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Painting the Forest

Posted by TEdghill-esristaff Employee Sep 24, 2020

Written by Thomas Edghill and Kory Kramer | Esri Customer Experience


Do you ever sit around and wonder, “I wish I could tell Esri about how <Enter Product Here> works for me”?  Do you have some burning feedback in your pocket with nowhere to toss it?  If so, we're excited to share some of the ways that Esri listens, including a new product survey that we'd like to talk about!


You may have received an email recently about this survey, which requests feedback about Esri products that you use.  If you completed that, thank you!  We really appreciate your honest input as it helps us continue to shape our products to serve you better.  If you did not receive an email or did not complete the survey, use the link at the bottom of this blog to tell us what you think. At this point, you’re probably wondering, “Hey, wait a sec.  Why didn’t you just give me the link right there?” 


Totally fair question.  While we have you here and we’re on the topic of communication, we wanted to paint the whole picture for you. Allow us to take you up the elevator to the scenic view if you will, in order to contemplate the entire forest rather than just this one, albeit important, individual tree that is the product survey. 


Did you know that there are a number of ways we listen to our customers throughout the year?  Since you’re here reading this, we’ll assume you’re aware of GeoNet!  While primarily designed for peer-to-peer support where community members can help each other, staff from Esri product teams often participate in the community and gain valuable insight about pain points or generally how to improve a product or workflow.   


And you might be aware of ArcGIS Ideas, where you can submit requests for new features or functionality and the community can vote and comment to help teams gauge interest and fully understand use cases.  And then there is technical support, there are public holistic testing sessions, early adopter communities, user research studies at conferences and events, web page feedback, commenting capability on blogs, among others. 


Some of these listening channels are unstructured and less formalized, others are very structured, providing tracking numbers and statuses, and others are somewhere in between.  While it can be helpful to get specific, explicitly actionable feedback from you in the form of a bug, an idea, or a correction to online documentation, we understand that what you have to say doesn’t always fit neatly into those buckets.  What you are trying to convey to us is more expansive.  It’s on another level.  What you have to say is mighty, it is of the ilk that cannot be bound by the quotidian constraints of one technical support case.  “Oh, yeah!  That’s what I’m talking about Mr. Blogwriter.  What do I do then, huh?” 


I’ll tell you what you do.  You fill out the 2020 Esri Product Survey.  That’s what! 


The product survey is an Esri Customer Experience initiative designed to provide you, our customers, with a new way to stay in touch with us about the products you use.  It is an opportunity to provide more context and texture to the ongoing conversation around continuous product improvement, and the listening channels we already described. Offered two times per year, survey input is delivered to product teams, ensuring that the customer voice remains a strong influence in the software development process. 


So, if the numerous ways that Esri currently listens to feedback – ideas, enhancement requests, blog comments, bugs, GeoNet threads, online documentation feedback, error reports, and so on - are like the individual bushes, ferns, and trees, then the newly-debuted semi-annual 2020 Esri Product Survey helps to give us a “big picture” understanding of how Esri products rise or fall to the occasion for you at this point in time.  In other words, it helps us paint the forest. 



 New: Updated GeoNet Platform Launch Window: October 19-30, 2020
  • We are working behind the scenes on getting the platform ready for launch and wanted to provide an update to you about our timing. We are targeting to launch towards the end of the month between October 19-30, 2020.

  • Once we have a confirmed launch date, we will send out communications with that date announcement.

  • Please note, there will be a 24-hour outage in the community for that specified launch date.

  • If you haven’t done so already, please continue to save your information provided in this blog. We’ll provide another update soon!

In February, The GeoNet Team announced that the technology platform behind the GeoNet community will be changing later this year. This change will bring a new community user experience, features, and design to GeoNet, The Esri Community. If you missed our original announcement, check it out here or watch our video announcement below.



Key Takeaways in this message

  1. Review the list of features or content that will not migrate to the new platform, and save content associated with your account ahead of the final launch date expected between October 19-30, 2020. (See update at end of blog)
  2. Get insight on some features you can look forward to in the new community.
  3. Learn more about the new community structure, what to do if you are a Place or Group Owner, Content Creator, or Personal Blogger, and more in the GeoNet Platform Update - FAQs -  August 2020.

  4. Follow the GeoNet Lounge to learn more upcoming announcements leading up to the launch. 


What you need to know now:  

Learn how the new platform update and archive rules will impact your content, member follows, notifications, and more.

