Things to do in Boston during FOSS4G 2017

FOSS4G Boston 2017 is less than a month away!

You should go.


Well, because I probably won’t be able to make all of it (insert sad face emoji here)

I have a great reason – my second child will be born days before the start of FOSS4G and it wouldn’t be fair to my family if I am having the time of my life with all of you spatial nerds while there is a new human at home.

So, you should go. You should really go.

There is a chance that this will be the largest FOSS4G ever, but the conference will still be of a size where you will be able to meet all your twitter pals in person, get to share ideas with the some of the smartest people in spatial, and listen to talks from some of the most influential minds that are moving spatial into realms people were only dreaming of a few years ago.

The program has something for everyone.  You can focus on analysis, viz, or databases and walk away with more geo-knowledge than you came to Boston with.  The workshops look great too, and the people teaching the workshops are the same people building or contributing to some of your favorite FOSS4G projects. The conference planning teams have done an amazing job putting this all together!

But, what should you do when you aren’t geo-ing, hacking, or conferencing? Well, here are a few suggestions from a *local that will get you into the city to see the sights.

Boston/Cambridge/Somerville is a great place to visit during the summer. There is lots to do in the city center, but I encourage all those visiting Boston to get out and check out some of the neighborhoods.  Bring comfortable shoes, because you’ll be doing a lot of walking.

Eat your way through Somerville!  Where do I start.  You’ll get plenty of advice on where to eat in Boston, so let’s take a trip North to where I roam. When you are at Harvard for the workshops, take the Red Line north to Davis Square to start your binge.  I am a big fan of Boston Burger Company and Five Horses Tavern.  Posto, Foundry, and Saloon are also really good.  If you are looking for a great Irish Pub, check out the Burren.  After dinner, get in line for some ice cream at JP Licks, and hang out in the square to do some people watching and listen to the street performers.  If you a comic/pop culture nerd, check out Comicazi, a few steps down Highland Street from the Square.  It’s one of the best comic shops you will ever go to.

If you want a totally different Somerville experience, take the Orange line to Sullivan Square and explore East Somerville up Broadway.  Taco Loco, La Brasa, Casey’s, Vinny’s – there is something for all tastes.  All are within a 15 minute walk from Sullivan Square and all are on Broadway.

Other awesome Somerville restaurants that aren’t easily T accessible include Sarma (make your reservations now), anywhere in Union Square, Highland Kitchen, Soundbites, Ball Square Cafe (brunch) , Magouns Saloon, Daddy Jones, and many, many more.

I’m on a Boat -Jump on a ferry and check out the Boston Harbor Islands.  The tickets are pretty cheap and you’ll get a boat ride with some awesome views of the city.  Georges Island is my go-to island, but Spectacle Island has lots of trails and great history with the Big Dig.

Not the actual boat

Explore Cambridge with Hubway – Head up to Cambridge and take the Hubway to explore (and let me know when you do so I can isolate the data for the 2018 Hubway challenge (which I may or may not enter)). Cambridge is one of the most bike friendly cities in the United States, with an expanding network of dedicated bicycle lanes. While you are in Cambridge, pedaling around Harvard and MIT, travel north on Massachusetts Ave and stop by Ward Maps and pick up some cool Boston map-morabilia.

Baseball!  America’s increasingly boring past time!  The Red Sox will be in town that week where they play the Cardinals and Yankees.  The Sox have been pretty good this year, but interest in town hasn’t been as high as in past years, so you might be able to get bleacher seats at a reasonable price.  In general, Fenway is expensive, so if you do go to a game, be prepared for steep food and drink costs.

Alternative idea – head down to Fenway on game night, walk around pregame and soak up all the atmosphere, and catch the first few innings at a bar or restaurant in the neighborhood.  Or, go on a tour during the day (but at the same time, not skipping sessions!).

Second Alternative Idea – Check out the Boston Breakers, professional women’s soccer team. They play over in the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston and they have two home games the week of FOSS4G.  The Revolution play in Foxoboro and the stadium is not easy to get to.

Go for a Run – I know a lot of people will be doing the first annual FOSS4G 0.0k, but a few may want to get in some miles and do some tourism-running (which I do everywhere I go).  There are lots of open group runs in Boston/Cambridge/Somerville, but only one has been running every week, since 1995. The Somerville Road Runners have been hosting their Thursday night 4.06 run, no matter the conditions, for the past 22 years.  The run is on a challenging, but good course that will take you through a few different Somerville neighborhoods.  The race starts and ends at Casey’s Bar, an East Somerville institution, that is about a 10-15 minute walk from Sullivan Square (Orange Line).  It also has the best course map of any run in the country.

