ESRI User Conference Plenary – LIVE BLOG!

Plenary Live Blog

Welcome to the 2010 Plenary Live blog!  The show is just starting.  Kudos to ESRI for this year’s bloggers station.  I totally dig the two table thing.  Lots of room to get around and get the job done.  The opening music is a tune I’ve not heard from Macy Gray (I think).  Kinda dig it.

Jack’s on the stage.  It’s the 30th anniversary UC and the largest show they’ve had.  He just welcomed us and said we’re from all planets.  Jesse and our’s jig is up!  Just kidding.  He talking about learning from friends, which I think is going to bring out the VGI stuff pretty heavy this morning, I’m betting.  First up is the meet and greet part, where we’re supposed to introduce ourselves to each other.  That shows the only downside to the new table setup – the only person I can reasonably meet is Barb!

Jack’s talking about the types of stuff we do in GIS.  He’s showing a series of maps detailing this stuff.  Oh!  First “VGI Bomb”!  Let’s keep a count.  He talked about the environmental sector, health – with a mention of today’s hot topic of childhood obesity, transportation, homeland security, and now the gulf oil spill.  It’s kinda the 800lb GIS project that will probably be a running theme through the week, I guessing.  Drat!  Internet is going wonky!   Ok, other sectors – business and economics, visualization, government transparency, citizen engagement (VGI Bomb 2).   Jack’s talking about GIS as a governmental infrastructure.  That’s an interesting idea to use the spatial as the basis for the information architecture.  Now a mention of the SAG awards.  Quit a list on the screen, and now we clap for the winners.  Good job everybody!

Abu Dhabi is getting the “Making a Difference” Award.  We’re seeing a video about why they are winning the award.  Pretty cool 3D model of their work to help making sustainable cities.  I think it’s interesting that every 3D model shot is followed immediately by a paper map shot.  Jack’s talking about the assistance that the country has given to other countires over the years.  The Secretary General of the country is going to accept the award (not going to even attempt to spell his name).  Now a speech by the Secretary General.  He’s giving credit to the people who have invented decision support tools like GIS.  He says he wanted a system like the human body – complex, interactive, multi sensory, connected, automatically reacting to stimuli.  It’s an interesting analogy, but what he’s not exactly saying is that all those parts are dictated to by “the brain”.  Since he’s the leadership, it kinda makes sense he would think of his government as appendages.  I’m betting most political leaders do.  Jack is recognizing the United Nations now.  The program has a series of presentations by the UN throughout the week.

Having terrible problems getting to the VerySpatial website – hopefully the Internet connection will clearly up soon.

This year’s theme is “Describing our World”.  I like it better than last year’s, which I never understood.  Jack is saying that thirty years ago, a new type of geography was born – computational geography.  A whole lot of people in more liberal geography departments just had their collective head explode.  He’s talking about this new type of geography has lead to new types of exploration, through the computational power of GIS, Remote Sensing, etc.  He’s talking about the fields that can be still explored with GIS.  He’s talking about leveraging our collective knowledge of GIS and making a larger scale “super” system of information.  He’s talking about all the real time explosion of data through crowd sourcing (VGI Bomb 3!)  The move into 3D, the increasing number of mobile devices, etc is driving this explosion of data.  Jack says that the Internet is emerging as a GIS platform, which will enable new generations of apps.  They’ll be usable by citizen sensors (VGI Bomb 4) and utilizing citizen sensors’ data.

Now we’re seeing a presentation by a group called City Source, which mobilizes citizen engagement.  They take citizen information and feed it into a geodatabase to do GIS computation.  First up is the smart phone app, which words on iPhone, Blackberry, and Android.  It allows the person to report problems they see on the street while they walk around and see problems in an area.  This goes into a cloud based platform and the information gets routed to the appropriate agency.  They’re using the ESRI apis and sdks.    They also have a web based platform if you don’t have a smart phone.  Sadly, even though this whole demo is a big, fat VGI Bomb, that only counts once… so that’s 5 VGI Bombs so far.  City Source is now talking about the back end and some of the analysis that is possible.  For instance, they find that something like 85% of their reports are within a mile of an interstate.  He says we can all tap into their VGI data (and he actually called it VGI, so that gets its own VGI Bomb count) to make our own apps.  Jack is back on talking about the crowd source data and its challenges to current experts.  What’s authoritative, and does that matter?  (VGI Bomb 7)

