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Mostly Mapping

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As I make my way around the user group conference circuit, I still find that many GIS managers and practitioners seem a little confused about Web GIS and it's advantages. Earlier this evening I stumbled once again onto this amazing resource which explains the concepts and advantages of Web GIS exceptionally well, IMHO.


I am thinking this should be required reading for GIS managers and practitioners alike. The ArcGIS Book.


ArcGIS Online

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have, for the most part, passed. However the total damage is still being realized,  economic impacts are still being assessed, and recovery operations are just beginning. It will be a process that takes months and years.


During the continuing course of the response, many maps and apps have been created that were, and remain. key in providing updates on status, helping those in need, delivering insights to what happened, and perhaps most importantly, delivering information on what was going on. Here's my pick of a few apps that caught my eye, and the configurable apps and builders used to create them.


Note that this is not a comprehensive list, and many fine apps went by unnoticed by me, and many were private and subsequently not highlighted here. Feel free to comment and add others.


Story Map "Catalog"

An idea came about that a story map could be used as a  live catalog of useful resources that could be viewed, and then opened in full screen mode and bookmarked, or otherwise saved for further use. Two of these were developed, and continue to evolve today. Both are based on the Story Map Series using the Side Accordion Layout.


One of the catalogs was targeted at operations staff - those who do not author maps or apps but need to know about and use useful applications. The other was targeted at GIS staff who were looking for key layers and web maps from which to create their own. Shown below is the Story Map Catalog of ready-to-use apps. The content has changed over time, starting with apps focused on preparedness, then response, and increasingly recovery.



Story Map Series "Binder"

Story Map Series, especially the tabbed layout, is often used as a binder to pull together related maps and applications. Shown below is one from the NOAA/NWS/NHC Storm Surge Unit showing storm surge flooding along the U.S East and Gulf Coasts and Puerto Rico during Category 1 though 5 storms.



Impact Summary

One of the more widely used configurable apps was Impact Summary. This app highlights an area and shows a summary of quantitative data related to its location, with the option to use Living Atlas demographic information to enrich the data to be summarized. Shown below is an Impact Summary app presenting the National Weather Service 72 hour forecast that has been enriched to show the potential impact to people and businesses.



Local Perspective

Local Perspective is a configurable app template that provides information based on a user defined location. A buffered distance around the user specified locationeither by typing in an address, or clicking the mapis used to return features from features layers in the map.


Shown below is a Local Perspective app authored by Miami Dade County to show shelter locations - enter an address, or click on the map to display the list, and view status. Note that the screen shot below was taken after the initial response efforts, and only displays one active shelter as a result.



Story Map Journal

FEMA published several Story Map Journals that contained other maps and apps detailing specifics for both Harvey and Irma. Shown below is the FEMA Story Map Incident Journal for Irma, embedding many other apps.



Here's another example from the Texas Department of Public Safety used during Hurricane Harvey.



And a third example of a Situation Report created using a Story Map Journal from Harris County.



Story Map Crowdsource

Story Map Crowdsource was used to compile photographs from both Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to provide an idea and location of where damage had occurred, also providing a window onto what was happening on the ground. Shown below is the Crowdsource app for Hurricane Harvey from NAPSG.



Shown below is the Crowdsource app for Hurricane Irma, also from NAPSG.



Story Map Swipe

Story Map Swipe is designed to enable you to compare multiple maps or layers, and is especially effective when viewing pre- and post- event imagery. Below is a Story Map Swipe from the NICB Geospatial Intelligence Center comparing before and after imagery for Hurricane Harvey. View application.



The Story Map Swipe below displays Hurricane Irma post-event imagery and includes bookmarks to specific locations, providing a before and after look using imagery from NOAA. View application.



Operations Dashboard

Several Operations Dashboards were authored to provide an operational picture for keeping track of hurricane impacts and status. Dashboards use charts and statistics in addition to maps. This one showed current traffic (from the Living Atlas), Waze traffic alerts, and Houston TransStar live traffic cams.



The one shown below for Hurricane Irma includes Florida DOT live traffic cams, Living Atlas current traffic conditions, Waze alerts, and a heat map of Waze alerts. View dashboard.



Web AppBuilder

Web AppBuilder offers a versatile way to build apps by assembling configurable widgets, some of which are ideal for use for situational awareness. Shown below is a an app built using Web AppBuilder that offered a perspective on current weather and its impacts during the Harvey response.



