OK. I’m not a GeoHipster. I’m a GIS Worker. This is what I do.


But worry not, GIS worker: Spatial might no longer be special, but projections, datums, and legacy file formats will continue to be very, very special.
      – Brian Timoney, MapBrief

Okay… GIS is not sexy like your iPhone locator app.  But it will always be special.  In the same way that your plumbing and electrical and HVAC systems are special.  Next time they stop working, ask yourself just how special they are.  Next time your iPhone map is missing Main Street, ask yourself how special GIS is.

Consumer and business geo apps and services keep evolving – cutting edge today and obsolete tomorrow.  BigData today – legacy file format tomorrow.  But projections, datums, and georeferencing will always be there to provide ground truth. 

Esri and the ArcGIS platform have been around for 30 years, defining and documenting GIS work.  So when we needed to understand what GIS workers are doing across a variety of industries, we looked at the list of tools in ArcGIS Toolbox as a compendium of GIS workflow and process skills.  

We needed the ArcToolbox list itself as a data set — not a PDF poster or searchable web site.  I asked Esri for an ArcToolbox list as Excel table or other word processing format, but they could not provide.  So my friend at Esri, Nick Toscano, and I compiled the table ourselves.   That’s almost 900 “GIS tools” in an Excel data table.  Easy to sort, filter, annotate, categorize in ways that meet our needs.  

Here it is.

Some of the tools are pretty arcane.  But most are plain markers for the nuts-and-bolts work of GIS professionals in towns, cities, and counties who have to deal with projections, datums, and legacy file formats every day.  Not the next wave or next-big-thing.  Just the actual data and task at hand.

How will we use this?

  • Survey and assess the experience of our GIS workers.
  • Plan GIS skills training and investment.
  • Design new workflows to make common tasks more efficient.
  • As a quicker reference for building geoprocessing services. 



Geospatial One-Stop >> Geo.Data.gov >> GeoPlatform.gov

Here are details about GeoPlatform evolution, provided by Esri’s Geoportal Server lead, Marten Hogeweg, and published here with Marten’s permission:


Geoplatform.gov is actually built on ArcGIS Online which is running on-premises in the GSA hosting environment. Geoplatform.gov currently has a small set of publishers who ‘curate’ the content that is visible, with a focus on web services.

When Geospatial One-Stop retired, it was integrated into the Data.gov website as http://geo.data.govGeo.data.gov IS built on the open source Geoportal Server (http://esriurl.com/geoportalserver).

There were close to 650,000 items in Geospatial One-Stop, many of which were from state/local government or from academia and do not meet the criteria (http://www.data.gov/datapolicy) to be made discoverable through Geo.data.gov.

To provide access to that full set (by now grown to about 950,000 geospatial resources), the search from the Geoplatform.gov site was included.

There are really two programs (Geoplatform and Data.gov) that are looking at how to best implement their objectives/mandates: serve nationally significant geospatial data assets from and to the geospatial community at large) vs increase public access to high value, machine readable datasets generated by the Executive Branch of the Federal Government (http://www.data.gov/about).

What you see now is (hopefully) a transition from the Geospatial One-Stop period into the new open government data period where these two objectives/mandates unite… 

Insider: How to Search the New Geoplatform.gov

Here is some insider info on how to search the new U.S. government Geospatial Platform developed by US EPA and GSA.

The GeoPlatform is built on Esri’s open-source Geoportal Server.  Even though it looks like ArcGIS.com …

… it’s running Geoportal Server under the hood.  That means it should search geospatial metadata.  Since it’s federal, it also federates — harvesting and indexing metadata from many geodata servers.  Then it runs a federated query across all servers to find data you want.  
So why doesn’t anything show up when you search for ‘chesapeake’ ?
You have to click the “Related Searched” link farther down the page.  Now you get the dozens of results in a format that looks familiar to anyone works with metadata and geoportals:
The search engine is reaching back into the geodata.gov and data.gov metadata domains.
Why is the search function like this?  GeoPlatform gurus say it’s only temporary – a work in progress.  In my view, it’s intriguing work to merge the best of FGDC/ISO-compliant metadata + geoportal search capability, + web mapping provided by the Esri web mapping APIs.  More on that in my next post on geoportal news coming out of the Esri FedCon this week.

The 15-Minute ArcGIS Geoportal

You can use MS Excel and a URL parameter to create a geoportal in 15 minutes.  No programming.

The 15-Minute ArcGIS Geoportal is a web page that

  • Serves as a catalog of your ArcGIS Server map services
  • Shows each of your services in two different online webmaps;
  • Provides a link to your map service description. *

(* See my article about publishing Metadata Lite to your ArcGIS Server REST catalog.)

It’s a very fast and simple way to give your stakeholders a look at all of your map services.

Built on the “Map Service” URL Parameter

Kenneth Field blogged for Esri about adding URL location parameters for sharing ArcGIS online webmaps.  His article also points to the Esri Help on URL parameters.  I followed up with a note specifically about variations in the Map ID parameter sent to different online webmaps.

