Archive for November, 2010

New Update Available

A new update, Depiction 1.2.2c, has just been made available. You can download the update immediately, or wait for Depiction to update automatically later this week. There are several improvements that will be of interest:

  • Access to a large amount of new NAIP aerial imagery–you may want to clear your cache to view it
  • , especially if you have been getting white squares from NAIP recently while their update was ongoing, or if you want to see updated imagery. You can view maps of which states have been updated at the NAIP website.

  • Printed depictions now have a white background if no other background source is selected, something we’ve had several users ask about;
  • The default image hovertext is no longer the source file path, and the source field can now be edited–this has been my own personal pet peeve for a while, so I’m pretty excited to see it fixed.

Depiction University beginnings and endings

The first session of Depiction University is coming to a close, and the next session is starting up. Those in the course have learned a lot, but so have we, and so we’re doing things a little differently for this second session. The course is now self-paced, which should provide more flexibility for our many users with busy schedules–so if you were holding off because of time concerns, now might be the right moment! If you’re interested, consider what these current students have to say about the course:

When I heard that Depiction was establishing a “University” to instruct the vast capability of this software, I signed up immediately. This class has stretched my knowledge of Depiction, and has widened my understanding of its fullest capabilities. I highly recommend this challenging course to anyone wishing to increase their knowledge and your full potential in mastering Depiction.

Tim O’Shea
Reno, NV

If you’re serious about becoming proficient and knowledgeable about this incredibly power software, Depiction University is the *ONLY* way to go. The lessons are creative, appropriate, and targeted… making you a more resourceful and confident user.

Wayne Barringer
Anaheim, CA

The Depiction University has been very valuable to me as one of the newest preferred consultants. I have picked up on a new feature as well as new ways to bring in data from a variety of sources in each of the weekly lessons. If you are serious about using Depiction, you’ve got to attend Depiction University!

David Hancock
Boone, NC

That last quote brings up a good point–if you’re interested in becoming a Preferred Consultant, Depiction University is a great opportunity. If you would like more information about the Preferred Consultant program, drop me a line.

Finally, here’s a sneak preview of what these folks are up to–a sample question from the final written practical that students are taking this week:

27. You’re volunteering in the call center for your County EOC (Emergency Operations Center) and are bombarded with reports of flooding (and other problems) coming in from the Public after a major rainstorm. You’re using Depiction to “map and share” the information being reported by the public; and you’re using the caller’s name as a property (and as Hovertext) for each reported element.

a. (1) What is the quickest way to add a “report” to the depiction when receiving the information over the phone if you’re not familiar with the address information the caller is providing?

b. (2) After awhile, your depiction is full of reported elements. The boss asks you to show him a specific report from earlier in the day made by a Mr. Hopkins. Without turning off the display of all the reports, describe how you can quickly find the report and how you can make the Hopkins report pulsate in the middle of your display.

c. (2) The Operations Section of the EOC is on the other side of the building and they have Depiction running on a computer that is projecting the display onto a screen. Describe how you can “share” the reports you’re receiving with the Operations Section staff using Depiction.

Intrigued? This next self-paced session of Depiction University is starting this week!

Election Mapping Presentation

Yesterday’s webinar also sparked the idea to turn the election mapping process into a PowerPoint presentation:

The process itself is fairly easy–the hard part is tracking down the GIS data and election results, and the even harder part is dealing with election results that aren’t put into a ‘machine readable format’ like a spreadsheet. Some states & counties do that for your, others don’t–if they don’t it might be easier to go directly to the government agency responsible and see if they can get you a spreadsheet. If not, though, the majority of the presentation deals with tracking down, then slicing and dicing the data so that you can merge it with the GIS data. The actual merging and colorizing of the data–what Depiction does–is really very easy.

And that part is applicable to any number of tasks–any time you need to merge data with map data such as shapefiles. If you aren’t interested in the election stuff, the information starting on slide 20 may still be valuable.

Latest webinar videos, OpenStreetMap & Election Mapping

Video from our two most recent webinars is now available. First up, “OpenStreetMap & Depiction” with Special Guest Hurricane Coast:

And fresh from yesterday, Hyperlocal Election Mapping Made Easy with yours truly.

Depiction in Small Towns

A great article came up over the weekend in the Courier-News out of suburban Illinois about a village considering the purchase of Depiction. Hampshire is a small town of about 3,000 people in Kane county due east of Chicago. Donald Bryant, director of the Kane County Office of Emergency Management and a Depiction user, had this to say about Depiction to the town’s public safety committee:

“It could show the number of available beds at emergency shelters and hospitals,” Bryant said.

“It will automatically find the shortest route between two points. It can offer predictions on the effects of flooding in an area. If there is an increase of 1 foot of water in a creek, it shows where the water will go. It can determine the number of homes and the amount of people who would be affected.”

Bryant added that Depiction is “a versatile tool and easy to use. A visual map is easier to use than a written report. It’s a great tool for law enforcement.”

