Thursday, March 30, 2006

Script & Workshop: Export ArcMap Features to Google Maps (HTML)

We (my GRA and I) have developed a simple script that will export ArcMap features directly to an HTML file containing a representation of those features overlaid on Google Maps. We are using it as part of a workshop on mashups and web mapping scheduled for this afternoon.

We named the script ArcMap2GMap, and it can be downloaded (along with the workshop materials) here. Extract the files in this self-extracting rar file (sfx) directly to the 'C' drive. This is set up as the default. A new folder will be created on your 'C' drive called ArcMap2GMap. Launch the ArcMap2GMap.mxd file, add some layers, click the custom button, fill out the quick wizard (including your registered API key), and you're all set. The files generated in the C:\ArcMap2GMap\mashupFiles directory can then be transferred to your server and that's it.

If you would like to see an example of what this script can generate, check out the: Crime and Education in Arlington, Texas page. Please use Internet Explorer as we have not yet implemented the -no wrap- fix necessary for the info-boxes to display properly in Firefox.. The green 'M' pins are the marijuana arrest locations in Arlington, TX over the last 4 months. The info-boxes specify the address and provide a link to the detailed report on the Arlington Police Department website. The yellow 'S' pins are the High Schools in Arlington. The green circles are a 1-mile buffer around each high school. The blue boundaries are those block groups where at least 20 % of the adult population have a graduate or professional degree.

The Crime and Education in Arlington, Texas page is actually the end product that everyone will be generating during today's workshop. Just about everything is done from scratch during the 2-hour workshop. The walkthrough.doc file included in the download contains a complete step-by-step.

Here are some features:
  • Select multiple features
  • Converts points, lines, and polygons*
  • * Automatically converts polygons to polyline files
  • Automatically simplifies lines using ArcMap's point removal algorithm
  • Users can create custom info-boxes using the ArcMap field calculator
  • Users can select from a variety of pin/line colors, symbols, opacity, and thickness.
  • It's very fun to create Google Maps with such ease.
ArcMap2GMap makes extensive use of the free and fantastic Google Maps EZ service.

I got the idea for creating ArcMap2GMap while working on the Shape2Text2Shape scripts. (Developing ArcMap2GMap was much easier.) I learned how to access the geometry object using an ESRI geoprocessing script, and I thought well it would be just so easy to dismantle points, lines, and polygons and reassemble them within Google Maps. Now, this is the farthest you can get from original, but the fact that I could actually do it drove me to actually do it. Now, there are lots of great Google Maps creation tools out there and a number of ArcScripts to convert from features to Google Earth, but ArcMap2GMap allows GIS users (such as our students) to quickly and easily leverage their ArcMap experience to manipulate Google Maps.

The last thing that I still need to complete for the workshop is to create a CD menu using Camtasia Producer and burn the CDs. On average we expect 10 students per GIS workshop, but I really think that we might get a larger showing today. I will post pictures and a follow-up post afterward.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

GIS Discussion & Usenet Groups

Remember back in the day when Usenet and its newsgroups were the happening thing? Discussions on every topic conceivable... Many of those old groups still exist, depending on which server you use, but the exchange of text postings has largely moved to web forums. These days, the primary use of Usenet servers are to exchange those good ol' alt.binaries.

Well, few years back Google went and bought out the Usenet archives from Deja, and have combined the Usenet newsgroups with their Google Groups**. We also have Yahoo! Groups, which as far as I know bears no relation to the original Usenet.

