2013 Esri UC Wrap-Up

Now that I am back in Boston it is time for my annual Esri UC wrap-up.  There were between 10,000 to a million people at the conference.  The final count all depends on who you were talking to.  Here is my brief rundown.

Biggest Themes – from my perspective…

Esri made a big push to make this a geo-tech conference, not a ArcThis or ArcThat conference.  I think many of the participants appreciated the change.

Web  GIS – or is it WebGIS -Big expansion of the analysis capabilities of Esri’s online products.  It seems to me that this was GeoIQ‘s big unveiling.  Thankfully the word “cloud” was used sparingly during the plenary. ArcGIS Online was pushed hard again, which makes sense.

JavaScript – Did you know that Esri has Flex and Silverlight web APIs?  If you came to this conference and didn’t know that you probably weren’t going to find out very easily. JavaScript was a major focus of Esri’s web products at this conference, and understandably so. It’s what everyone is using or going to be using very soon.  Also a lot of node.js, CSS3, and HTML5.

Big Data – There were a number of big data sessions.  I hate the term big data, since many have no idea what big data is.  However, the folks from Esri did a good job breaking down the terminology, it’s value to the geospatial community, and how to get started using big data, through Hadoop.  The presenters from Esri were very clear that big data systems and analysis aren’t for the faint of heart and not every GIS procedure or dataset requires a big data approach.  It was good seeing Esri pay attention to an emerging area in geospatial and data analysis.

Analysis/Data/Imagery – Esri will be providing a number of new data, analysis and imagery services in the coming months through their online services.  Some free, some at cost, some requiring an AGOL account, some not.

Other stuff

  • ArcGIS Professional – Most were confused as to what ArcGIS Professional was, myself included.   Was it the next version of ArcMap?  Does it replace ArcGIS Desktop? When is it going to be released? Being a confused geo-user, I went and talked to the ArcGIS Professional development team in the tech center.  I had a nice talk with a developer who explained that ArcGIS Professional, which is a totally new application (fully 64 bit, ribbon interface, streamlined tools), is meant to sit side-by-side with ArcMap as a stand alone application.  I am sure you will see more and more of ArcGIS professional over the course of the next year as the product moves forward.
  • STEM – Esri has pushed geo and GIS in the STEM fields for a while now.  During the plenary there was plenty of STEM education talk, including a (somewhat awkward, somewhat great) appearance by Will.i.am.  As I have said before, geography and GIScience fits in very well with STEM, and I appreciate any effort by any organization to push the geo fields in STEM.
  • Big new 10.2 features – GeoEvent Processor, easier access to ArcGIS Online, faster geoprocessing tools, and a number of quality improvements.
  • More Esri on GitHub.  Good.
  • Leaflet!
  • A rumor on the street was that there were a lot fewer federal users at the UC this year. Since I’m not in the federal space I couldn’t say if this was true, but there were fewer people in the defense section of the exhibit hall and there was a lot less talk of GIS for drones.

The fun stuff

I set a PR in the Esri 5k – 21st overall, 19:32!  Here is proof!


Big thanks to Mike Olkin for pushing me early and helping me set my pace!

Half priced Padres tickets = great seats


And the Evening in the Park in the park was great again.  The key – get there early and get in line at the good food spots first.


Whaddya think of 10.1?

ArcGIS 10.1 has been out for a few months now and I am curious as to what the GIS public thinks of the newest release.  I haven’t upgraded any of my Esri products to the newest release yet, and probably won’t for a while, but I want to gauge the public’s reaction to the most recent “dot” release.

If you have any other thoughts or comments on ArcGIS for Desktop (ArcMap), ArcGIS Online, Esri Maps for Excel, or anything else spatial leave a message!

I’ll post the results in a couple weeks.

Here is the awesome, non-scientific, one question survey.  Take it!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Report Bugs! Do it!

Like all of you, I run into the famous (infamous?) Esri error report, more often than I like.  Ever wonder what happens when you actually report the error (which I do when I have the patience)?  Check this out this blog post from Esri’s Resource Center.  One item that I took away from the article is that I need to add more information to my error report than just my frustrated babbling, as Esri’s error reporting algorithms evaluate the available information before it is passed on to the engineers.

If you are a heavy Esri user and run into the error report often you should take the five minutes to read the post.