Brust said he would like to see Depiction utilized in Hampshire and surrounding villages. “It would put us all on the same page,” he said.

Depiction is really an ideal tool for this kind of thing. For municipalities, agencies and organizations that don’t have a full-time GIS expert on staff, but who still have the same emergency management, law enforcement and logistical needs as larger organizations, it is a great way to harness significant GIS and modeling capability without breaking the bank.

Ric Skinner on GIS in Healthcare & Hospital Emergency Management

The transcript from a talk given by Depiction Preferred consultant Ric Skinner last Wednesday is now available. If you’re at all involved with or concerned with emergency management as it relates to hospitals or other health care organizations, the transcript is definitely worth reading, and the Q&A time afterward even more so. Though our favorite parts were where he talked about Depiction, naturally, here’s another particularly good portion:

Avagene Moore: Ric, are you finding more emergency managers and healthcare facilities using GIS? If not, why not in your opinion?

Ric Skinner: There are not as many as I would like to see. I’ve been involved with GIS and health for 15 or 20 years and it has been a very slow process. As you mentioned, at one point I was at Baystate Medical Center and for 10 years we were the only hospital that had a full time GIS department. We used it for many different things—epidemiology, the routing of vehicles, health care resources, security issues.

I think it is being used more and more, but it is a slow process in terms of the healthcare preparedness sector. I think a lot of it has to do with the presumption that you need to have a skilled, dedicated GIS professional to run the system for you. Because of what I said earlier, a lot of the software is coming to the point where that is not necessary. You could have somebody—it takes a little bit of training—but it can produce intelligent, actionable maps to support emergency management decisions.

This is, I think, a key point when it comes to the use of GIS in many fields, including emergency management, and we’re proud to be a part of the technological improvements that are making it possible.

Depiction of the Week: St. Louis County, MN 2010 Congressional Election

This month’s historic election gave the Republican party a larger gain than any single party has seen since the 1940’s, but that broad, national trend was made up of many decisions made at the smallest possible level–the level of the individual. Now, Depiction can’t really map things quite down to that level, (there’s a thing called a secret ballot), Depiction can help you do the next best thing, and create “hyperlocal” election maps at the precinct level.

This week’s Depiction of the Week is one such map. Possibly the biggest single surprise in the election outcome was the result in Minnesota’s 8th District, in the northeast part of the state along Lake Superior. After representing the district since 1974, Democrat Jim Oberstar lost to Republican Chip Cravaack. This depiction shows the precinct level results in St. Louis County, which is where Duluth, the largest city in the district, is located.

I’ll be doing a webinar on Tuesday, November 23, “Hyperlocal Election Maps Made Easy” showing how you can create depictions like this one–and even more complex ones–very easily. If this is the sort of thing you’re interested in, I hope to see you there!

And once you’ve built them, of course, Depiction lets you combine them with all kinds of maps, data and images, whether publicly available or your own proprietary information. Want to see what voting patterns look like based on proximity to schools or other points of interest? No problem. You can even overlay them with scanned paper maps or routes, and much more.

Minnesota has some particularly good resources for building election depictions. Shapefiles of districts, precincts and even election results can be accessed here. Up-to-date election results can be accessed here in semicolon-delimited format. You can convert these into spreadsheets pretty easily using Excel.

St.Louis County 2010 Congressional Election Results

St.Louis County 2010 Congressional Election Results

To view this depiction, download the Depiction Free Reader .

Congrats, Kim!

Last night Depiction Customer Engagement Director Kim Buike was honored by local radio station KSER with their “Voice of the Community” Award for his work with the United Way the Red Cross and other volunteer organizations.

He is not shy about speaking out, and the confident, commanding-officer voice he acquired in the Navy is perfectly suited for that.

“If you have a loud voice, you darn better use it for a meaningful, good purpose. Otherwise, it’s just noise,” he said.

It’s a privilege to have Kim and his strong service ethic–not to mention his loud voice!–on the Depiction team.

Depiction & OpenStreetMap Webinar

Hurricane Coast, who will be a special guest presenter during our Depiction & OpenStreetMap GIS Day Webinar, has posted a bit more about Wednesday’s event on the MapQuest blog:

In the past months, we have been excited to talk about MapQuest’s involvement with OpenStreetMap. But what exactly is this project about and how can you be apart of it you ask? This Wednesday, November 17th, at 2PM EST, Hurricane Coast will co-host a free webinar that will help new folks get started with OpenStreetMap (OSM).

The webinar is a perfect way to get your hands dirty in a hands-on style. The hour long session will cover everything from history about OSM and cool stories of how the project ‘saved lives’ to walking you through the sign-up process and showing you how to make your first edit.

We’re excited to be hosting this, and we hope you can make it!

Thank you, veterans

Many of our customers are veterans, many of whom are still serving their country in other capacities as volunteers, emergency managers and more. Today being Veterans Day, we here at Depiction would like to thank all veterans for their service, and our customers in particular.

Thank you!