useful teaching tool. Here’s a great comparison of ArcGIS and QGIS that was done in November this year. Open source geospatial technology is not new, but in 2015 I saw some great strides in application. Not just in desktop, but in the deployment of maps on the web. A workable geospatial stack can produce beautiful, and functional, web-based mapping solutions. FOSS4G continues to grow and it’s not going away. Look for more growth and more beautiful maps on open platforms in 2016. Mapbox released Mapbox Studio, based on Open Source GIS and featuring some smooth vector based maps. OpenStreetMap volunteers and professionals and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) came out in a big way to help map after the Nepal Earthquake in 2015. Was 2015 THE year for Open Source Geospatial? Perhaps.


 


flickr photo shared by archer10 (Dennis) (63M Views) under a Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0) license

1. The Auto Industry Embraces Geospatial

I’ve been hearing about Google’s Self Driving Cars for years, but it was a little bit of a surprise to see a German auto group consisting of Audi, BMW, and Daimler purchase a geospatial company in 2015. The company is called HERE, and they have roots in Navteq via acquisition by Nokia, and they were purchased for $3.1 billion. The German automakers aren’t the only ones, as Toyota plans their own realtime digital video maps. So who is Google working with? It looks like it’s Ford. And it looks like we may see an Apple self driving car announcement in 2016. Don’t forget that Tesla is creating their own maps as is Uber. As self driving cars and super accurate, realtime, photo and sensor based maps are created of the world’s roads, I wonder what the long term impact on geospatial technology will be?


 Summary

Did more happen this year in the geospatial space than in other years? I think so. An auto company buys a GIS company, and drones now have to be registered like cars. Cartographic expert Natgeo stumbles as new companies focus on beautifying digital maps. Google kills mapping applications as Obama includes geography in a well rounded education. You can find me in January learning more open source GIS at stability.peanuts.think. :)

Special thanks to Bryan AlexanderDoug BelshawJoseph Kerski, and Adena Schutzberg for some thoughts about how and where to publish my first blog post of 2016, and to Alan Levine for his creative commons image tool.

 

I was so fast that everything I ran over burst into flames…

So, just got back from FOSS4G in Portland, OR. One of the things that I wanted to try was to visualize a run using the “torque” visualization wizard in CartoDB. Here’s how I did it.
I captured my tracks using Motion-X GPS on the Iphone 4S, and I had the tracks emailed to me as a GPX and Kml files. Logged in, and uploaded the GPX file to CartoDB.

Next, I used the visualization wizard called “torque”. This uses the time/date stamp on a trackfile to animate the track. I played with the styling of the torque animation, and played with the basemap options to come up with the map above.

Takeaway: CartoDB has some really nice digital cartography, and the tools are also fairly simple and straightforward. I really think that the design of the tool and the final product make it a winner, especially for map data visualization that has time as a component. Enjoy!

The Power of Visual Communication (my lesson from the DS106 dailycreate)

Peacock Eating Pizza

“Peacock Eating Pizza” cc AttributionSharealke by Flickr user alexchaucer

A fascinating thing happened to me in this assignment. Perhaps it was a coincidence? Perhaps it was and illustration of the power of images in subliminal marketing…

It all started out as a fairly straightforward task for the #dailycreate from April 5, 2014. Link to original assignment here. Here’s the assignment:

We’re all used to seeing pizzas, but generally only in restaurants and our homes. We may even occasionally see them at pizza farms. But it’s not often that we get to view elusive wild pizzas before they are harvested by hunters. Thankfully, Jonpaul Douglass, a photographer in Los Angeles, gives us a glimpse into this mysterious world through his series Pizza in the Wild. (via Neatorama)

Douglass uses real pizzas, but for this Daily Create, you are welcome to photoshop a pepperoni pizza into an unexpected wild place…

I briefly looked through the images that Douglass posted, and then I went on my way to tackle the assignment.

