Monthly Archives: December 2018

Michael Gurley: “When I ‘discovered’ the geopackage, I was an immediate convert”

Michael Gurley
Michael Gurley
Michael came to the Geo-field accidentally, burned brightly across the early GIS skies, relished being a small fish in a small pond, fought hard to keep the mystic arts secret from the unwashed masses, was an unapologetic ESRIalite, and then experienced a conversion to the “GIS is just a tool” doctrine, and now looks at any single-solution disciple with disdain...or at least a heavy dose of skepticism.

Michael’s only dedicated online presence is an embarrassingly sporadic blog...about climbing, and other pedestrian adventures.

https://mikestracks.wordpress.com/

Michael was interviewed for GeoHipster by Atanas Entchev.

Q: How did you get into GIS?

A: Completely by mistake. Two years of pursuing Civil Engineering was abandoned, in a fit of frustration…while suffering through Differential Equations with Linear Algebra (DiffEQ for short), for the more “squishy” liberal arts degree in Geography. It appealed to my love of history, culture, and…of course, maps. I figured I would end up teaching. But, in my senior year at University of New Hampshire, I joined my housemates (all geography/geology students) in an on-campus work-study opportunity. We were all using workstation (I believe it was 5.0) ArcInfo to digitize South American deforestation. I blame two years of squinting at black and white LandSAT photos through a digitizing puck crosshair for my currently degraded eyesight.

Q: You and I worked together over 20 years ago. Do you miss GIS in the 1990s? ArcView, shapefiles, coverages…

A: 20 years ago? Those were good times. Yes…and no. I don’t necessarily miss the technology. I actually loathed ArcView when it first appeared on the scene. And…ArcCAD? PC ArcInfo? Ugh! What I do miss was the “newness” of the field at that time. We were kinda rockstars….at least in our own nerdy minds.

Q: Do you miss New Jersey?

A: Again…yes and no. I don’t miss the Garden State as much as I miss friends and family that still reside there. When I moved to Oregon in 2011, my new boss nicknamed me “Jersey.” After a while, I stopped fighting it, and just embraced the moniker.

Q: Your name is on the 1999 Digital Parcel Mapping Handbook published by URISA and the NJ State Mapping Advisory Committee. Are you still involved with digital parcel mapping? Has the methodology changed in the last 20 years?

A: That thing is still around?!?!? Maybe that’s a sign that parcel mapping HASN’T changed as much as I would have thought. I’m not involved in parcel mapping anymore. I did work for a while at Oregon Department of Revenue, in their Property Tax Mapping section. Similar work, but a lot more concerned with utilizing property survey source data to construct the tax parcels. I would hazard a guess that the basic premise is still the same, just a lot more snazzy tools available to the practitioner.

Q: Tell us about your current job. What do you do at work?

A: Five months ago I accepted a position with Oregon Department of Transportation. For the first time in over 20 years, I am doing something that is not directly connected to GIS. I am a “hybrid” Project Manager and System Analyst with Transportation Application Development (TAD). Our particular team supports the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) business within ODOT. It was a huge leap for me to leave my GIS comfort zone, but I believe it was time for me to grow, expand, and be challenged.

Q: I know you use QGIS. Exclusively or not? What other tools do you use on a daily basis?

A: Now that I don’t have access to ArcGIS at work…yes, I’m striving to learn the ins-and-outs of QGIS. It’s purely for personal use. I have a pretty extensive collection of local hiking trail data that I’ve collected with GPS, and am undertaking to port that data from the personal geodatabase that it’s stored in to something more useable with QGIS.

Q: How does QGIS fit in within the mission of your organization?

A: Within ODOT? It doesn’t. ODOT’s GIS shop falls squarely in the Esri camp.

Q: Where do you stand in the data formats wars? Team Shapefile or Team Geopackage?

A: I always disliked shapefiles. They never felt “stable” or precise enough for my tastes. My desire for data integrity was more satisfied by the geodatabase…ESPECIALLY when it came to enforcing topology rules. As a QGIS novice, I felt like I was having to take a step back, and settle for shapefiles. So, when I “discovered” the geopackage option, I was an immediate convert. Time will tell if I actually chose the “BetaMax” (or not) of GIS data formats.

Q: You commute on an antique store bike. This is super hip. Geared or fixie? Tell us all about that.

A: I would dispute the antique label. My current bike (a 1996 Univega Rover 304) is neither “belonging to ancient times” nor is it “of high value because of its considerable age.” I picked it up for $35. Because of its LACK of monetary value, I am much less fearful of it getting stolen and I’m much less hesitant to experiment with performing repairs on it myself. It’s geared. I’ll tell you a secret, but you have to promise not to tell anyone. I don’t even KNOW what a fixie is. Single speed? That doesn’t make sense to me. Maybe I should look into it someday.

