Thursday, April 8, 2010 ESRI's neo-geography tool

Interesting talk by Jack Dangermond and colleague at Where 2.0 discussing their soon to be released web service:

Background: The reception from the crowd is polite rather than 'stoked' which isn't surprising, this is a collection of neo-geographers (web based maps people) watching a talk from the major player of paleo-geography* desktop GIS.

I think its fair to say that ESRI (Jack's company) has failed to capitalize on the virtual globe or slippy maps (e.g. Google Maps ) market over the last 5 years and now they're playing catch up. Jack's statement that the distinction between neo-geography and GIS was disappearing was interesting, pretty much everything they demoed I'd classify as neo-geography rather than GIS - it was all user side features rather than producer side.
Interesting Features: There were a number of interesting features to the web service shown:
  1. Easy to search for maps from providers (Tree maps from Washington city)
  2. Easy to mash-up maps and create a new map (Tree maps and a chosen base map)
  3. Easy to share your map with a group or with the world
  4. Easy to add annotations to public services (here is a pot hole, please mend it Mr Government)
  5. Automatic integration with mobile devices (currently only iPhone)
  6. Presentation mode (earthquakes and aftershocks in Chile)
All the listed features are currently available on Google Maps and Google Earth. Google My Maps does 1 and 3, customisations of Google Maps do 4 and 5 while Google Earth does 2, 5 and 6. The possible strength of is that all these features come in one application. However, the devil is in the usability detail, I'll have to wait for the release to see if they have made it usable enough for the public, usability is a key reason why Google Earth/Maps have flourished so far, if ESRI haven't cracked this issue then I think the service isn't going to fly.

*edited 9th Apr: I didn't mean this to be disparaging just as the opposite of neo-geography


GnosticWasteland said...

I think referring to desktop GIS as "paleo" brings nothing constructive to this "discussion". The fact is that desktop GIS software allows you to to do much more robust geoprocessing and complex cartography than neo-geospatial tools. And he point of this talk is not to play catch-up (the world does NOT revolve around Google Earth), but to introduce a way to share maps and data layers created with serious geospatial tools with the neo-geo community. If you wish to snobbishly disparage, do so at your own loss.

Rich Treves said...

I see your point and I've edited the post as a result. I used the term paleo to be the opposite of neo but I can see it could be read as disparaging and I didn't mean it that way.

I also agree that GIS is a lot more powerful for analysis and processing than neo-geo tools and that the neo-geos have much to learn from the GIS community. I submitted a talk to Where 2.0 which explained MAUP (originated from the GIS community) as my experience suggests that many neo-geos don't get it.

You're also right that GEarth is not 'everything geo', I'm surrounded at work by many ArcGIS users doing excellent Geo analysis, data collection etc etc. Most of what they do is just not possible in any neo-geo tool. However, I do think that in tools for the naive geographer ESRI is playing catch up to Google: Google Earth is the leading Virtual Globe ahead of ESRI's version. With ESRI is making a serious play for that space and good on them, competition is healthy and integrating all those features into one tool is a smart idea.