This requires critical actions to manage your content (where applicable) before the final launch date expected between October 19-30, 2020. (See update at end of blog)



Here is the content you will need to back up this month, as these content types and features will not be available or will not migrate to the new platform:


  1. Draft content and historical notifications – If you have any content (blogs, questions, discussions, etc.) in draft mode or any historical notifications that are of value to you, these notifications and drafts will not migrate to the new platform.

Why would historical notifications be valuable? Some users may want to document any bookmarks earned, views, or engagement information on their content for their professional brand or expertise on a subject matter.

  1. Profile image gallery and profile banner – Your profile image gallery and profile banner will not automatically migrate over to your new profile. This will provide an opportunity to refresh your profile with new images along with the new profile layout and account features you will be able to utilize. Your avatar will transfer to the new platform.


  1. Member Follows and Bookmarks – The list of current community members and places that you follow and your bookmarks will not migrate to the new platform. Watch these videos for guidance on how to quick-save this information to reference once you are in the new platform.


  1. Private Messages – Your private messages will not be migrated into the new platform. 


  1. Personal Blogs – Personal blogs will not be available in the new platform. Your current personal blog will be archived or visible depending on the content’s views and engagement in the community. If your personal blog is unable to be moved into a product or topic container, it will be migrated into an archive for content that is still providing value to the community as a result of high views or engagement metrics. The GeoNet Team will reach out to you directly regarding your content. If you feel you need more assistance with this topic or have not been contacted about your personal blog to date, e-mail us at


  1. Blog Header Images – Header images will not be available in the new platform.


Blog Header Image

  1. Your Content Views – The historical counts of views of your content (blogs, discussions, questions, documents, polls, videos, etc.) will not transfer to the new platform. All content views will restart in the new platform. If your historical views of your posts are important to you, please record that information as needed. 

Why would historical views be valuable? Some users may want to record views of their content as a metric for their professional brand or expertise on a subject matter.

  1. Polls – Save any valuable content created through community polls, as this interaction style will not be available in the new platform. 

  2. RSS Feeds  RSS Feeds for community content will need to be re-established in the new platform. Identify your current RSS feeds as a reference list to re-create them in the new platform.


What will be changing:

  • GeoNet Community gamification will be reconstructed for the new platform. While your points and badges will not be migrated, your current status will be used to determine your new rank in the new system.


A few things to look forward to so far:

  • Improved search and filter features at a place or board level to narrow down content and interaction styles of interest to you.
  • Flatter navigation and community structure to find places of interest quickly.
  • Subscription Options: You will be able to enjoy more subscription options to stay connected to topics that are relevant to you by subscribing to predefined labels and specific interaction style boards. With questions and answers, you can subscribe to activity at the Post and Reply level.
  • Cleaner User Interface: The community will be more integrated with the Esri brand and website properties. Expect consistency across the pages that will allow you to focus more on the content.
  • ArcGIS Ideas will live in product places with other interaction styles such as questions, blogs, and documents. You can stay in one place for all product-related content without going to another board or place in the community.
  • Account Privacy: Users will able to enter a display name of their choosing. Your e-mail address will not be displayed.
  • Private Message without restrictions: Users will not be required to follow each other in order to communicate through private messaging.



GeoNet Platform Update Launch Timeline

We’re taking a user-informed approach to our community design as a result of the numerous participants in our usability studies, community surveys, and general community feedback.


Since our announcement in February, we held user research sessions in March, conducted a community-wide usability survey in June with more than 1,000 responses, and held additional studies in July with community users at new, active, and experienced membership levels.


New: Updated GeoNet Platform Launch Window: October 19-30, 2020 - added 10/7/2020  

Stay connected to the GeoNet Lounge for more announcements as we get closer to our platform update release! If you have questions, please comment below or e-mail us at

We would like to learn about your experience with GeoNet, The Esri Community. Later this year, we plan on updating our platform with a new community experience and design, and your feedback in this survey can help us understand how we can improve the community for users like you.


Please take 5 minutes to provide your feedback in this survey.


Deadline for survey submissions: Friday, June 26, 2020


To learn more about our community platform update, please follow the GeoNet Lounge to see our announcement and receive ongoing updates.


Thank you!

-The GeoNet Team 

It's been an exciting year on GeoNet. You, our Esri user community, continued to inspire us with your contributions, insights and passion to fulfill the GeoNet Community mission: to help each other find solutions, share ideas and grow GIS careers.  We're eager to head into another great year on GeoNet with you. But before we move along, I wanted to share a quick look back at 2019 highlights and a peek at some big news coming in 2020. Below is a quick summary and I invite you to check out the additional metrics and details which are included in the attached pdf below.   