Jack is now talking about the work that ESRI does, which this year culminates in ArcGIS 10.  Jack calls this a new milestone in GIS.  It’s a complete system for geographic information.  It’s designed to be everywhere.  Everything that GIS can do is now integrated into one system.  He’s talking about the “scale” move from the “local” desktop to the enterprise up to the “cloud”.  One area of focus of 10 is the “intelligent map”.  It’s a great idea, but does it work?  The idea is to bury the nerd stuff under the map so you don’t have to get elbows deep in the muck to use the map.  Also, you can swap out functions or data or both, which sounds like templates, which it basically is.  The idea is you can just use templates, or edit existing templates, and then publish that stuff to the online community.  They’ve integrated time into the GIS model, so 10 is “time aware”, which is super cool.  They’re talking about the stronger connection of the Python programming language, which I personally dislike, but I get why they’d go that way.  They’re committing to open standards, which isn’t too hard when you’re functionally a standard.  But they’re also moving to an open api model, which includes a bunch of stuff (like the geodatabase) beyond the web apis.  In a few weeks, there will be a new REST api, which is going into the open source world, so it will in and of itself become an open standard, kinda like the shape file.  He’s talking about mobile and the smart phone explosion.  The iPhone app came out last Tuesday, they’re planning on doing an Android.  The downloads for the iPhone app are impressive for a mere week.  Kudos!  The idea is to use that to bring the community back into the city (VGI Bomb 8).  Imagery is becoming a core part in 10, which is good because they’re not really been a raster package before.  Dynamic mosaics can connect a repository of unprocessed imagery and serves it out.  On the fly processing is built into the desktop, so you don’t have to launch multiple platforms to get image processing done, unless you want advanced processing.  In two months, they will be publishing a color mosaic of the world and elevation data.  That sounds pretty cool, since their base map is fairly nice.

Jack is talking about the integration of Open Street maps and other open sources of data.  We’re watching a video about Charlotte, North Carolina and their community base map.  Community base maps are pretty nifty, but again we’re talking about “authoritative” data.  In fact, the video actually said “crowd sourcing data from GIS professionals”, which I think this is a bit of an oxymoron (VGI Bomb 9, by the way).  Jack is back talking about this abstracting of information from the bottom up into a higher service that anyone can use.  Bernie is getting on the stage.  Bern is always fun to see.  This community base map is a multi scale map that follows a template standard, which is cartographically pleasing.  It sounds like a more refined version of the USGS’s National Map, which never panned out.  It looks like they’ve picked up a number of lessons learned from that project to address some of the shortfalls.  The base map is continually being updated.  The draws are super fast, so it moves pretty quickly.  It looks like he’s using a web based version and zooming around, which is impressive (his Internet connection is CLEARLY better than mine J  He’s showing the wealth of layers available for the ArcGIS Online base map.  There’s a lot of layers available for use by anyone.  Actually, I’m unclear if it’s available for anyone’s use, or only for ArcGIS users.  Presumably if you’re using their APIs, you can use their data easy peasy.  I’m curious if I can pull it into Google just as easily (and free).  Bern is now showing ArcGIS Explorer Online. We’ve mentioned it in the show in the past.  It’s a lightweight version of of Arc and pretty fancy looking, if you haven’t seen it.

One of my favorite things about the plenary is Jack screws up enough to make me feel less nervous about my presentations.  He got his cue’s off.  But, hey, that’s ok ‘cause it got a laugh.

New pattern for ArcGIS – the Web Cloud Pattern.  Honestly, I could have counted cloud bombs too, but I can only keep track of one buzz word per plenary 😉  ArcGIS is now in the cloud.  You can rent servers from Amazon, and soon from Microsoft, and use those to work in tandem with your existing infrastructure.  Allows for more scalable implementations, according to Jack.  He’s talking about the gulf oil spill and how the cloud allows for quick response.  Jack says the cloud is a complement to the existing implementations, not the replacement.  Now he’s talking about the next big step – ArcGIS Online.  It’s a vision that started about 5 years ago.  Users should be able to collaborate with one another online.  They want to be able to share maps, tools, etc.  He mentioned some people liken it to Flickr, like a GeoFlickr.  I like GeoFlickr better than ArcGIS Online.  I’m betting the Flickr folks would too.  It’s a network of distributed servies that can be discovered and mashed up.  They’re both maps and apps, and now there would be a “map store” like Apple’s App Store.  However, I’m unclear if you could actually sell assets through this – it seems like it’s a way to put up your stuff for free, so it isn’t exactly a store.  This is ArcGIS.com.