Q: Do you have any other hipster attributes we should know about?

A: Portland is where all the hipsters reside. I don’t have the time to compete with that scene. Salem has some occasional glimmers of hipster, but my theory is that Salemites maintain a perverse sense of pride in not buying into the pressure of competing with the Portland scene. Salem’s response to “Keep Portland Weird” is “Keep Salem Lame”. Not to get overly philosophical about it, but I think if you are TRYING to be a hipster…you’re doomed to failure. Reminds me of the late 80s when a lot of my brother’s friends thought “being punk” consisted solely of spiking their hair and wearing a lot of studded leather. Hipster or punk. It’s an individual state of mind, not a fashion statement. Here ends the lesson.

Q: What do you do for fun?

A: 2009 through 2012 was a particularly turbulent time in my life. Moving cross-country away from friends, family (especially my kids) was the hardest decision I ever had to make. The only thing that kept me sane and grounded was getting out into the wilderness to hike, backpack…and eventually climb. Check out my sporadic personal blog for an essay regarding “Why I Climb” (https://mikestracks.wordpress.com/2013/11/26/why-i-climb/) if you are so inclined (no pun intended). Coincidentally, the essay had its genesis in an innocent comment by this blog’s very own founder (thanks AE). My life has much less personal drama now, but the love of the outdoors remains. It is still a healing and rejuvenating activity for me. I’ve seen and done things that I previously thought weren’t possible for “normal people” like me. Besides this new-found adventurous side of me, I can totally “geek-out” with a group of friends playing tabletop board games or role-playing games. I have a lazy indulgent side also. On a warm, dry, summer Oregon day, nothing beats sitting on a winery’s veranda, overlooking the vineyards, sharing a bottle (or two) of local wine with someone special.

Q: On closing, any words of wisdom for our global readership?

A: “The place where you lose the trail is not necessarily the place where it ends.” –Tom Brown, Jr.

Maps and mappers of the 2018 calendar: Kate Keeley

Q: Tell us about yourself.

A: I always thought I was going to be a scientist and had a brief stint as researcher and field biologist. Then I decided I liked communicating science to the public more, and worked as an interpretive park ranger and zoo education specialist. And then I discovered GIS and the rest was history. With GIS, I found a tool that combined my technical side with my eye for design and an opportunity to communicate complex subjects in new and innovative ways.

A recent master’s graduate from the University of Michigan, I now work as a GIS consultant for an environmental consulting firm in Michigan and I couldn’t be happier. Say hi to @pokateo_ on Twitter (that’s po-kate-o like potato. Get it? I like potatoes)! Or mosey over to my website at https://kateberg.github.io/ to learn more about my journey.

Q: Tell us the story behind your map (what inspired you to make it, what did you learn while making it, or any other aspects of the map or its creation you would like people to know).

A: I stumbled across the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being reports and immediately thought of making a map using a scale of happy to sad faces (sort of inspired by recently reading John Nelson’s suggestion in his latest ArcGIS blog post to use Chernoff faces for symbology). A quick Google search of PNG faces led me immediately to a bunch of cutouts of celebrity faces and I knew that’s what I wanted to use. I found faces with a variety of different emotions, from smiling to meh to frowning to crying and played around with a scale that made sense to me.

Q: Tell us about the tools, data, etc., you used to make the map.

A: I worked in ArcGIS Pro. I used my cubic tessellations I created for another project (also inspired by John Nelson. This time his Electo-Cubo-Grams) as the base (that was a whole other challenge; trying to fit all the states into a general US shape was quite difficult). With my base layers from that project, each state had its own point. Then, I uploaded the face PNGs as the point symbology for each state and went from there.

I was really excited by how it was shaping up, but I shared it with a couple of friends and they weren’t too keen on it. They said it [was] actually quite frightening:

(https://kateberg.github.io/img/Wellbeing/wellbeing1.png)

They said I should stop what I was doing and burn it with fire.

I was undeterred. Perhaps I was blind or a bit abstracted, but I still thought what I was doing was pretty cool.

I played with different ways to make the heads less creepy:

https://kateberg.github.io/img/Wellbeing/wellbeing2.png

https://kateberg.github.io/img/Wellbeing/wellbeing3.png

https://kateberg.github.io/img/Wellbeing/wellbeing4.png

https://kateberg.github.io/img/Wellbeing/wellbeing5.png

I noticed that the overall pattern of states’ well-being changed depending on the component (e.g. purpose, social, financial), so I wanted to find a way to include those patterns, without making the map look extra complicated (or creepy as it were). I found using the colored circles on the right to be a great way to provide a quick glance of the interesting patterns! Overall, I think the final result came out pretty neat and I’m very proud of it being selected for the GeoHipster Calendar!  You can read more at: https://kateberg.github.io/portfolio/wellbeing.html