2019 Highlights  

  • Completed the selection of new GeoNet platform.
  • Launched more than 30 new spaces and private groups.  
  • Expanded the GeoNet MVP Program including hosting onsite event meetings and quarterly virtual events. 
  • Introduced new GeoNet member “Community Closeup” feature series 
  • Completed staffing of GeoNet Community Team 
    • Since 2017, we have been building the GeoNet team, and in 2019, we welcomed Louise Branscomb (GeoNet Project Manager) and Leslie Fountain (GeoNet Content Manager) to our GeoNet team, joining myself and Michelle Mathias(GeoNet Community Manager).  




2020: The Road Ahead 


  • We're continually inspired by your feedback on how to make your GeoNet experience better, and as part of the new platform update, we'll be working on projects focused on moderation, content and member stories, new member onboarding and group owner training.   


  • Building on the success and growth we had in 2019, we'll be evolving the GeoNet MVP program.  


Thanks for your support and commitment to building the Esri Community.  We look forward to the continued partnership and supporting you and your work in 2020.  



GeoNet, Esri Community Program Manager and Strategist

Community Closeup is a member profile series where we get to know members in GeoNet, The Esri Community.


Rebecca Strauch


About Rebecca

When Rebecca Strauch started sharing her notes with the community, she created a following of hundreds of fellow GIS users who looked forward to every update to help them with their work. Rebecca retired from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's, Division of Wildlife and was an avid user of Web AppBuilder. During her time there, she became a GeoNet MVP member and has been an Esri Community member since Esri Forums. A single post of collected notes she maintained in GeoNet generated more than 100,000 views and 106 likes.




How She Started in GIS

“I started at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in the mid 80’s, at a time when no one knew how to spell GIS, let alone knew what it was. That included me. The first day on the job, they asked if I was interested in learning GIS. I asked, “What is it?” When they answered “computerized mapping,” I was hooked.” – Rebecca Strauch


Rebecca started learned GIS through ArcInfo Workstation 3.0 classes. "I think we would all agree that 3.1 was the first decent version. AML (Arc Macro Language) opened up so many avenues (pun intended) of programming and GIS automation," said Rebecca. 


As a fan of trains and as a model train enthusiast, one could say she laid down tracks for her geospatial journey with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Division of Wildlife, where she enjoyed a wide-ranging educational voyage for more than 30 years. Many GIS tools available today were not developed during the beginning of her career. She saw the opportunity to create efficient processes and programs that helped steer the division's GIS technology development. Her early work involved using a digitizing table, command lines, and AML programs to create new features, wildlife research applications, and management maps.  


"I've enjoyed seeing the software's progress, and taking advantage of all the improvements made through the years with the different flavors of the software, even if it meant rewriting my code to simplify my processes," said Rebecca.


In collaboration with the division and the local ArcInfo User Group, she participated in efforts to set statewide standards for projections and base features that encouraged data sharing and reduced duplication of efforts. She also had the unique opportunity to influence ArcGIS products due to Alaska's geographic location by working with the Holistic Lab.


"Because of Alaska's shape and size, and because of the state's position crossing 180 longitude, the Division of Wildlife would have software issues arise that were unique. One of these issues was preventing us from moving past ArcGIS 9.3 and coverages, which prevented us from using GeoDatabases. Through the Holistic Lab, I was able to work with Esri staff to isolate the problem so they could resolve the issues before the next ArcGIS release."


Q&A Interview

What originally brought you to GeoNet?

I used the forums before the creation of GeoNet but was more of a searcher and viewer. At first, I didn't think I had much to offer the community, but then I realized I could answer some of the questions.


I was pretty isolated in my job, but I liked working on pushing the written limits of the software. I realized that some of my off-the-wall projects were not so different from what others were doing. This got me pumped up. I found that I could learn so much from others and pass on some of my knowledge, especially from the older software perspective.


How did GeoNet impact the way you worked with Esri products or support your career?

Since we had limited GIS in the Department at the time, and everyone had their own projects, having GeoNet and the other forums before that broadened my "peer group" and allowed me to find answers from them. Getting involved with answering questions gave me confidence and feedback that I never got from supervisors since they didn't really understand what I did.


What makes GeoNet, The Esri Community unique to you?

It's a community of diverse problems, perspectives, and solutions, but also one with a common bond. There are so many talented people in the community that are willing to share their experiences and knowledge with others without expecting anything in return.


I've also had the opportunity to meet and talk to other users on GeoNet that I have long admired. Some contact has only been through GeoNet or the MVP group. Others I have been able to meet at various summits or conferences.