Below is a Web AppBuilder app from the Georgia Emergency Management & Homeland Security Agency, delivering impact summary data and incorporating a variety of real-time layers.



A dashboard created using new widgets now available in Web AppBuilder showing flood status.



This one shows the power outages across Florida by county.



Open Data

Open Data is configured within your ArcGIS Organization, and can be used to share your authoritative open data in a variety of different formats so others can build upon and extend your work. Open datasets are connected to the source and are automatically updated.


Several Open Data sites were leveraged during the response, shown below is one from the Florida Division of Emergency Management.



And more...

View more apps in the Hurricane Harvey apps group and the Hurricane Irma apps group compiled by the Esri Disaster Response Program team.


Story Maps, ArcGIS Configurable Apps, Disaster Response Program

Hurricane Harvey, currently a Category 2 storm, is predicted to gain strength and become a Category 3 storm sometime today, as it makes landfall in the vicinity of Corpus Christie, Texas. Landfall is currently expected late tonight, or early Saturday morning. So far seven Texas counties have ordered mandatory evacuations of many thousands of residents in low-lying areas. The last Category 3 storm to hit the U.S. was Hurricane Wilma in October, 2005, when it reached landfall in Florida.


Esri's Disaster Response portal provides live maps and feeds to complement your mapping, as well as assistance programs to help meet your needs.


The Hurricane and Cyclone Public Information Map includes live feeds from the Living Atlas, along with the current and forecast hurricane position and strength. 



Daily Situational Awareness Briefing is a Story Map Journal that shows severe weather, hurricanes and cyclones, earthquakes, and more. The link will open the story map in autoplay mode, cycling through each of the journal sections.



Hurricane and Tropical Cyclones Overview is a Story Map Series that "binds" together multiple apps about the storm. The series includes an Impact Summary of potential storm surge impacts and forecast precipitation over the next 72 hours.



NOAA publishes a group of maps and layers about Hurricane Harvey.



Other apps and layers can be discovered by searching ArcGIS online.

Disaster Resilience Story Maps Public Safety

Recently someone asked me for help moving from ArcMap to Pro, so I solicited colleagues at Esri for information and useful links. I totally understand the challenge. If you're like me, when you just have to get something done your go-to app just still might be ArcMap. It's a powerful, dependable, and capable desktop GIS, that will live on for a very long time. But there's plenty of reasons to migrate to Pro now.


You bet it takes a bit of time and relearning, and perhaps leaving the comfort of your existing workflows and well-worn workpaths. But the benefits are large, with many new features and capabilitiesnot to mention online integration. All of these make it a must-learn for every GIS professional.


While I can admit that I'll still be cranking up ArcMap often for well-worn workflows, I will also admit that I'm trying hard to find the time to relearn existing workflows in Pro, and learn new ones. And when I do, I'm pleasantly surprised. And the comments I get from the many users I interact with underscore the same, and that it's time to let go of the security of the ArcMap blankie...



So, here's a list of useful resources that will help you cross over to the other side. All are free, and freely available for you, and your colleagues, to use. Let's move on!


Terminology Guide:


Quick Start tutorials:


Quick start tutorials on YouTube:

Introducing ArcGIS Pro - YouTube 


Videos and Know Before You Pro:


Migrate existing content into Pro: 


Esri Training: Going Pro: ArcGIS Pro Essentials for ArcMap Users 


Blog posts:


Help doc:


A story map compiling 11 free Pro lessons: 


YouTube migration video:


Model builder migration:




Python migration:


If you have any more useful resources, comment and I'll add them to the list. Thanks!


On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality can see one of nature’s most awe inspiring sights - a total solar eclipse. This path, where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun's tenuous atmosphere - the corona - can be seen, will stretch from Salem, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path will still see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun's disk. 


With all eyes (properly protected, of course) on the solar eclipse tomorrow, this is a huge event that should be the showcase for many GIS organizations, putting their best foot forward with amazing publicly accessible apps that provide information about the eclipse and showcase the best maps and apps tradecraft that GIS organizations can muster. 


This evening I took a quick peek and found the good, and also the "meh," with a collection of apps that have appeared covering the amazing event. You can search for your own and decide for yourself which you think are the best. I have my list of the good, the bad, the ugly...


The first I found is a Story Map Cascade by Esri's Mike Zeiler titled Seeing The Great American Eclipse.


View the Story Map


As you've come to expect from the Story Maps featured apps, it's a great example of a Cascade with interesting graphics and maps that help tell the story of the eclipse.


