Editor’s Desk: #geohipsters

This entry is part 4 of 9 in the series February 2014

Who are these young folks who are quietly changing the geospatial world? They are talented, resourceful, and influential. They harbor some of the same misgivings that surveyors have about old-school GIS, but you might be surprised to find that they also hold surveyors in particularly high esteem. You should get to know a few.

As surveyors and surveying firms seek to expand markets, they also need to embrace not only new technologies but also some new concepts about what clients are looking for. In nearly every market where surveyors are employed (boundary is a practical exception, but there are even inroads in that segment), the trend is towards the use of a whole lot more data, collected en masse, and analyzed. This is in contrast to legacy methods (when it was more expensive per unit to collect data) that required a lot of interpolation from minimal sampling. It is now possible to collect a lot more data with less gear and labor, but it’s only useful if the data is good, and in the right hands. This is where the geohipsters come into the picture.

The Twitter hashtag definition is “#geohipster—the vanguard of the neo geo geospatial communities, savvy with GIS, open source geospatial, associated social media and collaborative software development sites like Github. They are professionals, pro-sumers, bloggers, customizers, and technicians. They are the wave after legacy GIS. They love maps, mapping, they know a surprising amount about projections, PostGreSQL, PostGIS, ARC-this-and-that, etc. Not exclusively young, but must be open-minded.”

They work in all sorts of geospatially related fields and collaborate on projects all over the world, such as assisting in compiling data for offshore wind farms in Asia, land administration initiatives in Africa, geographic market analysis in the U.S., and oil and gas in Canada. While comfortable with big-name commercial CAD and GIS software, when needed they might work with (or develop their own) open-source GIS applications and scripts. The flow of data from scanning, remote sensing, photogrammetry, mobile mapping, etc. is so tremendous that the development cycles of big-clunky-legacy solutions does not move fast enough for geohipsters. If one thing characterizes geohipsters, it is developing solutions if current ones do not meet their needs. And they are often obsessed with (and often very well versed in) mapping projections, as they have to work with many to integrate the multiple data sets they need for their work.

Sounds like it would be great to have geohipsters on your team? Find them, befriend them, hire them, nurture them, watch Doctor Who with them—it is a good investment. The surveying and geomatics schools are cranking them out; you can find them in the geo-social-media-sphere. Start looking at a few blogs, or follow some of their zeitgeists on Twitter, such as Nicholas Duggan, aka @Dragons8mycat. You may already have a geohipster on your team and not realize it. When that new geomatics grad you hired starts talking about some of this mumbo-jumbo, listen carefully—he or she might just be instrumental to the future of your firm, and our profession.


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