Author Archives: Bern Szukalski

Bern Szukalski
Chief technology evangelist and product strategist at Esri, focusing on ways to broaden access to geographic information and helping users succeed with the ArcGIS Platform. On a good day I'm making a map, on a great day I'm on one. Follow @bernszukalski

Recent Posts

Web GIS, Simply

I’m often speaking about, demonstrating, writing about, or using Web GIS. And I’m frequently asked things like “What exactly is Web GIS?” and “Why is Web GIS important to me?” To answer these and other common questions, here’s how I describe Web GIS, simply.

What is Web GIS?

Simply put, Web GIS is a pattern, or architectural approach, for implementing a modern GIS. It’s powered by web services—standard services that deliver data and capabilities, and connect components.

Web GIS can be implemented in the cloud (using ArcGIS Online), on-premises (using ArcGIS Server), or more typically as a hybrid combination, leveraging the best of both worlds.

Web GIS isn’t new, in fact it’s been evolving for a long while. But we’ve reached, actually passed, a tipping point where innovation in GIS and related technologies have made Web GIS not only possible, but essential.

Web GIS has been evolving for a long while, and has been influenced by innovation in many areas.

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The Aha! Moment—Turning Geographic Information into Insights

Geography is the basis of everything that happens, and using Insights for ArcGIS we can turn geography into something much more meaningful.

Geography is the foundation of GIS. It’s the “where” in the chemistry of “where, why, and how.” GIS turns geography into something much more meaningful. It enables us to transform location into geographic understanding. We can learn where things happen, and more importantly, why. By using GIS analysis we can turn “I know where” into “I know why” or “I understand.” In other words, we can turn geographic information into insight.

With that in mind, the announcement of a new application experience called Insights for ArcGIS at the recent Federal GIS Conference just might mark a milestone in the evolution of GIS.

In a similar fashion, Insights for ArcGIS represents not just an evolutionary step, but perhaps a revolutionary one. It empowers anyone to explore location-based data by applying interactive analysis to glean not only understanding, but insight. The proverbial aha! moment in true understanding. Continue reading

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Nine things you didn’t know you could do with Story Maps

There’s lots of unique and interesting ways to use Story Maps—some obvious, and some not so obvious

Story Maps let you combine authoritative maps with text, images, and multimedia content, and make it easy to harness the power of maps and geography to tell your story. Story Maps can be used for a wide variety of purposes; for advocacy and outreach, virtual tours, travelogues, delivering public information, and many more. You can browse a large collection of examples by visiting the Story Maps Gallery.

Many of the ways you can use Story Maps are obvious, but others aren’t. Here’s a list of nine things you can do with Story Maps that you might not have thought of before. Click the image to open the Story Map. Continue reading

Posted in Storytelling with Maps | 1 Comment

From Open Data to Data Engagement

Beyond transparency and accountability, the ultimate goal of open government is to empower citizens by providing them with data in a meaningful context. 

The principles of open government and transparency suggest public access to information and, subsequently, scrutiny. Public scrutiny ultimately leads to accountability. Transparency and accountability together empower a public audience to weigh in on issues that matter to them, and provide an opportunity to influence decisions and hold the people making those decisions accountable.

When it comes to opening up GIS data, transparency is often cited as being a key driving factor in making that data available. But simply providing downloads for data is not enough, and in the grand scope of openness is somewhat meaningless. Continue reading

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Story Maps: 5 Tips and Tricks

Story maps are a great way to harness the power of maps to tell your stories. Here’s 5 simple tips and tricks to help you maximize your use of this exciting platform for geographic storytelling.


1. Add YouTube Videos to Your Story Map Tour

The Story Map Tour supports the ability to use videos from a variety of sources. Here’s an overview of how you can add YouTube videos to your Story Map Tour.

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Six Trending Topics in Web GIS

Analysis, 3D, Smart Mapping, and Other Trends Enable Us to Think About GIS Differently

The web continues to have an enormous impact on how we practice GIS and how we apply geospatial tools and capabilities to support our workflows and solve problems. It has fundamentally changed everything we do, and how we think. This trend has been evolving for years, but clearly has reached escape velocity and a new tipping point. No longer is the question “if” or “when” to embrace Web GIS, the question now is “how” to leverage the new opportunities and workflows it enables.

In an earlier post just after the 2015 Esri Federal GIS Conference, we covered the trending topics at that time. Here’s an update from the 2015 Esri User Conference, that focuses on how some of those trends have matured with new capabilities, and how a few new ones have arrived. Continue reading

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Six Trending Topics in Web GIS

Content, 3D, Story Maps, and Other Trends Offer New Opportunities to Re-imagine What’s Possible with GIS

The web has had an enormous impact on how we obtain information, connect with others, and work every day. Clearly GIS has also been transformed by the web—it’s enabling easier access, better workflows, and supporting diverse applications and new types of data, all leveraging flexible service-based architectures.

The web has also increased the value of GIS and the work we do as GIS professionals by making GIS pervasive and driving its importance to become an integral part of the decision making process. But the web has also added new challenges, creating not only demand, but also setting expectations and nudging us forward to consider what we do in new ways.

So what’s happening right now in web GIS? Here’s a few topics that are currently trending.

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Posted in Storytelling with Maps, Technology | 3 Comments

The Story Maps Life Cycle

From custom beginnings to templatization: The evolution of a Story Map template

Story Maps can inform and inspire your audience. They combine interactive maps and multimedia content into elegant user experiences. One of the latest Story Maps—Geography Bee: A Global Gallery of Pollinators—uses the context of geography to present a spectacular collection of bee portraits by USGS scientist Sam Droege.

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A Framework for Resilience: Four GIS Building Blocks

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Temperature shifts, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire, and floods… We’re already seeing the effects of climate change manifested in many ways. These changes are placing critical habitats at risk, shifting ecosystems, reducing water supplies, creating health concerns, and … Continue reading

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Story Maps for “Bread and Butter” Applications

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Story Maps are fun, easy, and informative. Their popularity is documented by the many interesting examples you will find at the Story Maps Gallery. An enduring favorite of mine is not the most sophisticated, or provocative, or one that required … Continue reading

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