Geography · Economics · Visualization

5 Mapping Industry Trends I Saw At JS.Geo


Wait long enough to blog a conference, and you’ll find others have beat you to it.  Bill, Derek, and the folks at Cesium have done a great job with both talk-by-talk reviews as well as a few big picture reflections here, here, and here.  In addition, we posted most of the talk decks/links here.  As co-organizer of the event (along with Chris Helm), the weight of logistical concerns tends to crowd that mind.  But all that being said, there were five themes I saw throughout the day that are worth sharing.

Mapping Platforms Are Ready For Big(ger) Data

Whether through GL libraries (CesiumJS, Mapzen Tangram), advanced techniques for handling heavy time-stamped data (CartoDB Torque), or the newest take on vector tiles (Mapbox, ESRI), the industry has the capabilities in place to display larger volumes of data in more interesting ways. We all like novel maps, but a truly useful future is probably a combination of Platform + Data + Visual Grammar that isn’t quite in place yet.

Turf.js, Everywhere

A benefit of putting on the 3rd iteration of JS.Geo is that you get to see the new “cool” stuff of past conferences become mainstream.  Turf.js–think spatial analysis in the browser–popped up repeatedly in a wide range of demos.  As a developer, there’s much to be said if you don’t need a server to calculate a buffer. But put your point-in-polygon logic in your phone browser that works disconnected from the Internet? Now we’re talking muddy-boots geography out in the field!


Node.js As Back-End Workhorse

Node–server-side Javascript–always gave off the whiff of an edgy t-shirt, not-freshly-laundered. But it’s not just for the hip startups anymore.  We saw old school enterprise-y shops using Node for everyday data processing tasks (data never comes into this world clean, shiny, and usable).  As a consultant sensitive to how daisy-chaining tools together can spawn nasty Technical Debt through a mishmash of programming languages, being able to use Javascript for back-end grunt work as well as the usual front-end browser stuff has interesting efficiencies.

Mappers Are Coming From Everywhere

We can debate all day the pros and cons of making maps without a traditional background in GIS and Cartography (that’s what Twitter is for, right?).  But the fact is the field has never been more diverse with new mappers often going to school in the halls of Github and StackOverflow. I, for one, welcome the new state of affairs if only for the pleasure of regularly pointing out to these new carto-apprentices that ‘choropleth’ has only one “l”.  

But would I have thought of wiring my map navigation to an arduino controller?

No, no I wouldn’t.


Everyone Is Hiring

Even the one guy who said he wasn’t hiring is now hiring.  So yeah, everyone is hiring–coding + geo talent is at a premium.

We’ve been saying this for years, but it bears repeating:  if your daily routine has you doing geospatial work strictly through GUI-driven desktop software, the impact on your future earnings is clear and unmistakable.

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Chris and I want to thank the 26 speakers who presented.  

We especially want to thank our sponsors for making it financially viable.  



If nothing else it enabled us to offer darn good sandwiches.

Oh, and thanks to the guy who picked up the tab at the after-gathering!

Brian Timoney is an information consultant in Denver, Colorado.


Philly skyline photo Bill Morris
muddy boots photo courtesy of Leszek Leszczynski’s Flickr stream


PostGIS Is So Successful That It Needs To Change Its Name

Like all important debates of our time, this one started with a tweet:

I’m no branding expert (I don’t spend nearly enough money on my haircuts), but it seems to me that if your name includes a specific acronym–“GIS”–perhaps you should pronounce it the way the acronym itself is pronounced.  And while we’re on the topic, how obvious is it to the newcomer that the “Post” relates to the PostgreSQL database?

Don’t get me wrong: I love PostGIS, even to the extent of co-organizing an upcoming “PostGIS Day” here in Denver.  But even at the risk of losing an amusing pun on “GIS Day”, one thing is now crystal clear to me–

PostGIS is so successful it needs a new name.

First, the name recognition of PostgreSQL has increased enormously in recent years:  from only Geek Cred to now widespread Street Cred.  So we need to make that association more explicit.

Then we have the acronym “GIS”.

It needs to go.

The assumption that those who would find a spatially-enabled database useful in 2015 would be familiar with “GIS”–either by education or professional practice–is much too narrow.  And while those of us who have earned our chops via GIS courses and years of desktop software may cringe inwardly, the obvious reality is that increasing numbers of bright and talented people who want to do mappy things and geo-analysis things don’t naturally connect such desires with “GIS”.

So I beseech the caretakers of this extremely valuable piece of open-source geospatial software to choose a new readily- identifiable moniker that captures its dynamic centrality in the ever-evolving mapping industry.

Brian Timoney is an information consultant in Denver, Colorado.

JS.Geo: Web Mapping at a Crossroads, and the Crossroads is in Philadelphia on October 8th

Web maps are too important to be left to the mapping industry.

Google figured this out before anyone else. Uber’s recent purchase of Microsoft’s Bing Maps assets and the sale of Nokia HERE geo assets to an automobile consortium signal next-level dynamism in the industry. Simply put, the old web mapping portal paradigm of GIS-in-the-browser doesn’t cut it in the emerging mobile-driven, ever-more-automated, on-demand economy (and never really did).


This fast-changing environment needed a different kind of conference.

Nix “conference”, let’s say “get-together”. Chris Helm, Steve Citron-Pousty, and I created JS.Geo to focus on Javascript & mapping and get those who solve the problems and write the code in the same room. Leave the sales deck at home, talk honestly about what works/what doesn’t, link to a Github repo, and enjoy being around people who aren’t people who enjoy being at conferences.


So on October 8th we’re doing the 3rd iteration of JS.Geo in Philly with a jam-packed lineup to discuss what’s urgent: vector tiles (vs raster tiles), 3D tiles (and no, not your weak-tea 2.5D tiles), in-browser spatial analytics/advanced computation, mobile collection, indoor mapping, etc. More than just tech, we’ll hear from practitioners who have to deliver value to citizens, customers, and readers of online journalism.

You know, the actual user experience.

We keep the admission modest–under $25–and that only happens because our sponsors understand the value proposition of putting their smart people around other smart people and provide the necessary financial support.

Check them out: Azavea, Cesium, Fulcrum, Zekiah, Bright Rain, IBM Mobile First, and Mapzen.

Join us.


JS.Geo at a glance:

  • Thursday, October 8th
  • University Science Center, Philadelphia (walking distance from Amtrak 30th Street Station)
  • Presentations 9:15AM – 4:30PM
  • Social 4:30PM – 6PM
  • **LocationTech will be co-locating an evening tour event
  • Probability of late night run to  9th Street cheesesteak mecca = 0.999