The next app I found, authored using Web AppBuilder, was by the USFS Pacific Northwest Region. It displays the path of the total solar eclipse across Oregon and the national forests in Oregon. It provides information about viewing the eclipse on each of the 8 national forests that fall within the line of totality.

View the app


For better or for worse, I find this is a typical "GIS-centric" web mapping application, with tons of layers, unconfigured pop-ups (The Horror!), and a long read in the About dialog. But's it's certainly a comprehensive collection of authoritative content. A great public app? Maybe not so much... A great collection of useful resources that savvy viewers can pick apart? For sure...


The City of Salem, Oregon, features a Story Map on their Salem home page about the Eclipse. It's nicely branded on their featured gallery, and while it might not win a creativity award, it's a solid example of a "bread and butter" app that shows parks where the eclipse can be viewed, with information about the available facilities at each location - a true public service app.


View the app


If you're thinking that the best fishing is during the eclipse, this Story Map Journal from Idaho Department of Fish and Game shows you where the best fishing spots are if you totally want to fish during totality.


View the Story Map


You can view many more examples by searching ArcGIS Online and arrive at your own conclusions as to which ones are great examples of app-craft, and which could use a little extra work. How does your app compare? I'll take a closer look at these in a later post. Add your comments, and let me know what you think.


(*Note that opinions are my own, and not those of Esri.)


Story Maps Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS ArcGIS Configurable Apps 

This morning over breakfast I was browsing the news on my tablet and found this article on climate change on the CNN site.


The articles links to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists, released last Wednesday, listing the cities that will be inundated by sea level rise and citing other climate related issues affecting coastal communities. The study includes a link to When Rising Seas Hit Home: An Analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists—a Story Map, and also our Map of the Day today.



The app presents the results of GIS analysis as a series of live maps, bound together in an interesting way and all contained within a Story Map Series. The Map Series uses the tabbed layout, one of three options you can choose from (others options are the bulleted and side accordion layout). Each of the Map Series tabs includes a Story Map Journal to help tell the story. The viewer works across the tabs from left to right, with each tab revealing a Map Journal that is viewed from top to bottom. This pattern of combining Map Journal within a tabbed Map Series is especially effecting.


What I like about this map


There's lots that I like about this well-crafted story. It has an introductory section as well as a conclusion. It uses a compelling title to help lure the viewer into the story. And the legends, driven directly from the web map, use layer names and are presented in a way that helps the viewer make sense of what they see.


It also takes advantage of color and Main Stage actions in the Map Journal side panel to reveal the story, and allow the viewer an opportunity to explore. For example, in the Chronic Inundation Area tab, the third section in the Map Journal uses text color and button color to link the side panel to what you see on the map. Main Stage actions are behind the buttons, changing the content on the Main Stage to show rising sea level over time.



All of this makes this a solid Story Map Series, and a great example of how you can use story maps to deliver reports.


Climate Resilience Environment and Natural Resources Story Maps Sciences

Accidents happen, with more than six million crashes occurring annually on roads in the United States. But what if a web app could show you, on a map, where and when the current traffic crash risk is high in your community? Would you change the route you take or be more cautious? That web app is a reality for Indiana residents, who can visit the Daily Crash Prediction Map to find out the accident risk on roads throughout the state for the current day.



The interactive app, compiled and deployed using Esri technology, shows the probability of crashes across the state by time of day, using a predictive algorithm. The machine learning algorithm uses historical crash data, road conditions and characteristics, annual traffic volumes, population and employer information, gas prices, position of the sun, time of year and day, and other variables to predict the probability of a crash. 


Read more about the app in Does Danger Lie Up the Road in the latest ArcWatch.


Public Safety Transportation Departments of Transportation

The World Imagery Firefly basemap is currently in beta, but available for anyone to use. You can view a brief intro about it from the 2017 Esri User Conference plenary here: 

Esri UC 2017: ArcGIS Online—Did You Know DYK? - YouTube 


Interestingly enough, while it's still in beta and pretty new, it's already been used by Esri U.K. for an app that appeared in the DailyMail online. The full app is shown below. 



You can see that Firefly is grayscale when zoomed out, but you still get the texture, context, and drama of imagery without competing with other layers. Zoom in, and you will see the basemap becoming increasingly more colorized until it reaches full color saturation.


For being an early adopter of the Firefly basemap, this app from Esri U.K. earns our Map of the Day.


