Unleashing the Power of Location in Your Data

Geography just might be the answer to putting big data into context and making it work for everyone

We are all aware that technological advances have increased the size of the data we can capture and manage. I remember reading that approximately 90 percent of all the data in the world today has been created in just that last few years. And more than 75 percent of that data is unstructured, coming from social media, smart phones, text messages, and other sources.

Obviously, the Internet has a lot to do with this explosion of raw data. New industries have been created to help us manage big data, to process it, and to make it consumable. But the real return on investment for organizations is to make big data useful. Continue reading

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Catching Up with Time

Mapping time has perhaps never been as well supported

There’s a perception that GIS and cartography have always struggled to adequately deal with and represent time. The notion that a phenomena that varies temporally is difficult to model perhaps gives rise to the idea that static layers are unable to capture such variability. If this ever were the case, it’s not so any more. Our ability to handle large temporal datasets in GIS is now well supported. Adding time and date fields to data in ArcGIS allows you to configure and work with the temporal dimension including animating the map and controlling playback. Many online map services have a temporal aspect and it’s important to be able to reveal and make sense of this. Functionality is available across the ArcGIS platform to support temporal analysis and visualization. Continue reading

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Jack Dangermond Speaks about GIS and Resilience at UN Climate Summit

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited world leaders from government, business, and society to the UN Climate Summit 2014 to stimulate action on climate change. He asked them to bring big ideas and messages that could help reduce emissions, strengthen climate resilience, and mobilize political will to hopefully pave the way for a meaningful global agreement in 2015. 

I was deeply honored to be invited to speak about GIS and resilience last week at the UN Climate Summit 2014. Following is a summary of my talk there. 


Thank you your excellencies and prime ministers, ladies and gentlemen, guests. Thank you very much for allowing me to share a little bit about my work, and also the work that we are working on with the UNISDR, and a number of other organizations here. Continue reading

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Engaging with Executives: A How-To for GIS Professionals

Three Simple Steps to GIS Management Success

[Note:  This is the second post in our new series about Managing GIS.]

When I first started working at Esri nearly a decade ago, my meetings with clients were almost exclusively with GIS managers and GIS technicians.  Today, at many of these same clients, my meetings are more likely to be with CIOs, agency and department directors, and other executives.  That’s not because I’m more important than I was a decade ago, it’s because GIS is more important than it was a decade ago. And I think two big shifts in the GIS industry have resulted in this change.

First, GIS really started to gain traction in government agencies and the private sector in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.  Organizations wanted it, but didn’t always put a lot of thought into where it best fit within the organization as a whole.  Often, it would fall under whatever department seemed the most able or willing to house it.  Over time, IT professionals saw the value of GIS in terms of how it could benefit the organization, whether it meant geo-enabling an existing business system, providing spatial insight to other departments, or as a way to share data with the public. That’s when the game changed. GIS evolved from essentially a niche technology to a mission-critical business system, and as a result we’ve seen IT departments increasingly embracing what was previously seen as an “outlier” technology. Continue reading

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What is “Transformative” Research?

The Gartner Group Hype Cycle on Emerging Technologies for 2013 (courtesy of Gartner Inc..

Next-generation techniques are already changing the way we do science. Recently the National Academy of Sciences convened a Workshop on Identifying Transformative Research in the Geographical Sciences. Given that so many of the challenges that we currently face are place-based … Continue reading

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Mobile GIS? Never Heard Of It!

Many Workflows are Best Served with Targeted Apps

I get this said to me all the time:  “We have this big GIS in the office. We use it all the time to make maps and export data into our outage systems or gas leak management system. It’s great! Can we put it into the field for the mobile workers?”

People want mobile GIS.  But I respond like a psychiatrist when they ask for it: Instead of giving them a straight answer, I ask them a question: “To do what?”

Their answers span a big gamut. They range from, “It’s easier to get maps on a mobile device than to carry around paper maps,” to…

Continue reading

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Attention GIS Managers: New Strategies for New Times

Overcome the Challenges of Your Role by Learning New Skills and Applying New Strategies

[Note:  This is the first post in our new series about Managing GIS.]

Defining the role of a successful GIS manager today is vastly different from how we would have defined a successful GIS manager even five years ago.  If you are using the playbook from five years ago, the odds are stacked against you.  This conclusion comes not only from my personal experience as a GIS manager, but from my professional experience at Esri working closely with Local Government GIS managers.

Most GIS managers have worked their way up to manager positions from GIS technician/analyst positions, and many have GIS/geography or similar academic/professional experience.  While this background is great for being a successful GIS user, it does not necessarily provide you with the skills necessary to be a successful GIS manager–and this is exactly what I have experienced in my career. Continue reading

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When Open Data Isn’t Useful Data

Four Common Problems with Open Data, and How to Fix them with ArcGIS Online

Organizations create and manage a vast amount of data. Many of these organizations, such as government agencies, desire or are required to share certain data with the public. This data, when freely available for people to obtain, use, and redistribute, is called open data.

Open data is important for transparency and fostering innovation. Open data is also important for ensuring data integrity.

But just being “open” often isn’t enough–your open data also needs to be useful data. Continue reading

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Story Map Journal: A Geo-Multimedia Extravaganza

In July the Esri Story Maps team released the Story Map Journal, a new storytelling app that enables users to combine long-form text with rich multimedia content. Among the app’s features:

  • A “main stage” for large visuals, including maps, photos, videos, and websites
  • A “side panel” that accommodates titles, text. photos, and videos
  • A builder function that enables users to create media-rich stories without needing to have either GIS or web development skills
  • Ability to switch between layout options, and to make other refinements to color scheme, logo use, and more
  • Responsive design, making the app work on all screen sizes including smartphones Continue reading
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Speaking the “Language” of Spatial Analysis via Story Maps


Last update: December 6, 2014 Spatial analysis has always been a hallmark of GIS, the “numerical recipes” which set GIS apart from other forms of computerized visualization and information management. With GIS we pose questions and derive results using a … Continue reading

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