Archive for January, 2020

Curated list of thousands of ArcGIS server addresses

January 19, 2020 1 comment

Joseph Elfelt from recently added many government ArcGIS server addresses to his curated list. The list features over 2,200 addresses for ArcGIS servers from the federal level to the city level. All links are tested by his code once per week and bad links are fixed or flagged, and a new list is posted every Wednesday morning. The list is here,  While we have written about this very useful list in the past, such as here, this is a resource that is worth reminding the community about. And, as a geographer, I find the geographic organization of this list quite easy to follow.

While browsing the list recently, I found, among many other things, an Amtrak train route feature service (shown below), resources at the Wisconsin historical society, and water resources data from the USGS Oklahoma Water Sciences Center.

Joseph is also actively maintaining his “GISsurfer” application, which allows the user community to examine GIS data in a map-centric manner.


Amtrak routes data service, which I found to be fascinating and which I discovered on Joseph Elfelt’s server listing.

I highly recommend that you browse this list if you are in need or anticipate being in need of geospatial data!

–Joseph Kerski

Dangermond and Goodchild on building geospatial infrastructure

January 5, 2020 2 comments

A new open access article from Dangermond and Goodchild on building geospatial infrastructure is germane to this blog and our book’s focus on geospatial data.  Moreover, at the dawn of the new decade, I regard this article as an important one to read and to reflect upon.

The article’s abstract states, “Many visions for geospatial technology have been advanced over the past half century. Initially researchers saw the handling of geospatial data as the major problem to be overcome. The vision of geographic information systems arose as an early international consensus. Later visions included spatial data infrastructure, Digital Earth, and a nervous system for the planet. With accelerating advances in information technology, a new vision is needed that reflects today’s focus on open and multimodal access, sharing, engagement, the Web, Big Data, artificial intelligence, and data science. We elaborate on the concept of geospatial infrastructure, and argue that it is essential if geospatial technology is to contribute to the solution of problems facing humanity.”

Besides providing a concise yet insightful history of the evolution of GIS and spatial data, one of the most thought provoking statements in the article, in my opinion, is that “a digital twin should also replicate how the Earth works, by using software to reproduce the processes that modify the Earth’s physical and social systems.”  In other words, for us to solve the complex problems of our 21st Century world, GIS must be able to show how the Earth’s systems interact and work, and moreover, how they should work; that is, how can we use GIS and spatial data to plan a more resilient future?

I also found the following statement to be wonderfully useful, “Today we think of the basic element of geospatial technology as a tuple <x,y,z,t,a> where x, y, and z are location in three-dimensional space, t is time, and a is an attribute of that location in space-time.”  And I have personally used Jack Dangermond’s metaphor of GIS being an intelligent nervous system for the planet, mentioned in the article, dozens of times in my own presentations over the past four years.

But the article is much more than an account of history and a conceptualization of how to understand GIS–it offers challenges to us in the GIS community.   For example, it states that “little advance has been made in measuring, representing, and dealing with the uncertainty that is always present when geographic reality is measured and captured in digital data, but not always present in published maps.  The article also takes special note of key progress that has led us to this very exciting moment in the use of geospatial technology, including (1) portals, (2) open data, (3) engagement, (4) collaboration, (5) story maps, (6) device independence, and (7) Cloud GIS.  These are not just ideas, they are happening now, with real tools and infrastructure that enable people to accomplish real tasks.  The article also highlights some advancements that can lead us the very real possibility that GIS can “break wide open” (my phrase) in the decade of the 2020s with (1) GeoAI, (2) scripting and workflows, (3) replicability, (4) predictive modeling, and (5) real-time analysis.

The article concludes with what I believe to be an excellent question that cuts to the heart of what we in the industry should be asking:  “What, then, should be the goals of geospatial infrastructure, and how should it be configured?”  In other words, the advancements are great, but we need to ask ourselves, where should we be taking the technology, if we are seeking a more sustainable future?  It’s not enough to ride on the ship; we need to steer it.  Dangermond and Goodchild lay out some challenges in this section, such as the following statement, which I think points to “think outside of the software box and re-engineer the software tool if necessary” — “Decisions that were made during periods of very limited computing power become enshrined in practices that may be very hard to shake.”  They also discuss resilience, protecting biodiversity, collaboration, and ensuring individual privacy.   The authors end with this statement, which is I believe a challenge for all of us to take seriously, “But what is missing in our view is a vision, a “moonshot,” a statement of principles against which progress can be measured.”

–Joseph Kerski