Data Consortium Newsletter     

Oct. 15, 2014 

In this Issue
Data Portal Update
Making GIS Accessible to Non-GIS Professionals
State Geographic Data Coordination Activities
DRAPP Update & Related Projects
Data Consortium Survey
The Colorado Open Data Ecosystem
New Technologies Unveiled at ESRI UC
FOSS4G Recap
Upcoming Events
Contact Us
The Data Consortium consists of DRCOG members and regional partners with an interest in geospatial data and collaboration. The Data Consortium Newsletter is designed to improve communication among local GIS professionals and features updates from all levels of government as they relate to data and geospatial initiatives in our region. This newsletter is published quarterly.
Data Portal Update
Article provided by Jenny Todd, Senior GIS Specialist, DRCOG.  Jenny can be reached at 303-480-6754 or [email protected].

DRCOG has completed development of its new Data Portal, a  login-only site for secure data exchange between DRCOG and its members. When DRCOG makes future requests for data, the Data Portal will be used to transmit that data.  Similarly, DRCOG will load data onto the site for members to download.  The application uses the CKAN platform, which is an open source data management system.  Open Colorado uses CKAN as well, so the Data Portal can pull data available in Open Colorado. The Data Portal will allow for more efficient, secure, and consistent exchange of data.  Some benefits of using the Data Portal include: 

  • Communicate using Disqus threads
  • License agreements loaded with data
  • Transaction logging
  • DRCOG data will be distributed through site

 

This fall, DRCOG will be holding two Data Portal training workshops for members  Thursday, Oct. 30 and Wednesday, Nov. 5,from 9 a.m. to noon at the Center for Advanced Visualization and Experiential Analysis (CAVEA) on the Metropolitan State University Campus.  These workshops will provide instruction on using the Data Portal, including setting up administrators and users on the site, adding data, downloading data, and communicating using Disqus threads.  GIS staff at our member jurisdictions were sent invitations to attend.  If you have not received this invitation, please contact Jenny Todd-RSVPs are requested by Oct. 24   

 

 

Making GIS Accessible to Non-GIS Professionals

Article provided by Bill Jeffrey, City of Westminster.  Bill can be reached at [email protected].

While GIS professionals tend to have a combination of experience and education that makes the basics of GIS seem like self-evident facts, most casual GIS users in an organization probably find it quite daunting.  Anyone who has ever tried to walk a first-time user through an ArcMap session knows that a typical response sounds something like "why is it so complex?" In some cases the GIS professional's wealth of knowledge can work against them, as they have forgotten the "beginner's mind" of first delving into this field. Because of this, it can be hard to make GIS accessible.


A GIS professional may work with dozens of customers within their organization, all with vastly different conceptions of what GIS is and how it should function.  This poses a real challenge since we want to continue creating powerful and often complex analytical tools, while also being stewards of accessible spatial information.

 
GIS tools often spread in an organization from the bottom up, so working closely with end users is critical. Being an evangelist for geographic technology and trumpeting success stories can help to spread the word. Sometimes what a seasoned GIS pro assumes is needed may actually miss the mark of what a field or office user may consider of primary importance. Getting to know their needs is key.  

 

Move continuously to new solutions, but don't neglect to understand your users' culture, where they are coming from, and what is already a part of their workflow. 

 

When looking at tools, there are usually many different ways to achieve the same result. Generally, the simpler the better.  When approaching flashy new tools with exciting new APIs, it is easy to get caught up in details that may not really matter in the end. To the end user, it just needs to work!


In order to keep users informed of the current possibilities of your system, it is important to create and maintain an ongoing training curriculum. To be successful, outreach and educational programs should be frequent and timely, be comprised of succinct classes, and focused to the audience. It can also be helpful to have material available outside formal classes, ideally in the form of a FAQ or wiki.  

 

Finally, systems integration is key to making GIS accessible. To a novice user, having GIS, asset management, document management, or other systems as separate tools just seems wrong. They do, after all, refer to the same objects on the ground. Working to allow these systems to talk to one another has far-reaching benefits across the organization. 
 

State Geographic Data Coordination Activities

Article provided by Jon Gottsegen, State GIS Coordinator, OIT.  Jon can be reached at 303-764-7712 or [email protected].
 