Now I focus on the URL parameter that accepts a single ArcGIS Server map service URL. This example from Esri Help shows a map service URL sent to the ArcGIS.com (Javascript) map:

http://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?url=http://services.arcgisonline.com/ArcGIS/rest/services/Demographics/USA_Daytime_Population/MapServer

Here is one of my own map services hosted on the Pennsylvania Spatial Data Access (PASDA) GIS server, sent to the same ArcGIS.com map:

http://www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?url=http://data1.commons.psu.edu/ArcGIS/rest/services/pasda/CRH_2011_v03/MapServer

Here is the same service sent to the ArcGIS Explorer (Silverlight) map:

http://explorer.arcgis.com/?url=http://data1.commons.psu.edu/ArcGIS/rest/services/pasda/CRH_2011_v03/MapServer

One thing you have to remember with these maps:   Their default settings may not show the layers and popups the way you want them.  You have to find the Contents toggle and check on the map layers.  But this is a fast, low-cost way to show your map data to stakeholders.

Use Excel to Create the Geoportal Page

You can use Excel’s simple Concatenate and Autofill functions to create a Geoportal page like this:

15-Minute Geoportal.

Use my simple Excel template to:

  1. Change one cell to show your ArcGIS Server base URL.
  2. Use Excel autofill to create similar HTML table rows for every map service.
  3. Paste the HTML table tags and text into a web page.
  4. In the web page, style the HTML table with CSS.

I hope this helps you and your GIS.

Metadata Lite: Publishing metadata cheap (or not at all) through ArcGIS Server

You can use ArcGIS Desktop to author metadata for data layers in your geodatabase, and to publish your data as web services on ArcGIS Server.  But you can’t publish your geospatial metadata with those web services.

Esri will say, Not true.  You can publish your metadata to the Web through Esri’s free Geoportal Server.  Then point your metadata on the Geoportal Server to your map services on your ArcGIS Server, like this:
Right.  But that means you have to do the same task twice — send your metadata to your geodatabase and send it again to your geoportal.  Besides maintaining two applications servers for this purpose.
This redundancy sits atop the already cumbersome and expensive process of authoring, publishing, and maintaining FGDC/ISO-compliant geospatial metadata.
Are there less expensive options?  Even Esri’s FGDC/ISO-compliant metadata guru seems to think so.  Here is a slide from Marten Hogeweg’s geoportal workshop at the 2011 Dev Summit:
(The title/question is mine, not Marten’s.)

Marten was talking about different metadata for different audiences.  The public does not want or need FGDC/ISO compliant metadata.  So, how can we meet the public demand, as well as the needs of our professional partners in the GIS community?  I suggest a middle path – Metadata Lite – that’s already suggested in Marten’s diagram.
Yes, “Verbose Metadata is Desired” for the GIS Specialist Community.  But today more GIS professionals are concerned with pushing data out to the public.  Knowing that, it seems to me that Esri (unconsciously?) moved away from fully-compliant metadata  when they “forgot” to support metadata publishing through ArcGIS Server 9.3 and 10.  And now we see mere “tagging” promoted in Marten’s metadata/geoportal presentations.    
Take a look at ArcGIS.com.  At the Esri MUG last week, Clint Brown told us that millions of maps are added to ArcGIS.com each month.  But where is the geospatial metadata that enables search in a geoportal?  There is none at ArcGIS.com.  You can’t search through others’ FGDC/ISO-compliant metadata, and you can’t publish your own there.  
There is only Metadata Lite — tagging to give a minor boost to the ArcGIS.com search function:

If you want to publish descriptive info about your map data, there are a couple of free/low-cost options.  First, you can publish your data in map apps at ArcGIS.com.  (See my other posts about using ArcGIS.com for your organization’s geodata portal.)  Then simply author the descriptive information in the details page.  San Mateo County GIS has done it this way, using a text template to ensure that all the legal info is included, like in this example:

Even better, I think, is to publish your geospatial metadata through your ArcGIS Server REST catalog.  When it’s in the REST catalog, it doesn’t intrude on the public attention span, yet GIS professionals can find it when they need it.

This is what Metadata Lite looks like from San Mateo County, published through ArcGIS Server to the county’s REST catalog:

But 90 percent of the time, if you open up a REST service page like this, all the fields are blank, except a few that are machine-generated,  like Extent and Spatial Reference.  Why can’t we simply author metadata that shows up in the REST catalog?  Because …

You need a wiring diagram.  Because some of the REST catalog fields are populated from the ArcMap Document Properties tab.  Others from the ArcMap Data Frame Properties tab.  Others from the ArcGIS Server Manager Properties tab.  Like this:
Besides that, the field names are different for the same information found in the source (e.g. ArcMap) and the destination (REST page).  Like this:
So, here are a couple of wiring diagrams to help you populate the REST catalog fields:
2.  Metadata Lite live map service – hosted at University of Maryland, shows where the REST catalog fields values originated.
(From a presentation I gave at the 2011 Esri MUG)