Learn more by viewing World Imagery Firefly: imagery for thematic maps.


ArcGIS Online The specified item was not found.

Earlier today someone asked me about a way to shorten a URL to an app hosted in their ArcGIS organization. Not only did they want to shorten it, they wanted to create a custom shortlink that would be easier to remember. 


I found a list of 9 URL Shorteners to Shorten Long Links and tried a couple of them. Most just shorten a link - this is good, but results in jibberish that's good for copy/paste, but not much else. One of them (which I did not try) offers domain-based short URLs for a fee.


But a reasonable alternative, and also one that's free, is from Tiny URL. While not quite a total custom URL, or one that is based on your domain, it does offer a solution for something that's easy-to-remember.


I took this impossible to remember and lengthy URL: 


And ran it through TinyURL to create something I could remember. I tried a couple of strings which were already taken, but found one that wasn't and settled on this as the short URL:



Note that it also includes a preview, just in case someone might be suspicious and wants to view the expanded URL before opening.


Try them out:


Note that this isn't an endorsement, but hopefully it's something useful. Let me know if there are others you find.

Some called it "the day the internet died" when a massive failure at a key Amazon east coast facility caused major disruption of some sites, including ArcGIS Online, for several hours.


According to Amazon:

The Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) team was debugging an issue causing the S3 billing system to progress more slowly than expected. At 9:37AM PST, an authorized S3 team member using an established playbook executed a command which was intended to remove a small number of servers for one of the S3 subsystems that is used by the S3 billing process.


Unfortunately, one of the inputs to the command was entered incorrectly and a larger set of servers was removed than intended.

For some it was an inconvenience, for others a cause for re-thinking their cloud backup plan. ArcGIS Online, including license activation for ArcGIS Pro and other premium apps, was impacted for several hours. But Amazon rectified the problem, everything quickly came back online again.


How to monitor ArcGIS Online system health


The ArcGIS Online Health Dashboard publishes the latest information on service availability. Here's how it looked during the Amazon outage:


Hovering over any icon provides the latest status and information.



While the event was unusual, you may want to subscribe to the RSS feeds to be notified of any issues. Subscribe to any individual RSS feed, or subscribe to All, to be notified of any service interruptions.



More information on service status as well as other service and security considerations can be found at Trust ArcGIS.

By default, all story maps include an Esri logo, with a link to the Esri website, located somewhere in the header or opening section. Also by default the text string "A story map" is included in the header, with a link to the Story Maps website. A good practice, especially if you are authoring story maps that represent your organization, is to replace the Esri default logo, text, and links with a logo and links of your own.


Here's a nice Story Map Tour from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.



If you take a closer look at the header, you'll see a custom logo, tagline, and links have been added.



The logo links to a web site, but what I really like is that the string "A Kentucky story map" links to a gallery of other story maps, created using a group gallery app. Here's the gallery:



This is a good way to let user know about more story maps they might be interested in, from any other story map.


For more information, see Add your organization logo and links to your story maps.

The list never seems to stop, here's two more things that you can do with Story Maps. The current list of 10 is here:

Ten things you didn’t know you could do with Story Maps | ArcGIS Blog 

These will be added soon...


A Wedding Invitation

This Story Map Series (side accordion layout) is actually a wedding invitation, including everything from the event date, venue, and travel information to get there. Congrats to Jose and Segio!



A Web Page

Here are two examples of a Story Map Cascade as a web page. This first one from the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP). The header is fixed, the Cascade was embedded using an iframe.



This second example is from the USGS,and uses a standard USGS header and footer. It also embeds the Cascade using an iframe. Check out the page source to see how easy and simple this is. Great idea!


All of us have seen web pages that introduce staff - a collection of photos, background information, contact info, and even interesting fun facts that bring the faces and personalities behind a corporate logo or company website to the forefront. Look at a few examples, and it becomes clear that these not only reflect the personality of the individuals that are the company, but collectively reflect the personality of the company itself. Some random examples:



You'll find lots better (and worse) examples than the quick picks I've listed, but they're fun and (sometimes) interesting, with facts like "I have a tattoo of my rescued Pomeranian."


But you're a GIS or mapping company, consultant, or a GIS department. Why not eat your own dog food and put some mapping and geography into your "About Us" pages?


Here's recent example that came to my attention from Trust for Public Land. It uses a Story Map Tour.



If you've got an example of your own, why not share it by adding it to the comments on this post.