I love this course map

Map Nerd Stuff – Any trip to Boston for a geo/map/spatial nerd isn’t complete unless you visit the Mapparium at the Mary Baker Eddy Library. I could try to describe what it’s like to visit, but I wouldn’t do it justice.  You just have to go (also, their cartography would be a rad Mapbox style) and see it yourself.  You should also check out Leventhal Map Center at Boston Public Library, a premier public collection in a premier public library.

Seriously, this would be an awesome tile set for a map app!

I hope everyone really enjoys the conference and the city! It should be a ton of fun!


* I’ve been in Somerville/Medford for 7 years, and since I wasn’t born here, I can never, ever say I am technically from here…That’s just how it works

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  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.


Ignite LocationTech Boston 2013 Wrap-Up

One of the great things about living in Boston is that there is a very active geo-community.  Every few weeks there is something interesting happening, whether it is an AvidGeo meet-up, a geo-colloquium at one of the many schools in Boston, or an industry sponsored event.

One of those events happened this past Monday at Space with a Soul in Boston’s Innovation District, organized by Avid Geo and the Eclipse Foundation’s LocationTech group.  The event focused on open source geo-based projects. The room was full of geo-thinkers from a variety of backgrounds, and thanks to a number of sponsors (AppGeo, Azavea, IBM, Actuate) there was plenty of food and beer!  Added bonus, participants from the PostGIS code sprint were in town!

The lighting talk format – five minutes, 20 slides, auto advancing – works really well for these types of events.  The speakers are energized and the crowd stays captivated.  I tried in vain to keep up with Twitter during the event.  Let’s take a look at my 140 character rundown of the evening.

Quick note – I missed a couple speaker’s names.  If you know them please post a comment so I can update accordingly. UPDATE – I only need one more name!

Second quick note- Ignore the grammar mistakes in my tweets.  I am a horrible with my thumbs.

Andrew Ross from LocationTech opened up the evening.  He talked about the mission of LocationTech and explained how the Eclipse Foundation helps open source projects get off the ground and stay relevant.

Max Uhlenhuth from SilviaTerra then gave a great overview how he started contributing to open source projects.  Max had a number of great points but a couple really stuck with me.  In his professional career he has only used open source software, and he was using FOSS in high school!  When I was in high school my parents had just gotten this new thing called the “internet.”  His best quote came about halfway through his talk:

Michael Evans and his colleague whose name escapes me (if you know, please let me know so I can update this post) talked about ongoing efforts in Boston’s City Hall to improve data sharing, analysis and visualization.  They talked about the extremely popular blizzard reporting site that famously crashed and how it was both a success and a failure.   It was a success because it was so popular, and it was a failure because it crashed, and crashed hard.  They also talked about efforts to make data resources work with more efficiency within City Hall.

I’ve seen Jeffrey Warren from the Public Laboratory give talks a few times over the past couple years and he and his colleagues are always doing something innovative.  He didn’t disappoint during his talk on Monday.  He talked about the Public Laboratory’s open source spectrometer.  It was pretty amazing.  I wish he had another 25 minutes to go into more detail.

Leaflet made an appearance at the event as well.  Calvin Metcalf, leaflet guru and cat enthusiast, gave a talk titled –Leaflet for some cats.  Using Max Ogden’s Javascript for Cats for inspiration, Calvin went through a few examples of how easy Leaflet is to use and customize.  If you haven’t tried Leaflet yet you should.  Calvin’s slides can be found here.

Christian Sparning from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council talked about the Hubway’s visualization hackathon.  If you are in the Boston area you have probably seen some of the results of this event over the past several months.  The Hubway folks released a whole bunch of data  – ride numbers, origin/destination data, temporal data – and then held an hackathon.  Christian talked about the variety of people who participated and the variety of creative ways they analyzed and visualized the data.

UPDATE:  Thanks to Andrew Ross I got an update on the evening’s last speaker (I didn’t catch his name at first).  The last talk was from Ken Walker from Eclipse, talking about the Orion Editor.  I’m not too familiar with Orion, which is a browser-based tool for developing on and for the web, but it looked like something I should learn about, soon.  I encourage you to check out the link to learn more.  Ken was kind enough to post his slides as well.