My process was fairly straightforward. Look through my images, and find one that might be interesting. I thought the Peacock was unique. Use Flickr to find a pizza I could use. I took @cogdog‘s advice and did a Attribution/Noncommercial/Sharealike search on Flickr. Found an image with a nice pizza. (Note: when I download this image, I also grabbed the attribution information on it, such as the license, link to image, and link to Flickr user, and put this in a Word document.) I then had to download GIMP, a free, open source, image editing software from here. I used Youtube to figure out how to trace out the pizza from the one image and add it to the other, which was simple enough with a basic Youtube search to use the Lasso Tool. I then had to do another Youtube search on how to resize the pizza (found that this is accomplished with the Scale tool. Finally, I exported my image to a .png and uploaded it to Flickr.

Now, here is where a fascinating thing comes into play. I finished my assignment, and felt great about. It was unique. I felt good about my new image skills. My product met the goals of the dailycreate.

Now, here is where my bubble burst. I was sharing the Pizza in the Wild website with someone to explain the assignment, and I came across this:

Screen Shot of JonPaul Douglass's website featuring "Pizza in the Wild"

Screen Shot of JonPaul Douglass’s website featuring “Pizza in the Wild” These images are copyright protected by the JonPaul Douglass. I have reached out to him for permission to use this screenshot on my blog post.

How could this be? I could not remember seeing this image on JonPaul’s website.  I sat there, confused. What had happened?

Reflecting on what had happened, I began to think about  the power of visuals in idea making, and decision making. Is it possible that I had seen this image and subliminally recalled it when I saw my picture of a peacock and it made it seem like a good idea? Can one image impression have this kind of impact on our thinking, and on our decisionmaking?

Then I remembered this video:

This is why advertising works. This is why companies create logos. This is one of the reasons why visual communication is so important in our society. If you can create a visual, and can put it in front of someone, you can influence their preferences and decisionmaking and familiarity. This is why it is so important for students to build their skills working with images, and to understand their impacts, not only on them, but on society. Call it visual literacy, visual communication, marketing, advertising, etc. This aspect of visual influence is something we all need to be aware of. The advertisers are using this on us EVERY DAY.

And I had just used this on MYSELF, unknowingly.

Another #dailycreate, and another lesson in the power of images. Mind blown.

Daily Create: From DS106 Bumper to Solid Gold

This post is a response to the #dailycreate assignment, posted here. Here’s the assignment:

Create a bumper. A bumper is “a term used in the radio broadcasting industry to refer to short clips of signature or theme music used to buffer transitions between programming elements. Bumper music is commonly employed when a syndicated program takes a break for local station identification or ‘goes to a radio commercial.’”

I had given myself about 50 minutes for today’s create, and I could tell it was going to take a little more time. Here are the things I used:

  • Free Music Archive which was found using the media links at 50+WaysToTellAStory (Thanks @cogdog). This is where I found the media.
  • For audio processing I used the resources at ds106 handbook, that reminded me of Audacity (which I had used about 3 years ago). I had to download Audacity, and try to remember how to use it!
  • For posting the audio online, I had my first soundcloud post, and also added it to a group.
  • Finally, I had to figure out how to embed it into WordPress, which I managed. (But I just found this post, so maybe it’s easier than I thought…hmmmm). It is easier. Wow.

Spending a little more time on the daily create was worth it for me today. Yesterday, I had limited experience with audio. Today, I know how to find media, record, layer tracks, fade in/out, distort, export to mp3, post online, and embed. While it took me a little while today to stumble through the process, it really did give me confidence at the same time. I can do this. The little prompt, to create a bumper (which I had never heard of, by the way) was what I needed to get back my audio groove.

So what does this all mean, and why is my dabbling in audio useful?

  • I learned how to play the guitar this year and some ukelele.
  • I believe the storymaps that I have been playing with at work now support audio.
  • Other audio adventures on the horizon? DS106 radio?

Thanks #ds106. Today I found some audio skilz in my box o’ gold.

Content in my audio from Apache Tomcat‘s song “Rockin’ in the Jungle” cc Attribution Sharealike

Daily Create: “How would you describe your life in 7 words?”

Well, I was excited to encounter this #dailycreate this morning. (Here’s the link to the assignment.) I thought, “Hmm…7 words…this is going to be easy.” I immediately started typing possibilities. They just seemed to flow. Each captured something about me, but none really put it all together. Quickly, I realized this was going to be harder than it seemed.