The Governor's Office of Information Technology (OIT) is statutorily mandated to coordinate geographic information and technologies across the state. A significant component is providing a clearinghouse of geographic information for GIS users to find and access geographic information easily. Another component is stewardship or active management of statewide data for important or statewide data sets. OIT also coordinates communication of activities among local and state agencies to foster possible collaboration or cost sharing in these efforts. OIT has been developing a capability for discovering and accessing geographic data over the last few years and has several modes available for delivering these data to interested users. The catastrophic flooding last fall emphasized the need to share GIS data easily, so OIT is continuing to develop these tools. This article describes the data discovery and access efforts in OIT. It will be clear that these efforts mirror those of DRCOG, so OIT and DRCOG are communicating regularly to identify possible areas of overlap or cooperation.


The most important step in making data available and used in the state is making sure the data are discoverable. In other words, what is available, where is it and how does a potential user obtain it? OIT's solution for this is the Colorado Information Marketplace (CIM), found at data.colorado.gov. This software as a service site is the state's site for data transparency. It allows for uploading of data and interaction with the data in the form of graphs, filters and maps on Google's base map. It is OIT's intent to use data.colorado.gov as the primary place to discover available data from state government in Colorado.


Once data are discoverable, the next step is ensuring that the data are accessible through various modes. OIT has developed several mechanisms for this. OIT has implemented two File Transfer Protocol (FTP) instances should a user be interested in downloading data for use locally: one for public data not requiring any security (ftp://gisftp02.state.co.us) and one, known as the CO State GeoShare, which is secured for restricted data (https://gisftp02.state.co.us).


OIT has also implemented a map-based application, the Colorado GeoData Cache (https://geodata.co.gov), to find and download data sets such as LiDAR or imagery. This application resulted from coordination of participation in a LiDAR flight after the catastrophic flooding last fall. However, it is proving useful for other data as well. This site is built on open source software, and it allows users to zoom in on an area of interest and obtain the data in that area. This is important for data like LiDAR or imagery because they are often organized into multiple tiles, and it is often difficult to know which particular tiles are of interest.


As OIT matures its technologies and procedures for making data available, we will work to make the full range of state-owned data transparent and usable. We will continue to work with DRCOG and other local and regional governments to support the most effective way for exposing data they wish to be available as well. We look forward to this ongoing partnership. For additional information, please contact Jon Gottsegen, State GIS Coordinator ([email protected]).
 

 

DRAPP Update & Related Projects
Article provided by Ashley Summers, Information Systems Manager, DRCOG.  Ashley can be reached at 303-480-6746 or [email protected].

The Denver Regional Aerial Photography Project completed its 2014 flights over the summer. All 7,000 square miles of the imagery is currently being processed to meet stringent quality standards. Throughout the fall, the final imagery will be checked by an independent quality control vendor before being accepted. The project is still on schedule to deliver final imagery to partners in December 2014. For entities that did not participate in this project, the final tiles and WMS will be available for purchase from MapMart in January 2015.

 

In related news, the FEMA/USGS LIDAR project that was initiated in the fall of 2013 is finally finished! The data, which includes classified points clouds, a Digital Evaluation Model (DEM), and contours, is being distributed to DRCOG partners this month. Within weeks,  the public can expect to find this data available for download on Office of Information Technology's (OIT's) new site, the Colorado GeoData Cache.

 

Also of interest is that the DRAPP consortium is still pursuing a planimetrics project to follow the successful completion of DRAPP 2014. The current plan includes the joint purchase of building footprints, edge of pavement, parking, sidewalks, driveways, and hydro features for much of the region. Board approval for this project will be sought in November. For more information on this initiative, contact Ashley Summers at 303-480-6746 or [email protected].  

DRDC Survey 

Take our Data Consortium Survey so we can learn how to better serve you! 

 

The Colorado Open Data Ecosystem

Article provided by Scott Primeau, President, OpenColorado.  Scott can be reached at 303-877-0009 or [email protected].

Colorado's open data offerings have been growing steadily over the past four years and are on track for even bigger growth in the near future. This open data and civic innovation growth has come through several nonprofit, government, quasi-government, and citizen-led efforts.


For example, OpenColorado, data.opencolorado.og, provides a free, self-service open data platform that allows cities, counties, and other organizations to publish data sets in a central location.


While several organizations are building open data platforms and services, the goals of the different groups are very much aligned-promote transparency, improve government services, collaborate with citizens, and build better communities. The following graphic illustrates Colorado's open data offerings and community building efforts. 

