Is IT Suffocating GIS?

In an article “Why Geo Will Embrace The Cloud in 2010” in Direction MagazineBrian Timoney of the The Timoney Group looks at the emerging cloud computing arena and poises the question, fad or not? Putting that question aside for the moment, part of Brian’s article really struck a chord with me – “IT is suffocating GIS.” As a former statewide GIS coordinator, I’ve seen all too many enthusiastic GIS professionals sucked down this path. Brian articulates something rarely discussed – issues like burn-out in the long since changed role of GIS managers. Are we properly preparing GIS professionals for this aspect of their GIS career? Here is an excerpt of Brian’s article: Continue reading Using Free Zillow Neighborhood Boundary GIS Data

I’ve been very interested in the news stories I’ve read about neighborhood boundary data and its usefulness. About a year ago Adena Schutzberg, Directions Magazine, wrote about neighborhood data offereings and the announcement by that they would provide their neighborhood GIS shapefile data freely through a Creative Commons license. First of all, I am very interested to see the CC licensing being applied to geospatial data – this alone is worth following. And I applaud (which I love) for making their data available in this way. So I was really interested when I came across another very excellent site providing my home’s walkability score (which alas is moderately low) and my office (which is very highly walkable). is a site worth visiting. “Walk Score helps people find walkable places to live. Walk Score calculates the walkability of an address by locating nearby stores, restaurants, schools, parks, etc. Walk Score measures how easy it is to live a car-lite lifestyle—not how pretty the area is for walking.” The Walk Score algorithm awards points based on distances to the closest amenity in a number of categories. I especially love the heat maps showing the most walkable neighborhoods in the top 40 U.S. cities. And certainly turn around is fair play… Zillow is already leveraging the benefits of having made its neighborhood data available (in February, added WalkScore to each of their 87 million properties).


Simplify your Shapefiles

As mapping professionals, we often want more detail – the more accurate the better. But occasionally we need to simplify our maps (specifically our shapefiles) for presentation purposes or to speed up web map applications. Now you can very easily simplify your shapefiles online using MapShaper. I’ve used it and it was a breeze.

Here is some info directly from their blog: “MapShaper is a free online editor for Polygon and Polyline Shapefiles. It has a Flash interface that runs in an ordinary web browser. Mapshaper supports three line simplification algorithms: Douglas-Peucker, Visvalingam-Whyatt, and a custom algorithm designed to smooth convoluted coastlines and spiky features.  The MapShaper project was conceived in 2005 by Matthew Bloch and Mark Harrower at the University of Wisconsin, Madison Geography Department. A paper [pdf] from the 2006 AutoCarto conference describes how MapShaper works “under the hood.”” Since it is a web application, you upload your shapefile, tell it what simplification program to run, and let it go.

Thanks Matthew and Mark for a very nice app.