Monthly Archives: August 2014

Jubal Harpster: “Get comfortable using GitHub to help find the pockets of innovation happening all over the place”

Jubal Harpster
Jubal Harpster

Jubal Harpster (@jharpster) is principal and co-founder of Spatial Development International based in Seattle. He has been a geo person in a variety of positions over the past 20 years, and his current focus is on data and applications primarily for international development and food security challenges in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Jubal was interviewed for GeoHipster by Christina Boggs.

A common question is to ask folks how they got into GIS but you went to school for Geography, what drew you to that major in the first place?

It’s a long story actually, but when I entered college I started as a political science major. I was completely bored with the exception of one geopolitics class. I’ve always enjoyed maps, as I’m sure most of your readers do, but the final assignment for this class was to create a choropleth map by hand (remember, it’s 1990). After that, I was hooked.

I took a break after my sophomore year and spent six months traveling through Central America. During that trip, I spent a good deal of time at various mapping agencies trying to find decent back country maps for places like Nicaragua and El Salvador. When I finally did make it back to Seattle, I was pretty laser-focused on Geography as a discipline. The GIS thing just sort of happened along the way.

What has kept you in the geospatial field?

I continue to be amazed at the pace of innovation over the 20+ years that I’ve been doing this. Recently someone on our team was showing off their work with WebGL and vector tiles from PostGIS. I can remember very clearly developing MOIMS and ArcIMS sites back in the day, and the difference between that and where we are now is incredible.

When you take a step back and look at what’s happening in the field, it’s pretty remarkable. Open Street Map is incredible; commodity satellites and other high resolution imagery are changing the way we see the world.  And with cloud-hosted infrastructure, we can do some really amazing things quite cheaply and in a way that’s never existed before.

You’re one of the founders of SpatialDev, what was it like starting a company up after working for other private companies and even a government position?

It was actually quite terrifying. I worked at a global civil engineering company, which was and still is a great company to work for, but one that is very risk-averse. We found ourselves with a great team in Seattle and largely responsible for finding work and delivering our own projects. There was a sense that the big company was slowing us down so when they sold the whole business unit, it created the perfect opportunity to jump ship.

Fortunately several members of our team from that engineering company form the core of SpatialDev. Now we have the freedom to create the company and culture we want, and pursue the work we like to do. It’s still terrifying from time to time, but we have the best team imaginable so I do occasionally get some sleep.

I noticed that your team has a lot of women on it, what’s your secret to recruiting #geoladies?

We actively recruit diversity into the team, which can be a challenge in this business. We are able to attract great team members by establishing a creative, flexible, and fun work environment, and providing lots of exciting opportunities and projects.

What are some of the cool projects that SpatialDev is working on right now?

We’re working on a number of different things. SpatialDev is continuing to expand our international footprint by doing projects in Bolivia, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. That’s incredibly exciting and challenging at the same time.

We’re also doing a lot of thinking around native mobile and responsive applications, and how people interact with dynamic maps on those form factors. To date, there aren’t many examples of where the dynamic map experience of desktop web applications transfers to awesome mobile experiences. Creating great user experiences on devices other than the desktop is high on our priority list right now.

We’ve put a lot of work into creating a simple node.js wrapper around PostGIS that anyone can install and be up and running with a web framework in a couple of minutes. We’re now using this on a number of applications that we host and maintain for clients. And from this starting point, we’re working on a purely open source stack that works completely offline or in semi-connected environments. This includes the database, offline map tiles, as well as the application.

You guys make some crazy sexy maps, what advice would you give people who want to make their visualizations clearer and more eye-catching?

First, I’d say hire a good designer. When we first started out, the developers on the team (myself among them) would implement our own designs. We developed some very sophisticated web applications, but many of them looked terrible and weren’t that easy to use. We now have a Creative Director at SpatialDev who focuses on UI/UX. She has an eye for detail and usability like no one else on the team. This has had a profound impact on our work.

Second, we work with our clients to implement common sense. We won’t make an application with 900 layers or try to show a million points on the map at once. We demonstrate that in many cases, less is more. That way, our clients don’t end up with applications that have 20 different slide-outs with tools, buttons, settings, preferences, and so on. We try as best we can to help our clients simply make logical and beautiful sites.

What are you working on outside of work time?

I’m involved with a number of activities related to work that I continue to pursue during my off hours. This past spring, I convened a group in Washington DC specifically for people that work with international boundary data sets (it’s more interesting than it sounds!). I’ll continue to be involved in organizing some geo-events in Seattle as well as in Africa this coming fall. And when I have time, I still contribute code to some of the SpatialDev GitHub repos.