Here are the GIS-related Usenet, Google Groups, and Yahoo! Groups that I monitor. Monitoring is actually quite easy as Google and Yahoo! provide RSS for open/public groups (those not requiring registration). Mind you, this is not even close to a comprehensive list...Only those I monitor.** On a side note, I sure remember Google's acquisition of the Deja archives well. Was working for a dot com company in Austin, TX during the dot com bust of 2000. Our company managed to stay afloat longer than most, and every day the higher-ups would tell us that we would all be OK because of this big deal that was about to go through. What big deal? Well, our company was on the verge on buying the Usenet archives from Deja. All but signed on the dotted line I was told. Then Google swooped in and snatched those archives right up. Less than 1 week later we were all of us at home wondering if we would ever fiend a job again. Well, I sure did...moved way down to Laredo, TX where I was introduced to GIS for the first time. Tsaal gud in the end, eh?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Position: Libraries of The Claremont Colleges - Data Services Specialist

Libraries of The Claremont Colleges - Data Services Specialist

This focus of this library position is statistics, both numeric and spatial. This is indeed the aspect of GIS that gets me the most excited. I like the use of the phrase "numeric and spatial." This much closer resembles what I do on a daily basis than my blander title of GIS Librarian. The first time that I came across this phrase is the University of Michigan's Numeric & Spatial Data Services.

Any librarian with a strong interest in statistics and GIS should most definitely apply for this new position.

Here are a couple of snippets from the listed duties and responsibilities:
  • Plan for and lead activities that promote and provide services for numeric and spatial datasets

  • Collaborate with faculty to integrate use of numeric and spatial datasets into teaching and research. Such collaboration is likely to include development of assignments and basic instruction in the use of data analysis and presentation software (e.g. MS Excel, SPSS, and arcGIS)
Salary is $40,000 to less than $50,000.

GeoDa - New Online Help System

GeoDa, my spatial statistics application of choice, recently launched a new online help system at (Another good free spatial statistics application is STARS).

Via: Openspace Listserv.

GeoDa is created by the famous Luc Anselin, director of the Spatial Analysis Laboratory at the University of Illinois. How famous?, you ask? Anselin has made numerous breakthroughs and published numerous articles on spatial statistics and autocorrelation, including the textbook Spatial Econometrics: Methods and Models. Go ahead and boot up ArcMap, scroll down the ArcToolbox menu, expand Spatial Statistics Tools / Mapping Clusters and check out Outlier Analysis: Anselin Local Moran's I.

Why do I recommend GeoDa to all students and faculty who need to conduct spatial statistics/analysis? Without a doubt, it is the extensive documentation provided on the website: There are freely available manuals, tutorials, publications, and presentations. In particular, the 244 page Exploring Spatial Data with GeoDa: A Workbook is a thorough step-by-step guide that provides a solid background to both the fundamentals of spatial statistics as well as how to apply these fundamentals using the free GeoDa application. We have two printed copies of this workbook in the main GIS lab in the library.

In the past, Anselin has offered summer workshops, but there is still no word if he will be offering such workshops this year.

For a brief overview of the spatial statistics capabilities within ArcGIS, check out the ESRI Training Seminar: Understanding Spatial Statistics in ArcGIS 9. This freely viewable seminar is very well done.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

One Lurker Lurker is # 100

One Lurker Lurker is the 100th person to find out where they should hang out on Friday Night.

One Lurker Lurker will be hanging out this Friday at the '4 Aces' dance club, at 2627 S. Cooper Street, Arlington, TX. Jeepers...this is frighteningly close to where I live. Hey, even though the all-knowing GIS told me to hang out at Perrotti's Pizza, perhaps tomorrow night I'll go meet up with One Lurker Lurker...

Thanks to the centennial of folks who gave this a shot.

Be the 100th Person to Hang Out - GIS Style!!

Want to know where you should hang out this Friday night?? Hmm??
Site works best with IE
Site will find the best location in Tarrant County, TX

Well, 99 people have turned to GIS to try to figure this out since GIS Day last November. And hey...why not give it a shot and be number 100. The last person to find out where in Tarrant County, TX, they should hang out this Friday Night was on March 10. I honestly had no idea that this web application was still being used.

I initially developed this project for GIS Day last year, as a way to showcase to our students the power of GIS. (See previous posts: 11/9/06 | 11/12/06.)

Here is how it works:
This site was developed by the UTA Libraries: GIS Program to demonstrate the capabilities of geographic information systems, the Google Maps API, and the power of combining the two.