Bern is back talking about ArcGIS.com.  Personally, I’m glad they’re jumping into this, because I’ve been unclear how to use this site in my day to day work.  He’s showing a map gallery, which has ratings and a sort of “metadata” about the map.  He didn’t mention it, but there are buttons for mentioning a map on Twitter or Facebook.  Groups can be created to share maps, and those groups can be public or private.  It looks like you can start using a map you like right away.  I’m curious if you can “lock” a map so you can only use it without re-using the data.  I can see where that might be nice to do from time to time.  Bern is opening the ArcGIS.com viewer and he’s going to make a map of Washington, DC.  He’s zoomed into the default base map and wants to add content.  You can search ArcGIS.com, but you can also search the open web.  He finds a parcel layer and adds the live services to the map.  He added the zoning information and can now save his new map.  You have to give it a title, summary, and some keyword tags.  Now the map is saved to your ArcGIS Online account.  I wonder how much space you have in your account?  Lastly, you can say if you want the map to be public or private.  When he goes to open the newly created map, he can open it in ArcGIS Explorer Online, in the ArcGIS.com online viewer, or even in ArcGIS 10 directly.  In the ArcGIS Explorer Online, you can add in content points, such as photos with tags.  He’s now opening this map materials in ArcMap 10.  The Explorer product is a pretty impressive light tool for generating maps quickly.  They made a nice map of lunch sites for the ESRI UC and I’m thinking of doing the same thing using ArcGIS Explorer, but for Morgantown WV.  Yet more projects to play with when I get back to the office.  Now Bern has pulled out an iPad.  The iPad app was just released on Monday and it’s free.  I’m betting Jesse is downloading it as I type this.  He’s pulled up his Washington DC map on the iPad.  I’m no huge fan of the iPad, but watching him use the touch to interact with the map was, to put it bluntly, FREAKIN’ AWESOME!

Now we’re seeing a gentlemen that’s working for the City of DC (I think).  He’s talking about their community base maps that’s being added to by members of the community (VGI Bomb 10).  Makes sense – DC might have the greatest concentration of spatially aware people maybe anywhere on the planet.  Their base map is pretty fancy.  I really like the template they used.  I want to use something like that for a project I have in the works for West Virginia.

ArcGIS Opens GIS for Everyone slide up now.  I like the idea.  ArcGIS.com and ArcGIS Explorer Online is the core of this “for everyone” platform.  He says this pattern of “for everyone” will continue, into 10.1, 10.2, and 11.  The ideas is to extend the functionality into templates that anyone can use.

Holy cow!  I just looked around and there are a LOT of people standing in the back.  This place is full!  I wonder what the attendance is this year?

New initiative announcement for this fall – it’s a community initiative for policy makers.  My political science brain just got a tingle.  This will be cool to see.  He’s talking back other areas for the company beyond the software.  Tech support is growing to make responses quicker.  Training is expanding to offer virtual classroom, which is basically what it sounds, and certification.  I wonder where this will live compared to the GISP.  The certification program is in beta and will be released next year.  He’s talking about all the partners.  The slide is cool because it’s a Wordle, which are always fun.  Jack said “esri” instead of E-S-R-I.  He just gave his blessing to say “esri”, which got a big round of applause.  He says he doesn’t care either way (and I’m sure he ultimately doesn’t), but I bet he secretly thinks “ESRI”.  He’s talking about the financial status of the company.  It’s growing even in this economy, which is impressive.  Another Wordle (I refuse to count Wordle bombs…. But for those keeping score at home, we’re at 2).  He’s talking about the users (ie us) and then onto education.  I’m looking forward to hearing the kids this afternoon – they’re always fun to hear.  Jack is wrapping up for a break soon.  We’ll come back after the break and cover people beyond Jack.

I’m pretty sure the reason the AC is on so high is to keep the routers cooled off.  They must be smoking with the amount of traffic flying in here.

