Ann Johnson: “I’m never gonna be as cool as Eric Gundersen”

Ann Johnson
Ann Johnson

Ann Johnson is a technology industry veteran with close to 30 years of progressively responsible experience in all sectors of the industry. With a long career spanning many companies including Data General, EMC and RSA Security, Ms. Johnson has always enjoyed applying technology to solve real customer business problems and driving value to organizations. Ms. Johnson is a subject matter expert in network architecture, mobile security, fraud reduction, transaction fraud reduction, and online banking security, as well as maintaining competence in storage and systems infrastructure. She enjoys the process of building highly successful, highly performing organizations. Outside of work, Ms. Johnson is a strong advocate for animal welfare organizations, and is an avid historian. She is a graduate of Weber State University completing a dual major in Political Science and Communication with a minor in History.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to interview for GeoHipster. While most of our US readers are surely familiar with Boundless, many in our international audience (~50% of our readership) are probably not. For their benefit, please explain what Boundless is about.

A: Boundless is the preeminent open source geospatial information systems company. We have a full stack of open source tools — GeoServer, QGIS, PostGIS database, and OpenLayers 3. We do a lot of value-added enhancements around that open core, driving down customers’ project costs, and we have services that we help deploy, and make your project successful.

Q: Boundless is one of the community leaders for support of open source options. Where do you see the open source market heading?

A: This is a great time to be in open source. With the INSPIRE Regulations in Europe, with the US federal government promoting open source, and with our commercial customers looking not only for lower-cost alternatives but also for more openness in their code, they are looking for more community contribution. I think that open source is only going to grow. We are seeing more and more open source companies in all kinds of adjacent technology areas. If you think about what Red Hat did with Linux, what’s been done with Hadoop, there’s a lot of different areas where open source is becoming very, very prominent, and I don’t see that slowing down at all. As a matter of fact, I think it’s going to become more open, because customers are just really tired of not having the visibility and the access and the ability to contribute positively to closed-source type projects.

Q: Judging from your bio, it appears you had little exposure to geospatial prior to joining Boundless. What attracted you to geospatial? What are some of the unique challenges you’ve encountered since joining? Is spatial special? How hard is to run something like Boundless? Is it “business is business” at the end of the day?

A: I am a technologist at heart. In the 30 years of my professional career I have been in technology the entire time. I started out in software, did a lot of work with network infrastructure, did work in storage and then in security. I think all of these segments are special. I they are all unique. There’s different business drivers, there’s different reasons people participate and purchase in each segment, there’s different problems that need to be solved. For me learning spatial was something I wanted to do. When the opportunity came to me, it was a conscious decision to go out and learn a different technology. It was exciting to me to learn the market, to learn the technology. I have a degree in political science and a minor in history, so I have a passion and a love for history — history as it deals with cartography, how society is evolved, all kinds of mapping lends itself to that. If you think about the things that Chris Tucker is doing with his MapStory project, those are the types of things that are really, really interesting to me, just from a pure historical context, so it was natural for me to move into the space. Yes, I think it’s special, but I think it’s special like every segment of technology is special. It has its uniqueness, and I have developed a lot of passion for it over the nine months I have been at Boundless.

Q: A significant topic of discussion around geospatial events over the past year has been the staggering amount of turnover at Boundless. How do you answer those who question the health of Boundless? What do you see as drivers of such turnover? With such a significant core of project contributors gone, what differentiates Boundless from other companies that provide professional support to PostGIS, GeoServer, QGIS, and the other projects that you bundle into the OpenGeo Suite?

A: I am glad to be able to respond to this question. Boundless is not a new company. Boundless started under the OpenPlans Charity many years ago with Chris Holmes leading the ship. Two years ago it spun out to be a venture-funded company. When people make decisions about where their employment is, they look at the company they are joining at the time. In the past two years Boundless has undergone an awful lot of evolution, an awful lot of change. People made decisions about their career, that it wasn’t necessarily the company they joined. They joined the company for their reasons. But one thing that no one is discussing about Boundless is the amount of talent we’ve recruited in. We have attracted and recruited a lot of talent, because of business, we are actually growing from both a people standpoint, also from a revenue standpoint, so Boundless is a really healthy organization. We have refocused to make sure we stay really true to that open source core. I am very data-driven, and I look at GitHub, and I make sure that we have the top two or three committers in every project that we are working on are employees at Boundless. I think it’s really important. We also have a gentlemen in the organization, Jody Garnett, who is chartered as our community liaison. So Jody is on the GeoServer steering committee, and I have made him the community liaison. His job is making sure we are meeting all of our requirements in our participation within the community. The other is developing talent, and making sure they become valid community contributors. I am bringing in young new talent, or talent from other parts of the industry, folks who really want to learn geo, and make them part of the community, and I think that just makes the community better. So, yes, there have been some high profile exits, some really talented people have gone on to other things. But we’ve also brought in some really high quality talent, and I think that’s the piece that gets overlooked.

Q: Feature-level versioning of geospatial data remains a largely unsolved problem. In the federal government, records retention rules make it a vital issue. With the shuttering of Versio, how is Boundless planning to address this need?

A: Version control is really important. If you look at the announcement that CCRi made yesterday with GeoMesa on top of Google Cloud, I think data is hugely important, and big data is becoming a big problem in spatial. Versio itself was a bit architecturally challenged — candidly, the product was. It wasn’t the right solution to the problem. But the problem does need to be solved. I’m a technologist at heart, I think the problem has to be solved in a much different way, with a big data backend, something that can actually do the analysis, something that has the power, and Versio, while there were a lot of really talented developers and talented architects on the project, I think it started off as a great idea, and has evolved into something that wasn’t quite the right solution. But absolutely the problem needs to be solved, and we are looking at ways, at things we can do with GeoNode, with Hadoop, I don’t have the answer today, but we know it’s a real problem that needs to be solved. Versio just wasn’t quite the right solution for it.

Q: What are your thoughts on dat?

A: My comment on open source as a whole is that the only successful open source companies have been really successful because they partnered. So we’ll look for a partner strategy there, and to the extent that you have an open standard API that can convert data formats, it’ll lend itself to that partnership. As an open source company we have to be very open, and dat will allow us to do that. As long as the API is robust enough, and really does allow cross-data formatting, I think it’s a very worthwhile project, and we will participate.

Q: OpenLayers is clearly Boundless’s preferred solution for web mapping, and it has been a solid open source solution for years. How does Boundless view the rapid adoption of Leaflet as a lighter-weight alternative? Is it a threat to your business model, or just another component of potential hybrid solutions?

A: They coexist. Mapbox solves a different problem than we solve — a “many” problem, whereas Boundless, like Esri, solves “deeper-but-not-as-many”. I don’t think it’s one versus the other. I think they solve different use cases, and people will use them differently. I also think we need to do a better job promoting OpenLayers. One thing I think Leaflet has is better marketing, candidly. It solves a different problem, but they’ve definitely done a better job promoting it, and we need to do a better job with the community promoting OpenLayers.

Q: You tweeted about upcoming exciting news — HERE partnership, etc. Can you share more details?

A: I’ll foreshadow a few announcements we’re going to be making over the next couple of months. The first thing is we have signed up a partnership with Nokia HERE. We can talk about it openly, we are working with Nokia on a press release. As a big organization that requires a lot of layers of approval, but you’ll see that. It was important to us that we had a data strategy that we can augment our customers’ data, or augment open data, so Nokia is our first step there. You’ll see more data partnerships coming. You’ll see an announcement coming soon about our AWS and our Azure offerings. We are really making a concerted effort to move toward a cloud delivery platform, because our customers are asking us to. We are doing a lot of work with LiDAR, you’ll see in short order a blog post around the work we are doing on open LiDAR standards, and why it’s important to keep those standards open. And the final thing is we are recommitting to QGIS. Even though I think the future is web and mobile, there’s still a lot of things you need to do on the desktop, and we are really recommitting and making sure we have a supportable QGIS platform, particularly for the US federal government. All those things are queued up to come up in the next four to six week, as well as our 4.6 release of the OpenGeo suite.

Q: You’re a geolady. Last year you became CEO of a major geocompany. What advice do you have for other women in the geocommunity?

A: I’ve been in technology forever, and women are seriously underrepresented everywhere. The best advice I can give to women is ignore the fact that you are a woman. I hate to say it, but you need to focus on what’s important. Focus on your skills, focus on what you bring to the table, and put aside anything that is what I call noise to the system. It’s tough. It’s tough to be in a room with 30 people, and you are the only one that looks like you look. But you just have to set that aside and realize what you are there for, what’s important. I also think it’s really important to become a subject matter expert. As you mentioned, I’m new to this. So I’ve done a lot of self-study, a lot of online tutorials, just to try to get myself up to speed. If you’re going to have credibility — whether you are a man or a woman — you need to have a basic knowledge of what the customers are using, and a basic knowledge of the technology, and I think some people overlook that, and it’s super important. And the other thing is don’t give up. Bias exists everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you are a woman, or a minority, or someone who is not a US citizen by birth, bias exists everywhere. You just have to ignore it and move past it and don’t ever give up.

Q: Do you consider yourself a geohipster? Why/why not?

A: I might be too old to consider myself a hipster, and I’m never gonna be as cool as Eric Gundersen, I can tell you that [laughs]. That said, I think this is a really nascent market, I think geo is just now emerging, there is so much we can do with it, and there is so much we can do to put it on the radar. I think it’s new, I think it’s fun, and I think we need to have some fun with it. There has to be fun with the industry, so yes, I do consider myself pretty hip with the industry, even if I am not as cool as Eric on any day of the week.

