August 2015
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Geography Sign

A friend of mine sent me this pic from Comic-Con in San Diego last week.  I’m not sure if someone put it up for Comic-Con, or if it was left behind after the ESRI conference, but I think it works for both.



Study Finds Spatial Skill Is Early Sign of Creativity

A gift for spatial reasoning — the kind that may inspire an imaginative child to dismantle a clock or the family refrigerator — may be a greater predictor of future creativity or innovation than math or verbal skills, particularly in math, science and related fields, according to a study published Monday in the journal Psychological Science.
The study looked at the professional success of people who, as 13-year-olds, had taken both the SAT, because they had been flagged as particularly gifted, as well as the Differential Aptitude Test. That exam measures spatial relations skills, the ability to visualize and manipulate two-and three-dimensional objects. While math and verbal scores proved to be an accurate predictor of the students’ later accomplishments, adding spatial ability scores significantly increased the accuracy.
The researchers, from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said their findings make a strong case for rewriting standardized tests like the SAT and ACT to focus more on spatial ability, to help identify children who excel in this area and foster their talents.
“Evidence has been mounting over several decades that spatial ability gives us something that we don’t capture with traditional measures used in educational selection,” said David Lubinski, the lead author of the study and a psychologist at Vanderbilt. “We could be losing some modern-day Edisons and Fords.”
Following up on a study from the 1970s, Dr. Lubinski and his colleagues tracked the professional progress of 563 students who had scored in the top 0.5 percent on the SAT 30 years ago, when they were 13. At the time, the students had also taken the Differential Aptitude Test.
Years later, the children who had scored exceptionally high on the SAT also tended to be high achievers — not surprisingly — measured in terms of the scholarly papers they had published and patents that they held. But there was an even higher correlation with success among those who had also scored highest on the spatial relations test, which the researchers judged to be a critical diagnostic for achievement in technology, engineering, math and science.
Cognitive psychologists have long suspected that spatial ability — sometimes referred to as the “orphan ability” for its tendency to go undetected — is key to success in technical fields. Earlier studies have shown that students with a high spatial aptitude are not only overrepresented in those fields, but may receive little guidance in high school and underachieve as a result. (Note to parents: Legos and chemistry sets are considered good gifts for the spatial relations set.)
The correlation has “been suspected, but not as well researched” as the predictive power of math skills, said David Geary, a psychologist at the University of Missouri, who was not involved in the study, which was funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The new research is significant, he said, for showing that “high levels of performance in STEM fields” — science, technology, engineering and math — “are not simply related to math abilities.”
Testing spatial aptitude is not particularly difficult, Dr. Geary added, but is simply not part of standardized testing because it is considered a cognitive function — the realm of I.Q. and intelligence tests — and is not typically a skill taught in school.
“It’s not like math or English, it’s not part of an academic curriculum,” he said. “It’s more of a basic competence. For that reason it just wasn’t on people’s minds when developing these tests.”
It is also a competence more associated with men than women. In the current study, boys greatly outnumbered girls, 393 to 170, reflecting the original scores of the students in the ’70s. But the study found no difference in the levels of adult achievement, said Dr. Lubinski, though the women were more likely than the men to work in medicine and the social sciences. ■

LA County’s Recap of the 2013 ESRI Conference

At our recent eGIS Committee, meeting, we discussed what we had learned and been impressed with at the 2013 ESRI Conference, which concluded last week.  I have tried to compile the responses that I received into some basic categories, so that you can scroll down and see what you liked.

If you want to add your ideas, please comment below!

New Capabilities

Generally – we saw a lot of interest in the new ArcGIS Professional – a number of folks noted this.  Here’s a video:

Christine Lam, eGIS Group

The GeoEvent Processor. You can receive real-time streaming data as well as perform continuous processing and analysis. The demo was about tracking an ambulance – as soon as it crosses a threshold that you’ve defined (e.g. arrival within 5 minutes of a hospital), then the staff will automatically receive a text/email alert. You can also monitor live tweets, filter them based on a keyword(s), and the resulting tweets will be displayed on a map. The GeoEvent Processor does require an additional license.

Vijay Manghirmalani, DHS

I spoke with a Geoprocessing Product Engineer by the name of Mr. Kevin Hibma to suggest that they provide a distance matrix tool that would be very useful to me.  This is to suggest that if we would like something in their product we can directly speak to the developers rather than suggest something on their website.

Mauricio Luceroa, Agricultural Weights and Measures

I was very impressed how Microsoft Excel spreadsheets has the capability to create maps without using desktop GIS software application. In addition, we are able to retain the data directly within Excel, that means that any changes to the spreadsheet can be immediately reflected in an updated map

Nick Franchino, Dept. of Regional Planning

I liked ArcGIS Professional – a beta product later this year.  Not slated to replace ArcMap just yet; a true 64-bit architecture that looks to combine ArcMap, ArcToolbox and ArcScene into one app, taking advantage of the newest underlying technologies.  I also like the Storytelling Maps – templates for ArcGIS Online – we’ll be doing more with those in the near future.