Story Maps have become very popular for presentations, used as an alternative to PowerPoint when you may want to include live maps and apps without having to toggle between PowerPoint and your browser. See Story Map Presentations instead of PowerPoint.


Recently someone brought to my attention a great example of an Annual Report that is crafted using a Story Map. I think this is a great idea, and a fine example, from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.


The Annual Reports has been created using the Story Map Journal, a very versatile and effective choice when lots of of text, media, and maps are needed to tell the story.

Last February I was preparing for a presentation at a conference. I intended to use a few PowerPoint slides to introduce the topics I wanted to cover, then switch to live web maps and apps to underscore the points I was going to make. There were about 10 topics I wanted to introduce and demonstrate, so this meant having to exit PowerPoint (or use the clumsy Alt-Tab) to switch back and forth between the slides and the demonstrations.


Then I realized that in this case a Story Map would be the perfect solution. I could use my PowerPoint slides in the story map, and as I advanced I could include the live web maps and apps without having to switch programs or toggle back and forth from PowerPoint. I chose Story Map Series as the presentation platform of my choice. Below on the left is the PowerPoint slide, on the right a web map, both in the Story Map I used for the presentation.


While any Story Map can be used to make a presentation, some are better suited to the task than others. My preference is the Story Map Series, specifically the bulleted layout, since it provides sequential access moving left to right. Map Series also doesn't require that you use a side panel for additional text or media - something not needed for most presentations.


Recently, just prior to the Esri 2015 User Conference, the Story Map Series bulleted layout was adjusted to make it well-suited for presentations by allowing more entries (30 is the max) and changing the placement of the bullets to prevent overlapping the main stage content.


Here are several examples from the User Conference that used the Story Map Series bulleted layout:


This example from the Esri UC uses a Story Map Journal:


In general if you are the one doing the presentation, I find the Story Map Series the best choice. If you want others to view and experience the presentation as well, the Story Map Journal might be the one to choose, since the side panel can include text, which can be thought of as the notes section on a PowerPoint slide, and can guide the viewer through your presentation.


Creating your presentation


It's simple to use a Story Map for presentations, just author and store your PowerPoint slides, collect other media, author needed maps and apps, and launch the builder for the Story Map you want to use.


You can export your PowerPoint slides, or just capture them (I use Snagit, but any capture tool can be used). Once captured, place the slides at any URL-accessible location, then add them to your story map. A key consideration is using the proper position for your slides; you don't want text or graphics to be skewed or cropped. In general, Fit is the best all-purpose option that will accommodate any display resolution.



For several Story Map presentations at Esri events, I knew the exact display resolution (e.g., 1366 x 768). So I calculated the size my slides needed to be to fill the available real estate, added a handful of pixels on all sides to ensure they completely filled the space, then used a Position of Center. This technique only works when you purpose-build a presentation for a specific event, as when you use Center your slides will be cropped at different display resolutions. You can learn more by viewing Add PowerPoint slides to your Story Map.


Adding maps or apps is also very straightforward. Simply add them using their URL, and use Stretch as the Position option. Since the map viewer and most app templates are responsive, they'll fill the entire frame nicely. When embedding apps or other story maps, some templates enable you to minimize the UI. See Embedding a Story Map within a Story Map.


Considerations and Tips


Story Maps are a powerful way to tell a story using maps and media, and Story Maps can be a powerful way to deliver presentations. Some thought and planning will provide the best results. Here's a few things to consider.


  • It's easy to author a terrible PowerPoint presentation, and we've all suffered through our share of them. Crafting a great Story Map is somewhat of an art, and a great Story Map presentation is no different.

  • Limit the text in the Story Map so that the audience listens to you.


  • Story Map presentations work best when they are short. The latest update to Story Map Series allows you to add a maximum of 30 tabs, bullets, or expandable side accordions.

  • Story Maps do not offer the slide transitions and animations available in PowerPoint.

  • Choose the best Story Map for your purpose. Map Journal is ideal for stories that need to be read as you can use the story narration on the left panel to add the necessary level of detail.  However, if you are presenting a live story, the Map Journal narration might be distracting. Instead, try Map Series with its optional text panel.

  • When using a Story Map Series or Journal and adding content via a URL that takes a while to initialize (like a detailed web scene), ensure that Unload when reader navigates away is unchecked. Before your presentation you can "warm up" all your maps and apps, and unchecking this option ensures they do not need to be reloaded when you reach that part of your presentation.



Additional resources