Q: Thank you for the interview. Do you have any parting words for our readers?

A: I’ll go back to something Paul Ramsey advocated and still advocates: Geo doesn’t need to be held by the GISP department in an organization. We need to make the tools easier to use so your average IT analyst or your average business analyst can use them, and that’s when we’ll become really relevant. We’ll need to make sure we mainstream geo while maintaining the specialness of it. We need to embrace the spatial IT concepts, and everything you see Boundless doing moving forward, with our application templates, some of our SDKs and APIs, is going to be toward doing that. And I encourage the industry to also work toward making the tools more usable. Because that’s the way we’ll become really relevant. Geo will become really relevant when the tools become much more useful for everyone to use within a business organization, and that’s the focus of Boundless, and I think that’s a really good focus for the industry, too.


	

Stephen Mather: “The best way to predict the future is to stake a claim in it and make it happen”

Stephen Mather
Stephen Mather

Stephen Mather has been working in GIS, planning, and related fields since 1998, working for the last 7 years as the GIS Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He has been interested in the application of computer vision to geospatial analyses since 2004, and has recently initiated the OpenDroneMap project — a project to bring together and extend a suite of open source computer vision software for use with UAS (drone) and street level images. He is also coauthor of the PostGIS Cookbook.

Stephen was interviewed for GeoHipster by Amy Smith at the recent FOSS4GNA conference in San Francisco, California.

Q: How have you been enjoying the conference so far?

A: It’s been consistently good! There were sometimes two or three sessions that I wanted to be in at a time, so I had to figure out if I could clone myself.

Q: Clone yourself?

A: Yeah, well it would make it so much easier (well, probably the easier thing is to watch the video afterwards).

Q: Let me know if you figure out the cloning thing.

A: Oh, I’ll share it. It’ll be on Github.

Q: Awesome. Have you been to this conference before?

A: I went to variants on FOSS4G in DC, Denver, Portland, and Seoul.

Q: Wow, what was Seoul like?

A: That was FOSS4G Korea. It was awesome. The hospitality was amazing, the conference was really interesting. It’s a beautiful city, and it was lots of fun.

Q: Do you speak Korean?

A: Not adequately, no. (*laughs*). Not at all.

Q: You presented at this year’s conference. How did it go?

A: It was really fun. It was similar to a presentation I gave at North Carolina GIS a couple of weeks ago. The slides were already there, but it never ends up being the same presentation. OpenDroneMap is what I presented on, which started off as a GeoHipster joke at first, but then started to become a thing! People are excited about it, and are trying it out with their drones.

Amy and Steve
Amy and Steve at FOSS4GNA 2015

Q: Who started the joke?

A: Well, there was the GeoHipster artisanal vertices, and at the time I was thinking about computer vision and drones and where all that’s going, and the absence of an open source project that addresses that. When I made my prediction about 2014, I said it would be all about the artisanal pixel. We’d go from these global satellite images to these handcrafted satellite images effectively. Then I starting thinking, actually, that’s not a bad idea. The best way to predict the future is to stake a claim in it and make it happen.

Q: I definitely want to pick your brain about that later on in the interview. But before we get there, I wanted to ask you how you got started in the geospatial world.

A: I came from the biology side of things. As an undergrad I actually took a lot of music classes, and a lot of biology classes. At the time, a lot of biologists weren’t really thinking spatially. Everything was about static statistics, which assumes some normality that doesn’t really exist. There were people starting to pull on that thread, but it was the minority. My interest in GIS and the geospatial was applying it to understanding biology and ecology better, and then I never really got out of that rabbit hole.

Q: But you haven’t really left music either. You make custom guitars.

A: Very, very slowly. I’ve been making them for 12 or 13 years. I’m on guitar #2.

Q: That’s a really cool hobby.

A: It’s one of those things that seems like it should be harder than it really is. A lot of people think, “Oh, I couldn’t do that”, but actually it’s not that hard of a hobby, and for a woodworking hobby, it doesn’t require many tools. If you want to become a furniture maker, you need to invest a lot in tools just to start. The total cost for guitar-making is much smaller with a minimum viable set of tools, which is kind of cool. In that way, it’s kind of like open source. The barrier to entry for open source is just a laptop, which you may already have.

Q:  Totally. Let’s go back to drones for a minute. For those who might not be familiar with it, what is OpenDroneMap?

A: OpenDroneMap is an open source project for taking unreferenced images and turning them into geographic data. Maybe you have a balloon, kite, or drone, and you’ve taken some overlapping photos of an area, and you want to turn that into an orthophoto as a TIFF or PNG or a point cloud. It’s basically an extension of the photogrammetric techniques. Back in the day, you’d fly with a nice camera that was well parameterized so that you could correct for all of the optical distortion. You’d have a plane that was flying a known route with inertial navigation and GPS to help you know exactly where the plane is at any given point in time, and then you construct three-dimensional data from that, with contours and orthophotos. If you extend that concept, and instead of having two overlaps with lots of knowledge about your position, you have three overlaps, then you can write an equation that back-calculates where all of your camera positions are. In the process of doing that, you generate a point cloud of all of the features that match, which is something that you can derive other products from. You could create a mesh from that point cloud, then paint those photos back onto the mesh. Now you’ve got the geospatial information you need, and it can be turned into an orthophoto. When I first proposed the project, I thought, well we could license something like this, or we could start an open source project. I had a hunch there was enough existing computer vision code out there to get it 50, 60, or even 70% of the way there, just with the existing code. Fortunately my hunch was right. This leverages years of computer vision stuff done by people all over the world.

Q: It sounds like it was worthwhile to see what other people were doing, and build off of it.

A: Yeah, the stuff that people had been doing was absolutely brilliant, and allowed me to move whole hog and jump into the parts I was interested in.

Q: When I was in college I took some courses in remote sensing and did work with Synthetic Aperture Radar. I’m a little familiar with working with imagery. I’m guessing that working with imagery from drones is pretty different from working with aerial and satellite imagery. What are some of the differences you noticed in working with drone imagery versus something from an airplane or satellite?

A: A plane or a satellite gives you a nice synoptic view. There’s a usefulness, not in the specificity, but in the synopsis. If you think of the world as you view it from the ground, you can observe and make sense of the world; it’s what we’re most familiar with. There’s a wide gap between what’s happening in the plane or the satellite and the first-person view. Drones, balloons and kites fill that gap. Drones fill it particularly well because they can fill large areas. That’s what brought me into working with them altogether.

Q: Speaking of working, you work for the government. Could you tell us more about that?

A: I work for Cleveland Metroparks. We manage about 23,000 acres, which includes forests, wetlands, open areas for people to picnic, a zoo, lakefront parks, and really a whole range of interesting cultural and natural resources. We provide access for passive uses such as picnicking and hiking, and active uses such as events that draw people into those spaces. It’s a really cool park system with a lot of energy and a great history, as well as an amazing staff and a good vision for where we are now and where we’re going.

Q: How long have you worked there?

A: Seven years.

Q: I did some LinkedIn stalking, and I saw that you are a manager there. I’m sure that GIS manager can mean lots of different things depending on whether you’re with the government, a private company, or what industry you’re in. What are the things you think are common descriptors of GIS managers?

A: I’m relatively hands on. I’ll hack a code, I’ll work on data when I get the opportunity, but I also make sure to give a lot of freedom to the people that work with me, because they’re brilliant, and I don’t have to worry much.

Q: You sound like a great manager!

A: I’ve got great employees! There’s coordination and advocating for resources, ensuring that my employees have what they need. There’s also the aspect of ensuring that folks within the organization, as well as outside of the organization, understand what we do, so that they can value and take advantage of it. In addition to giving the degrees of freedom that people need in order to grow, we make sure they have educational opportunities and that they have challenges. There’s a lot of autonomy, which again links back to the open source community, where there’s a lot of autonomy.

Q: You’ve written a book on PostGIS. Can you tell us about the book and how it came about?

A: A couple years ago a publishing company discovered my blog and asked if I’d write an outline on PostGIS. I wrote them the outline, and they said “This is great, when can you start?” And I said, “I can’t, my daughter’s due in a few months, and there’s no way I can write a book.” They said, “Well, you could get a co-author”, and I said, “I can’t even write half a book!” Their response was “Well, you could do 60/40!”, and I said “Alright, but you’ve got to find the co-author”. They found Paolo Corti, who’s an excellent writer and knows his PostGIS stuff, and also knows the middleware level of that, and how to get it out to the web. That adds a nice element. Paolo and I started on that and we realized between the two of us, we weren’t going to get it all done. We found Bborie at the Boston code sprint, and Tom works with me and wrote a chapter. [Interviewer note: Bborie, Tom, and Paolo co-authored the book with Stephen.]

Q: Thanks so much! It’s been a lot of fun talking with you. I have one last question for you. Do you consider yourself a geohipster?

A: I’m a geohipster, absolutely! I’m the guy who predicted artisanal pixels. I don’t ride a fixie, but I do ride an e-bike. When I’m in sound health, I bicycle from 2-3 days a week, so I think I qualify.

Q: I think so, too.

Mano Marks: “The map is just a piece of what’s going on”

Mano Marks
Mano Marks

Mano Marks is a Staff Developer Advocate on the Google Developer Platform team. He works to help developers implement Google’s APIs in their applications. He has a Masters in History, and another in Information Management and Systems. His career has taken him from database management at non-profits, to keynote addresses at Google Developer Days around the world. Mano has been with Google for 8.5 years, and was the founding member of the Maps Developer Relations team, working back then with KML and then the Maps API. Now he works across the Google Developer Platform. You can find him on Google+, Twitter, and Github.