After filling out this short online form, a geoprocessor (.NET application accessing ESRI geoprocessing objects) is launched which computes a simple suitability analysis to derive the best location that is most suitable based on the user selections. All user results are stored in the database, so the number of locations and the number of people hanging out at these locations will continue to increase. Expand the All the UTA Party People menu (below) to see a list of the people who are currently hanging out.

So, just sit and think for a moment. How can a suitability analysis such as this be used in your studies? Your work? Your life? The UTA Libraries: GIS Program is available to help all UTA students, faculty, and staff to perform spatial analysis, locate spatial datasets, automate spatial tasks, and general GIS assistance. We can even assist with the creation and maintenance of online mapping services, such as the Google Maps API.
The ArcGIS geoprocessing code, written in VB.NET, performs a very simple suitability analysis using user supplied weights and values. The values have already been reclassified between 0.0 to 1.0, so the geoprocessing code locates the best position in the county that meets your selections. Then the distances between that position and every establishment type (that the user selected) are calculated. The establishment type with the smallest distance is where you should be hanging out. It's a lot of fun, and who knows...maybe being number 100 is the most fun of all. ;)

Google Earth in Academic Labs or Libraries

Two important and affordable opportunities for GIS facilities in academic labs or libraries:
  • One free Google Earth Pro license.
    • "Spread the word. If you're a teacher, professor, or school administrator, send me ( an e-mail, requesting Google Earth PRO and I will send you a 1 page authorization document, followed by a free license for one year."
    • via: GIS4LIB Listserv

  • Educational Discounts for Arc2Earth.
    • This newly released application can convert GIS data back and forth between Google Earth and ArcMap.
    • According to the product feature list, both the Standard and Professional versions include an ArcToolbox Geoprocessing tool, which means we can easily integrate these functions into our scripts and models. This is really, really cool.
Speaking of integrating Google Earth with more sophisticated GIS tools, such as ArcGIS, I am sure everyone caught that Nature Magazine article, "Virtual globes: The web-wide world"? (Nature 439, 776-778 (16 February 2006))

My vanity insists that I point out to anyone not aware that an entire 2 paragraphs in this cover story featured the work that I do with students here with Google Earth and GIS.

Approximately 5 new students each month come in to see me needing help with Google Earth. As the article points out, I view these as highly teachable moments and try never to miss an opportunity to show them how GIS can be used in combination with Google Earth. I have been using free scripts which convert between ArcGIS and Google Earth. The two which I like most are KML Home Companion, developed by Jim Cser, and Export to KML, developed by Kevin Martin. However, the features available in Arc2Earth really blow the free scripts away.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Position: AGS Library - Digital/Spatial Data GIS

Digital/Spatial Data GIS Librarian - UWM Libraries - AGS Library [PDF]

via: Maps-L

C'mon now, all you GIS librarians and all you librarians with an interest in GIS... This is a great job, but something must not have worked out when they opened this position late last year.

This position is with the American Geographical Society Library, "one of America's foremost geography and map collections."

Here are changes that I see in the job description since the job was initially opened:
  • Removal of the MLS (Masters in Library Science) Requirement
    • Now, this is a major change that requires some thought. The position is now open to anyone with an "advanced, terminal degree in another relevant subject discipline." The management of metadata and digital maps access does not require a trained librarian per se, but when you add in liaison work with faculty, collection development for GIS-related literature, a non-librarian would have a much tougher time than an experienced GIS librarian. However, (and this is a big but...), would it be easier to teach a librarian GIS or a GIS analyst with metadata experience how to be a librarian. This is not an easy question. Sure GIS is a highly technical and specialized subject matter, but a computer-savvy librarian with the will to learn GIS can surely do so. Nor is it easy for a GIS professional to learn the ins-and-outs of the professional librarian world. Sometimes, however, when an applicant pool is shallow without sufficiently qualified applicants, the requirements must be lessened and the most logical thing to do is to open the position to non-librarians.

  • The Added Requirement of Geography-Related Degree or Experience
    • If the position is opened to non-librarians, the emphasis of course will shift to the GIS/geography experience and so this is now specified.