But really, I have two kids, an awesome wife, and a garage full of bicycles. So when I’m not working or traveling for work, I’m spending time with the family mostly riding around the Northwest.

You’re an open source supporter, what recommendations would you have for someone thinking about dabbling in open source?

I would actually encourage people to get familiar with the entire ecosystem around geotechnology and not focus too much on a single set of technology. At SpatialDev, we’re not wedded to any particular set of technology; we implement the best tools that get the job done. But I’m amazed at how the open source universe has matured dramatically over the past few years, both in terms of the business models and the tools.

When people start at SpatialDev, we always push them to get familiar with PostGIS and QGIS since those are the environments where we do most of our work. PostGIS is behind just about all the stuff we currently work on, so we like everyone to be able to navigate that environment and write at least some SQL. We also encourage team members to get comfortable using GitHub to help find the pockets of innovation happening all over the place. Those would be the recommendations I’d suggest for people starting to work in open source.

You’re into cycling but you don’t have a handlebar mustache, you could be wearing skinny jeans but this interview isn’t happening in person so I can’t be sure, I couldn’t find any pictures of food or coffee on your twitter… I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you probably wouldn’t be described as a hipster. The term geohipster is a much friendlier and loving term, how do you feel about being a geohipster?

Although I drink a lot of locally brewed IPA, drown my mornings in blonde roast drip, own an impressive collection of nerdy t-shirts, and have a fixie that I ride on the local velodrome occasionally, I wouldn’t consider myself a geohipster (or geodinosaur). Fortunately, I get to travel to places where the whole geo-ecosystem is not quite as developed as it is in Seattle. So in these places at least I can pull off being the ultimate geohipster. But I draw the line at facial hair.

Do you have anything else to share with GeoHipster readers?

Thanks, this has been fun. You can see some of the stuff we’re working on here http://spatialdev.com/ and here: http://spatialdev.github.io/ . Do I get a t-shirt now?

Ed.: Yes

 

Steve Coast to GeoHipster: “You try stuff and 90% of it’s gonna fail, and you should be happy with that”

 

Steve Coast
Steve Coast

Steve Coast is the founder of Open Street Map and Head of OSM at Telenav.

Steve was interviewed for GeoHipster by Atanas Entchev, incorporating question suggestions from Renee Sieber and Christina Boggs.

Q: Last week was the 10th anniversary of Open Street Map, which you founded. Congratulations! OSM and you personally got a lot of press, all of it good. Will that further the cause or OSM?

A: It’s a key part of the PR effort. At least it used to be. I’m not sure it has the same importance today, because there are so many people doing the same thing, but it’s part of that.

Q: My wife is my one-person focus group who has been remarkably accurate on most things Internet. She doesn’t use OSM. How will you convince her to start using it?

A: Open Street Map itself is not particularly designed to be used as a consumer product. It’s other people that make stuff on top of Open Street Map that package it in such a way that it’s usable by anybody. An example in the United States and now in the rest of the world would be Scout — a navigation client that Telenav makes. So we take Open Street Map and we spend a lot of time making it usable, so consumers can use it for turn-by-turn navigation. But today the focus of Open Street Map itself is about getting people to contribute data, not necessarily to use it. So it’s perfectly fine if your wife or anyone else wants to use another product, that makes a lot of sense.

Q: You currently work for Telenav, whose mission is to make people’s lives less stressful. Does your job make your life less stressful? What do you do for Telenav?

A: Historically I have been working on making sure that Scout works for consumers. Making sure the navigation information is there, making sure the addressing works, making sure the consumer experience is great behind Open Street Map. So I work with a team of a large number of people, 120 now we are up to, to make it all work. My official title is Head of OSM.

Q: In your most recent video you talk about why “Open Street Map is going to win”. What do you mean “to win”? Win what?

A: I mean having the best map in the world. Not necessarily the best consumer experience but the best map data. It’s already the best display map, right? So the next question is can it also be the best addressable map and the best navigable map. Those are the next two things to go after.

Q: What is the future of OSM? Gamification? Monetization?

A: Lots of people have monetized Open Street Map, including Telenav. The gamification, personally I love that, but OSM today is a lot of communities and lots of people, and you have to make a case for those people that it should be gamified. And in fact people do make apps on the side to try and gamify things like the collection of data on mobile devices, but getting changes and integration into the main site is hard because it affects a lot of people. But that doesn’t stop you from making your own app on the side to do these things.