Interviewer’s note: In 2013 CalGIS had the privilege of getting Mano Marks (@ManoMarks) to speak at our conference. Since then, I’ve found out how much more of a geohipster he was than I realized at the time. Thanks, Mano, for spending some time answering questions for the GeoHipster readers!

Mano was interviewed for GeoHipster by Christina Boggs.

Q: You have degrees in history as well as in information management and systems. How did you get into the geospatial universe?

A: Of course I’ve always loved maps. Who doesn’t? When I was a kid, I had a subscription to National Geographic, and I pored over the maps trying to understand them. I was really into games, role playing games and board war games, which were really map-related. Match that with my Masters in History, where I focused on Eastern Europe, where the map was constantly changing, and I was set up to try to crave knowledge of the world from a spatial point of view. I just never considered it from a career point of view.

I got my Masters from the School of Information at UC Berkeley in 2006. At the time, XML was the major data interchange format and I spent a lot of time understanding the XML universe and document construction. So when I started at Google on what became the Developer Relations Team, they had me work on KML. So I backed into it, but as soon I was there, I started learning everything I could.

Q: One of the neat things about the geohipster community is how diverse we are. You’ve been with Google for more than eight years now, what do you do with them?

A: I work on the developer relations team, helping developers learn how to use Google’s developer platform in their applications. This resulted in spending a lot of time on the road for a few years, talking to tens of thousands of developers around the world. One trip in 2011, I literally flew around the world over the course of a month, from San Francisco to China to Australia, Tel Aviv, several stops in Europe, and then home to San Francisco.

Recently, I’ve worked more internally, helping out other members of the team and working on code samples. I helped out on this project, which shows developers how to create sites using JSON-LD, Web Components, and Schema.org markup. Of course there’s a strong mapping component to it.

Q: In times past you have functioned as a liaison between developers and geofolk. If you could give advice on how these two groups could better interact together, what would you say?

A: Honestly, I’d say to geofolk it’s time to learn how to code. There will always be a place for people who are GIS specialists. And, more and more GIS-only folks are getting left behind by focusing on just using complex applications to create a map that is divorced from everything around it. The map is important — it’s a star in whatever platform you’re using. But it’s just a piece of what’s going on. Location, identity, interaction, and more are where people are spending their time. The vast majority of developers using maps don’t want to know how the maps technology works, they want to know that it’ll be stable, and provide their users with what they need.

Q: Google Maps just turned 10! I was just reading an article from Directions Magazine where Diana S. Sinton said:

“Over the last decade, what Google has done to build up the public understanding and awareness of maps and mapping, particularly through the web, has been priceless for GIS. They made the inaccessible accessible, and produced a common point of reference to be able to communicate about GIS. “It’s a little like Google Earth” may be one of the most effective GIS conversation starters ever. Whatever may happen to that technology in the future, it will have left an indelible cultural impact.”

She’s right, it was a change in our culture. What do you think is going to be the next thing imprinted on our culture? Any upcoming developments that you’d like to leak on GeoHipster first?

A: Ha ha, yeah…unfortunately I can’t leak anything. And I can say that the core technologies that our platforms are built on are evolving at a rapid pace. We carry around these super computers in our pockets. I’m using a Nexus 6 right now, which is akin to having a small laptop in your pocket, both in power and size. People have talked for years about “location-based apps” but that time has come.

And what’s amazing to me is how much people just expect it. It’s a little like the early days of Google Earth, when people would say to me “My Google Earth is broken. I left my car in the driveway but it doesn’t show up when I zoom in on my house.” People now get confused when there’s a new business that hasn’t shown up yet in their app. I think we’re going to see a lot more of, well, I wouldn’t say “real-time” data in maps, but more up-to-date data.

Q: You put Mountain View on the GeoHipster map. I think of Mountain View for Shoreline Amphitheatre but I drive by Google every time I’m going into the parking lot there. Silicon Valley has been the driver for tech and geo trends and now I might even extend the sphere to the entire Bay Area (San Francisco Bay Area). Do you think your region is going to continue to drive tech and geo trends into the future?

A: I absolutely think that it’ll be a big driver of world tech. Fortunately for Google there are smart people who like to work everywhere. I just spent a year in the Zurich office and loved it. I think you’ll increasingly see developers in countries like Mexico, Brazil, Kenya, and other countries contributing to driving tech.

Q: Speaking of trends and developments … HTML5, JavaScript, turf.js, dat, do you think these are the next game-changers, or are these passing fads? As folks make technology choices, how much do you think the sexy/cool/hip factor drives those choices?

A: Hmmm…I definitely think that there is a coolness/hipness factor to many new technologies. I don’t think that means they are not important or really good at what they do, but remember when XML was the big thing? Sure, it’s still used a lot, but it’s not growing dramatically. Or PHP? There’s a language whose time in the sun is gone. What I wonder about instead is what is the next HTML? That was the most important game changer, it made creating a presentation easy, super easy. KML did that for geospatial data, to an extent. I’ve seen a lot of people who were not developers create KML files and really get into it. But what’s the next thing that someone who doesn’t really understand programming can get into? What can they use to create something that communicates with millions? That’s the real game changer.

Q: I’ve seen you post cool pictures and photo spheres from your travels. Many of the most hip of the geohipsters have passion projects that they’re able to either incorporate into their work or they work on outside of work. What are you working on right now?

A: You know, the last thing I worked on was the semantic markup plus web components project. I wrote a small reference Node.js app to take arbitrary data from a MySQL database and return it as a JSON-LD feed in Schema.org markup. Yes, Node.js is very hipsterish right now :-). I think the question of transforming data to semantic markup in non-XML format is not well settled. There aren’t great libraries for it — in part because JS developers have so many frameworks already, I think they’re afraid of something complex and potentially slow. Especially if it smacks of XML.

That question interests me, but that specific project is wrapping up, at least on my end. So I’m not sure. I am really interested in photography, games, and old maps. One thing I wish someone would do is develop a really good way to OCR old maps to capture location data that we don’t have any more. I’m not sure that’s me, but if anyone has any ideas that would be great.

Q: Last question, while you’ve got the ear of the geohipster community — do you have anything you’d like to share?

A: Pity the poor developer. Remember that creating a new data format doesn’t solve all your problems. Chances are it just creates more.

Most geohipster types I know code, but if you don’t code, start. And spread the word.

Will Skora: “I scraped an electronic list of pantries and set up a website”

Will Skora
Will Skora

Will Skora (Twitter, blog) likes to make and read maps and do geospatial analysis to help others understand the world. During the day, he manages food pantries for a Cleveland non-profit; he’s a member of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team; co-organizes Cleveland’s Maptime chapter Open Geo Cleveland, and Cleveland’s Code For America Brigade, Open Cleveland.

Will was interviewed for GeoHipster by Atanas Entchev.

Q: On a scale of Clojure to Leaflet how hipster are you?

A:  I’ve used Esri products for about 10 minutes of my life.

Q: How (and why) did you get into GIS?

A: I was a recent college grad, still uncertain with my career direction, and looking for a map of Cleveland’s neighborhoods to hang on my bedroom wall. I couldn’t find one, so I decided to make my own. Growing up in Cleveland (the actual city, not a suburb), I’ve always been fascinated with cities. I never had taken any geography or GIS classes, so I wasn’t sure where to start. In my free time, I found OpenStreetMap, began editing my neighborhood, and used Osmarender to make my first map. Soon after, I found Tilemill, became addicted to editing OpenStreetMap and making web maps in Tilemill. I’ve participated remotely and in the field with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. I’ve fallen in love with maps, geography, and facilitating the use and creation of open data to help people understand things in ways they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.

Q: You work as food pantry manager in Cleveland, Ohio. Tell us about your job, and how GIS helps you and the food pantry clients.

A: I directly oversee a pantry and am a liaison at 3 others. I spend my time picking up and coordinating food purchases and donations, managing volunteers, answering policy questions and technical support from volunteers; anything that needs to be done so that the 400+ households who need food receive it with dignity. Unfortunately, geo (GIS) is only 5% of my job, although I would love to spend more time on it. I geocode to find out locations of our clients, I do some routing, and I work on the Marillac Hot Meal/Pantry Finder.

Q: I found out about your Marillac project (presumably named after Saint Louise de Marillac) from your blog. This is very unique. How did it start? Was it your initiative?

A: A couple times a week people call me as a pantry manager and ask where they can get food that day. Or clients will ask where else they could go to receive food when they are at the pantry. There was a paper list of locations sorted by zip code that pantries used to skim through and try to find places that would sound close to the client. This process was slow, not always efficient, paper lists would become outdated, and some clients don’t know their zip codes. There had to be a better way than this.

I scraped an electronic list of pantries and hot meals from the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, geocoded them, and using bootleaf, set up a website. Now you can just put in a person’s address, the map will zoom in to the person’s location, and help the user visually see the closest places for clients.

I worked on it quietly on my own initiative until I had a working prototype to show its value. The reaction from my volunteers was mostly positive. They have a wide range of technical literacy and comfortability, so there’s a few who continue to use the paper list. The Food Bank, they’re excited about it. It’s an upgrade from the paper list for them, and they’ll eventually integrate it into their website for other pantries to use. My boss was also impressed.

Q: Open source: Why?

A: I was likely sick of Windows and its lack of customization, and started using Mandrake in high school.

Coming from an outside background, the innovation that I saw happening in the geospatial/GIS communities was from companies and individuals that embraced open-source software (Mapbox and Leaflet; CartoDB) and crowd-sourced/liberally licensed geo data (OpenStreetMap). They enabled me to do things like the neighborhood map that I’m not sure I could have done with closed-source software and proprietary geo data.

