Monday, May 5, 2014

MidAmerica GIS Consortium (MAGIC): Symposium Wrap-Up

Another excellent MAGIC Symposium was held last week in Kansas City, Missouri. This was the 14th Symposium with the first having been held in Lawrence, Kansas in 1987. 

I make a habit of telling people that the MAGIC Symposium is one of my favorite conferences because it provides content ranging from coordination/oversight to very technical content.  This Symposium certainly continued the tradition of providing excellent substance.

What follows are just some of the highlights from the Symposium that I experienced. I focused on those sessions that are most applicable to my work; therefore there is a certain slant to what is noted. The MAGIC Symposium is so broad that one report is not enough. But here I go…

The opening keynote was provided by Ben Balter of GitHub. He promotes the concept of collaborative mapping, using the open source model.  In fact, using GitHub, he said we can consider “treating data as code” where data is stored AND presented on GitHub.  In doing so, data is liberated. He showed a number of interesting examples of using GeoJSON to build maps of farmer markets, subway stations, and locations of towers from the FCC database. In another example, he created a “DC WiFi Social” map showing those bars having beer and WiFi. Another person took that info and removed those locations that had TVs (to reduce the noise level). Anyone can make such edits but those are only on their version until the change is committed after review (like code). Ben’s slide deck is available here and includes links to the live GitHub maps.

One of the ways that MAGIC promotes GIS in the mid-continent region is to provide grants to facilitate that work. During the opening session, two of those grant recipients provided an overview on what they’ve done with their grants.  MAGIC also recognizes work well done; the State of Oklahoma, the City of Ames, Iowa, and Jackson County, Missouri were recipients of these prestigious awards.

I attended the "ArcGIS as a Platform" workshop that went well beyond a description of how all of the ArcGIS pieces fit together.  For me it turned out to be a solid tips and tricks session focusing on optimization of hardware, software, licensing, and architecture. With what I learned here, this one workshop literally paid for my entire expense of attending the Symposium and then some.  A few of the key items of interest:
  • Stop using the personal geodatabase if you haven’t already  
  • Frequently update statistics on the enterprise geodatabase
  • For disaster recovery, considering sending tiles to ArcGIS Online via a tile package
  • EDN can be used to create the tile cache
  • Set up a staging environment that mimics production; use this to upgrade and test new versions, then edit the load balancer to point to the new environment
  • Check out this document for links to performance and scalability
  • When starting out with ArcGIS Online establish vision and governance
  • Data must be available via mobile devices; more mobile devices access the Internet than PCs

I attended a session titled, “Working with Imagery and LiDAR in ArcGIS” that provided some excellent tips and tricks.  This session really did a nice job showing how one can use the tools right in ArcMap to dynamically create data without first having to create derived products stored on disk.  And, I learned a tip that might help you. Have you ever tried to open a folder containing imagery in ArcMap only to have to wait forever for the folder to open?  In ArcMap Options, click on the Raster tab and then click on the File Formats button, and uncheck all those formats that you do not use. 

ArcGIS Online was everywhere at the Symposium.  There is no doubt in my mind that ArcGIS Online is already becoming a major component of the Esri software stack and that this will only increase.  If you are a user of Esri software and are not yet using or at least familiar with ArcGIS Online, you really should be. 

  • I attended a session titled, “Best Practices for Working with ArcGIS Online” that presented many of the basics but also provided many tips and tricks.  A good resource is the blog on  One of those blog items that was highlighted during the session was this one.
  • Oregon is deploying ArcGIS Online as an enterprise tool where state agency users are billed on a per-user basis, but for counties, in return for their data, the county users have access to ArcGIS Online at no cost.  Currently, Oregon has about 300 users and expects this to grow to 1000 users by the end of the year.
  • In the City of Omaha, they have found that over 80% of their field collection is now done with a phone or tablet using ArcGIS Online.  The remaining collection is done with higher precision, traditional devices. The biggest growth of their ArcGIS Online presence has been from non-GIS people, with maps including Omaha landmarks, crime map, county commissioner districts, community centers, specialty parks (such as dog parks, skateboard parks), and land re-utilization maps (showing lots the city wants to sell)
  • Jackson County, Missouri is using ArcGIS Online for mapping of culverts, signs, and guardrails.  They are using iPads for this work.
  • There are several good examples at
  • There is a growing list of products that work with ArcGIS Online are currently available and/or will be soon.  These include:
    • Collector for ArcGIS
    • Operations Dashboard for ArcGIS
    • Explorer for ArcGIS (new!)
    • ArcGIS Open Data (new and beta!)
And finally (for me), MAGIC had “Short Attention Span Theaters” which provided an opportunity to hear a lot of info very quickly.  Two of my favorites were:
  • The Oklahoma Office of Geographic Information support following the 2013 Moore, OK tornado. They actually burned up a belt on the plotter.
  • There are 9,365 languages in the world with 440 of those extinct. The researchers created a global model to predict areas at risk for extinction of language.

If you haven't had a chance to be a part of MAGIC, please consider doing so, there are lots of opportunities, just visit the web site or contact me.  And be sure to put April 24 - 28, 2016 on your calendar, that the date of the next MAGIC symposium which will be held at the Overland Park Convention Center in Overland Park, KS.