carpe geo

How did carpe geo begin?

AppGeo’s carpe geo evangelist, Bill Johnson, created the philosophy of carpe geo through his decades of experience in the GIS field.

Bill Johnson gives Carpe Geo talk
Bill Johnson, Carpe Geo Evangelist
Bill Johnson, AppGeo's Carpe Geo Evangelist

Positive feedback from three different endeavors (which can be found in the Resources section below) emboldened Bill Johnson to further develop a concept he coined carpe geo, a philosophy based on:

  • Building trust through collaboration

  • Effecting fundamental change through thoughtful investment

  • Consistent attention to excellence

That’s carpe geo!

What is carpe geo?

We have all heard the phrase carpe diem which translates to “seize the day.”
Carpe geo is seizing the opportunity to do great things with GIS.

A GIS project almost inevitably starts with a simple request, “Can you make me a map?”

The requester may not even know what they are asking for beyond that they want a map.  A vague request is an opportunity to learn, teach, and explore the full potential of GIS.  The trail from this simple request may lead to a very different destination than the one originally envisioned.

Google Imagery

When you view this as a chance to experiment, mine ideas, and see where the exploration leads …

That’s carpe geo!

How do you use carpe geo to enhance your work in the GIS field?

As GIS professionals, we are uniquely positioned at the crossroads of data, science, technology, policy, problem-solving, visualization, and story telling.

Carpe Geo map overlay

Carpe geo urges GIS professionals to experiment with new ideas, stretch their thinking, explore different paths, and overlay their unique skills on top of the base layers:

Carpe geo overlays on top of the base layers:

  • Approach to solving problems

  • Political savvy

  • Ability to engage partners

  • Cat-herding

Fundamental skills provide the base layers:

  • GIS fundamentals

  • Written and verbal communication

  • Organization

  • Analytics

When we abstract the world’s problems and their possible solutions into a form that others can more easily understand …

That’s carpe geo!

GIO Time Allocation Model

Create the conditions under which others can buy into your vision and be willing to follow you

Peer interviews with a group of GIO’s led to an important takeaway. When asked to rank the most important GIO priorities, the consensus was that people skills, your ability as collaborator, cat-herder, advocate and leader, made up about half of the GIO priority pie. Here are some questions to ask as yourself as a GIO to make sure your are poised to work most successfully with your team:

  • Do you know what your Emerald City is? If your statewide GIS programs are 100% successful, what will that look like?

  • Do you have the Yellow Brick Road, the strategic plan, to get there?

  • Have you articulated that vision to the others in your team and the wider stakeholder community?

Making sure that you are laying out the framework to reach your vision together as a team …

That’s carpe geo!

GIS Half-life Model

Focus your energy and efforts on the things with the most lasting value.

You may remember the concept of a half- life from high school chemistry. In the GIS arena, we are going to use it to mean how long things retain their value. Let’s explore the half-life of various elements of GIS.

GIO Career Maturity Model

Learn to recalibrate and adjust your role as you experience a GIS metamorphosis throughout your career.

As you progress through the various stages through any career, you will continually need to shift your priorities, stretch yourself out of your comfort zone, and learn new skills.

When you stretch yourself to grow into the new skills required at each level of an ever-evolving GIS career …

That’s carpe geo!

Carpe geo in action

Let’s look at a real word example.

Following the devastating flooding in New York City from tropical storm Sandy in 2012, Bill was asked to make some maps to support a commission to study the infrastructure resilience and make forward-looking recommendations.  A classic Carpe Geo opportunity.

  • Historic maps were sought to try to analyze shoreline changes that had occurred over time in lower Manhattan.

  • The New York Public Library was able to identify scanned, geo-rectified maps in their collection going back 400 years.

  • These maps were stacked up and used to analyze the shoreline expansion and also overlaid with the Sandy storm surge.

  • Following the path of this data led to the amazing discovery that the flooding in lower Manhattan was largely a man-made problem.

Google Imagery

When we abstract the world’s problems and their possible solutions into a form that others can more easily understand …

That’s carpe geo!

parvum momentum
small moments. big impact.

It is through sharing that you will experience what Bill calls parvum momentum, small moments, that have big impact and lead you to realize the value of your work.

Let’s build the future of GIS together.  Carpe geo!

Carpe geo resources

Continue the carpe geo conversation through the resources found below.

Carpe geo Contacts

Carpe geo Hotline: 518-859-5576

Call AppGeo’s carpe geo Hotline (Bill Johnson’s cell phone!) any time
to talk through how carpe geo can help you solve your GIS challenges.


Twitter:  @MappingGuy

Join the carpe geo Mailing List!

Carpe geo Resource Materials

Carpe geo Blog Posts

Carpe geo Videos

September 2017: Carpe Geo & Parvum Momentum presentation, NSGIC Annual Conference,  (38 min video)