Jul 282015

I know thesriuc_2015_smallat Esri story maps have been around for quite a while, but I am only finally learning how to create them now. For some reason, I was quite resistant to using them, but now that I have created a couple I have to say they could be really useful for teaching both GIS and just about anything geographical (I know my friends at Esri would be rolling their eyes – what can I say, I’m a slow learner!). The user interface for creating them could still use some tweaks, as I found there was a lot of clicking involved, but I have not yet tried uploading using a CSV file, which I have a feeling would alleviate that problem.

The first story map I created uses photos I took on a little walking tour from my hotel to Stanley Park and back in Vancouver, when I was there for the Canadian Association of Geographers Conference in June. I have a GPS receiver for my Canon 70D and I have to say it works like a charm! The receiver gets a signal within a couple of minutes, and then my photos are automatically geotagged. Of course, I also used my MotionX GPS app to record my track, which I have included in the story map as a separate map layer. It was a cloudy day, so the photos aren’t exactly spectacular, but it’s not too bad as a first effort. Maybe I’m just too new to this, but the embedded version below doesn’t seem as intuitive as the “full” version when it’s opened in a new window. (Edit: I tweaked the widths of my website page elements, so now the embedded versions render in their correct, “full” versions – much better. I also changed the Vancouver base map to satellite imagery).

I hope to experiment with the different templates available in the future but, for now, the basic walking tour format seemed to work best. I have also created one with photos from the Esri Education GIS Conference and main User Conference (click here to open in a new window):

Note: one thing I have noticed is that, if my browser window is too large, or too tall and skinny, the story map doesn’t render properly. I read on GeoNet that apparently it interprets the dimensions as being on a mobile device – Esri is working on fixing this. If this happens, you can just reduce the height of your browser window until it renders it correctly (it seems to want to be wider than high).

This first foray into Esri’s online applications is part of my new commitment to making better use of the Esri platform, beyond the traditional desktop suite. While I was at the User Conference, I had an “aha!” moment where I realized that all of the various components that Esri has been talking about for the past two or three years have matured and coalesced into a coherent and powerful platform. I’m sure that was their plan all along, but I have a feeling I’m not the only user who’s taken a while to figure out what it all means.


Aug 302011

Paper map

I was recently contacted by a Toronto Star reporter for an article she was writing about paper maps vs. GPS for navigation (Map publishers facing a rough road, Aug. 19, 2011).  She was asking whether I thought people used or needed paper maps anymore and if they would still be around in five years.  I thought it was an interesting question, and told her how I still have a collection of paper maps in my own car. They almost never get used, as I tend to rely on my iPhone (I quite like GPS Drive by MotionX, as I can pay as I go, one month at a time), but I keep them there (along with a good old-fashioned compass) just in case my phone stops working.  I love technology, but I’m not ready to rely on it 100%, especially when I’m driving into parts unknown, where cellular coverage may be spotty or non-existent.  Yes, the iPhone assisted GPS will work without a cell signal, but the navigation and mapping apps won’t be able to download data, which makes the GPS location pretty much useless.  One way to get around this is to download map data ahead of time, using apps like Avenza’s PDF Maps, which I plan to test the next time I’m travelling outside of Canada and want to use my iPhone’s GPS without incurring exorbitant data roaming charges.

To get back to the reporter’s question, I predicted that paper maps would not go away anytime soon.  Even though we all tend to rely on technology more all the time, and mobile map usage is growing fast (the number of smartphone map users increased 75 percent over the last year in the U.S. according to a recent comScore report) I pointed out that only about one third of Canadians and Americans own a smartphone (32.8% in Canada, 32.2% in the U.S. according to another recent comScore report).  I mentioned that this is a form of digital divide, since smartphones are more costly to buy and use, and that we can’t assume that everyone has one.  We also talked about built-in GPS options on new cars but, again, this is still a relatively premium option.  I imagine the adoption rates will increase over the next few years (for both smartphones and built-in GPS), but I still can’t see a day where I will throw out my trusty paper maps and compass – they don’t get used much anymore, but I’m still glad I have them!