Overall, this was a great event.  Avid Geo and LocationTech did a great job putting this together and the speakers inspired those in the audience.  I really think you are seeing the future of geo at events like this.  Geo is no longer just for technicians working in municipal offices.  Geo is moving beyond GIS, web mapping, and cartography.  Geo is now everywhere and anywhere and that is a great thing.  In the near future geo will be even more ubiquitous throughout the business and technology worlds and there will be a growing demand for people trained in the geospatial sciences.   Events like this keep the field moving forward!

Ignite Locationtech Boston – March 25

The folks from AvidGeo, Boston’s #1 social spatial special interest group, are at it again.  Another awesome Meet-Up is scheduled for the end of this month.

From the AvidGeo Meet-Up Page:

 “In collaboration with the Eclipse Foundation’s LocationTech, this month we are doing another Ignite event around geospatial and open source technology.

 Space is limited, to register for this event please visit the eventbrite site here:

This event is not being managed through meetup, registering on this meetup page does not mean you have a ticket to attend, please visit the eventbrite site in the link above.”

The event is at Space with a Soul, 281 Summer Street in Boston (a short walk from South Station) and it starts at 7pm.

There are a few talks already in place and they look great – Hubway mapping, open-source multi-spectral imaging, Leaflet mapping, contributing to open source geo projects – what more could you ask for!

If you are in the Boston area and are into open geo you should need to come to this event.  I’m pumped that I can finally make an AvidGeo Meet-Up for the first time in months!

For more info check out Avid Geo’s website or hit them up on Twitter (@avidgeo).

See you there!

Boston Esri Dev Meet-Up 2/7/2013

The folks from the Esri Dev Meet-Up Team (@AmyNiessen and @geeknixta) will be back in town on February 7 for a winter Esri Dev Meet-Up at the Bell in Hand in Boston.  I’ve been to a few of their events over the past couple years and they are always a good time.  Usually there are a few good GEO and GIS presentations and Esri provides some food and drinks (nice!).

If you are in town and are available check out the event.  Details are available at the Meet-Up site.

GeoAwesome: Ignite Spatial Boston 2012

One word: GeoAwesome.  That is how I would describe tonight’s (11/14/2012, GIS Day!) Ignite Spatial Boston 4, which was organized by Avid Geo, hosted by the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard University and sponsored by AppGeo, Axis Maps, NBT Solutions, Azavea, and CDM Smith.  The twelve, five minute talks covered a variety of geo-topics from analysis to workflow, apps and technology.  It was a really well-rounded night of topics.  I thought all the speakers did an excellent job.  Here is a real quick rundown of the talks:

Crowdsourcing Boston’s Neighborhood Boundaries – Andy Woodruff, Axis Maps.  Great idea, great application, great participation, and great execution.  I can’t wait to see what they do next.  Check out Bostonography for more.

Save your Mouse: Automate your Spatial Workflow with PostGIS – Jesse Bishop, Research Associate, Woods Hole Research Center. You know you’re onto something when you are saving yourself literally millions of mouse clicks. Great project and great technique. Really opens up your schedule!

Visualizing the Urban Metabolism of Neighborhoods – Dr. David Quinn, urbmet.  This was one of several talks that discussed a geospatial analysis that was data intensive, innovative, and had great visualization component.  Dr. Quinn did a great job of breaking it all down in five minutes.

Trafficked by Sea – Stacy Bogan, Center for Geographic Analysis, Harvard University.  Presented a unique approach to modeling ocean traffic networks.  During her talk she proved that projections do matter!

Geeky Boating Elk, Ryan Westphal, Lead Developer, jQuery Geo Project.  Great presentation, taking a totally wild and creative subject, and using it to demonstrate the power or jQuery Geo.

GeoHOLLIS: Mapping the ILibrary Catalog – Bonnie Burns, Harvard Map Collection.  I used to work in a map library so I can really appreciate this project.  So far they have geo-cataloged 12.5% of their 12 million records, allowing patrons to search their catalog geographically.

Fontly: Mapping the World of Vintage Typography – Brendan Ciecko, Founder, Fontly.  I was really impressed with this talk.  Check out Fontly and contribute to the project.

