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Things I Have Learned

July 31, 2014

Well, it has been about four years since I have posted on this site. Since then, I have worked at Google, where I helped enhance the quality of Google Maps and Places, then The Climate Corporation, where I wrote the company’s first geospatial data standards (among other things) and now AcreValue, where one of the many hats I wear is that of a geospatial data scientist. In that time, I have learned a large number of lessons relevant to this site, some of which I will share now.

1) It is hard to keep up a blog (see the whole this is my first post since 2010 thing). It turns out that even when you hold a lot of enmity towards those who distort data, coming up with cases and writing posts adds significant work to the general work of being/becoming an adult with a balanced personal and professional life. Lesson Learned.

2) As much as I rant about the Mercator projection, there are very solid reasons (both technical and aesthetic) for it to be the default on the web. Basically, it does a very good job when you are zoomed in, as is the typical direciton-finding use case of Google Maps and it is not too hard for devotees to implement custom map projections for zoomed out levels. There are just strong network effects and default change aversion against doing so.

3) Spatial data is not special. Well, not as special as I thought it was. Maps are still brilliant and beautiful ways of presenting data, but the church and state separation I had in my head five years ago between spatial data and mere text etc. is largely artificial and has not served me well. That is to say that prematurely specializing in spatial data rather than learning general computer science and software engineering first is *not* advised.

4) It is much easier to hate than create. This should be obvious, but to a young soul who had not created altogether that much in this world, this blog was and may continue to be an easy vector by which to take down the work of others. However, in my creation of a large number of maps and models, and especially in the use of the Google Maps API for AcreValue, I have learned the wisdom that many of the things I have criticized here do exist for a reason. I still hope to post though in future updates when I see egregious misuses of my favorite data visualization.

And with that, I am off to create some more maps! I will try to make it <4 years before my next update.

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