Q: Is there a future in which the majority of contributions to OSM will be from passive sensing of location?

A: Again, with Telenav we’ve purchased a lot of GPS traces to get the navigable information into the map itself. So people already do that. OSM itself started with GPS traces, before we had aerial imagery. So I guess you can say we started with passive stuff and we just got better at it over time.

Q: What do you think of CC BY-SA?

A: I think Creative Commons is great. It’s fantastic. It works very well for creative works like books and photos. Unfortunately it didn’t work super well for data, like we have in OSM. Which is why we spent a lot of time on the Open Database License. Which is designed to be actually very similar to Creative Commons, just different enough that it covers the data use cases.

Q: Some have asked “Why not just release the data in the public domain?”, but isn’t the issue that in some countries in Europe (not in the US), you just can’t release your work into the public domain? You must release it under some kind of license?

A: That exists. In some countries it’s called the moral right. You can’t give up the copyright in the same way you can’t sell yourself into slavery. Do I particularly care? No, as long as I don’t live in one of those countries, and you can always sign a waiver that effectively does the same thing.

Q: Does OSM have a moral imperative? Is OSM out there to do good? Should the GUI be developed to maximize the diversity of participants? Enhance democracy? Is there such goal?

A: I think that it’s good that there are people involved in the project that do want to do that, and they are interested in OSM from a different perspective. That enhances what we get done, because of the diversity of opinion. Me personally, I was just out to create a map. Those other things are good things, it just wasn’t my focus, but it’s good that there are people on OSM who are focused on that.

Q: Little is known about Steve Coast, the person. Tell us more about yourself — any hipstery hobbies? I hope you ride a unicycle or grow your own hops. Do you?

A: I go hang gliding. I am completing my private pilot’s license. I ride bicycles. I think that’s it.

Q: What is going on with Map Club?

A: I shut it down. Everyone in OSM is a volunteer, and the question was could we create some sort of membership organization that could be self-supporting and go do things. Whether those things are building tools, or collecting more data. We have two choices: either everyone’s a volunteer or everyone works for a company. The companies tend to have overlapping interests with OSM but they are not the same interests. We can work together, and it can be beneficial, but it’s not like you have directly identical goals. So the question is could you do something in-between? A membership organization came to be the one way to go. Unfortunately wasn’t convincing enough so it didn’t work out. But it was worth a try.

Q: What is the takeaway from this experience? What’s the lesson learned? That people don’t want to pay for mapping?

A: I don’t think it is that people don’t want to pay. It’s two things. One: The amount of money required was a bit more than I’d hoped. You could pick $100/year but then you’d need a lot of people, but if it could be $50/month — which is what people are paying for their cell phone — then you can get a lot more done. The actual model could work if it was slightly different. I was undercharging. Second: What is the value that you are offering. And there wasn’t a clear value proposition. It was an experiment. What can we achieve? And it was difficult to find out what we could go do because we didn’t have any money. It was very chicken-and-egg.

Q: This from a GeoHipster contributor: You are so playful and fun… After being in the industry so long, how do you keep a smile?

A: Ha ha ha. That’s a really good question… I just don’t take this stuff seriously I guess. On one level I take it very seriously because obviously finishing the project and getting the data out there is important, but on another level, I think, the simple answer is being very aware that you’re going to die one day. So it’s hard to get upset and angry about stuff when you realize that. It’s more important to go build things and show people and just be happy that 90% of the stuff that you’re gonna do is going to fail, like Map Club, for example. Most people never try to do anything at all. So you try stuff and 90% of it’s gonna fail, and you should be happy with that.

Michael Byrne: “Make things easier”

Michael Byrne
Michael Byrne

Michael Byrne is currently a Project Director in the Technology and Innovation Division at the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.  He is the lead for implementing the technology supporting Home Mortgage Disclosure Act activities for CFPB.  Prior to joining CFPB, he was the Geographic Information Officer at the Federal Communications Commission.  Prior to that, he was the Geographic Information Officer for the State of California.

This interview is a personal response.

Michael was interviewed for GeoHipster by Atanas Entchev.

Q: You are the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Operations Lead at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. What does your job entail? What kinds of projects do you work on, and what kinds of technologies do you use?

A: The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is a great organization, and I am honored to be an employee. I lead the technology team that will be implementing the new technology around the collection of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data. HMDA requires many lenders to report information about the home loans for which they receive applications or that they originate or purchase. The public and regulators can use the information to monitor whether financial institutions are serving the housing needs of their communities and identify possible discriminatory lending patterns. You can read more about what CFPB is up to on HMDA here and here.