  • More Emphasis on Digital Spatial Data Clearinghouse
    • From what I can tell from the previous posting, the job requirements appear to be the same, but there is more of an emphasis on the Digital Spatial Data Clearinghouse. I think this was well done as it makes the position immensely more me at least.

  • What Did Not Change?
    • Salary. As is unfortunately often the case, library-offered salaries are too low to attract sufficiently qualified applicants. $ 37,719 minimum is low for an advanced degree with experience. The same thing happened with a professional librarian position here a short while ago, where the posted salary was too low to attract applicants, and the response was to lessen the requirements (remove the MLS requirement) as the salary was immovable.

Kolb Learning Inventory & GIS Instruction

So, I took the Kolb Learning Style Inventory test this morning and found out that I have a very strong convergent learning style.

This blog entry is my attempt to wrestle what this might mean for my interactions with students as both GIS Librarian and adjunct Geology and Real Estate professor.

Some snippets from the definition of a convergent learning style:
"People with this learning style are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories...You would rather deal with technical tasks and problems than with social and interpersonal issues...In formal learning situations, you may prefer to experiment with new ideas, simulations, laboratory assignments, and practical applications."
Now, this test nailed me down to a tee. This is indeed how I learn, and instinctively how I develop my workshops and lessons. All of my instruction activities emphasize problem-based learning, where GIS is used to solve practical, real-world, problems. For example, the following workshops:This semester, I am teaching both my geology course and my real estate course as the tackling of larger problems that the students must spend the semester solving.

I teach by introducing new concepts to the students while solving problems or pieces of larger problems on the overhead projector while students (I only teach in labs) follow along. I am always very open to questions and will stop the entire class for as long as I need to help an individual student to understand a concept. I require students to fully digest the concepts learned during class between classes (homework). Individual (personal) attention for students is also made available during any of my 15 weekly office hours. No appointment necessary, of course.

So, the argument is that there are lots of folks who learn differently than my convergent learning/teaching style. Should I employ different teaching techniques, such as inviting discussions during class? Or breaking students into groups, during class, to work on problems together?

My response is that these activities are best done outside of class and that class time is best utilized by demonstrating new concepts, which can be discussed and such amongst students outside of class. I do organize students into groups, but perhaps I can put more emphasis on students interacting with eachother outside of class. This can include regular (weekly?) group reports, presentations, and projects. This way, I can try to increase how much students engage with the material regardless of learning style. Then, the convergers who learn the way I teach can assist their group-mates. I do need, however, to come up with additional ways to foster student interaction outside of the classroom. I am feeling stubborn at the moment and do not want to give up any class time to activities that can be done after class.

For example (trying to think this out here), if I spend 4 weeks having my real estate students do a market analysis of the hotel industry in the DFW Metroplex (a problem-based assignment coming up), I will break the class up into groups of perhaps 3-4 students at the very beginning of the 4-week period. Then, each week the groups must submit progress reports as well as a list of 3 things that went very well that week and 3 things that did not go very well. For the three things that did not go very well, they must supply why they think it did not go well. By requiring them to come up with these things that went well/not so well, they are in affect forced to work and discuss together. The down side? People like me (convergent learners) will hate this. I would hate this immensely. But this is what it's all about, right? This will benefit students who prefer different learning styles, will encourage students to work together, while minimizing (hopefully) the grumbliness of the convergent learners. It will take a bit of class time to discuss the things that went well and not so well, but this is an acceptable price if more students can be engaged with the material and see how cool GIS is...

I'll post on this topic after this semester and report how things went with these new ideas that I will implement starting with this Saturday's real estate class.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

On Campus: Emerging Political Science Use of GIS

The use of GIS among political science students at UT Arlington is an emerging upward trend. Over the past month, I have been working with numerous (app. 12) graduate students needing to discover various triangles of potential voting and economic power in the U.S.

Now, these students are approaching this project from various angles, but in general here are the data sources we have been using with GIS and SPSS:This has been a lot of fun helping these students access, digest, and analyze these quantitative datasets.

