It’s 2016 and I Want to be Better at What I Do

Welcome to the future, 2016. It’s nice to meet you.

2015 was a great year.   I did a lot of cool stuff, and almost all of it wasn’t geo-related.   Seriously, like 95% of the things I did this year had nothing to do with geo or GIS.  That’s all fine and good, but I really love geo. I went to school for a long time to just kinda give up on it in the past year.

During the last few days of 2015 I made a list of things I want to do in 2016.  The list is fairly short. I want to start to learn Mandarin Chinese, become a better runner, read more, remember my passwords to stuff, and get better at what I do.  Geo is “what I do” and I really want to get better at it in 2016.

I know the path to meeting a couple of my 2016 goals, but how do I get better at geo? I’ve been working in geo for almost 10 years.  I have a job that allows me to challenge myself on a regular basis, and do a lot of geo work.

In this case, I think the path to getting better is by doing more. Practice makes perfect. In 2016 I will strive to create more maps, tools, algorithms, datasets or anything else.  This, I hope, will force me to learn new skills, hone my existing skills, and inspire me to try new things and test new ideas. I won’t just leave ideas written down on a post-it note on my desk.

I will make some maps from those ideas I have written down, post tools and code I create to my deserted github account, write more technical and research/analysis GISDoctor.com posts (even if they aren’t any good), contribute to my local geo-community, and make a real effort to add to OSM more than I have in the past.

By doing more, I think I can keep challenging myself to expand but also refine and tighten my geo-skills. More importantly, I will keep myself motivated and interested in geo! I’ve definitely already put the first 10,000 hours in.  Maybe the next 10,000 will really define who I am as a professional geographer and member of the geo-community.

Here’s to what is hopefully the most productive and inspiring geo-year of my life!

 

 

 

In 2017 I will stop over using the prefix Geo.

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A Few Geo-Things I Learned in 2015

Let’s wrap-up the year with a few things I learned in 2015.

  • 95% of all the maps you see on the internet, or that you make for your own purposes, could probably be replaced with a nicely formatted table.  The exception – those cool web maps that show animation with some sort of time value. Those are rad.
  • QGIS, R, python, and PostGIS keep getting better and better.
  • ArcGIS Pro, at least for me, totally missed the spot.
  • Formatting and sharing data is easy.  Knowing how to properly analyze it when you have it takes skill.
  • Everyone has big data and no one has big data.
  • I really don’t care about online mapping.  It’s cool, but I am a technical analyst, and numbers and stats are more important to me in my line of work. However, I see the incredible value of what CartoDB, MapBox and others are doing to push the geo-tech agenda forward.
  • Don’t believe anything you read in blogs or on twitter.   Especially mine 🙂
  • Using “Geo” as a prefix automatically makes you look like you know what you are doing.
  • All the cool kids are doing geospatial analysis (see what I did there…).
  • Spatial isn’t special. If it really was, we would all be making a lot more money.
  • If you are young, in college, and interested in GIS, I recommend you go into a natural/earth science or engineering field. Learn some stats, and get some programming. You will either learn how to use GIS on the side in a required course or in the job you got with your degree in your technical field where you learned how to do analysis. I don’t think majoring in “GIS” is a good idea anymore.
    • side note – If you want major in geography, make sure you go the quantitative/technical route.

I hope 2015 was great for everyone.  I am glad I started blogging again and I am glad people are still reading my posts. I have big plans for 2016! Now, let’s see if I actually implement those plans…

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Some Thanksgiving Geo-Thoughts

Happy Thanksgiving!  I’ve been running a lot recently, and when I run, I think. Here are a few things that have been bouncing around my brain while dodging traffic.

  • Is it just me, or is every “viral” map that hits the internet lately powered by either CartoDB or Mapbox?  It’s pretty impressive to see these two companies gain traction and grow, especially in the non-traditional geo-crowd.  If anyone one sees a “viral” map from Esri, that wasn’t made by Esri, let me know.
  • Recently at work I’ve been building a custom interpolation algorithm to analyze some model output.   The out-of-the-box tools in the standard GIS suites usually aren’t flexible or fast enough for my work, so I have been using scipy and numpy to code some stuff up.  I hadn’t used the spatial component in scipy until this project. Scipy spatial, in combination with numpy, has been a powerful alternative for coding the analysis. If you haven’t, you should check it out. Since I am working in a modeled spatial environment (sparse and standard grids), I’ve been using Jupyter Notebook for an IDE and matplotlib for on-the-fly visualization, both of which are awesome.
  • I am excited that Boston has been chosen as the host city of FOSS4G 2017!  I haven’t been to a FOSS4G conference yet, but I am 100% going to FOSS4G in 2017. Big thumbs up to Avid Geo, the folks at AppGeo, and others in the Boston geo-sphere who put the proposal together.  FOSS4G is the future of geo and GIS. There is no ifs, ands or buts about it.
  • Rant time – We, as an industry, need to get colleges and universities to stop providing (or drastically improve) GIS certificate programs (also, we need to end “technical certifications”, but that’s a whole other rant).  For the most part, many don’t do enough to really help someone trying to become a geo-professional or improve their skills if they are already working in the field. In many cases, I believe they can railroad students into a skillset that is really only viable in the very narrow role of a GIS technician.  Those departments that teach GIS and geospatial analysis should work more on developing and integrating cross discipline geospatial curricula that provides technological depth, solid analysis skills and strong problem solving skills.  All too often I have seen the “Open ArcMap, push some buttons, use some shapefiles, and make a crappy map project route” approach to fulfill requirements. This is a horrible disservice to students, many of whom are competing for jobs that are becoming increasingly tougher and tougher to land.  Geospatial higher education has to be better. Colleges and universities don’t need to be career training centers, but they should teach the skills necessary to for their students to be able to compete in today’s environment.

That’s it for now!  Have a good holiday season.

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