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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

If you didn’t get up on time for this session, the second plenary of the conference you really missed out. It was touching, insightful and most importantly, very entertaining. Most of the team that did this work that ultimately created DIME files and reinvented the census and geosopatial data were all on one stage telling their stories. I sure hope someone recorded this!

I want to share some of the “pearls of wisdom,” the subtle advice the panelists shared with the attendees. I am most dispappointed so few young people were around to hear the stories; they really set the stage for anyone just setting out a new job, knowing almost nothing and not being sure where it will lead…

Don Cooke - (1) The term he offered, paralleling the key term “plastics” in The Graduate: 3D. (2) Be passionate about whatever turns you on.

Bill Maxfield - (1) Luck favors the prepared mind - we needed to solve a problem and DIME did that. (2) Moore’s Law is your friend. Don’t worry too much about getting the algorithm to be fast; get it right. The computers will get faster soon. (3) Public vs. Private sector choices. The team had much freedom working for the government, but in the end, the private sector pays. (4) Grab software and make it do what you need; don’t wait for the “perfect” solution, it will not come.

Marv White - (He’s the guy behind Sportvision - the folks who put the first down line magically on the TV football field, among other things) (1) “Routing algorithms are no match for just a good map.” Early navigation algorithms were no big benefit (he was at Etak which provided Albequerque Ambulance with a nav system); just having the map and letting dispatchers assign ambulances where to go was a huge step forward. (2) Study and use applied mathematics (that’s what GIS is and that’s what Sportvision is!)

[Disclosure: URISA covered my lodging for this event.]

by Adena Schutzberg on 08/22 at 10:26 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

After a day of sessions and talks in the halls, I’ll offer up three themes from URISA 2007:

1) Reclamation of geospatial - There’s a sense URISA (and frankly the broader geospatial community) feel a need to grab onto and hold tight the idea of a geospatial discipline. Several topics covered formally and informally support my assertion I think: the work on/discussion of/and use of the Body of Knowledge (let’s define what we do), the URISA Leadership Academy (let’s better eduate our leaders to promote and lead the way forward, not necessarily from a tech, but a management perspective), certification (let’s acknowledge to the world “what we know”), concern about others moving into our space (surveyors in particular - though I saw none present), the historical look at the 1967 New Haven Census Use Study (let’s define, document our past to help define our present and future).

2) URISA is not technical - At one time I think the conference was more focussed on technology. When I was at ESRI I considered URISA as “User Conference Part 2” since we retold and redemoed the same material for a new audience. That’s not really happening; the ESRI user group meeting included a very short recap of some User Conference themes but was really about networking. No vendor I spoke with had a technology announcement. Several conversations in the halls helped me confirm the URISA is redefining itself around policy and more management/leadership education. That focus may be part of the reason numbers are dropping off. Fewer people in our industry need those types of skills compared with the relatively large number who need to use, program and interact with software day to day. Those people, I think, are spending their conference dollars on technical conferences, that is, vendor conferences.

3) Government is conservative and thus so is URISA. The topics of the conference are not cutting edge: the lack of mention of GAMY and the lack of presense is one indication. The topics of concern I listed from the first plenary are not new (we’ve certianly not solved them, but they are not cutting edge new problems). URISA members need to see and want to be involved in longterm change and that’s a good role for them. The downside: I saw far more gray hair in the sessions and few upstart young people.

[Disclosure: URISA covered my lodging for this event.]

by Adena Schutzberg on 08/22 at 10:13 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Here are a bunch little notes from URISA:

- I sat at the “ethics” table for the round table discussions. There were four of us, all women. And, to a one they’d withheld from doing certain things based on the ethics requirements of their positions in government or as AICPs (certified planners). One didn’t attend a fancy event at a conference, a second did not enter the “treasure hunt” in the URISA exhibit hall, the third turned down a dinner certificate. I for one am jazzed to see folks who clearly don’t make tons of money taking these “limitations” seriously.

- The URISA Leadership Academy will launch in December; it’s aimed at providing leadership training specifically geared to GIS people. It’s a five part program and they are looking for instructors. The discussion of it during the Tuesday plenary made me smile since many of the topics are ones we included in the Penn State Masters in GIS.

- Some numbers: there were some 560 people registered before the conference and about 20 more who registered on site. I was disappointed the plenaries had nowhere near that number of attendees. I learned that nominations for the National Geospatial Advisory Committee totalled more than 100.

- An open source workshop was “well attended,” per the instructor, Sara Yurman. When I mentioned to her my concern at the lack of open source buzz at URISA she noted that there’s more buzz now than in the past. I understand one commercial vendor sat in the workshop.

[Disclosure: URISA covered my lodging for this event.]

by Adena Schutzberg on 08/22 at 10:00 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

uLocate has been working on their Where platform that offers LBS "widgets" to build wireless applications and has signed a deal with Alltel to offer them on select phones. What’s a "widget?" It’s a GPS mashup for mobile phones. The content is delivered by the carrier while uLocate handles the backend location-based processing. A carrier or application developer can pick and choose a variety of location-based services (find the gas station, find the restaurant, find the tornado, etc.) and offer them as a single application. uLocate wants to be the "enablement engine" for carriers. Since all the widgets are grouped at the same price ($2.99 per month), the subscriber can drag and drop whichever ones they want to use onto their phone.

by Joe Francica on 08/22 at 08:46 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share

Bottom line: “I looked at the five biggest names in online maps—Ask City, Google Maps, MapQuest, Microsoft Live Search Maps, and Yahoo Maps—and found that annotation and other tools gave Microsoft Live and Ask City a slight edge over Yahoo Maps, and a substantial advantage over Google Maps and MapQuest.”

- PC World

by Adena Schutzberg on 08/22 at 06:00 AM | Comments | Bookmark and Share
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