One of your most popular posts in GeoNet is the Customization Resource List for Web App Builder for ArcGIS started in 2015. What made you launch this blog and keep the list of resources going?


This started as something I was doing just for myself. With so many updates to Web AppBuilder for ArcGIS and the user-created extensions published on GeoNet, I started a list of links so I could find them when I needed them. Our office networks changed often, and I decided I needed a safe, cloud-based place to store the information. GeoNet was a good fit. I figured a few others might benefit from it, and I made it public. I feel bad that since retirement, I haven't kept it up to date but hope to get back to it.


What value did you get from providing the help and support you've offered over the years?


I got back more than I gave. There are so many helpful people in the community. But besides that, I gained confidence that I did know some things that maybe everyone else in the community didn't know already. At work, I appreciate the thanks I received from many of the Department staff I supported, and the Alaska Arc User Group, which still meets monthly after 30+ years.


Lastly, I noticed a running theme in your profile involving trains and railroad model building. What's behind your love for trains and railroads?

As a kid, I was always fascinated with transportation. Trains seemed to be more accessible since there were many tracks in the area, and watching them for entertainment was free. Counting cars on a train was a standard task we were given by our parents to occupy our time when were kids traveling to visit our grandparents.


When I got older and took Surveying and Mapping courses, I started thinking about the history and how surveying and mapping played a role in how tracks were laid. The fascination of trains, train rides, model railroads, and the entire logistical fanfare of it all has never left me.



Rebecca Strauch

Extreme Closeup: Rebecca's "5 Favs"

 Map Icon

What's your favorite map, and why?

I like historical maps. The surveyors and cartographers that created maps without computers, satellites, and the modern tools of today are in a class by themselves.


What's your favorite place in the world?

There are so many places I haven't been to yet. For now, I'm discovering touristy things in the States that I never had time to do, like going to Disney World.


What's your favorite thing to listen to while you're working?

I have an iPod with about 6,000 items where'd I listen to everything from classical to rock, and even some oddball things at random.

Desk Lamp

Favorite item on your desk?

A bare spot. (I had too much clutter.)


What was your favorite lunch meal?

Anything spicy.


New to GeoNet? Learn more and join the Community today!

We’re excited to announce that the technology platform behind the GeoNet community will be changing in 2020, which will bring a new community user experience, features, and design to GeoNet, The Esri Community.


Key Takeaways

  • GeoNet, The Esri Community platform is changing in the second half of 2020. As of now, there are no anticipated interruptions to the community that are related to the update. You can continue to use GeoNet as usual.
  • Follow the GeoNet Lounge. The GeoNet Team will provide communication here to inform you about the new platform. 
  • See the GeoNet Platform Update FAQ - February 2020 for information about our new platform technology provider and more.


At 200,000 registered members and more than 13,000 monthly active members, the GeoNet community has become an indispensable experience that our users and staff rely on to work better, stay connected, and build a better geospatial world. In 2019 alone, GeoNet had 4.2 million unique visitors and more than 18.3 million page views to answered questions, blogs, and other content.


Over the years, the GeoNet community has shared feedback about the community experience with the following requests:

  • Smarter search capabilities
  • Enhanced integration with Esri websites
  • Improved mobile experience


As this exciting transition develops, we will be working with the community towards enhancing these key areas. Your feedback and engagement will be important to us and we encourage you to provide feedback and ask questions throughout the process.

What you need to know now...


While the new community development is underway, there are no anticipated interruptions to the community performance on the current platform, and the community will continue to be live through the transition to the new platform. The GeoNet Team will provide updates and announcements about the new community platform update in the GeoNet Lounge.


Thank you for being a part of the Esri Community and we look forward to working with you on a new and improved GeoNet!




The GeoNet Team

Community Closeup is a member profile series where we get to know members in GeoNet, The Esri Community.



About Dan

Dan PattersonIf you have ever asked a question in the GeoNet Community, you likely received a response from Dan Patterson, or maybe you've been one of the several thousand users that have referred to his free tools and helpful guides from Py…blog where his wealth of knowledge has amassed to 119 blog posts. Dan is a GeoNet MVP from Ottawa, Canada, who has been a part of the Esri Community since 1992. 


"I was known as ‘the computer guy.’ I took my first computer science course in high school around 1968. When I got to university, I discovered most people hadn't had that opportunity." - Dan Patterson


When Dan finished his undergrad and graduate studies at Carleton University, the university decided to start a GIS program. Instead of continuing his studies to pursue his dreams of a Ph.D., he became full-time faculty with the developing program to teach Statistics, Intro to GIS, Intermediate Raster/Vector Geospatial Analysis Course, and Advanced Applications of GIS.