Q: Your GIS career spans two decades, yet you are best known (and widely revered) for spearheading the National Broadband Map effort at the FCC in 2013. Why do you think that is?

A: I would like to set a few things straight before I answer. First, the National Broadband Map was the statutory obligation of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). NTIA worked with the FCC to implement the technology. So my role was on the tech implementation side. Really NTIA’s stellar efforts to set up the program, ensure the data was collected, and truckloads of other details needs to be highlighted and need all kinds of credit. Second, I won’t say I am revered. I can hope that my sons love me back; that is as far as I will ever go.

I think I have had the benefit of good timing. My second job in GIS in California state government was at the California Department of Forestry, an early pioneer in GIS (ESRI user #46). I met people there which set me on a great path. I went on to become the first Geographic Information Officer for the State because of the people I met in that first job; really it was timing. The same pattern holds true with the work at FCC. There was kind of a perfect storm, and I had the fortune of being there for the ride.

We were able to develop a team of exceptional people. Not sure if that was luck, or something else, but a handful of them were already at FCC and I had the great fortune to work with them.

Open Source was just becoming a buzzword in federal IT, and we latched on to it. I think in some case we became a poster child but honestly there was a timing issue we were just fortunate to be open to at the time. I am very proud of the work we did there, and the web metrics really point to it. Just this past spring we passed half a billion API requests. So I think we had the timing to be open to new ways of thinking, but we also had the timing to build something that lots and lots of people wanted to use. Had we built something super shiny that no one wanted to use, I doubt we would be having this conversation.

Q: Was open source a hard sell at the FCC? If yes, how did you overcome the hurdles? If no, why not?

A: Open Source was not really a hard sell at FCC. I would say there were basically three things that went on that contributed to the use of open source there. First, FCC has a culture of disparate technology uses. So you ended up with an IT infrastructure that was highly blended from ColdFusion to Java to you-name-it and everything in-between. So when we proposed something new, our infrastructure team was like, sure we maintain all kinds of things so no problem.

Second was funding. The National Broadband Map was initially funded with American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funding. When we tried to look at out-year funding we had all kinds of constraints. So we switched out Oracle for PostGIS. We never intended to make a wholly tooth to tail open stack, we intended to use the best tool for the job, and it happened to be wholly open source.

Third there was support from leadership including Chairman Genachowski who was a significant figure in technology and had an interest in the idea that open source and in particular innovation in technology is a disruptive force, as well as the Chief Data Officer who had a big background in open source and helped along the way with inspiration, and the managing director VanRoekel.

Q: How will you top the National Broadband Map at the CFPB? Any “coming attractions” announcements?

A: You’ll have to stay tuned. What I do know is that the telecom and broadband landscape was very, very opaque. The National Broadband Map, and in particular http://www.fcc.gov/maps  opened up the opportunity to make that more transparent to many many people who never had the chance to know the underlying structure of advanced communications and how it affects them personally.

My hope is to use my skills and background to support the Bureau’s incredible mission and to leverage technology on projects like HMDA to support and advance the CFPB’s work and more informed consumers. If I have the opportunity to work towards that end, I will feel very fortunate.

Q: Do you think the current open/closed source balance — within and without the geo industry, and within and without government — will change significantly in the near future? Will open source continue to gain market share?

A: I think open source will continue to gain in market share. In particular I think we will see more robust models of how open source works. What I see going on is that we are entering a phase where the rapidity of change is increasing at such a rate that we will all need to continue to scale at increasingly exponential rate. Because of this rate, we will see a lot of new innovation.

What happens when we can write code in a super short time, because all the libraries we need are already lined up, but the same amount of time is consumed in our security review? Well, new advancements in open source will focus on problems like scaling security review to make authority to operate time to market faster (see gov ready). Or in data collections how do we flip things again to offer scale? One way is to look at distributed federated models à la git (see dat). I think we will see more and more company pricing models which support service models (e.g., pay for support) where the code is entirely open (Red Hat works this way).

Finally, I think we will see smaller and smaller software implementations that have bigger and bigger influences (take a look at D3). If we assume that the web is the platform, then the basic building blocks are CSS, JavaScript and HTML. In that construct, very small libraries or services can add tremendous value. I want to build systems that are working towards fewer and fewer moving parts (as in no database, no enterprise service bus, nothing other than data in JSON and some serving technology). This paradigm necessitates a lack of proprietary software (someone will figure out a way to manufacture something everyone needs), but in the meantime, I think keeping it simple will continue to foster open source gaining in market share.