Open-source gives people the ability (at least to those who can program) to customize software for their needs. I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I could not have accessed free (as in money) open-source tools when I first started. I would have likely given up (making that map) after a few weeks of trying to run a pirated ArcGIS in Wine. I contribute back by writing tutorials and documentation, some code examples, answering questions on IRC and stackexchange.

Q: Few know that you penned the @geohipster Twitter “bio”, and that you originally registered the account and later let us use it (THANK YOU!!!). You proudly identify yourself as a geohipster. Tell us what the term means to you.

A: A geohipster has a strong sense of curiosity. You’re always very open to trying new software, technologies, ideas, opportunities, and techniques to accomplish your work, and not being afraid to go outside of your comfort zone to do so. You love to learn. I’ve seen these qualities in a lot of fellow interviewees.

Q: Not until I got involved with GeoHipster did I realize (to my surprise) that the word “hipster” — a benign label in my mind — rubs many people the wrong way. Why do you think that is? Do you think Einstein was a hipster? Edison? Tesla?

A: People referred to as hipsters — whether rooted in myth, reality, or both — have been described as judgmental to those who have less dedication, curiosity, or the circumstances (access to resources, time, money) to learn as much about certain interests (particularly music and film) as they do. They also have the reputation of being snobbish to those who don’t already have that knowledge, and those who don’t become aware of something until it becomes widely adopted or increases in popularity.

I’m relieved and happy that the geo community doesn’t fit that stereotype: Maptime intentionally aims to be a very welcoming environment for learning about maps. In the past couple years open-source carto/gis/geospatial tools have become more accessible to users through improved documentation.

With my definition — curious, open to trying new things to accomplish their dreams — all three of them were hipsters.

Q: Any parting words for the GeoHipster readers?

A: I want to thank everyone in the community along the way who has helped me and others learn — through sharing their knowledge, writing tutorials and documentation, given encouragement, and being welcoming. I attended my first FOSS4G-NA recently. Although I was atypically timid there, I really enjoyed it.

Abdishakur Hassan: “The sound of hammer replaced the sound of bullets in Somalia”

Abdishakur Hassan
Abdishakur Hassan

Abdishakur Hassan is GIS Officer at UN-Habitat Somalia Programme in Mogadishu. He returned back to his home country to work and take part in rebuilding the nation. He is a survivor of Black Hawk Down as a child.

Interviewer’s note: I did not have a personal connection with Shakur prior to this interview. I noticed a new Twitter follower from Somalia a few months ago, as well as corresponding hits on my blog from Mogadishu. I decided I wanted to know more and contacted Shakur about doing an interview. I’m glad to have gotten to know him and learn more about his work on behalf of the homeland he so clearly loves.

Abdishakur was interviewed for GeoHipster by Bill Dollins.

Q: Would you mind sharing a little bit of information about your background, including your education, and any past professional experience?

A: I am from Somalia. I studied Geoinformation Science and Earth observation from ITC, Twente University in the Netherlands. My Geo experience spans over the last four years working with UN-Habitat Somalia Programme as GIS officer. On weekends, I am part time lecturer at Mogadishu University. Before joining UN-Habitat, I briefly worked with NGO consortium based in Mogadishu.

Q: What first attracted you to the geospatial field in general and GIS in particular?

A: I came across GIS while attending Makerere university in Uganda. Later on, scholarship from Erasmus Mundus to study Geoinformation was my stepping stone into the GIS world. It has not been smooth transition from undergraduate degree in Business administration to GIS and remote sensing graduate classes, but ever since, I am in love with GIS and what we can do with it.

Q: Please tell us a little bit about your current work.

A: Well, in general our work involves in Urban planning and Development. We strive in building a better urban future for cities in Somalia. Our GIS projects include Mapping Internal Displaced People (IDPs) camps, Site planning for relocation purposes, Public space mapping, and GIS database creation for property taxation.

Q: Somalia has faced many challenges in recent times. GeoHipster has interviewed others who are active in relief and development activities, but you may be the first we’ve interviewed who is doing so in his own homeland. Please describe what it is like to bring your skills home and apply them to such significant issues.

A: Yes, you are right, Somalia faces many challenges, but we often associate the word Somalia with a lot of negativity. Somalia is getting better each and every day. The economy is recovering and the security is getting better. Over the last four years, the sound of hammer replaced the sound of bullets as new constructions and rebuilding the bullet-ridden homes became widespread.

Thousands of Somali Diaspora have returned home to take part in rebuilding the country. Some have come back with investing millions in the country and creating employment opportunities. Others have returned to contribute to the country with their experience and education by serving the country as ministers, civil servants, educators, and other professional services needed in this country.

Unfortunately, GIS skills are very rare among both Somali diaspora and locals, and I am glad to at least  fill that void and spread the Geo skills.

Q: Please describe your typical work day. What tools and datasets do you use most often? What challenges do you face as a GIS practitioner where you are? What are some things that you currently lack that would make your work more effective?

A: A typical day for my job as GIS officer requires on-the-job training to municipal staff,  designing Geodatabases and data collection forms, spatial data collection and entry supervision, and managing the whole project from planning to monitoring. And of course staying up-to-date and learning new techniques in the GIS field. Python, Mapbox, QGIS and leaflet are my priority list in this year.

Currently we run ArcGIS Desktop concurrent licences on our server. As the number of licences available are limited, we also make use of QGIS at times in spatial data manipulation processes.

The adoption of GIS in Somalia is at its nascent stages. The UN and INGOs are in the driver’s seat to promote GIS and Remote sensing. UNFPA recently finished Population estimation exercises with the help of GIS. FAO SWALIM collects land and water information across the country. It is worth mentioning also how HOT OSM helped Somalia fight against the 2011 famine by mapping remote areas.

However, in East Africa Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda are applying GIS. It looks promising, especially with the recent increases in mobile usage. Ushahidi is a great example.

Q: What are your personal interests outside of your professional activities?

A: I am passionate of all soccer. I play soccer at my free time.

Q: What position do you prefer to play? What teams do you follow?

A: I prefer playing as midfielder. I am Liverpool fan and ‘You Will Never Walk Alone’ as Liverpool supporter.

Q: What would a first-time visitor to Mogadishu find most surprising? What would challenge their expectations or pre-conceived notions?

A: As Mogadishu has been dubbed as “The most dangerous place”, you might find it surprising that this part of the world is not that much different than your typical city. For Somalis, peaceful weekends in Liido Beach at the heart of Indian ocean and the afternoon stroll around the old parts of the city with its stunning architecture are part of their peaceful life. It might not be that far to open our borders for tourists, but meanwhile ordinary citizens of this city enjoy their lives fully.

Q: The standard GeoHipster interview question: What does the phrase mean to you and are you a geohipster?

A: It is a matter of defining geohipster. If we are talking about functions (mapping out the world, doing cool GIS Analysis and Visualization, following the new GIS trends) not the style, then I am in.

Sara Safavi: “At heart, that’s what we are: stubborn, persistent, get-this-done types”

Sara Safavi
Sara Safavi

Sara Safavi is a “software developer with a geohabit” in Austin, TX. She spent many years in the GIS trenches before eventually transitioning to full-time developer at Rackspace. She also moonlights as a geospatial consultant, specializing in clients looking for cost-effective, “real-world” solutions hybridizing open source technologies with existing platforms. Outside of work, Sara organizes two local community groups: Austin Open Source GIS & PyLadiesATX. She’s also frequently found teaching workshops — primarily Python and/or GIS-centric ones — and evangelizing all the open source geo-things.

Find her on twitter @sarasomewhere. She’ll also be at FOSS4G-NA this year — look for the crazy hair and say “hi!”.

Sara was interviewed for GeoHipster by Jonah Adkins (@jonahadkins).

Q: This quote from your “About” page almost perfectly describes most interviewed geohipsters:

“…interested in open data & open source software, and working near the intersection of programming & GIS is where I’m happiest…”

How did this passion for “open” evolve for you?

A: When I first got access to a computer, I was lucky enough to be told: “Do what you want on this machine, learn about it, play with it, and if you break it I’ll fix it.” That put me at ease and let me experiment. It also gave me a sense of control and ownership: computers for me were never some scary unknown that came with a vague sense of this-is-not-for-you. When I later got involved with open source communities, I found a similar combination of freedom and safety net that enabled independent learning. Those communities tended to be built around shared interests and goals, and everyone shared enthusiasm for the same things. Plus, I really loved that I actually got to talk to the people who were making things and get involved in finding solutions to shared problems. Eventually I started to help other people with some of the things I had learned — not in a really huge way, but it was still such an empowering experience that I really latched on to Linux and open source software.

A lot of my early experience with GIS was using proprietary software which had bugs and limitations which regular users couldn’t really do anything about, while outside of work I was using a lot of open source tools which were just so nice to use.  I realized that the proprietary tools everyone took for granted were often more of a hindrance than a help. Although open source tools may be harder to discover, proprietary tools tend not to be geared to extension or giving power to the user, so the end result is frequently reduced productivity with greatly limited flexibility. Add in the matter of open source software having, by definition, vastly broader accessibility, and it was really no longer a question for me.

Essentially I like the combination of the empowering support that you can find in the “open” communities with the flexibility and just plain utility of open source software. We share solutions and data because we’re all in this together. Likewise, a lot of the outside-of-work things I do now involve building communities that try to allow others to find the same kind of support, and feel enabled to learn new things.

Q: I met you last year at the Esri UC where you organized a great Open Source Lunch & Learn. You also organize Austin Open Source GIS and PyLadies ATX. How important is networking to professionals in tech fields?