Political science use of GIS on campus began with an open workshop that I held in 2003. The workshop was a site selection exercise where a fictitious democratic candidate (ha!) for the gubernatorial Texas election needed to locate effective locations for campaign headquarters in North Texas. This workshop was attended by Dr. Jose Gutierrez who single-handedly has been spearheading the use of GIS by political science faculty and students on campus. Yes, this same professor made David Horowitz's list of the 100 Most Dangerous Professors in the US.

Dr Gutierrez's undergraduate Texas Local Government courses then served as the pilot project for the successful Spatial Reserves program here at the Library. Click here for more information about this ArcIMS-driven political science project.

Last month, during my blogging hiatus, Dr. Gutierrez and I presented a paper to the American Political Science Association Teaching & Learning Conference detailing the ArcIMS-driven project and the potential for similar projects to be developed. It was very well received. To view the paper, navigate to uploaded papers database and search for 'Been' as an author.

My plan now is to follow all this up with a repeat of the workshop (upgraded of course) this Fall semester to see whether we can continue to grow political science's use of GIS.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Position: GIS Literate Campus Initiative

GIS Literate Campus Initiative - California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

No, this job does not appear to be directly associated with a library, but the job responsibilities are so very similar to a good portion of what I do everyday. This sounds like a lot, lot of fun.

Check out this snippet:
"We are seeking a person with a strong background in GIS technologies to develop our interdisciplinary GIS Literate Campus Initiative. The initiative involves five colleges including the Colleges of Business, Engineering, Environmental Design, Letters, Arts, and Social Sciences and Science. The position requires good administrative and team building skills and the ability to work with faculty in a collegial and interdisciplinary environment. There are opportunities for teaching, research, and scholarly work."
The ability to work with and promote spatial technologies to numerous folks with varying research interests is truly long as you can deliver the goods, that is.

No mention of salary info or even whether they are expecting PhD candidates.

ESRI Live Training Seminars: Second Campus Event

On Feb. 23, I organized the second campus showing of an ESRI Training Seminar (webcast).

The first gathering of geo-geeks was held in January, and I followed up on that success last month. We did not have as many folks attending (only 5), but I believe that with the semester well underway by the end of February, students had other things on their mind.

The live training provided by ESRI last month was not relevant to our GIS users, so I selected from their nice archive the following seminar: Getting Started with ArcObjects in ArcGIS. Now, this older seminar focuses on ArcGIS 8.3, but I have always found it useful for providing a nice overview of the object model diagrams and how to access the various interfaces.

It went off very well. Students attended from biology (1), urban planning (2), computer science (1), and landscape architecture (1). Now, the best result from this showing was due to the landscape architecture student. A few days after the seminar, I was invited by the student's Landscape Architecture Studio IV professor to come and give his class a GIS demo (BI for you librarians out there...). I held the demo last night in a lab in the Architecture Building loaded with ArcGIS 9, so this was a hands-on demo. I was slated to present for 1 to 1.5 hours, but high enthusiasms and questions from the students kept me there for a full 2 hours. It was a very successful interaction with a new professor and new students that I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to work with. (It sure is going to be busy this Saturday during my open office hours...)

As far as classrooms go, these seminars are shown in one of the classrooms in the library with 27 PCs, all loaded with ArcGIS 9 and two mounted projectors. This way the screens can display the video and the room's speakers can pump out the audio, while everyone can either follow along on their own PCs (muted) or even play around with the concepts during the seminar.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Geographic Profiling Workshop: Popular Culture Meets Analysis

The 'To Catch a Thief' geographic criminology contest that culminated in a hands-on workshop last Thursday was a huge success on so many levels.

For previous posts concerning this, see here, here, here, and finally here.

We had an extremely nice showing and I have finally gotten through to quite a number of criminology folks who have never thought they could actually use GIS software. Within 12 hours after the workshop, I received 3 emails from workshop participants asking me about similar datasets for other areas in Texas and the U.S. That is the best as it shows me they are actively thinking about geography and spatial relationships.