Q: We define hipsters as people who think outside the box and often shun the mainstream (see visitor poll with 1106 responses). Since I launched GeoHipster, I learned that for many the term “hipster” has a derogatory connotation. For others it is meaningless. You wear Doc Martens every day and ride a fixie. You listen to punk rock and the Grateful Dead. Do people call you a hipster? Does it bother you if they do?

A: So I just want to make sure that the circle is complete here. First, Doc Martens have been part of my life. Second, fixie for me is a way of life. Third, I have seen the Grateful Dead 40 times. Finally, fourth, the best show I have ever seen is fIREHOSE at Slim’s in the early ’90s (and it wasn’t because I was flying the flannel while crowd-surfing over the pit, but they nailed a version of A Quick One, While He’s Away by The Who as an encore (FWIW, the night Les Claypool and the Flying Frog Brigade played Pink Floyd’s Animals in its entirety is a close second), but I digress.

It wouldn’t bother me if I’m referred to as a hipster, but I think we should be careful of labels. I think what we should do a lot of instead, is offer tons of affirmation. I think we should all strive for making sure we take the time to tell people when they have made cool things, and why its why its impactful. I think we should spend lots less time telling people why things are wrong, not working and how they have messed up.

Q: GeoHipster (and geohipsterism as a concept) is sometimes criticized for being exclusive and/or attempting to foster divisions within the industry. Or sometimes for being different for the sake of being different. Do you agree with those criticisms? Do you implement open source just to be different?

A: I think innovation requires being different, perpendicular to the mainstream. A smart friend always says, if you want the same results, keep doing what you are doing now. I definitely agree with that. I don’t choose a piece of software or a solution to be cool, I do it because it is the right tool for the job, or it provides me a positive return. I do think that being different for difference’s sake is perhaps not a great thing. I work in government, because in the end, I think that service to the public is super important. If we can implement functions and technologies to do that by being innovative, then that’s a tremendous outcome.

Q: I have yet to get on a fixie, even though I commute by bike every day, year-round. Am I missing out?

A: Not at all; I like my fixie because it works for me. You should try to see if it works for you. I love that you can hose it down, even with winter sludge. Your question caused me to write this blog post. I mean really it did. I don’t ride a fixie to be cool. I started riding one a long time ago. I recommend riding (whatever bike), because I love the freedom the bike gives.

In 1998 I took a bicycle frame building class at the UC Davis Experimental College where I actually welded the bike myself. I drew the plans for the frame dimensions with some Arc Macro Language and plotted on a large format plotter at work (I’ll find the code some day and post it). This was my second fixed gear, and to this day still ride it; one of my favorite all time bikes. I just want to be clear, that I have been riding fixies long before hipsters were zygotes and will ride it long after Portlandia goes off the air, but I only do this for me.

Q: Thank you very much for the interview. Is there anything else you would like to share with the GeoHipster readers?

A: Make things easier.

Adena Schutzberg: “What will change GIS education is interest in and support for competency-based learning”

Adena Schutzberg
Adena Schutzberg

Adena Schutzberg is Executive Editor of Directions Magazine and the Principal of ABS Consulting Group, Inc., a GIS consulting firm providing services to clients including GIS software, data, and imagery companies. She has a passion for education and has taught geography and GIS informally, in residence and on-line. She holds a BA in Chemistry from the University of Chicago and an MS in Geography from Pennsylvania State University.

Adena was interviewed for GeoHipster by Atanas Entchev.

Q: You have been writing about GIS for a long time. Do you consider yourself a journalist first and a GIS professional second, or vice versa?

A: I’m most definitely a GIS person who writes about the topic. I’ve never studied journalism formally. If you saw the comments from my college and grad school professors about my writing, you would wonder how I got here!

I learned to write on the job from some great editors at Esri, TenLinks, Professional Surveyor and Directions Magazine. What they say is true: if you write about things you really care about, you write far better.

Q: We first met 20 years ago when you gave an ArcCAD presentation at Esri-Danvers. You chided the preceding presenter — a salesperson — for apparently spending too much time on learning PowerPoint and not enough time to learn ArcCAD. Have things changed? Is form and the wow factor still considered more important in GIS sales presentations than substance and function?

A: Wow, I don’t remember that comment, but it sure sounds like something I’d say! Back when we rolled out ArcCAD, both AutoCAD and PC ArcInfo users were anxious to see how it worked and what it looked like. I think my point was to address what people wanted to know, vs. what we (as sales and marketing people) thought they should know.