A: When I hear the word “networking”, I think of that check-out-my-cool-business-card, let’s-make-5-minutes-of-awkward-conversation-then-maybe-never-speak-again thing we do at big conferences and business events. It’s probably a necessary function. As an industry we all basically agree that this kind of face time is what we use to build our professional networks. And something, something, jobs, right?

But what I try to make happen with the things I’m involved in, and the groups I organize, is something different. What I’m really, really passionate about is this idea of bringing enthusiasts together, creating comfortable and safe spaces for learning, and opportunities to grow collectively. That kind of networking is what really makes me happy: connecting people who want to learn something, try something out, toss around ideas — do something new. And because my experience and interests are so closely tied to both programming and GIS, most of what I do regarding community building is within the mutual orbit of those two worlds.

In PyLadiesATX, and also Austin Open Source GIS, I want so strongly to promote the idea that “tech”, and specifically that which exists within the scary bubble of “writing code”, is fundamentally accessible to every single interested person. Culturally, we’ve constructed a lot of barriers to engagement on this: where we’re coming from as individuals may vary, but too many of us carry this idea that programming is perpetually for someone other than ourselves. Especially in the geospatial community, we’ve spent so long constructing our narrative around this idea that we do GIS, they write code. Our community still clings to the idea that Spatial Is Special, but the reality is that lines between “us” and “them” are not nearly as distinct as we’d like to think. So bringing these two worlds — the coders and the geospatialists — closer together is something I’m always talking about. At PyTexas last year I did a talk on “GIS for Python People”… and at next month’s FOSS4G-NA I’m going to be giving the counterpart to that, “Python for GIS People”. I just won’t shut up about it! 🙂

So this is what I enjoy most. But what I’m always wanting to ask people is, what makes you excited? What are you so enthusiastic about that you can’t help but tell everyone about whenever you can? I promise you there is someone else with at least a tangentially related passion around here. Find your tribe! Find that group of people that can say “Wow, cool!” about the same things that make you say “Wow, cool!”. That’s where growth happens — and that’s where it’s most fun to be, too.

Oh, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the Open Source Lunch & Learn last year. One of the things I loved about that event was the fact that there, in the middle of the Esri UC, for one hour we weren’t just trading business cards and looking for the next job opportunity or new shiny thing to buy. Instead we were a tribe of folks excited about the same ideas, showing off cool things we’d built, sharing the same spirit of open — and that was awesome. That’s the kind of “networking” I’m interested in, and what I want to create more of.

Q: You are currently a developer at Rackspace. You’ve been a GIS admin, analyst, and a consultant. What’s been your favorite project thus far?

A: I’m the kind of person who can’t tell you my favorite movie, favorite book, or favorite food on any given day… so I’m going to cop out here and tell you about the kind of project I like best. Sorry. 🙂

I love working on projects that, big or small, simply make things better for a particular audience or user. That’s really, really unspecific, I know! But if the project I’m working on doesn’t have an end goal of getting a user to grin and say “Whoa, thanks!”, then frankly that project’s probably boring. One of my earliest Python+GIS projects was just a lot of geoprocessing glue-code that took what was once a multi-hour manual process and turned it into a streamlined 10-15 minute automatic job. That was awesome, because there were a small but happy handful of folks (myself included!) on the receiving end. And more recently, whenever I’m building a web map or app, that moment when the people I’m working for first see their data and ideas go “live” is always great.

Then again, I also love seeing the horrible, messy, Goldberg-machine travesties that should never see the light of day, but nonetheless exist because of whatever nonsensical constraints they were given. These things that absolutely solve a pain point and defy logic by just working within the artificial constructs that forced their creation, but just are… comically bad, because for example you’re not actually allowed to install any additional software on the system that will run this tool. I’m talking about nasty things like PowerShell-Python-SharePoint monstrosities that we don’t talk about in polite company. Those are awesome too, for different reasons.

Q: Looking at your talks page, and having been present at some before, you cover a wide range of technologies. What tips would you give for keeping up with many different tools at once? Is there an emerging tool you are excited about?

A: It’s funny, all I think is how there are so many technologies that I don’t know or use regularly! I think the subset of tools that I work with regularly (both dev-tools and geo-tools) are constrained to a specific domain: web-stuff, primarily, and all things related to getting maps, tools, and applications to a distributed audience. But outside of that, there’s plenty that I would love to learn more about, if I just had the time.

On emerging tools — the geospatial universe is so huge and diverse, that I know there is a ton happening right now that I’m not specifically aware of. We have so many sub-sections that are just completely hidden from view if you’re not directly involved in their area of focus. Pick a niche, and there is probably some awesome tool being developed right now by an anonymous GIS-something person who probably doesn’t even consider themselves a “developer”, but nonetheless knows exactly what they need to fix their domain-specific problem, and are just working to get this done now. And it’s most likely great, a perfect solution to an ongoing saddle burr. Raise your hand if this is you! You’re probably not the only one with a hand up. Because at heart, that’s what we are: stubborn, persistent, get-this-done types, who happen to share an insatiable curiosity about knowing how things connect — and we’re all just doing the best we can to answer the question of “where”, with whatever resources are at hand.

With that long-winded disclaimer said, here’s what’s on my radar today:

CartoDB. They’re not really ‘emerging’, but since this past Fall they’ve really started taking off (i.e., I can now mention them in non-geonerd conversation and still get nods of recognition). What I love about them is how easy they make it for non-mappers to become mappers, and for non-developers to make a web map. I’m all about sparking interest and lighting fires where once there were none! Someone recently asked me for help making a web map (because I’m that developer-person, and web maps are hard, right?) and it was so cool getting to show them how easy it was to take a spatial layer they’d created and near-instantly make it publicly available as a web map.

Another not-totally-new technology, but since they’re still deep in beta I think they count as “emerging”: GeoGig. Git for geospatial data. For those of you not familiar, this is about building “version control” around your spatial data: tracking historical changes to files over time. This is something that traditionally has only been used by programmers on their code, but absolutely should be something GIS professionals use on our data too. I can’t wait for this to be the new normal in our industry.

And everyone’s saying it, but TurfJS is going to be a game-changer. My opinion’s especially influenced by my past life as a gov/mil GIS-something, and how much of that time I spent fighting the non-local nature of certain web GIS tools (and the “you can’t install that!” nature of everything else). An open source client library like TurfJS is going to be absolutely huge for a lot of people.

Q: Cartographer to developer — your favorite map(s)?

A: Oh no, another “I can’t pick a favorite” answer!

Here’s a by-no-means-complete list of some of my favorites:

  • Basically all of the work done by Andrew Hill in conjunction with CartoDB. He makes some gorgeous maps on that platform (like the directional river flow map) and pretty much all of them remind me why I don’t try to be a cartographer.
  • The “Nobody Lives Here” map by Nik that took the internet by storm last year. Yet another of those “this is why I’m not a cartographer” maps, the idea is deceptively simple and the result is just so cool.
  • NOAA’s GOES imagery. As a weather geek who spent years living on the Gulf Coast (hurricane country), I’ve spent way too many hours engrossed in the NHC’s satellite loops. For that matter, I have a soft spot for hand-drawn hurricane tracking maps, of which I’ve made my share.
  • Basically any map example used in the fantastic “How To Lie With Maps”. There’s a chapter that walks through cartographic tactics used by Cold-War-era Soviet mappers, and it’s just incredibly interesting to read.

Q: You live in the hipster capital of the U.S. — Austin, Texas — and you’re in Geo. I think that technically makes you more geohipster than all of us. What does the term mean to you?

A: Oh good, at least I get to be some kind of hipster! I’m pretty sure I’m not whatever kind of hipster we’re the capital of here (or wait, does it make me a hipster to say that? Now I’m confused…).

I’m not really sure what “geohipster” means, but I guess part of the movement is that it can be open to individual interpretation. One thing I’ve noticed is that the people who claim the label are all pretty interesting folks, who tend to be the outside-the-box thinkers. There’s a bit of a spirit of nonconformity in the community that seems closely tied to learning, using, or building new things. Not just focusing on the next big thing (though we have that, too) but really talking about what might make the world better (whether it’s a tool to make someone’s job easier, or crowdsourcing maps to improve emergency response). Being willing to go against the flow and try something different is something I see in common among the geohipster crowd.

So, if being “that chick with the weird hair that talks a little smack about Esri and wants everyone to learn to code” makes me a geohipster, then it’s a badge I’ll proudly wear. Thanks!

Antonio Locandro: “QGIS opened a new different arena of GIS knowledge thirst”

Antonio Locandro
Antonio Locandro

Antonio Locandro is a civil engineer-turned-GIS specialist, working for an Air Navigation Service Provider for Central America, where he deals with airways, aeronautical cartography, and procedure design among other things. His previous experience includes working for Honduras Census Bureau (INE), selling a book called “Learn English While Sleeping”, and a grocery store.

Antonio was interviewed for GeoHipster by Randal Hale.

Q: As with so many other people, we met over Twitter. What do you do for a living, and how did you get into the geospatial field?

A: Funny thing is I hated Twitter. My wife @melidelocandro had one way before I did, and I thought it was a waste to time. Anyway, I currently work as GIS specialist in an Air Navigation Service Provider for Central America — similar to FAA — where I do GIS database for air navigation purposes with heavy emphasis in cartographic output, and occasionally do some procedure design (standardised landing and takeoff paths for aircraft). I got into geospatial because I needed to work to be able to finish my Civil Engineering degree. During lunch break on my selling books to learn English while sleeping job I saw an ad in the newspaper to work as digitiser for Honduras Census Bureau. (Yup, the book thing didn’t work, and probably was a scam.)