Estimating Sandy – Ben Spaulding and Boyd Zapatka, AIR Worldwide.  My co-worker and I gave this talk about the work we have been doing the past couple weeks.  It’s amazing how much geoscience you can jam into five minutes.

Python as an ETL – Mark Zito, GIS Specialist, CDM Smith.  Mark demonstrated a few workflows using Python as a geospatial extract,transform and load tool.  I need to ask him about getting one of his code samples.

Partly Cloudy: Real World Tales of Geo Migration to AWS – Michael Terner, EVP, AppGeo.  Michael shared AppGeo’s experiences about moving to the cloud.  Really focused on the benefits, which I thought were right on the money (he talked about cost savings, if you didn’t get my pun).

Making Sense of 500 Million Location Requests Per Day – Richard Sutton, Geospatial Lead, Skyhook.  I think everyone who was in the room (100+ people) wanted his data and databases after he finished his talk.  I can’t describe how incredible the data and analysis he described are.  The potential for this data is unbelievable.

Cartographic Ingredients from the Eye Candy Kitchen – Jeff Blossom, Center for Geographic Analysis, Harvard University.  We often forget the basics that make a map a pleasure to gaze upon.  Jeff did a great job of breaking down the basic ingredients all cartographers need to remember when creating a map.

A big thanks to Guido Stein and the Avid Geo crew for bringing us this event.  There is a strong geo-community in Boston and events like this really bring it to the forefront!  

Sunday Morning Geo-Fun

Why is it that the only time I have to blog is on Sunday mornings?  Here are a few quick geo-items that tickled my fancy from the previous week.

  • Check out the article, The New Cartographers: OpenStreetMap’s World Takeover, from Carl Franzen at Talking Points Memo.  The first two parts of this story have been tweeted a lot this last week and I can see why.  The article provides a fairly good overview of OSM, including some background on the project, the nuances of licensing OSM data, and adoption in the tech industry.  Part three of the article comes out on Sunday.  Makes me feel good about calling 2012 the year of OSM.
  • Years ago I used to pump out Google Map Mash-Ups on a regular basis, some of which were developed during my time at the Map and Geographic Center at the University of Connecticut.  Well, after nearly two years one of those mash-ups got some press!  Check out the article in the Atlantic, Pre-Sprawl Aerial Images:’Next Best Thing to a Time Machine. The article discusses the dual-map mash-up that I developed for the On the Line Project that is used to compare the drastic changes in Connecticut’s landscape using current and historical aerial photography.  Pretty cool.
  • The guys at Google’s NC data center, which just got the indoors street view treatment, definitely Rickrolled streetview (Check out the image on the screens, also, why didn’t they blur out Rick Astley’s face too?).
  • Brian Flood has been doing a lot of great things for the online mapping and spatial data communities for a while now.  This video and post on the MapBox blog is the latest example.  Using Arc2Earth Sync to integrate with MapBox and ArcGIS appears smooth and simple.  Awesome.  There is a lot of great work happening in “spatial” and it’s only going to make what we do as geo-professionals better.
  • Speaking of MapBox, when does Esri try to scoop them up (if they haven’t already), like they just did with GeoLoqi?
  • Avid Geo Boston had their October meet-up this past week.  The video is here. Since I am a horrible member and missed the meet-up for the third straight month I cannot comment on the talks, but I’m sure everyone had a good time.
  • Avid Geo will be hosting their wildly successful annual Ignite Spatial event on November 14th at the Center for Geographic Analysis at Harvard.  Tickets are available here, and they are currently looking for presenters.
  • Don’t forget to take the totally unscientific ArcGIS 10.1 survey!
  • Finally, I’ll be updating some pages on my site this week, including the blogs page and some of the mash-ups.
  • As always, follow me on twitter @GISDoctor, and hopefully I’ll blog more this week.  I have tons of ideas!


Avid Geo Meet-Up – Thursday, 8/16/2012!

Avid Geo will be holding it’s monthly meeting for August this coming Thursday at Dogpatch   Labs in Cambridge.  Unfortunately I can’t make this month’s meeting but it looks to another good one.  David Zwarg, from Azavea will be talking about PostGIS raster formats and supporting GDAL drivers.  I’ve seen David speak a couple times now and its always about some pretty interesting stuff.  So, if you are into PostGIS,  GDAL, and like “talking shop” with some people in the know then head over to Cambridge this Thursday!