John Calkins is now our leader after the break.  Everyone in scrambling to find seats.  It’s like a massive game of musical chairs.  John asked us to raise our hand if we’re a desktop, server, or mobile user respectively.  He says it’s a sily question because in the future, we’ll all become desktop, server, and mobile users at the same time.  GIS is becoming just like music in that music is listened to in a variety of environments (car, iPhone, computer, stero, etc).  GIS will be wherever you are.  You’re where it’s at.   He just said you’ll move through space and time using your GIS everywhere you happen to be located at the moment, whether that’s the office, or the local Starbucks (how did he get through the line so fast to get a frappichio??  He must know somebody.  No cuts-ies John!)

Now we’re getting a demo from Pat on Arc 10 desktop.  They’ve put a lot of the tools (like Arc Catalog) into ArcMap, which got applause.  Symbol locater got a search, so you no longer have to hunt through pages and pages of symbols to find the right one.  That got an applause AND a whistle.  Such a simple change, but so powerful.  Backgrounds now update without having to refresh when you pan/zoom around, which makes it look much slicker.  People are now applauding the editing of sewer lines.  The editing dialogue is much slicker and easier to use.  I don’t do a lot of data line editing, so maybe I’m not the right person to judge, but I’m not sure that it requires applause.  However, from the people in the know for this stuff, it sounds like they’re happy J  We’re onto mapbooks in ArcGIS 10.  They’ve created more powerful tools to create mapbooks.  Instead of dividing by a pre-defined grid, you can create a sheet based upon the “project extent”, which is much more helpful for end users, I think.  I can see for mobile crews this will help keep the number of maps down.  John’s sippin on his frap back there, but he’s thrown down the gauntlet to Pat about showing the whole system beyond desktop.  I TOTALLY want his job – give orders and sip on frapps :)  I think I can do that (just joking John, I’m sure your day to day work isn’t as stress free).

He’s challenged Pat to publish his map so that Katie, who’s “in the field” can download the project and start collecting information and updating the project.  She’s downloading the information into a mobile device of some sort, presumably a pretty industrial strength GPS unit/pad type computer.  The symbology is the same on her application as the desktop, which seems to happen automatically from Pat’s definition in the map.  Katie can use the larger buttons in the unit to tag places in the field and add additional content.  It’s pretty easy and anyone who can touch a screen can input information.  She’s now simulating going to the Starbucks (apparently she doesn’t “know a guy” ‘cause she doesn’t get a frap… which, incidentally, the Starbucks people HATE when you go in and use the free wifi without ordering anything… not that I know from personal experience or anything…. Nope, and that’s the story I’m sticking to!).  From “Starbucks”, she edits the map using a webpage, which uses the same editing rules and templates which Pat setup back in the “office”.  It’s pretty impressive and will help with the non-expert field users.

John has moved on to map automation.  They’ve extended Python into map automation.  Meh.  Well, ok, good for more map automation, buy Python is annoying.  Powerful, but annoying.  John has brought up a user from the community who is well versed in automation.  He’s from Clark Co. Washington.  Apparently his first UC was 25 years ago, back with AMLs were all the rage. He’s showing a command line version of Python and loading scripts to help with the automating.  I’m wondering if they’ll start moving more and more of ArcObjects into Python.  I can see a Python version of ArcObjects in the future.  He says that it’s easier to do more powerful work with fewer lines of code than under ArcObjects.  That’s certainly true.  The real magic will happen when the ease of the apis converges with the power and versatility of ArcObjects, if you ask me.  They’re closer than they’ve ever been, but it’s still divergent, as is evidenced by the Python scripting environment.  One thing that’s extremely useful about Python is that users can write scripts and publish them directly into server for other users to use.  Server has done this for a couple of versions back to at least 9.2, but it’s even easier under 10.

