Little less action, a little more conversation please

In his blog zen GIS Development, Dave Bouwman asks what I think is a pretty important question – why aren’t we all talking together about GIS? He notes that a natural use of blogs is to facilitate communication and interaction within a community. This isn’t really happening in the GIS community. We pretty much read each others’ blogs and don’t really talk about what we’ve read. Dave things it might have something to do with the relatively small community and the lack of techno-savvy users out there.

I’m not sure he’s got it quite right. I think the small community should, in theory, stimulate conversation rather than repress it. In a community measured in thousands if not tens of thousands like the software development blog community, it becomes extremely hard to keep track of much of anyone. Lots of meaningless garbage can be introduced by nearly anyone at any time. With a smaller community measured in the hundreds, you could actually build some sort of reputation (good or bad). The quantity might not be there, but the quality should improve. Tech chops shouldn’t matter as much either, since obviously those of us already in the blog community should have the skills needed.

If you ask me, I think the reason lies more with the newness of it all. There still aren’t that many GIS/Mapping blogs out there compared to a lot of fields. I think most of us are still trying to find our voices and places in the community. My guess is the readers are interested more in finding information rather than talking. The blogs end up being more of a resource than a community. Perhaps we should, as a community of both blog writers and blog readers, attempt to address this situation. If we talk more, we can collaborate more, overcome problems more effectively, and perhaps save time and resources.

5 Replies to “Little less action, a little more conversation please”

  1. anthony

    Commented on dave’s blog, and thought I would add a comment here as well.

    I kind of agree with his techno savvy idea, is it not a case of the audience you are addressing? I would suspect that the majority of people who read GIS blogs have grown up with the internet = information web, rather than = social web ? There is nothing wrong with that though, you are provding good information that lots of people read.

    IMHO, engage with non-gis professionsals a little better by reducing needless buzzwords and don’t expect people to start commenting if they have not grown up doing so (this will come in time, not overnight).

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  3. Daniel

    Well, you also have the fact that it’s a cut-throat industry where employers and former employers are all too quick to threaten a law-suit if you talk about anything that they would perceive as a threat to business and competition – regardless if it’s irrelative to anything you’ve done for them in the past. It’s unfortunate having come through the other side of the nurturing culture of the dot-com era, and graphics, design, and development sharing communities, to government contracting mindsetting, of paranoia and greed – which we experience each day in the sectors we work in, if commercial. Even after leaving a contractor, the drama never seems to stop from their end. Do something – get emails with subversive or outright claims of threats – do something – get more emails. Rinse, repeat.

    You can wonder why so many professionals have a difficult time sharing their good knowledge in collaboration? The fact is, we’re the kind of people who’d love to share freely. The unfortunate reality is in the nature of those who actively make attempts to surpress us, or manipulate and instill fear if we did.

    I suppose you can either let it rule you forever, or you can finally come to the realization that they have no power over you. It’s a defining moment in one’s life, when you take the chance and you’re scratching your head in that moment of realization that the law suits never came like they claimed they would.

    Then again, perhaps this was just my experience. But there seems to be a commonality among many that I’ve talked with in the industry who seemed to have had the same issues with where they came from – and just as interesting the stories that explain their journey in where they are today. Fact is – people are screwing each other in this industry, and so unfortunately because of the culture. The academics freak if you aren’t an academic and are actually able to ‘school’ them in new ways to approach data [ie: innovate] – industry management just wants to ‘own’ everything, to get a leg up on their competitors, or to use your good work to establish another White Paper or patent with their name(s) on it.

    So yeah… Either we’re all going to sit here in our little boxes, afraid of what the big bad corporation might do if we get friendly – or we’ll finally come to our senses, establish some initiative and control, and get this puppy rolling like we did during the dot-coms – with no looking back. It’s already happening with Google Earth being the most obvious example, but my god it could be so much better and drawing so much more interest if only people would collaborate on new market ideas and applications.

    If I saw even a quarter of the amount of going-out-on-a-limb as we did during the dot-coms in all disciplines of the industry, this would be the hottest thing beyond what we experienced during the growth of the dot-coms. I would also actually feel more than comfortable to participate if I felt everyone had broken out of their own shells for once.

    Until that day comes however, I suppose I’ve still got some rather frustrating ‘trust issues’ to work out.

    I have to laugh at myself on many levels – the obviousness of my commenting in relation to your plea for collaboration, and being the guy you described in your last paragraph. Yes. I’ve become a ‘lurker’ of sorts, always curious, and always hunting down information – to see what others are talking about. But I have to admit it feels like being a character who walks into a bar, sits down next to someone – the person starts talking, but you just sit there and stare blankly, never saying anything back. She says something, you stare. Says something, stare some more. Pretty pathetic behavior if you ask me, and I know I’m guilty of such behavior. Ironic is it in knowing that there are many like me out there, sitting here staring at my comment as well, as it glosses right over until they click through the page to somewhere else into the ether.

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