I was saved by a phone call from a friend, who told me to walk away.

Later that afternoon I returned. It was time to narrow the field. I was able to get down to my five favorites. Yet, it was clear, there was only one that stood out. I liked it for a couple reasons. For one, it represents a message to my son, who is very much the main purpose of my life since he was born. I also felt that learning, loving, growing, and living were all things that help to describe me and my perspective on life, and things that I hope to pass on as a father.

Again, another phone call from a friend. Again, inspired.

I haven’t painted in at least a year. I probably could count on one hand the number of paintings that I have done since I turned 15. I was inspired to put my 7 words into another medium. I took a canvas that my son had painted a couple years ago, and I added my statement to it. Now it became a co-created piece, and something that I am very happy with. Thanks #dailycreate, and to @mdvfunes for putting it in the hopper.

I recommend this exercise to everyone. So how would YOU describe YOUR life in 7 words?

Daily Create: The Color of Black and White, Lego Edition

So the assignment here was: “Transform your most colorful recent photo into on that is black and white, yet manages to not lose any of its intensity. Link to the original so we can compare.” Legos have become a big part of my life (considering I have a 7 year old and we made a recent pilgrimage to Legoland Westchester), so I looked back at some colorful Lego photography. I was inspired by seeing the Lego photo in Alan Levine’s talk at Profcamp (you can see his entire talk here).

Also, with the recent release of The Lego Movie I was struck by how they made the figures look so real, similar to how you might photograph them.

In this particular photograph, a distinctly human element was captured. The center figure seems to be looking forward at the camera, with that uncomfortable gaze; perhaps not wanting to be photographed. His buddies carry on, as if not realizing they are being photographed. I see this all too often in real photographs that are aiming to be candid. One person will see that they are being photographed and give a confused expression, ruining the attempt to capture the moment.

I guess that must have happened here, too.

Bestest Storie Evre Mispelled – DS106 Daily Create – The Surpriz in the Wudz

It wuz a kold graay day, but the son wuz tryin to peek threw the kloudz, and I could feil that today wuz going 2 be a dai to remembir. We stepped out of the kar onto the icey and wet drivewaay. A woman sat in a kar nearby, smoking a cigaret. We were ready 4 an adventur. It wuz spring, but the plantz had not yet awoken. The snoe packed grounds allowed aksess to areaz of thiz sacred ground that wi had never seen before.

We ventureed into the woodz, our feet giving way under the snow. The hgihway wuz noisy nearby. Along we walked. We found the remnants of n old barbed wire fence. We decided to folow it. It brought uz to a stream. We crossed it. We came 2 a big water recieving tank…and from here I kould see sumthing special.

My eyes were drawn 2 a vizual corridor lined by treez. The area betwen the tress wuz raised. I new thiz must hav ben an old roaad, but where did this road go? This road, on this sacred land, in the middle of the woodz, on this grey dai with the son trying to peek threw.

Wi followed da road.

It went on an on. And wi continued. Wi didnt kno whuse land wi wer on, but our curiouzity en thiz formir road maad uz continu on.

And suun, we wer rewardid. It wuz the largist one wi had evir seen, and it spoke 2 us. This old road led directlee 2 thes tree. The most magestic tree I had evir seen. The grandfathir of all the othirs. And ther wuz sumthing magical about it.

And then I said “I bettir bak up befor a branch fals on me…” At that momint, a large branch kame tumblin down from da monstir tree in teh woods on that grey dai with the son trying to peek threw.

Screen Shot 2014-04-03 at 1.51.15 PM

Quite possibly the most amazing nature video ever made.


Folks, this is breathtaking. It reminds me the times I interacted with an octopus, almost swam into a man-o-war while night snorkeling, saw the spawning of the glow worms in Bermuda and witnessed the phosphorescent comb jellies in Long Island Sound. Nature has some real magic to offer, as this video artistically captures. Enjoy. You will be back.

Credit to AJ Schneller who posted this on Facebook.