Data and Data Models

Rona Tintut, DPW

This time at the ESRI conference, I found “GIS use in the Airport Industry” session interesting. I saw….

  • demo on how the extension manage and analyze airport (infrastructure) data, using automated export data tool on FAA reports/submissions.
  • demo on 3D Aerodrome software (by EUROSTARS program) with the realistic representation of airports in both 2D and 3D, was very nice.

More info on 3D Aerodromes, check this site –

John Hickok, DPW

We all greatly appreciate our managers allowing us to Travel to the ESRI User Conference for the day.

My highlights were spending time with ESRI’s onsite geodesists at the ESRI Product Information Center! As Land Surveyors-in-Training, we appreciate understanding how GIS data accuracy is handled.

Thierno Diallo, DPW

What I found interesting among other things:

Ground-based vehicle mounted Lidar survey/infrastructure condition assessment technology and services offered by 2 private firms: Sanborn and RBF Consulting

A stream flow map developed by Esri Applications Prototype Labs, which models the flow of major rivers in the USA based on the USGS stream gauge network dataset and the World Hydro Reference Overlay map. (see links : and )

Carrie Wiley, DPW

DPW is mapping out the LA County Airport Data (currently 2D only) and would like to utilize the Aviation Toolbox (Obstruction Identification Surface Tools) and 3D visualization when the 3D data becomes available. ArcScene / 10.2 allows you to share the 3D visualization to the web and make it interactive.

I’ve requested the 3D visualization example from ESRI from the Aviation session and will send your way if/when I receive. I can also start looking into what it takes to acquire the Aviation Toolbox.

David Ahia, DPSS

David focused on 3D mapping – and on City Engine:




Noureddine Rahbany – Sheriff

Protecting the Home and Family from Crime

-Home Burgs Study

-Sight lines of burglars with 3d modeling of “visible” windows and doors

-Human Trafficking

Public Safety Special Event Planning

-Big Bay Boom IAP – here’s the map service:

-Special Events Template –

GIS Platform

ESRI Maps for Office:

Geo Event Processor:

Collector App:

Spatial Stats

Application Development


Richard Ledesma, DPSS

Here are some of my observations about the UC this year.

As I mentioned in the meeting yesterday, one of the big surprises for me was the beta release of the Mac OS X SDK:

(I have an old Macbook pro, but have not yet played around with the SDK.)

I thought I heard there would be a Mac version of Desktop, while I was at the OS X SDK session, but I may have been mistaken because I can’t seem to locate any documentation for that on the Esri site.

The other SDk that caught my attention was the beta release of Qt.  According to the Qt site, “Qt is a cross-platform application and UI framework for developers using C++ or QML, a CSS & JavaScript like language. Qt Creator is the supporting Qt IDE.”

I spoke with the Ersi engineer at the Qt island during a break and asked about the benefits of this framework over other SDKs and he said that because Core Engine is written in C++, the use of Qt has some inherent advantages when it comes to performance.  I can see this would help some of the County departments that do huge amounts of analysis or operate very large data sets.  The other benefit of Qt is that it is cross-platform compliant, and the code should be usable on all major platforms.

Lastly the SDK’s and API’s (specifically the JavaScript API) have become more standards based and platform agnostic.  I think the reality that most computer users today operate in the mobile space, on multiple types of devices and platforms, has a lot to do with this.  I guess Esri has been doing that for some time but I really noticed it more at this year’s conference.

Tao Li, DPW

I was most impressed by the presentation on JMeter.

ESRI uses it routinely to do load test during development and to replicate issues under load.

The software is complete free.

Here are two links that explains how to set up JMeter for testing.  (NOTE – WE JUST TESTED THIS AND IT IS A GREAT TOOL!)


Mark Greninger, CIO

Desktop licenses now get a username and 100 credits in ArcGIS Online, and Portal for ArcGIS: now comes as part of ArcGIS Server advanced, allowing us to “host” an on-premise version of ArcGIS Online.  There were some notes about the fact that using portal will improve the fine-grained security controls that we need.


CA State Government User Group Meeting Agenda

Forwarding this from Christina Boggs at the State of California

This is a reminder of the upcoming California State Government GIS User Group meeting on Wednesday, July 24th from 1-4pm in the Resources auditorium (address below). Previous announcements had us finishing up at 3pm but we had an overwhelming response from presenters so we wanted to give everyone an opportunity to showcase their work. If you are unable to attend in person, please pre-register for the webex here. As a reminder, this is a user group meeting focused on California State business but it is open to everyone. Hope to see you all there!