We’ve moved onto Imagery in ArcGIS 10.  Gerry Kinn is speaking about the new stuff in Server 10 to help with imagery.  We’re seeing an interactive map that show a series of footprints for imagery collected for New York state (and I play my new favorite game – Guess what API was used to produce this interactive map!  My guess – Flex).  He’s showing the blending of various imagery that was collected in and around New York based upon different sensors and data sources.  He’s showing a pretty cool tool that moves the data through time.  So if you had imagery for 1990, 2000, and 2010, you have a tool that allows you to “step” through time and find changes (he said it was a Flex viewer.  Point for me!)  The step through ability is a lot better than trying to turn layers on and off as needed to find time change.  The imagery renders super fast, so it’s easy to quickly see what’s changed.  There is a new image analysis window built into ArcGIS.  You can tweak brightness, contrast, stretching, and other things to make your imagery look a LOT better.  The example was pretty washed out, and with a couple of clicks, the imagery was massively clearer.  There’s a demonstration of imagery moving super fast without having to redraw when panning.  It’s even better than how it looks in tiled sets from the web.  There’s also a new image classification toolbar.  The land classification works on the fly.  I think this tool is pretty powerful, but it didn’t get a lot of response, which is unfortunate.  It might be one of the types of tools you won’t realize its full utility until you’ve played with it a bit.  Now we’re back to a mobile device with the data has been downloaded.  The demo is showing ground truthing with the mobile device and having it update the land classification back in the office from the field.

Network analysis is up next.  I’m going to cop to not knowing a ton about network analysis other than in the broadest sense, so I might not see the super cool stuff.  There’s a new location/allocation system to make this work more effectively.  Matt from the software dev team is going to show the network analysis piece.  He’s showing Cleveland, OH (jez, he even got in a LeBron James reference.  Let it die already! )  He’s trying to decide where to put health centers in the area to see if people in the can get to health centers in an emergency.  He’s simulating a bad snow storm that slows down traffic 50% to make sure the health center coverage is ok.  He wants to show where to add centers to cover 97% of patients.  A few new points show up on the map to show locations that need to be placed.  He’s switching to logistics (and I’ll note he’s entering the “Starbucks” to do this… no frap for him either).  ArcLogistics trys to optimize the best places for delivery and travel routes, and then get that information out to the drivers.  You can have these routes sent directly to a mobile device running ArcLogistics navigator.  This would be great for some of the work Barb and Sue are doing on recycling routing and site selection.

We’re moving onto the iPhone and the iPad.  He has called it iPod like 4 times now, instead of iPad.  iAmused.  They’re showing a real estate application that’s free and will be available in about a week.  Basically it’s got a ton of demographics and whatnot.  The data looks like business marketing data that’s determinate based upon your neighborhood.  The app is cool (but I gotta say, I’ve always found these classifications insulting and stupid, but that’s just an editorial comment).  You can use the information to compare to other communities.  He’s moved onto ArcGIS for the iPad.  Like I said above…. FREAKIN’ AWESOME.  It’s really how you’d like to interact with a map.  Ideally, we’ll all have that for our desktops in the future.

We’ve moved onto 3D.  John says ArcGIS 10 is a 3D system.  Let’s hope we can get this in the CAVE at WVU soon.  Gert and Nathan are going to take us through the 3D capabilities in 10.  Gert is from The Netherlands and felt compelled to mention the World Cup J  The City of Rotterdam is show in a 3D model on the screen and it’s very beautiful.  You can really see how you can move in and around the city and get a good feel for the “street level” of the city.  They’re showing a proposed building which raised a lot of questions about how the new building impacts visibility and whatnot of the city.  Nathan is adding the architect’s model of the building into ArcGIS 10 showing where it is supposed to live on this peninsula.  Instead of a top down viewshed, you get a much more immersive vision of how this building will impact the city.  You can use more complex visual tools to see things like “how visible will this building be from the roads?”  Turns out, you can see it from a LOT of different roads from around the world.  You can even validate the information by easily panning/zooming around the 3D landscape.  From this 3D model, you can quickly produce a traditional 2D map with a viewshed which can be published to the public, for instance.  I wonder if you can publish these 3D models to server to make interactive globes?  That would be a nice feature, especially if you can publish it to ArcGIS.com like your maps and data.  They’re showing that you can not only do that analysis at the city/street level but all the way down to the building level to see which specific windows will be obscured or not.

