Reflections on 25th Anniversaries in 2016… What was it about 1991?

Posted on January 3, 2017 in Thinking

The end of the year is often about both reflection and prognostication, and as we head into 2017 I’m a little stuck on the reflection side. In 2016 AppGeo celebrated its 25th anniversary, and as the sole member of the team who’s been at the company for all 25 years, I’m proud of the business accomplishments and also astonished by how much our geospatial industry has changed and evolved in a quarter century.

And, in the same way that someone will mention a new song (or movie, or book) that you’ve never heard of, and then once you hear about it you realize that it’s been all around you, my ears have been particularly attuned to other 25th anniversaries this past year. And indeed, AppGeo was not the only geo organization that was celebrating this milestone. And in talking to a couple of people involved in other 25th anniversaries, I don’t think it was accidental that AppGeo and others got started in 1991.

My first encounter with “another twenty-fiver” was when I attended the 25th Anniversary Utah Geographic Information Council (UGIC) annual conference in Bryce Canyon, UT in May. While there, I also realized that the state geospatial office – which has a classic “early days of geo” name of the Automated Geographic Reference Center (AGRC) – was also celebrating the 25th anniversary of their State Geographic Information Database (SGID).

My second encounter with an organization that started in 1991 was the year-long celebration of the National States Geographic Information Council’s (NSGIC) 25th birthday. Since 1991, NSGIC has provided a forum and amplifier for statewide geospatial program offices to meet, compare notes and to advocate for geo initiatives, while also collectively tackling the common challenges that span states.

During my trip to Bryce Canyon, Bert Granberg and I were musing on these anniversaries. Bert is the current Director of the AGRC and someone who has been active in NSGIC for over a decade and is – as of October – the current President of NSGIC. And over beverages we concluded that it was not entirely random that AppGeo, the SGID and NSGIC share a birth-year. Indeed, there was a confluence of at least three important and self reinforcing factors that came together that year.

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Picked up pieces from the Global 2016 FOSS4G Conference in Bonn, Germany

Posted on September 9, 2016 in Thinking

Note: Here in Boston, we are privileged to have some of the greatest sports writing in the country on the pages of the Boston Globe. Once again, this blog is modeled after and is in homage to Dan Shaughnessy’s (@Dan_Shaughnessy) “Picked Up Pieces While…” columns…

  • After 30 years in the geospatial business and after numerous international visits to North American places (yeah, Canada and Mexico) this was officially my first business trip to Europe. This trip was catalyzed due to my role in leading the local organizing committee (LOC) that will lead the that will be held next August in Boston. Quite literally, I and the co-chair of the conference (Guido Stein, @GuidoS), went to observe and learn from the proceedings and to bring the “Torch” back to Boston.


Picked up pieces after attending the CartoDB Partner Conference…

Posted on December 15, 2015 in Thinking

By Michael Terner, Executive Vice President, who attended the Partner Conference along with Mike Wiley and Jim Scott.

Note: Here in Boston, we are privileged to have some of the greatest sports writing in the country on the pages of the Boston Globe. For the second time, this blog is being written in the style of, and in homage to both Dan Shaughnessy’s (@Dan_Shaughnessy) “Picked Up Pieces While…” columns, and Bob Ryan’s (@GlobeBobRyan) “Emptying Out the Desk Drawer of the Sports Mind…” columns.

Given CartoDB’s origins in Madrid, Spain it should not have been a surprise, but I wasn’t expecting the partner conference – which was held last Thursday and Friday at their new headquarters in Brooklyn, NY – to be such an international affair. Suffice to say that the partners showed up from around the world with a heavy contingent from Europe that almost matched the USA attendees.

The attendees also included representatives of some of the bigger names from technology and consulting such as IBM, Bloomberg and the Boston Consulting Group; accompanied by other new geo technology startups such as Fulcrum and Planet Labs. It was also clear that several other of the partners were driven to CartoDB in the aftermath of Google’s deprecation of Google Maps Engine (GME). AppGeo is a Google Maps partner and in addition to ourselves we saw several other successful Google partners such as Onix, Wabion (Austria), NT Concepts and Woolpert. Clearly, GME customers’ loss has been CartoDB’s gain.

CartoDB’s recent .

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Merging Geospatial Technology Stacks: Building Hybrid Systems

Posted on June 16, 2015 in Presentations

Michael Terner‘s presentation on today’s leading geospatial technologies makes the case for hybrid (best of breed) approaches, and provides examples, including work for the Western Governors’ Association (WGA), our own MapGeo, which itself is undergoing a hybrid evolution, and Google Imagery.

This slide deck was presented at the May 2015 Utah Geographic Information Council (UGIC) and GeCo West conference held at the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.