Continue reading CA State Government User Group Meeting Agenda

Online GIS Course in Coursera

coursera_gisI’ve been reading about how “Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs)” have the potential to change the way we learn – well here’s one for GIS (although it seems to be a bit of a teaser for more courses that may not be free at Penn State.

Here’s the link:

This course is under way, but there is a watch list for future courses:

Thanks to Richard Ledesma for passing along – he told me he is enjoying this course.

Using Data Driven Pages

data driven pagesThanks to Douglas Morales from Public Health who did a great presentation on Data Driven Pages, and how they were used to show the locations of photographs of fish warning signs.  The presentation shows two valuable toolsets:

  1. The Geotagged Photos to Points Tool (I didn’t know this one) which converts geotagged photos into a feature dataset (click here for more information).
  2. Creating Data Driven Pages (click here for more information)

Check out the presentation here: eGIS_DataDrivenPages_05142013

We had a nice follow-on discussion where Tom Weisenberger showed how you can link a definition query to the data driven pages to highlight only those features that are being currently mapped.  This could be used to develop maps based upon changing attributes rather than on changing locations.

On another note – I happened to see a very nice presentation at the ESRI conference about a government agency that used data driven pages to automate the creation of letters, not maps – for public announcment.  This is a powerful additional use for many of the notifications that governments make – in this case you could use data driven pages for project notifications that include maps, etc.

We also discussed the capability that Pictometry is developing to do something similar for oblique imagery – which will be a powerful new addition to the tools that make oblique imagery useful



California GIS Data is Open

parcel access across the USRight before the ESRI conference last week, the California State Supreme Court ruled in a lawsuit that GIS Data (specifically Parcel boundaries) are part of the Public Record, and should be made available to the public at the cost of duplication.

The County has done this for a while – you can see the price list here:

Click here to read the Court’s Decision

I also went to see a presentation by Bruce Joffe, who was a leader in the lawsuit – he gave a good presentation about the history of these issues.

Click here to view Bruce Joffe’s presentation: Defending Public Access to our Governments GeoData

From my perspective, the fact that LA County makes its data available has dramatically improved collaboration, cooperation, and reduced a lot of internal inefficiencies that were caused by the goal of monetizing the valuable data.

On the flip side, there is always the battle for scarce budget dollars.  My approach is to recommend to our Board of Supervisors to increased County funding to the Assessor to maintain their mapping capabilities, since increased economic activity and improved efficiency from open data shows up in reduced funding requirements from other departments.

Basically, the Assessor’s office shouldn’t be punished for helping out other agencies and the public – their job is part of the County’s business and they should be funded to do that – and making the data available helps other departments reduce their needs and budget requirements.

Open Source GIS 101, Part 7: GDAL/OGR

Part 7: GDAL/OGR – (Geospatial Data Abstraction Library/OGR Simple Features Library)

There are times when we need to leave behind the world of point and click for the power and flexibility of the command line. This is especially true if you want to run geoprocessing tasks without waiting for your resource-hungry GIS map rendering engine to open up.

GDAL is a library for reading and writing raster geospatial data formats, and OGR provides similar capabilities for working with vector data. Though OGR is considered separate from GDAL, they are typically bundled together and live in the same source tree.

In 1998, Frank Warmerdam began development of GDAL. He says the correct way to pronounce it is “goodle”, because “Object Oriented” was once part of the original project name. Today, these libraries are maintained by OSGEO.

These libraries are extremely popular and are used in a number of places. Geoprocessing programs and scripts are often created using C/C++ or Python, but command line batch files using FWTools are more common.

Because of the relaxed nature of the particular open source licensing used by GDAL/OGR, these libraries are packaged into several proprietary software applications, including ArcGIS.

Next, Part 8, A Few Notes About Map Projections…

eGIS Committee Agenda – July Meeting

Hello everyone,

It’s amazing how fast the past month went.  The agenda for tomorrow’s eGIS Committee Meeting is attached here: July 2013_0716.eGIS meeting notice and Agenda

I look forward to hearing everyone’s experience at the ESRI Conference, and a good discussion on how we leverage the changes to the ESRI licensing for ArcGIS Online.

I’ve slotted Douglas Morales from DPH to discuss his data driven pages as well.

San Francisco GIS Application Developer Position

San Francisco has opened a  GIS Application Developer Position:

Under general direction of the Manager of the San Francisco’s Enterprise Geographic Information Systems (SFGIS) Program, the GIS Application Developer will assist in the implementation, development, and management of enterprise applications for the City and County of San Francisco. Essential functions include, but are not limited to: working closely with IT staff, city personnel, and contractors to maintain and develop GIS-related applications; maintaining enterprise datasets; assisting client departments in fulfilling their business needs through the use of GIS and related technology; writing application code; and performing related duties as required.

Click here for more details