It was quite an “Empire State of Mind” at the Heartland Brewery on W. 43rd for our Dev Meet Up the evening of Thursday, June 24th, 2010. A lot of people came out to learn a few things, listen to individuals highly involved in development, and meet and greet those with whom they may share common interests.
The keynote presentation was done by Nick Furness on user experience and design principles for GIS applications. In his presentation entitled, “SIMPLIFY: GIS for Normal People,” Nick discussed how GeoDevelopers or GIS Developers often fail to abstract the user experience (UX) of an application away from the detail of its underlying data and analysis, usually assuming (or requiring) that the user is fairly technical and professionally trained either in GIS or in their domain expertise. For example, users are given a bunch of menus and a bunch of buttons, and they can figure it out. However, with the rise of less costly ways to build and distribute GIS applications, the user-base need not be so technically proficient (nor in many cases would they want to be), and extra effort is required to design a user experience that is going to be much more intuitive and usable.
Nick used an ArcObjects/ArcView project from 2003 as a case study and demonstrated how, by careful consideration of the end user’s non-technical and non-GIS background and exposing maps only where necessary (even though GIS underpins the whole solution), the application is still in use today and has required almost no maintenance and no user training in GIS. As GIS becomes more mainstream by way of the Web, these principles apply all the more: GIS Developers, historically a somewhat nerdy bunch unphased by detail, need to learn to think more like UX designers and recognize that, where appropriate, the returns on hiding the complexity of a GIS can be highly rewarding to the end user.
After Nick’s keynote presentation, we had five lightning talks:
Greg Yetman, of CIEDSIN, Columbia University, did a presentation on his population estimating application, which uses geoprocessing services from ArcGIS Server to run a model to estimate the population within defined polygons. It also uses an Open GIS Web Processing Service (WPS).
Then, John Reiser with Rowan University did a presentation about OpenStreetMap, it’s history, development, how it works, and how GIS professionals can contribute toward improving the database as well as how to consume and use the maps within larger applications.
Next up was James Tedrick’s lightning talk. He revealed some helpful Python libraries that are out there that he has found useful, as he is using Python to create geoprocessing scripts.
Brian Flood did a lightning talk on his application called Arc2Earth to help publish data to ArcGIS Data online. It’s an application that gives smaller organizations an entry into cloud GIS. Being able to store their data and manage their services on the cloud, allows them to achieve lower costs and greater flexibility and scalability.
Tying up the night, Michael Uffer, who works for the New York City Department of Homeless Services, presented how his organization used ArcGIS to create a mapping solution to give the public access to info and maps as they relate to homeless shelters. He made extensive use of the ArcObjects API and also Network Analyst routing. For example, people may say, “I’m here; where are the homeless shelters, and once I pick one, how do I get there?” For people with Web access, they have that information, but if not, the Department of Homeless Services can create maps and drop them off at certain locations for people who are in need.
Everyone loved the appetizers (and of course the beverages too!), had themselves a great evening, and learned quite a bit of what our developer community had to offer in the world of GIS. Nothing less than great happens in NYC and that was definitely the case with this Dev Meet Up. A great big ‘hooah!’ to all those who came out, those who participated, and those who will be coming to the ones in the near future!