Así como ha pasado con tantas otras personas, nos conocimos por medio de tiwtter. ¿En que trabajas y como entraste en el campo geo espacial?

Lo mas curioso es que odiaba twitter, mi esposa @melidelocandro tuvo una cuenta mucho antes que yo y pensaba que era una perdida de tiempo. Actualmente trabajo como especialista GIS en un proveedor de Servicios de Navegación Aérea para Centroamérica, similar a la FAA donde hago bases de datos GIS para propósitos de navegación aérea con un énfasis fuerte en cartografiá y ocasionalmente realizo diseño de procedimientos (rutas de aterrizaje y despegue normalizadas). Entre en el campo geo espacial por que necesitaba trabajar para terminar mi carrera de Ingeniería Civil y vi un anuncio en el periódico para trabajar como digitalizador para el Instituto Nacional de Estadística de Honduras mientras almorzaba de mi trabajo para vender libros para aprender Ingles dormido (definitivamente lo del libro no funcionaba y probablemente era un timo)

Q: So you are providing GIS for airports in Central America? Or providing flight paths for airplanes between airports? Just wondering in case I ever decide to fly into Honduras.

A: The company for which I work manages Air Traffic Control over all Central America, a large chunk of the Pacific, and part of the Atlantic above 19,000 ft. — which normally means overflights, but also provides radar services and navigational aid equipments below that altitude. Under 19,000 ft. each of the Central American countries manage their own space. I should probably mention that my company is owned by the Central American countries and was established as a means to comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and cooperate at a regional level, being the first using that scheme that later has been adopted in other regions like Africa and Europe. If you think about it, this is very cost-effective and increases overall efficiency when you manage airspace as a single block instead of individual pieces.

I focus more on the flight paths between airports, but occasionally get to do specific airport-related things like obstacle analysis and heights restrictions. Recently, together with the IT department, we are deploying several internal solutions which leverage the data we already have for applications like Search and Rescue (SAR) and Electronic Charting Solution for our air traffic controllers. Until recently the whole focus of the GIS database was just to have better cartography in terms of consistency, data validations, etc., but from the past 6 months we are moving into a more enterprise-wide solution, and the benefits of the data are starting to be seen by other members of the organization.

If you ever decide to fly to Honduras, landing at Toncontin International Airport in Tegucigalpa will probably be once-in-a-lifetime experience. Using GPS technology you will almost certainly fly a final approach with arcs included with very reduced obstacle clearances enabled by the satellite navigation, and finally touch ground on a small landing strip in comparison with other international airports. Definitely an adrenaline rush.

¿Estas proveyendo GIS para los aeropuertos de Centro América? O ¿proveyendo rutas de vuelo para los aviones entre aeropuertos? Tengo curiosidad en caso que decida volar a Honduras algún día

La compañía para la cual trabajo maneja el centro de control sobre Centro América y gran parte del Pacifico y Atlántico por encima de 19000 pies lo cual normalmente son sobre vuelos pero también proveed servicios radar y ayudas de radio navegación por debajo de esa altitud. Debajo de 19000 ft cada país de Centroamérica maneja su propio espacio. Probablemente debería mencionar que mi compañía es propiedad de los países centroamericanos y fue establecida como una forma de cumplir con los estándares de la Organización de Aviación Civil Internacional (OACI) y cooperar a un nivel regional siendo el primero en usar ese esquema que luego ha sido adoptado en otras regiones como África y Europa, si lo piensas es un manera muy efectiva de reducir costos y mejorar la eficiencia cuando se maneja el espacio aéreo como un solo bloque en lugar de piezas individuales.

Me enfoco mas en las rutas de vuelo entre aeropuertos pero ocasionalmente hago algún trabajo especifico de aeropuertos como evaluación de obstáculos o restricciones de altura, recientemente en conjunto con el departamento de IT estamos desarrollando varias soluciones internas que usan los datos que disponemos para aplicaciones como búsqueda y salvamento (SAR) y  soluciones de cartografiá digital para nuestros controladores de transito aéreo. Hasta hace poco el énfasis de la base de datos GIS era para mejorar la cartografiá en términos de consistencia, validación de datos, etc pero en los últimos 6 meses nos hemos ido moviendo en una solución mas Empresarial y los beneficios de los datos están empezando a ser notados por otros miembros de la organización.

Si alguna vez decides volar a Honduras aterrizar en el aeropuerto Internacional de Toncontin en Tegucigalpa probablemente sera una experiencia única en la vida, usando tecnología GPS seguramente estarías volando la aproximación final en un arco incluyendo margenes de obstáculos reducidos permitidos por la navegación satelital y finalmente tocado el suelo en una pequeña franja de aterrizaje en comparación con otros aeropuertos internacionales. Definitivamente es un shot de adrenalina.

Q: How is the geospatial field in Central America? Is GIS as commonplace as it appears to be here in the United States?

A: I will try to answer from my perspective living and working in Honduras. No, its not remotely as common as in the US. GIS jobs are very few, and normally are in government agencies or International cooperation programs doing things like parcels for municipalities, transportation, census or urban development planning. Most GIS jobs are really just drafting positions where you will never ever do any kind of analysis — just digitize points, lines and polygons — and mainly to produce print or PDF maps for displays in reports. GIS topics are electives you can take at University until recently. Efforts are being made to teach more about it, but probably not any time soon. Heck, I didn’t take GIS electives when I studied since they didn’t exist. If you wanted to learn GIS, you would get a “non-official copy” of Arcview 3, install, and play with it. We tried open source back then, but honestly it wasn’t nearly as good as its now. On top of all that you have the issue with data. Data is easy to obtain in the USA, even in those horrible geo portals. If you ever need to do any GIS down here, you will probably need to start from scratch, and that makes things very expensive. You won’t see private GIS training courses announced often, and they usually don’t go beyond learning the basics. On the other hand, if you think about it, this means there are lots of opportunities — its just a matter of being able to disrupt the current state of things and grasp the niche. I would think this may be true across Central America, but may be wrong about it.

¿Como es el campo geo espacial en Centroamérica? ¿Son los GIS tan comunes como aparenta acá en Estados Unidos?

Tratare de dar respuesta desde mi perspectiva de vivir y trabajar en Honduras. No es ni remotamente tan común como en EUA, los trabajos en GIS son pocos y normalmente en agencias gubernamentales o programas de cooperación internacional haciendo cosas como ordenamiento territorial para municipalidades, transporte, censos o parcelas. La mayor parte de los trabajos GIS son realmente trabajos de digitalizador donde nunca realizaras ningún tipo de análisis solo digitalizar puntos, lineas y polígonos principalmente para producir mapas impresos o pdf para ser utilizados en reporte. Los tópicos en GIS se pueden tomar hasta hace poco en la Universidad, se están realizando esfuerzos para enseñar mas sobre el tema pero probablemente no sea en el futuro inmediato, yo ni siquiera tome electivas GIS cuando estudie en la universidad por que no existían. Si querías aprender GIS simplemente tomabas tu copia “no oficial” de Arcview 3 lo instalabas y jugabas con el. Probamos el código libre en aquel entonces pero honestamente no era ni remotamente tan bueno como es ahora. Encima de todo tiene el problema de los datos, los datos son fáciles de obtener en EUA incluso en esos geo portales horribles. Si alguna vez quieres hacer GIS por acá probablemente necesitarías empezar de cero y eso hace las cosas mucho mas caras. No miras muchos cursos GIS privados anunciados y usualmente no pasan de enseñar lo básico. Por otra parte si piensas acerca de ello hay un montón de oportunidades solo es cuestión de poder irrumpir el estado actual de las cosas y tomar el nicho. Creo que esto es verdad a lo largo de Centroamérica pero pueda que este equivocado sobre ello.

Q: You are on Twitter and the QGIS listserv quite a bit. Sometimes you’re using ArcGIS. Sometimes you’re using QGIS. One time, I believe you were editing PostGIS data with ArcGIS. I also see you talking to the developers of QGIS quite a bit. What piece of software works for you? All of it? Some of it?

A: I probably use ArcGIS (R) like 95% of the time for my current job, but I consider myself software-independent, and it’s just a matter of what I feel is the best tool to get the job done in the least amount of time. I sometimes bash Esri on Twitter when I am frustrated over something with their software, and probably that is the only place I can ever let steam blow. It’s not personal — I bash QGIS also from time to time. I got into heavily using QGIS probably around 2 or 3 years ago. I really wanted to get to understand more on GIS concepts, and I really don’t use pirated software. I don’t recall if back then Esri provided Home Edition, but that wouldn’t have made a difference since I had to purchase from local distributor making it more expensive. After fiddling with QGIS, I immediately started to compare it with the other software I used, and that’s how I got into the QGIS list — mainly reporting bugs and feature requests. Since I am no developer I couldn’t fix them myself. QGIS opened a new different arena of GIS knowledge thirst, since I started getting interested into things like Spatialite and PostGIS. That’s when I followed @richardburcher tutorial on installing PostGIS on Windows http://richardburcher.com/2012/09/24/windows-install-postgresql-postgis/. Twitter has been a tool I have used to get to know tools like Mapbox, CartoDB, Fulcrum, and others.

Once I started playing with QGIS+PostGIS at home, things started to permeate into work. I need from time to time to do certain analysis, and although we have the Advanced level [of ArcGIS] install, which lets you do some things, some others weren’t possible so I started doing them in QGIS. What I like about QGIS is really that they have very talented developers and users willing to go out of their way to answer questions. Nathan Woodrow (@madmanwoo) and Anita Graser (@underdarkgis) really take their time to be on social media answering the community along with others.

