5 Mapping Industry Trends I Saw At JS.Geo

by Brian Timoney


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