John has moved onto Space and Time.  He is giving examples of space time problems.  The currently obvious example is the gulf oil spill.  Three other ESRI employees are giving demos of this problem (I totally missed their names, so apologies to those individuals!)  She is showing an interactive map (I’m guessing Flex) that shows the changes in the oil spill based upon time.  The map is a public resource that is easy for the public to understand time and impacts.  Nate (got his name) is pointing out that all data has a time stamp that allows data to be used in the time tools.  The time slider tool allows you to move through time on layers, turning them on and off as you move through time.  Nate is showing a map that links to data in real time, with symbols showing current locations of vessels in the area.  You can setup an alert that signals vessels that move into an area.  Browyn (the first presenter, and I’m sure I’ve butchered her name) is showing a map with twitter feeds (VGI Bomb 11!) with mentions of the phrase “oil spill”.  She’s mentioning that many of us might be geoTweeting on our smart phone right now.  This is funny, ‘cause people sure ain’t from their open wifi J  She’s demoing a map of the shoreline to show a combination of crowd (VGI Bomb 12!) sourced data and “official” data reporting tar balls along the coast.  This way you can use the public to help decide where to send assessment crews for cleanup efforts.  This can be pushed down to the mobile platform to direct the official efforts, which then feeds back into the main office system.

One thing I’ll say about the VGI bomb that’s pretty normal – most of the way we talk about it is from a top down, official perspective.  The question of the day is how do the “officials” get this VGI data and use it.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of talk about how the non-expert users can use data between themselves.  Of course, the crowd here are all “experts”, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that’s the perspective, I guess.

Apparently they’re not doing the “Top 10 New features” segment they’ve done the last couple of years.  That’s too bad – I always liked that part L

Jack is back on stage for the 2010 President’s Award.  This year’s award goes to the City of Frisco, Texas.  Frisco is a small city that has a small GIS staff.  Susan Olson and the team from the city are going to show some of their work.  They have a team of six (bigger than my shop!)  The rest of the team are live via conference call.  Basically, the city has integrated the whole city into a common GIS, from emergency response to the street crews.  The fire chief is showing an example of how the emergency response team uses the fast response system.  All the lights are flashing like emergency alarms and the warning messages are coming in.  The chief is showing using the system, which appears to be a mobile system that’s touch sensitive, and they’re looking for what kind of materials (most importantly dangerous chemicals) are in the building that triggered the emergency.  They can bring up floor plans of a school (the example in this demo) and even show all the live camera feeds into which they can tap and see what’s going on in real time.  On the one hand, it’s pretty cool to see in “real” time.  On the other hand, the privacy issue is a bit scary.  And of course, on the OTHER other hand, I think it’s great, but it’d never play in our area since finding floor plans, much less even remotely up to date chemical information, would be less likely than finding a pot of gold on the back of a flying unicorn at the end of a double rainbow (viral video bomb!)

Break for lunch, and we’ll be back with the life show at 1:30pm PST!

Back from lunch (which was yummy!)  Now onto the keynote!  They showed a picture of the last 5 years or so keynotes.  I was surprised at how many of those I have actually seen.  Jack is up giving the lifetime achievement award.  This year’s award goes to Carlos Salman.  He is a key mapper in South America, particularly in Mexico.  He’s starting with a quote from the 6th century that says our thoughts on tomorrow are formed by our thoughts of yesterday and today.  He founded Centenal, which was founded to map the area of Mexico.  From this organization, he created topos for the entire country of Mexico, which is impressive.  His talking about his advisors who advised him that trying to map all of Mexico would be a long, hard pull, which I think anyone in governmental mapping work can relate.  “Mapping and GIS are like the brains and eyes of a country.  You need both.”  Great quote.  “Maps are like messages.  It doesn’t matter what you say, it matters what people hear.”  Another great quote!  He is talking about the history of mapping in Mexico, going back to the late 70’s, mentioning that back in the day, the maps were just overlayed with each other – no computers involved.  That must have made color matching a royal pain J  Here’s another great quote: “We aren’t making maps for ourselves.  If you don’t get into the community, they’re worthless.”  Carlos is famous for one other thing, which is re-creating achient maps in Mexican tile.  They’re just stunning to look at on the screen.  I’m hoping they’ll have some in the map gallery so I can snap some photos to put on the blog.  Truly, truly stunning!