 

 

Colorado's open data organizations have made very good progress on transparency and citizen collaboration, but there is still more work to do. More jurisdictions need to share data. Governments and other open data providers need to give more support to their user communities. We need to continue building a unified open data offering.


OpenColorado is also interested in hearing from our users. We would appreciate any feedback you may have on the OpenColorado data catalog:

 


 

New Technologies Unveiled at ESRI UC
Article contributed by Todd Bleess, GIS Specialist, DRCOG. Todd can be reached at 303-480-6797 or [email protected].

The annual Users Conference held by ESRI in San Diego is always a showcase for their newest ideas and products. This year two of the biggest new products that they showed off to their customers were ArcGIS Pro and Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS. Both are expected to be released in Q4 this year, although beta versions are available now for those eager to dive in.


ArcGIS Pro is the product that has been receiving the most attention as it's going to bring a new, modern suite of mapping and analysis tools to GIS professionals. First things first, ArcGIS Pro is not ArcGIS Desktop: these are companion programs that can be run at the same time. ArcGIS Pro will be made available to those organizations that are current on maintenance.


One thing that organizations with newer hardware should appreciate about ArcGIS Pro is its speed. Pro will be a native 64-bit application to take better advantage of newer computers. It will also have a more contemporary look than ArcGIS for Desktop. The ribbon interface that is now seen in many newer applications will be present in Pro as well. This should make customization of the interface a bit easier than what we have been used to with toolbars. Another major feature that has been on the wishlist for many of us for a long time is the ability to save multiple layouts in the same project.


One change with ArcGIS Pro, which may be seen as a negative or positive depending upon your viewpoint, is the introduction of Python 3.4 as the standard development language. ArcGIS Desktop has used Python 2.x and this will continue as 10.3 will ship with Python 2.7. Two different versions of Python will be necessary if you wish to develop with both software packages on the same machine.


Not as widely publicized but potentially more important for some organizations is the Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS.  As web applications become increasingly important in GIS, programming skills have also become increasingly important to support these applications. The need for those skills is unlikely to go away anytime soon, but Web AppBuilder promises the ability to create fully functional applications that can be used on any device without writing any code. It will allow numerous customizations in themes and appearance and will include widgets which can be plugged in to support specific functionality such as scale bars and geocoders. ESRI is also encouraging the creation of custom widgets which can be shared among the GIS community to meet specific needs.


With these new technologies and more to come, the end of the year has the potential to be an exciting time for ESRI users.  

Why did I attend a Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) conference this year?
Article contributed by Dave Murray, GIS Coordinator, City of Westminster. Dave can be reached at [email protected] or call me at 303-658-2014.

Other than the fact that the conference was located in beautiful Portland, Oregon in the fall, this is the question that I asked myself before I completed my registration and booked my flight. Since the City of Westminster has a full suite of commercial off the shelf (COTS) GIS software, what did I think I would learn?  Well, it was quite surprising and can be summed up in one word: "integration."  My goal was to see what capabilities were available in the open source GIS world and see if it would make sense to begin integrating them into our current GIS practices. Other attendees who have mature FOSS4G implementations may be interested in talking and learning from the individuals who work with and create the software.


I attended several presentations that spoke directly to my question.  The open source community has realized that organizations will not scrap their existing systems just to move to a platform that doesn't charge a licensing fee.  The hybrid mode of the best offerings from commercial and open source has made sense for a number of organizations.  Included in these are Charlotte, North Carolina, the State of Wyoming, and the Portland Regional Council among others.

  
I have no illusions as to how difficult this will be.  There are many impediments to bringing in new ways of managing and using GIS data.  But what I saw at the FOSS4G conference in Portland, Oregon gave me hope that the open source community understands my needs and will work with us to provide solutions to our geospatial problems. If you would like to discuss this topic, please e-mail me at [email protected] or call me at 303-658-2014.


You can find talks from the conference here: https://2014.foss4g.org/live/


 
Upcoming Events
Contact Us
For more information on any of the topics mentioned in this newsletter or if you have an idea for an article, please contact DRCOG GIS Manager Ashley Summers at 303-480-6746 or [email protected]
  
  
Disclaimer: The information provided in this newsletter is compiled from multiple sources and is intended for informational purposes only.  DRCOG assumes no responsibility or legal liability for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any information in this newsletter.