Michael Terner’s UGIC 2015 Presentation on Hybrid Systems

Happy 10th Birthday Google Maps!

Posted on February 9, 2015 in Thinking

Sunday, February 8th marked the 10th anniversary of the launch of Google Maps and I still clearly remember when my friend, and former colleague at AppGeo, Rich Sutton, called me over and said “hey, check this out.” Even at first glance it was pretty clear this new site would be a game changer. And in hindsight, I’d put this date somewhere in my personal “top 3” of the most important developments in the geospatial industry. The other two would be the 1982 release of Esri’s ARC/INFO (or, if you prefer, their earlier release of PIOS), and the release of the initial 1990 TIGER data by US Census which democratized the availability of geo data. continue_reading…

Life after Google Maps Engine – Positive Disruption

Posted on January 21, 2015 in Thinking

In the fast paced and ever changing technology world, deprecations (i.e., the phasing out of a product) are a necessary part of the landscape. Whether it’s a failure to create sustainable market share, large shifts in backbone technology or the emergence of better alternatives, there can be good reasons to deprecate products. Still, such deprecations are always challenging from a customer point of view.

Google recently made such a decision and has now notified its partners and customers that Google Maps Engine (GME) will be deprecated. This means they will stop selling GME subscriptions immediately, and that GME will no longer be available soon after the end of 2015: Existing GME customers have approximately one year to find an alternative technology and to adapt applications that rely on GME.

While this is generally not good news, the deprecation does come at a time when there are numerous offerings in both the Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) space that can match, or exceed GME’s capabilities. And, in many cases, these alternatives can also provide improved capabilities and lower costs. AppGeo has been actively investigating and testing these alternatives, and we are ready to provide both advice and assistance to GME customers who are evaluating their migration and replacement strategies.

As a Google Geospatial Partner with deep experience in deploying GME and building Maps API solutions, we’ve been tracking and preparing for these changes. In addition, AppGeo is a certified partner with CartoDB, whose technology has been identified as a viable alternative to GME. AppGeo also has a long history of using Open Source geo serving tools, deployed in cloud infrastructures such as Google Cloud Platform (GCP) to provide capabilities that are similar to GME.

If you have questions on GME replacement strategies or need migration assistance, please consider AppGeo as your partner and contact us. As a Certified CartoDB partner and an authorized Premier Google geospatial partner, AppGeo is in a unique position to assist you with your cloud-based geospatial needs. As the saying goes, we’d like to help you make lemonade.

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Breaking up is hard to do…The story of how AppGeo left the Esri BP Program and what it means for our industry and customers

Posted on September 10, 2014 in Thinking

By Michael Terner (@mt_AppGeo), Executive Vice President

Through the lens of having three kids who have been in high school, I’ve heard about “getting dumped by text message” and how that can complicate and deepen the confusion of what is an inherently difficult situation. Well, earlier this year our company went through the business equivalent of such a break up.

In May, after almost 20 years as an Esri Business Partner we were informed that Esri would like to “let our formal partnership retire.” We weren’t informed by text message, but rather we first heard the news from one of our big city customers who apparently was told by Esri before we were. About a week later, on May 12, we received a formal letter from Esri signed by our “Manager of the Regional Partner Team”. Our Regional Manager for the Northeast and Jack Dangermond were CC’ed. The “Manager of the Regional Partner Team”, who we’ve known for over a decade, gave us another name to contact “if you have any questions.” So as of June 25th, 2014, we were out of the club.

But, as with high school romance, sometimes break-ups are necessary, and while they can hurt, they can also lead to new growth and opportunity. Three months after receiving the news I think our team has processed the “message” and has some perspective on what happened as well as a really optimistic outlook on AppGeo’s future. Ultimately, while we’ve broken up, we do want to “remain friends” which Esri also relayed in their letter to us. Indeed, upon reflection, we think this episode says a lot about where our company and our industry are heading, and we believe others may be interested in our assessment.

We weren’t surprised

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Picked Up Pieces That Have Settled Out Since the FOSS4G North America Conference

Posted on August 26, 2013 in Thinking

By Michael Terner (@mt_AppGeo), Executive Vice President

Here in Boston, we are privileged to have some of the greatest sports writing in the country on the pages of the Boston Globe. This blog is written in the style of, and in homage to both Dan Shaughnessy’s (@Dan_Shaughnessy) “Picked Up Pieces While…” columns, and Bob Ryan’s (@GlobeBobRyan) “Cleaning Out the Desk Drawer of my Mind…” columns. Here is a recent example from Shaughnessy.

