I usually don’t respond to comments on my blog post, but I feel the need to respond to a couple items from a recent comment posted on everyone’s favorite article on this blog. Before I start my response let me say that I agree with some parts of the comment, which I will discuss later. However, I really disagree with other passages and I’ll talk about those first.
But first, the comment…
From Chris, posted on 6/18/2013
“ESRI days are numbered. The place is a sinking ship. They have totally lost control of both the gis data and software monopoly they once had back in the 80s and 90s.
Open Street Maps and QGIS are hammering ESRI now. You can’t give away ArcGIS since EVERYTHING is free with other gis packages and data.
There are so many map apps and programs that BEAT ESRI at their own game. Newer and easier ones are popping up faster everyday now.
And there is NO need for a degree in Geography to make maps anymore! This field of study is basically dead and has been bypassed in the last few years. Colleges need to stop teaching it since the public uses digital maps everyday now and are getting daily geography lessons for free!
ESRI better be shopping themselves around before Google adds massive gis tools to Google Earth and finishes them off. This multibillion dollar company will be worth nothing in a few years at the rate of free map tool and data advancement.
Sounds like not too many smart people are left at ESRI since most have left to go to start ups. ArcMap 10 basically validates this.
And the way Open Source is going, their won’t be to many companies left that will be able to demand thousands for their software. Especially bad software. ESRIs biggest customer, which is the U.S. Government, is slowly waking up to this fact. The Gov needs to save our tax dollars and go more to the free open source software ASAP.”
Now, my response:
The “open vs. commercial GIS” mentality is getting old. I am getting sick of it, and you should be too.
We should all be vested in the development of GIS as a science, as a tool set, and as a way of thinking, whether it is commercial or free, open or closed. GIS is aided by the growth of both free and open source and commercial software. It is pretty well known that the commercial sector now has real competition and they need to respond. This is a good thing. Saying that open source GIS is going to kill commercial GIS software is like saying that Linux has killed Windows or PostgreSQL killed Oracle. These commercial GIS shops are embedded deep in many organizations and they aren’t going to be dropping them any time soon. That is a choice that they made, and when the business case dictates a change they will make it.
Now, will organizations who are new to GIS or at a point of transition choose to go with open source platforms that are light-weight, reliable, and free and easy to use when they design their next implementation? Probably. I would, especially if cost was a factor.
The more scientists, engineers, planners, civic leaders, decision makers, concerned citizens, business leaders and educators who use GIS the better it is for GIS community as whole. The GIS community should be working together to move technology forward – not digging trenches and setting in for battle. It is a horribly counter productive strategy. Any users of GIS, online mapping, or spatial analysis would logically want the field to grow and evolve. Competition helps drive that growth and evolution and I am all for it.
And, why do people keep saying/thinking that Google should buy Esri, or that Google Earth is going to overtake ArcMap? I’ve never understood this argument. Never. Why would Google, who has really failed at commercializing their current geo-stack, go after such a small market when compared to their other endeavors? If you were a smart company that makes a lot of money what market would you focus on as revenue driver? Millions and millions of mobile users, or a few thousand specialized (and picky) GIS software users? How many of you are paying for Google Maps or have bought Google Earth Pro? Not many? That’s what I thought. Let’s just drop this train of thought.
Now for the second statement in the comment that drives me absolutely crazy:
“And there is NO need for a degree in Geography to make maps anymore! This field of study is basically dead and has been bypassed in the last few years. Colleges need to stop teaching it since the public uses digital maps everyday now and are getting daily geography lessons for free!“
This statement is so horribly misguided I don’t even know how to respond.
Let’s try. There is a calculator on every computer and smartphone made, and we use them all the time. Does this mean we need to eliminate math as a discipline at the university level? Anyone can download a content management system and build a website. Time to get rid of computer science departments! Turbo Tax! Get rid of accounting majors! WebMD. Who needs pre-med?
See where I am going with this? Just because a tool exists does not mean that a particular discipline should be eradicated. You still need some background to understand what you are looking at.
I have three degrees in geography. A bachelors, masters, and Ph.D. . During those years of schooling and research I did far more than make maps and use online mapping tools. Geographers study far more than just cartography and learn about place names, check out my dissertation for proof.
Geographers have been crucial in the development of the theory, logic, and science behind the G in GIS. The field of geography has also provided countless contributions to spatial analysis, policy and planning, environmental science, economics, anthropology, sociology, biology, civil engineering, and many more and will continue to so. In fact, we need more geography being taught at all education levels.
Geography matters. It always has and it always will.
To say that geography doesn’t matter displays a lack of understanding that is all to common in the GIS community. Sometimes I am floored with the lack of understanding of the basic principles and fundamentals of geography among those who use GIS, online mapping tools, or any other type of spatial decision making system. Without a basic foundation in geography how do you expect to make the correct decisions using a GEOGRAPHIC information system? I’m not saying that everyone who uses GIS needs a Ph.D. in geography, but taking a couple geography courses during your undergraduate years isn’t going to hurt.
Now, what do I agree with from the comment?
- Governments need to invest more resources in free and open source software of any type. No excuses.
- You don’t need a degree in geography to make a map, but it sure does help
- OpenStreetMap is great, but let’s not forget where a majority of the US data came from in the early uploads (TIGER).
- I love QGIS.
That’s enough for this post. I didn’t do a god job summarizing my thoughts at the end, but it is getting late and I want to go to bed. More rambling and ranting will come in later posts
As always, thanks for reading.