Gil Grosvenor is another lifetime achievement winner.  He has given hundreds of thousands to education, particularly in educating educators, which is critical.  He’s worked with (in?) National Geographic to get geography back into education.  Sadly, geographic knowledge is lacking in our current k-12 schools and groups.  He’s now showing a project from a high school group that mapped an underground cave.  They started with conservation of a cave system in Montana, but they started branching into recording, mapping, and photographing the resources in the cave system.  In particular, they captured both biological and geological features.  The girl mentioned a spider nest they recorded that was over 7 feet tall of daddy long legs.  Ok, I’m not afraid of spiders at all (My nickname at home is Spider’s Bane), but that’s a bit much for even me!  They’re doing a live demo of a visualization they did of the cave.  It was created in 9.3, but they’re porting it over to 10.  It’s a nice map they put together showing their study area.  Their teacher is on stage now talking about how these kids need the support of the GIS community to help them get the skills.  Apparently these kids got the Environmental Youth Award for 2010 from the President.  They got to speak to the President for a bit, which explains why a room full of geo-nerds isn’t going to phase them one bit!

The Bell Medal is a rare award from National Geographic.  It’s in celebration of people who have pushed geography knowledge and discipline forward.

Roger Tomlinson is receiving a Bell Medal from National Geographic.  Apparently there have only been a very few recipients of the award.  Jesse, Sue, and I were lucky to get a picture with Dr. Tomlinson back two years ago.  I only got to speak with him for a few minutes on that meeting, and he was just as impressive in person as he is standing on a stage in front of thousands.

Jack Dangermond is also getting a Bell Medal .  Jack is credited for resurrecting geography as a discipline, and recognizing the fundamental potential of GIS technology.  The same year we meet Dr. Tomlinson, we got to interview Jack Dangermond.  That was a great year for VerySpatial.

Now it on to the Keynote, from Richard Saul Wurman.  We start with a short video about a TV series called “Cities”.  I’m looking forward to seeing that.  Wurman started the TED conferences, which are impressive in and of themselves.  He’s talking about something near and dear to my heart – Information Architecture.  He’s moved from subject to subject and published 60 something books.  Sounds like my kinda guy.  I TOTALLY want his job J  He says the secret is to have a passion for finding a pattern from ignorance, which is an impressive idea.  He’s making the argument to stand up and say, “I don’t get it!”  It’s sorta the modern equivalent of Socrates, I guess.  I gotta say, I’m absolutely positive this guy forgets more in a day than I’ll learn in a year.  Maybe in 5 years.  Wurman says that everything starts with a question, so we must think about the questions we’re asking of our information, which is a pretty intriguing idea.  Understanding proceeds action.  He seeks to understand the phenomena of cities.  He’s gotten a colleque out to help him show current contempary imagery to compare one city to the next, just in size.  It’s a simple idea, but something we don’t often do.  Truly impressive idea.  It was done by students in their off hours.

Wurman has now brought out a third gentleman, John, who founded Radical Media.  The basic idea with which they’re working is 19, 20, 21.  There are 19 cities which will have 20 million people (or more) by the 21st century.  From that the Cities TV show was created.  They worked with Jack to create this project.  How do you define a city?  There are no universal rules of boundaries or anything.  They produced a set of minimaps of cities, each set with an exact boundary of 50 square miles.  What they found were certain patterns began to emerge.  There are boundaries, either physically defined by the environment or culturally defined by the humans, which dictate the edges and of the city.  He details five different ways to “define” a city, more or less based upon a theme or a layer.  Now they’re showing a series of maps based upon city density, then density compared to education.  The ultimate intention is to show a lot of this information in a series of media presentations, from TV to interactive sites to print media.  It will be a published course material using crowd sources (VGI Bomb 12!) which users can add and utilize.  They’re creating the “Urban Observatory” where people can learn about their city, as well as other people’s city.  It’s likened to a planetarium or an aquarium.  The online product allows you to load up three different cities and compared one layer across cities.  For instance, the example they’re showing is landuse for Tokyo compared to New York.  The key is being able to add services produced by the localities.  The nice thing is as you zoom in, it brings each city to the comparable scale.

One last thing to put up – they’re showing a music video for the late Johnny Cash, which relates to crowd sources (VGI Bomb 13!  Baker’s Dozen).  It’s a music video where people can contribute bits to the music video.  The media calls the drawings and the information they collect a drawing, Jack points out we call that “metadata”.

Johnny Cash and a metadata reference are a great way to close out the 30th Annual ESRI UC!  Glad to see everyone out at the plenary.  Look for the VerySpatial crew around all week and don’t forget to check out our live show on Wednesday!

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