  • The second-annual Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) North American conference, aka FOSS4GNA, was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in late May. After many bitten fingernails from the host committee, the conference drew almost 400 people as the notoriously late-registering “open source crew” came through over the final three weeks leading up to the event. This very respectable attendance came in spite of two significant hurdles. First, unlike the initial FOSS4GNA conference last year in Washington, D.C., there was almost zero attendance from Federal employees due to the sequester and associated travel restrictions.  Second, and unlike last year (when the international conference scheduled for Beijing was cancelled) there will be an international FOSS4G conference in Nottingham, England in September, and undoubtedly some had to choose between the two events. The success of the Minneapolis show fully validates the health of this community and the ability of this continent to support its own FOSS4G gathering.  
  • Next year, North America is slated to host the 2014 international FOSS4G event, which should have no problem exceeding the 2013 North America- only attendance figure. After heady competition with Washington, D.C., OSGeo recently announced that Portland, Oregon won the bid to host the international FOSS4G conference. This leaves open two questions:
    • Will this year’s international conference in England outdraw the Minneapolis show, and if so, by how much?
    • Where will FOSS4GNA 2015 be held, and how many people will come?


Looking Forward/Backward in Early 2013 to Fully Embrace Spatial IT

Posted on March 22, 2013 in Thinking

By Michael Terner, Executive Vice President

With the turn of the New Year I read many of the pieces that both looked backward at the year past and forward to what is coming, and I naturally tried to decide what I would have said. So, after nearly three months of mulling things over in quiet times walking my dog, and also at louder times as our company actively plans for the coming year, I think I actually have an answer:

The most influential thing I heard last year was Paul Ramsey’s typically brilliant talk at the OpenGeo User Meeting that followed the inaugural FOSS4G North America conference in Washington, D.C. His talk posited that our industry may be both misnamed and held back by the term “GIS” (geographic information systems). He argued that “GIS” connotes a particular type of software and doesn’t fully describe what many of us are actually doing, and he proposed an alternative name, Spatial IT (information technology). This new nomenclature strongly resonated with me. Brian Timoney’s blog piece from October 2012 provided an important and articulate “second” to many of these notions. Probably more importantly to me, my colleagues at AppGeo (founded in 1991) seemed to share the “ah-ha” moment of this relatively simple observation.

To me, the core of the argument for a “Spatial IT outlook” is that “GIS has grown up.” The professional-grade software (e.g., from Esri, founded in 1969) is incredibly powerful, mature and feature-rich. Most of the big data automation and digitizing projects have been completed or are underway. The “case for GIS” has been made to most geographically oriented organizations – be they government agencies, utilities, or the established cartographic houses like National Geographic – and “GIS” is in daily action managing and publishing geographic data. Most importantly, the public awareness and expectation for electronic mapping is extremely high whether on the Web or on a smartphone; whether in your house, office, car or city park. The battle for “geo-relevancy” is over.

So while lots of “GIS” is going on, the most interesting and challenging problems are no longer “about GIS.” Rather, the problems many of us find ourselves working on involve integrating geospatial information into complex workflows; or coordinating the efforts of stakeholders, data providers, and data consumers operating at different levels of government; or, publishing an ever wider array of geospatial information to new audiences who use the latest devices and user interfaces; or, extracting business and/or environmental intelligence by exposing and mining the spatial relationships, both hidden and embedded, within corporate databases, web statistics and sensor networks. Indeed, we are tackling many of the same challenges that the rest of the information technology and software development industries currently face. We just have a particular vantage on the “spatial” dimension, and the term “Spatial IT” captures these concepts perfectly.

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AppGeo to Build Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool for the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council

Posted on January 17, 2013 in News

AppGeo will work collaboratively with the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council (WGWC) to design, build and then host a regional viewer for crucial habitat and corridors across the western United States, called the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT) regional viewer.  The vision for the regional viewer resulted from the CHAT initiative of the WGWC.

As quoted in the WGWC press release on the award: “We are excited about this step in the development of CHAT,” said John Harja, Senior Policy Analyst in Utah’s Public Lands Policy Coordination Office and Chair of the WGWC. “The regional viewer application will allow the public and decision makers to better include state priorities for fish and wildlife in the earliest stages of the planning process, particularly for energy and transportation.”

“We at AppGeo are equally excited to have been selected by the WGWC for this important project for western states,” said Michael Terner, Executive Vice President of Applied Geographics and Principal in Charge for the project.  “It is a perfect match to our mission of helping organizations make their spatial data accessible and useful to the broadest possible audiences through online applications.”

The project scope is to present data in a consistent manner across 16 western states, enabling the viewing of resources, habitats, and wildlife corridors that cross state lines. The regional viewer will complement state-level CHAT websites that have already been launched successfully by several western states and groups of states.

Image Source:  WGA Crucial Habitat Assessment Tools webpage

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