The big change today is that users and potential users are more savvy about geospatial products and services. The technical, and even some management staff want to get their hands on them and see how the products work.

I like to think the majority of dull sales presentations and demos are behind us! Except for the most complex or customized solutions, today’s sales cycle is much more likely to involve a free evaluation of some kind. I think we are over the hump of “wow” stuff; that reflects the relative maturity of both GIS software and the user and potential user community.

Q: I loved ArcCAD. It was a great product, and it had dedicated following. Apparently not enough to keep it alive, though. But this begs a bigger question: Do users want GIS and CAD to work together? Or GIS and data visualization, or GIS and geodesign, or GIS and BIM. Over the years I have seen many attempts to marry GIS to some other discipline and field, but the marriage never happens, or ends up in divorce. Why do you think that is?

A: My sense after following CAD/GIS integration for many years is that many people thought they wanted tight integration. At the end of the day, the horizontal offerings never really yielded the promised synergy. That’s why products like GeoSQL, ArcCAD, AutoCAD Map, MGE, MicroStation Geographics and others never really made it big.

The integrated CAD/GIS products that bring in some money for their developers today are vertical solutions for electric, gas, pipeline and other areas.

I’m reminded of a marketing story where a focus group of teens were asked about and shown a new MP3 player. When queried if they thought they’d buy the pink one or the black one, almost everyone in attendance said they wanted a pink one. On the way out of the meeting, the organizers as a thank you asked attendees to take home a device from a pile of pink and black ones. They all (boys and girls) selected the black players.

Q: You work three jobs: Executive Editor at Directions Magazine, President of your own company ABS Consulting Group, and Senior Lecturer at Penn State University. Tell us what you do at each.

A: At this point I’m really doing just the first two. I left Penn State a few years back. I was teaching in the online Masters in GIS program. Now I serve on the advisory board for the degree.

My work at Directions is mostly writing All Points Blog, putting together articles, and covering conferences. My favorite part of the job is covering GIS education, a relatively new beat for the magazine.

My consulting firm in recent years has taken on short term projects addressing the state of the industry and evaluating potential products for the market.

Q: Do you think Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are the future of education? Or of training? Do you think a MOOC will replace the Esri Authorized Teaching Program or other such vendor-specific programs?

A: I think MOOCs are part of the future of education. At this point it’s still the the wild west with MOOCs. Providers and students are still figuring out what they are for, how to teach and learn within the unique environment, and how to ensure a return on investment.

Esri’s Authorized Training Program is already being phased out. I think changes in student demand and corporate expectations related to timing, flexibility and cost caused its demise. I don’t think vendor-specific programs will go away; there’s a lot of money to be made in them! Vendor-penned and -taught courses and vendor certifications seem to carry extra weight with students and employers, whether they deserve it or not.

What will change education, in GIS and elsewhere, is interest in and support for competency-based learning. At the Esri Education GIS Conference Douglas Miskowiak of the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point introduced what will likely be the first competency-based certificate in GIS.

Q: We define hipsters as people who think outside the box and often shun the mainstream (see visitor poll with 1106 responses). Since I launched GeoHipster, I learned that for many the term “hipster” has a derogatory connotation. Do you consider yourself a hipster? Do you think “hipster” is a pejorative term?

A: I don’t consider myself a hipster. I think the most important thing for those who do think outside the box is to do so not to shun the mainstream per se, but to follow one’s own path. If that makes me a hipster, so be it!

Q: You run ultramarathons, and play clarinet in a local band. Definitely not mainstream. Between your three jobs and these two activities, where do you find the time?

A: To me these activities are mainstream; they are what me and my friends do! I’ve been playing the clarinet since I was eight and running since I was 16.  As for finding the time… I’ve been doing them so long, and they are so important to me, I just fit them in.

That said, I do multitask, especially while running or driving. I’m always listening to tech and education podcasts to provide context for my work at Directions or listening to my band’s “practice CDs” to master those 5/8 and 7/8 tempos in our repertoire.

Q: Any future plans you would like to share? More teaching? More running? More writing? More of everything?

A: I would like to be more involved in teaching. We have to get beyond the classic GIS education involving watching a lecture, then doing a lab following cookbook-style instructions. Educators need to explore new ways to engage students whether face-to-face or online.

Q: Thank you very much for the interview. Is there anything else you would like to share with the GeoHipster readers?

A: I want to thank you for inviting me to participate; it was fun.