Last year IT had a request to make a demo for an internal development project. We decided on using the OpenGeo Suite stack because it had all the components we needed, and an easy install. We made some adjustments like using LeafletJS instead of OpenLayers, plus we required that it played nicely with current installed software investment. It was meant to be just a test-the-waters kind of setup while we could justify the investment and move to “Enterprise GIS”. We had I don’t know how many meetings and discussions until we realized what we had just works, and it actually works quite well. So our current stack is PostgreSQL+PostGIS, GeoServer, LeafletJS, QGIS and ArcGIS+GISquirrel to be able to edit PostGIS (will this be able natively ever?) since we already have the software and a few editing tasks we do are easier still there. Probably will be using Mapbox Studio this year, since we need to make a few basemap tiles, but let’s see. I am pushing myself into learning Python and JavaScript, because you know @cageyjames said so http://tinyletter.com/jamesfee/letters/spatialtau-v1-5-scripting.

Estas en twitter y en la lista de QGIS frecuentemente. Algunas veces usas ArcGIS, otras usas QGIS. Creo que una vez estabas editando datos en PostGIS utilizando ArcGIS. También veo que hablas con los desarrolladores de QGIS con frecuencia. ¿Que pieza de Software trabaja para ti? ¿Todo?¿Una parte?

Probablemente use ArcGIS ® como el 95% del tiempo en mi empleo actual pero me considero independiente del software y es simplemente una preferencia de que siento que sea la mejor herramienta para hacer el trabajo en la menor cantidad de tiempo. Algunas veces me quejo de ESRI en twitter cuando estoy frustrado con algo de su software y probablemente sea allí el único lugar donde puedo dejar un poco frustraciones salir, no es personal también me quejo de QGIS de vez en cuando. Hace como 2 o 3 años empece a ser un usuario mas frecuente de QGIS, realmente queria entender mas de los conceptos GIS y personalmente no uso software pirata. No recuerdo si en ese entonces ESRI ofrecía su edición para uso en casa pero no hubiera hecho alguna diferencia ya que tenia que adquirirlo usando mi distribuidor local haciéndolo mas caro. Después de jugar con QGIS inmediatamente empece a compararlo con los otros software que utilizaba, así fue como me involucre en la lista de correos de QGIS mas que todo reportando errores y solicitando mejoras dado que no soy desarrollador y no los puedo corregir yo mismo. QGIS abrió otra arena de sed de conocimiento GIS ya que me interese en cosas como Spatialite y Postgis, allí seguí el tutorial de @richardburcher para instalar postgis en Windows http://richardburcher.com/2012/09/24/windows-install-postgresql-postgis/. Twitter ha sido una herramienta que he utilizado para conocer mas de herramientas como Mapbox, CartoDB, Fulcrum y otros.

Una vez que comencé a jugar con QGIS+postgis en la casa las cosas empezaron a introducirse en el trabajo. De vez en cuando necesito realizar ciertos análisis y aunque cuento con el nivel Avanzado de licencia que permite realizar algún tipo de análisis otros no eran posibles así que comencé a hacerlos en QGIS. Lo que me gusta de QGIS es que realmente tienen desarrolladores talentosos que estan dispuestos a dar la milla extra para contestar preguntas, Nathan Woodrow (@madmanwoo) y Anita Graser (@underdarkgis) realmente dan parte de su tiempo en las redes sociales para contestar a la comunidad junto con otros.

El año pasado el departamento de IT tuvo una solicitud de realizar un demo para un proyecto de desarrollo interno, decidimos utilizar la suite de Opengeo por que tenia todos loc componentes que necesitábamos y era fácil de instalar, hicimos algunos ajustes como usar LeafletJS en vez de OpenLayers y necesitábamos que se portara bien con la inversión que ya habíamos realizado en software. Inicialmente estaba destinado solamente a ser un demo para probar las aguas y justificar las inversiones en un “GIS Empresarial”, tuvimos no se cuantas reuniones y discusiones hasta que nos dimos cuenta que lo que teníamos funcionaba y la verdad funcionaba bastante bien. Nuestro stack actual es Postgresql+Postgis, Geoserver, LeafletJS, QGIS y ArcGIS+GISSQuirrel que permite editar Postgis (¿Sera posible esto nativamente algún día? Pues ya teníamos la licencia y algunas tareas de edición todavía son mucho mas fáciles allí. Probablemente estaremos usando Mapbox Studio este año pues necesitamos hacer algunas tiles base pero vamos a ver que pasa. Estoy empujándome en aprender Python y Javascript, Ya sabes que @cageyjames y el siempre tiene razón. http://tinyletter.com/jamesfee/letters/spatialtau-v1-5-scripting

Q: On Instagram I saw you purchased a Walking Dead comic book for your wife. Has she forced you to discuss a zombie escape plan?

A: Oh man! My wife is such a fanatic of the Walking Dead TV series, I just had to buy the comic on that stand while in Mexico City. I think we both agree if a zombie apocalypse happens we will probably die very fast, since we are both urban people with probably no survival skills. If you are a fan of the series, you can probably see that those escaping never get very far — you just need to grab your weapon and get rid of them.

En instagram vi que compraste una historieta de Walking Dead para tu esposa. ¿Ha forzado una discusión de un plan de escape zombie?

Dios! Mi esposa es tan fanática de la serie de televisión The Walkind Dead que simplemente tenia que adquirir esa historieta mientras estuve en la Ciudad de México. Creo que ambos hemos concluido que en caso de un apocalipsis zombie probablemente moriríamos rápidamente dado que somos personas bien urbanas y sin habilidades de supervivencia. Si eres fan de la serie probablemente veas que aquellos que escapan no llegan muy lejos, simplemente debes agarrar tu arma y deshacerte de ellos.

Q: Antonio — excuse me, Mr. Locandro, who is also CEO of Traveling Honduras (do you have a website?) — where is the one place I need to go when I fly into Honduras? I need the almost perfect vacation. I am also very, very white. What do you recommend?

A: Actually I do have a website. It’s http://www.travelinghonduras.com/, but it’s just a very simple landing page. It’s my startup project, which has taken a little bit more than I wanted to take off, and really looking into this 2015 to be the year I can launch it. Honduras is a very nice country with many different things to see and do, so it can cater to all people’s tastes. We got mountains and rivers to do some ecotourism (La Ceiba, Pico Bonito), there’s also ancient civilizations remains which are considered world heritage (Copan Ruins), colonial towns from the times of the Spaniards (Gracias, Comayagua), tons of miles of sandy white beaches (Tela, Trujillo, Guanaja, Utila, Roatan), so you got all this things to do in one place. The official Honduras campaign is Honduras Everything is here http://honduras.travel/en. I think for you I would recommend Utila Island, which is more of a bohemian-style backpacker island, unlike more famous Roatan Island. And don’t worry about Spanish being an issue, since the islands used to be run by pirates in the 18th century most people there speak English. If you like visiting ruins, Copan Ruins it’s very nice with Gracias, Lempira close where you have thermal waters.

Antonio, perdóneme, Sr. Locandro que también es Presidente de Traveling Honduras (¿Tienes un sitio web?). ¿Cual es un lugar al que debo ir cuando vuele a Honduras? Necesito casi las vacaciones perfectas. También soy bastante blanco. ¿Que me recomiendas?

En realidad si tengo un sitio web es www.travelinghonduras.com pero actualmente es solamente un pagina de inicio. Es mi proyecto personal de emprendimiento que ha tomado mas tiempo del que pensé en despegar y realmente espero que este 2015 sea el año que pueda lanzarlo. Honduras es un país hermoso con muchas cosas para ver y hacer que responde a todos los gustos. Tenemos ríos y montañas para hacer eco turismo (La Ceiba, Pico Bonito), también hay ruinas antiguas consideradas patrimonio de la humanidad (Ruinas de Copan), pueblos coloniales del tiempo de los españoles (Gracias, Comayagua) y miles de kilómetros de playas de arena blanca (Tela, Trujillo, Guanaja, Utila , Roatán) así que tienes todas estas cosas para hacer en un solo lugar, la campaña oficial de Honduras es Honduras Todo Esta Aqui www.honduras.travel . Creo que para ti recomendaría la isla de Utila la cual es un poco mas bohemia estilo mochilero diferente a la mas famosa isla de Roatán, y no te preocupes acerca de hablar español como un problema ya que las islas fueron administradas por piratas en el siglo 18 así que la mayor parte habla Ingles. Si te gusta visitar ruinas las Ruinas de Copan es un lugar bonito con Gracias, Lempira cerca donde hay aguas termales.

Q: Finally, last question is yours to do with as you wish. What final words do you have for the readers of GeoHipster?

A: Choose the right tool for the job. That may just happen to be open source or not, and you can even mix them if that’s the best solution. Sometimes is difficult to get out of the comfort zone, but learning new things make you a better professional. Experience hands on with different ways to accomplish the same task and go past pushing buttons. GeoHipster in a sense is just that — going beyond the traditional way things are done in GIS.

Finalmente, La ultima pregunta es para que hagas con ella como quieras. ¿Que palabras finales tienes para los lectores de Geohipster?

Escoge la herramienta adecuada para el trabajo, esa puede ser de código libre o tal vez no e incluso pues mezclarlas si es la mejor solución. Algunas veces es difícil salir de tu zona de comodidad pero aprender cosas nuevas te hace un mejor profesional. Experimenta de primera mano con diferentes formas de completar la misma tarea y haz algo mas que solo empujar botones. Geohipster en cierto sentido es simplemente eso, ir mas allá de la forma tradicional en que las cosas se hacen en el ambiente GIS.