Esri UC 2012 – My Random Thoughts…

After a geo-action packed week at the 2012 Esri UC here my top 10 observations that I had written down in my notebook:

  1. The spatial stats sessions were great, but for many of the sessions you needed an understanding of basic prob and stats.  Even with a basic understanding of stats all of the OLS, GWR, R Squared, and dependent variable talk may have been a little confusing for the beginner (which is totally understandable).  However, if you were a stats nut, then these sessions were right on the money.
  2. Roger Tomlinson’s speech at the Special Achievement in GIS awards ceremony was awesome.  His one liners were snappy and his overall message was appreciated by the audience.
  3. I always like meeting up with my old UConn grad school classmates and I was able to do that a lot at this year’s UC.  It is great to talk with them about what they are doing now and where they want to go.  At some point we should organize a party…
  4. I focused on spatial analysis sessions this year’s UC and all the raster analysis sessions I attended were great, and I am looking forward to a number of upgrades in 10.1.  I like presentations that progress from a question to a solution and the raster analysis presentations I saw definitely did this.
  5. You can’t beat the weather in San Diego.
  6. Seeing the improvements to the arcpy cursors in 10.1 made me happy.  Huge improvement in performance, so much so I’ll start using them!  Now I have to wait for SP1 when 64bit geoprocessing FINALLY becomes available before I actually upgrade.
  7. It seemed to me that the only vendors on the floor of the exhibition hall were those promoting/selling the cloud or mobile products.  There were a few data vendors out there, but I think they were all pushing cloud services and mobile products as well.
  8. I always like the graphics on the giant screen during the Esri UC plenary.  It must be someone’s full time job to create those “slides”.  I wish my powerpoint slides looked that good.
  9. The “Evening in Balboa Park” was a lot of fun, especially if you got there early and got to the sushi lines quickly. However, if you did have to wait in line for sushi at the Casa De Balboa the unique musician rocking out on the electric cello provided some quality entertainment!   Also, Metalachi rocked the house.
  10. My eight year old stopwatch died in San Diego.  This probably explains my horrible, down right embarrassing time in Esri 5k.  It’s obviously all my watch’s fault.
Roger and Jack
Roger Tomlinson and Jack Dangermond during the SAG ceremony. I bet Roger was thinking about the ways he was going to zing Jack during his speech!

Bonus Thoughts – you don’t have to use your ArcGIS Online credits to read these…

  • One of the biggest criticism of ArcGIS 10, and rightfully so, was in regards to the quality of the software.  If Jack, or any other members of Esri, had talked about efforts to improve the quality of Esri products during the morning plenary I believe you would have seen the hall erupt in applause, because frankly, that’s all we really care about. Reliable, quality software.
  • During the plenary Esri announced full 64 bit desktop in a service pack sometime in 2013. Finally…
  • I know GIS is firmly entrenched in the military and security sectors, but some of the demos I saw regarding drone data collection and creating spatial data from drone cameras was a little too “Big Brother” for my liking.
  • I wish the Padres were in town during the week of the conference.
  • Esri Maps for Microsoft Office could be a big hit, but it requires an AGO account and doesn’t come cheap.  I can see this as pretty powerful tool for organizations, but managing all those accounts, especially if you can’t tie them into your organization’s account system, might make it a little cumbersome to manage.  I need to learn more about EMMO.

Overall, I thought it was a good conference.  I did a lot of networking and learned a lot.  Like any conference, it is about what you make it.  I had a specific agenda that I stuck to and it turned out pretty good.

Were you there?  What did you think of the conference?  Would you recommend it to your cowokers or others in the geo-professions? Leave a comment!

You Stay Classy, San Diego

I just wrapped up a geo-packed week at the Esri UC and I’m about head back east.  Once I get settled back into my routine I’ll post my thoughts on the conference (Metalachi was awesome) and discuss some of the major themes and trends that were the buzz this past week (mobile, cloud, more mobile, more cloud). In the mean time check out my twitter, @GISDoctor, for what I was thinking during the conference.

Until then, more Metalachi!

Esri Dev-Meet Up Boston – This Thursday

Esri’s Dev Meet Up tour rolls into Boston this Thursday at the Bell In Hand Tavern, which is easily accessible through either Haymarket, Government Center, or State Street T stops.  If you are driving in I couldn’t tell you a good place to park since I don’t drive anywhere in this town.

The event’s page is still accepting RSVPs.  If you are available come check it out.  I know there are a lot of GIS professionals and GIS enthusiasts in this town.  We should take advantage of Esri kindly providing free food and drinks!  As usual, there look to be a few good talks listed, and maybe someone’s talk will inspire you or bring you to a GIS “ah-ha” moment.

Event Details: http://www.meetup.com/DevMeetUpNortheast/events/66079722/

Esri Dev Meet Up Page: http://www.esri.com/events/dev-meetup/index.html

See you there.