Anyone wishing to download all of the materials for the contest/workshop can do so by downloading the following file: This executable file is a self-extracting rar file. Extract it to any directory you wish. The files inside (2 files and a folder in the root directory) can be burned directly to a CD or run direct. Each participant in the workshop was handed a CD (with a nice label), but to run the application directly just click the To_Catch_a_Thief.exe file. This will launch the menu (developed using Camtasia MenuMaker) where the actual datasets can be installed, the walk-through can be accessed, all 4 clues can be read, a brief bibliography on geographic profiling can be read, and a wealth of more information. The only thing to be aware of is that the datasets must be installed to the C:/ directory, where a new folder called 'catchThief' will be created. You will also need to be at a computer with ArcGIS 9. Feel free to email me with any questions or comments. Just remember that I have no real criminology background. ;)

As the walk-through details with step-by-step precision, there are actually two exercises. First, we use multivariate linear regression to find future potential locations. Second, we use suitability analysis to try to track down the criminal'(s) home or hide-out.

Oh, and the Shorthorn (student-run newspaper) showed up and wrote this nice article called Math Mystery Solved. The reporter and photographer intended to show up and take some quick interviews and photos, but ended up getting drawn into the workshop and stayed and participated for the entire two hours. Then the reporter classified the demo as a math demo. This is really cool, because if my very first blog post about this topic last October, I wrote this:
"Nothing at work gives me greater pleasure than to see the light in some student's eye when he/she finally and for the first time understands how mathematics and analysis is actually a powerful tool for solving useful real world problems."
This workshop accomplished this more than any other workshop or instruction session that I have ever held. I want to sincerely thank LordKingSquirrel for firing the impulses that led me to this idea.

Why was this idea so successful? I believe it is the relationships that this created between popular culture and math/analysis. It takes the popular (crime dramas) and gives it a solid, geographical, mathematical backbone. This really struck a chord with the students, faculty, and many of those beyond our campus.

So, are you itching to know the solution to the contest?? Probably not, but then again perhaps yes as you sure have read through this post pretty far down.

The criminal(s) were using the TRE.

A Month Away From Blogging

Little bit of this, a dollop of that, and of course a whole big heap of this as usual. Also been teaching 6 credits in addition to my full-time library position. Something had to give and unfortunately it fell on the one thing that I am not normally held accountable for...this blog.

Well, I stayed up most of last night catching up on everything that I missed and even listened to a couple of VerySpatial and the latest Where It's At... podcasts. Always great stuff.

With a solid month away where I have been very busy, I have a plethora of ideas and topics that I am anxious to blog about. Lots of great stuff going on here, so keep posted.


Position: USGS & NASA

Two great library positions have recently come across my screen. Neither mention GIS, but it would be really fantastic to work for either of these federal agencies. The salaries for both of these positions are very competitive (which is nice). The USGS position is much more sexy to me, but this can be the greater position detail. I can just sit here and imagine all the great tidbits of data and info that I the successful candidates of these positions would be privy to, eh?

1. Librarian GS-1410-14 (KR-MP) - Interior, US Geological Survey - Fairfax, VA
"Formulates management policy and plans concerning the management of the USGS Library System. Responsible for coordinating system-wide collection development, management, and preservation of materials in all formats and media, ranging from printed books, maps, photographs, and field records to electronic journals and databases. Incumbent is also responsible for maintaining a current knowledge of the science programs and activities of USGS, principles and techniques of information science and management, and library user requirements. Represents the USGS in advancing library objectives, coordinating all library operations, and maintaining liaison with appropriate personnel in the Department of the Interior, other Federal libraries, and non-Federal earth and biological science libraries."
2. Librarian (Digital Media) - NASA, Goddard Space Flight Center - Prince George's, MD
"Evaluates and implements programs for improving and expanding availability of library services. Reviews contractor progress in customer service and innovation; establishes and institutes mechanisms to evaluate quality, effectiveness and timeliness of contractor service delivery."