 

Brian Monheiser: “If a geohipster is someone who believes we should all be working more openly and collaboratively, then count me in”

Brian Monheiser
Brian Monheiser

Brian Monheiser (Twitter, LinkedIn) is the Director of Defense and Intelligence Programs for Boundless Inc. Brian works with US Government agencies and contractors to provide freedom from the rigid architectures and unsustainable pricing models of proprietary geospatial software with packaging, expertise, maintenance, professional services, training, and more. Prior to Boundless, Brian honorably served in the United States Marine Corps as Geospatial Intelligence Analyst, and as a contractor responsible for advising and consulting the Department of Defense (DoD) and Intelligence Community (IC) on the use of geospatial technologies, supporting a number of large projects, programs, and applications using geospatial technology.

Brian was interviewed for GeoHipster by Todd Barr.

Q:  You’ve been involved in GIS, specifically military GIS and GeoINT, since 1998. What do you think has been the biggest advancement of GIS during your tenure in the field, both within DoD, as well as the field as a whole?

A: I have to tell you, the technology advances from what I used to have to work with to what’s available today have been amazing to say the least. When I got  started in the Marines as a veritable kid, they had me using command line desktop GIS. Think about that experience for the moment. I was asked to build and deliver standard and mission-specific hardcopy products using 32-bit clients and the command line. Now analysts are in a world where mission planning, situational awareness, visualization, analytics, and key intelligence questions are answered by mobile and web applications that are driven by tradecraft, algorithms, and workflows developed to interrogate a wide variety of spatial and temporal datasets for almost any purpose. I’m the old GIS analyst yelling at kids these days about how we had to walk uphill both ways to school. Now, kidding aside, it was possible to foresee the technology advances thanks to watching advancements in other areas — but what I’m most impressed with is the advancement, understanding, adoption, and growth in the GIS (at Boundless we like to call it Spatial IT) user community. There was a time not so long ago when GIS was a tradecraft for only those who had been formally trained. That’s no longer the case.

Q:  You’ve been with Boundless now for over a year. Have you seen a perception change within your client base on the adoption of FOSS4G Technologies?  As a follow up, are their any metrics on how hybrid systems function?

A:  Oh, you mean beyond understanding hybrid systems can lower clients’ costs and avoid vendor lock-in while still accomplishing, if not exceeding, all the same objectives? Then yes, I’ve seen a very drastic and positive change. When I got started everybody — including myself — used a solution from a single proprietary vendor, which forced us all to take the formal training I previously mentioned. I at least was in an environment where someone paid for my training and said this was the work I needed to focus on. Now FOSS4G technologies have matured and can reduce the risks of a single-vendor solution, extending the value of existing investments in proprietary mapping software, while reducing costs and increasing potential for interoperability and innovation. Open source geospatial software complements and interoperates with existing proprietary geospatial tools, meaning you don’t lose sunk costs. I’d say there are few homogeneous FOSS4G implementations, because that’s exactly the point of them — you can transition to new implementations at an appropriate pace for your organization.

Q:  What do you see as the largest hurdle for FOSS4G technologies and their wide-spread adoption?

A:  This is a layup. It’s all awareness and education. The reality is the large vendor in this space — and we all know who I’m talking about — has done a great job of indoctrinating users in said vendor’s software, to the detriment of awareness of what other options are out there. More people need to not only be aware of the existence of FOSS4G, but also of its comparable if not superior functionality. Once upon a time I was as guilty of this as anybody — so I’d like to think I’ve had my mind expanded as I gained knowledge of FOSS4G. In addition, when I’m out there talking about FOSS4G to people who have heard of the software, I’m finding people are not truly understanding the total value and cost of ownership in using open source. We’re guilty of drinking a certain flavor of Kool-Aid for so long, we don’t realize fruit punch is crap, what you really want is blue raspberry.

Q:  The Magical Money Fairy flies down and grants you 5 million dollars a year to pursue any geospatial project you want. What would you do?

A: I would map my permanent move to the Caribbean. Seriously. I’d go so far off the grid you’d need geospatial analysis to find me. But if you want me to not be completely self-serving and think for a moment about the good of the community, then I’d work to fix content (data) management. For all the advancements in geospatial technology, the way we manage our data, and the knowledge we can extract from our data is embarrassing. Versioning is poor, our ability to move it is inefficient, and if you look at the technologies other industries are using to manage data sets, then we’re behind the curve. It’s solvable and we’re focusing on it, but the Magical Money Fairy is certainly invited to come party with us.

Q: The standard #GeoHipster interview question: What does the phrase mean to you, and are you a #geohipster?  Note: the more profanity used here, the better.

[Laughs] Well, I’d like to consider myself a #geohipster, as long as I don’t have to conform to some Brooklyn definition of a hipster. I mean, have you seen me? I’m built like a rugby player, cue-ball bald, bushy goatee, and the temperament of a Marine. Now if a #geohipster is someone who advocates for kick-ass FOSS4G technologies, who walks the walk in understanding the benefit of geospatial analysis, who believes we should all be working more openly and collaboratively, then count me in.

Kate Chapman: “If what HOT is doing seems exciting to you, get involved”

Kate Chapman
Kate Chapman

Kate Chapman is the Executive Director at the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. Her most recent work has been in Indonesia working on a three-year program with the Australia-Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction using OpenStreetMap and InaSAFE to help disaster managers better develop contingency plans. Previous to working at HOT, Kate was involved in development of multiple web GIS applications, including GeoCommons and iMapData.

Kate was interviewed for GeoHipster by Randal Hale.

Q: So, Ms. Kate Chapman, how did you dive into the world of geospatial?

A: I was attending George Mason University focusing on Computer Science, but I wasn’t often going to class, and I ended up on academic suspension. During the semester I was not attending school I found a job with a mosquito control company as a pesticide applicator (this was back when West Nile Virus was going to kill us all). Unfortunately the first day we discovered I was allergic to the pesticide being used. Instead of being fired for not being able to do the job I was hired for, I was given a pirated copy of ArcView 3.2 and told to learn it. At this point I decided mapping was pretty cool, and discovered switching to Geography at GMU when I returned would allow me to graduate way more quickly than computer science. So I switched majors and continued working as a cartographer for the mosquito control company.

Q: As I have said — let he who has not pirated ArcView 3.2 cast the first stone. So you are now the executive director for HOT. For those who do not know — what is HOT? What does the executive director do?

A: My ArcView 3.2 came pre-pirated.

HOT is short for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. HOT applies the principles of open source and open data sharing to improve the welfare of the communities where we work, especially those at risk of natural disaster or other crisis. That essentially means two major things: First, we organize international volunteers to create data in OSM — primarily through digitizing and using already open data — and second, we provide training and technical assistance to communities and organizations in areas prone to disaster.

As the Executive Director I’m responsible for running the operations of HOT under strategic guidance from our Board of Directors. It is a position not dissimilar to that of a CEO.

Q: Nothing like the fabulous life of a CEO. If I’m not mistaken, you ended up in Jakarta, Indonesia, hopping islands, teaching locals about mapping in OpenStreetMap. All of that was in preparation for a tsunami event in the future. What was it like teaching the concepts of OSM and open data to an entirely different culture?

A: It is true that OSM brought me to Jakarta. The program name is Scenario Development for Contingency Planning (SD4CP). The goal of SD4CP is to help disaster managers use science to inform their contingency plans. What that means is the World Bank, Australian and Indonesian governments were working to build software that could do impact modeling (the software is now called InaSAFE). They had scientific models on hazards such as earthquakes and tsunamis, but were missing exposure data such as buildings, schools and health facilities. I came in with HOT to see if we could help foster an OSM community to collect that data. Things have grown and now our team is responsible for the curriculum for the program and providing training. They teach OSM, QGIS, and InaSAFE to government, NGOs, individuals, and educational institutions.

Q: What was the best thing that happened — and the goofiest — while you were there?

A: The best thing was that I got to travel all over Indonesia with a great team. It was amazing to see how diverse the country is, and to meet all kinds of people. As far as the team, HOT Indonesia was divided into two training teams at the time, Team A and Team B (yes, we were so creative).

Hmmm, the goofiest… I think that would be the quantity of “jumping photos.” Jumping pictures are exactly what they sound like. Everyone in the picture jumps so they are airborne when the picture is taken.

Q: I notice on the HOT mailing list sometimes you guys respond to a request from an aid organization, and sometimes you just start mapping. Who are some of the humanitarian organizations that ask for help?

A: We get a lot of different mapping requests. Sometimes it can be as simple as someone has a particular interest in an area — they are from there, they have friends there, etc. Though often requests are from larger organizations. Recently we launched the Missing Maps project in partnership with the American Red Cross, British Red Cross, and Doctors without Borders UK. This is a way to bring people together and support HOT in filling in gaps on the maps.

We also receive requests from other International Non-Governmental Organizations, offices of the United Nations, and national governments. It really depends on the disaster and the need.

Q: How do you sustain an organization that maps for free (plug for money if you want)?

A: We sustain the organization primarily through grants for specific projects. We are also a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, so donations to HOT are tax-deductible to US taxpayers. http://hot.openstreetmap.org/donate

Q: So what about this Geoglobal Domination Video thing? What is that about?

A: Well, you can always post the link to GeoGlobalDomination: the Musical.

(Here it is. –ed.)

Q: Is roller derby as fake as wrestling, Wonderchook?

A: No.

Q: Any parting words for the smart and good-looking readers of GeoHipster?

A: If what HOT is doing seems exciting to you, please check out our “Get Involved” page: http://hot.openstreetmap.org/get-involved