How to Troubleshoot a Slow ArcMap (Story of my Life)

Esri’s Support Services blog posted a good piece today on how to troubleshoot slow performance in ArcGIS Desktop.  As someone who has spent their fair share of time troubleshooting ArcMap performance I will say that there are a few good tips in the article.  The author does make a good point at the end about understanding the realistic expectations of the software, unfortunately, most of us (including myself) tend to disregard realistic expectations and create our own on the fly 🙂

Overall, a good read and worth checking out.

I reject your reality and substitute my own…

Esri Dev Meet Up, Boston – June 28th!

The folks from Esri will be back in town on June 28th, hosting another Dev Meet-Up at the Bell in Hand Tavern, literally steps away from the Haymarket T stop (a.k.a., easy to get to).

The Dev Meet-Ups provide a great opportunity to meet other GIS professionals and to catch some interesting talks about GIS development projects happening in our neck of the woods.   Another great aspect of these meet-ups is that Esri usually picks up the tab!

Dr. Raj Singh from the OGC will be keynote speaker at the event and they are currently looking for lighting talk presenters.

So, Boston area GIS pros, come on out for a night of GIS fun.  Meet others in the field and listen to some interesting projects.


My ArcGIS 10.1 Wishlist

ArcGIS 10.1 will be released soon and according to Esri, ArcGIS 10.1 will be the company’s biggest release ever.  Plenty has been published by Esri about the 10.1 release, including an overview of  10.1 from the Resource Centera number of videos from the 2012 FedCon and a 10.1 “What’s Coming” site.  From what I have read and seen I am looking forward to a number of improvements including those for spatial analytics,  saying goodbye to ArcSOC and ArcSOM, improved database management functionality (which there looks to be a lot of), and generating buttons with ArcPy scripts.

However, if you have visited this blog before you have probably have seen this post or this post and have read the comments about user experiences with previous versions of ArcGIS.  I’m sure these users have many items they would like to see in the next release of ArcGIS and in their spirit here is my ArcGIS 10.1 wishlist.

My Unsolicited ArcGIS 10.1 wishlist!

64 bit ArcMap:  It’s not going to happen with this release, although ArcGIS Server will be.  However, I can still dream about lighting fast geoprocessing until then.

Provide a Consistent Product: One of the biggest items on my 10.1 wishlist is software consistency.  Too often users encounter geoprocessing errors, screens of spatial death, or the map refresh freeze.  Problems like this become major choke points when using the software when it is a critical component of a business process.

Simplify the Product:  I believe this is where the competition is killing Esri.  Look at Quantum, MapBox, OSM, or SpatiaLite.  Simply and elegant products with big time returns.  I know that many, from the once a week user to all-day-every-day user believe that ArcGIS is too big.  I consider myself a power user and I probably only use 20 to 30 percent of the product.  If Esri could produce a lightweight, stripped down version that still gets the job done (and is bug free!) I think the user base would be very, very happy.

Improve the Map Draw/Refresh in ArcMap: Am I the only person who is not a fan of the way ArcMap draws and refreshes the map?  Have you ever waited and waited watching a map load on screen?  I find it frustraing that I can visualize vast numbers of points faster in an html5 application than I can on-screen in ArcMap.  Now, this may only be me, but I would love if someday Esri could improve the map draw/refresh rate within their product.  Esri has had the best mapping tools in the game for a long time and improving the draw/refresh rate would make the already strong set of cartographic tools even better.

Get Rid of ArcCatalog: Since ArcGIS 10 I have probably used ArcCatalog 10 percent as much as I did during the ArcGIS 9.X days.  The major components of what I need are now embedded in ArcMap, which is great.  Roll the rest of the functionality into ArcMap and send ArcCatalog out to pasture where it can go hang out with ArcView 3.x.

No More 999999 Errors:  There are too many general errors that occur on a regular basis.  From the comments in this post I know this happens to others as well.  If geoprocessing tools have limits to them let the user know what those limits are so they can work around it.  I run a very clean analysis machine, I don’t run third party extension (I write my own code)  and I get unexplained 999999 errors running mundane and simple tasks.  Tell me what I am doing wrong!

If Esri could make my wishlist come true I think their user base would be very, very, very happy.  I know that this wishlist is a little late for 10.1, but Esri developers and product teams are free to wrap all these suggestions into 10.2 (thanks!).  Now when will I be installing 10.1?  Probably sometime after the first service pack is released (September, October, November?).

On that note, what would you, the user, like to see in 10.1?  What would be on your wishlist?

Disclaimer: I’m not a beta tester for ArcGIS 10.1, as I am too busy using the current version to test the next version.  What I know about ArcGIS 10.1 comes from what I have seen on the interwebs.