"Retired" written on a test punch cardHis guidance for GIS students and professionals online and offline led to his earned nickname 'ObiDan,' modeled after the revered mentor and teacher Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars. It fits for someone with an extensive history as an educator in the GIS field for 31 years. Students that are actively working in the geospatial industry experienced his "fail, figure out why, and fix it" teaching style that encouraged exploratory learning of spatial science. 

Pictured: His retirement notice for the last days of class.




Fun Fact from Dan: I got my first research assistant job in the summer of 1st year because of my ‘ability to program in Fortran’, which I knew nothing about, but 5 days later, I could DO-loop with the best of them.”

   DO-loop is a command that executes repetitive statements in Fortran, a programming language developed by IBM.


Q&A Interview 


Esri Canada HatWhat brought you to GeoNet?

I preceded GeoNet by many years, having participated in the ArcView 2.x/3.x forum, long before ArcMap was on the scene. I was looking for interesting questions that I could use as examples of real-world situations where GIS analysis was applied. In those early years, archeologists were dabbling, engineers of various flavours were trying to add new tools to their arsenal, and biologists were interested in things relating to fragmentation of landscapes and mapping in general. I was hooked when I ranked as an MVP with about 32 points in one quarter, and I got an Esri hat (pictured).


What unique value does the GeoNet Community have from your perspective? 

There is much talent out there amongst the users. If people spent more time sifting through the posts in a particular place, they might find answers to their questions or interesting things to pursue. It has been great in the last few years that some of the Esri staff have become active in taking over the moderation of spaces and providing answers. 


Dan enjoys spatial analysis and the reward of overcoming the math challenges that come with it. While he feels intimidated by math like most people, he faces it as a learning opportunity to create tools, write blogs, and answer questions to help the novice and the experienced professional get over the wall of labor-intensive effort or the lack of know-how.


What types of questions in the community are the most interesting to you? 

Questions relating to geometry, geometric constructs, computational geometry, and multidimensional raster stuff. I suck at math, and I just love reinventing the wheel for various algorithms.


How do you decide what to contribute?

I contribute answers when I need a break from what I am working on.  It provides a distraction. A quick pop-over to GeoNet, see what’s up, answer a question or two, then back to work. 


Now that I am retired from teaching, I want to blog about some of those ‘math’ things that most people hate or have avoided, just to provide a free record of things you can do. The “Free Tools”!!! blog came about because I was surprised people hadn’t discovered several things that require an Advanced License could be done without one by using the tools that Esri provided. Split By Attributes was my first venture into tools. I originally published it around 2005, but It wasn’t until 2016 that it became available at the basic level in ArcGIS.


What are your favorite applications or projects that use ArcGIS Pro and Python?

Julia SetI worked in the areas of the geometric properties of roads, permafrost modeling, some biomedical stuff like rabbit bladder dynamics (a cross-over between CT scans and raster analysis over time). The Center of the Ottawa project was fun.


Beyond the usual, I like working with NumPy and the ArcGIS Spatial Analyst extension.  I like ‘art’ and the purity of being able to represent things numeric in a visual form. Mandelbrot and Julia Sets are two examples (pictured). There are also areas that I have only dabbled in, like terrain simulation algorithms.


  NumPy is a programming language for scientific computing and processing of multidimensional array objects.


How has GeoNet played a role in your career or made an impact with members? 

Students always could get a hold of me at any time. I constantly get reminded by students that they were looking up solutions on GeoNet and came across my name and it reminded them of class. Many students going back decades still keep in touch professionally and personally.  I do love it when I get a big thanks from a person on GeoNet in my e-mail.  It usually comes with a more elaborate explanation of their problem and how the seemingly innocuous question I answered fit into a bigger picture.


How do you think other GeoNet members should contribute to the community?

Contribute your expertise on the fundamentals: Math, cartography, programming/scripting. If you can’t do it yourself, then line up the resources in terms of people or tools that will get the job done for you. Remember when you were a newbie? Now you might be the expert. People are strapped for time, but so what? Everyone is. If you see a question you can answer, spend 5 minutes on it. Also, don’t map boring stuff.



While Dan settles into his retirement plans of gardening and spending time with family, he has ideas to venture into Esri CityEngine but mainly will concentrate on writing more blogs. Writing blogs is a slight change from his original plan to write books. "I gave up on the notion of books. Even though I have a few on the go, I know I will never finish them. Besides, what interests me in education and educating is what I don't know."


For more from Dan, follow him on GeoNet to learn about his latest explorations with GIS. 



Dan Patterson

Extreme Closeup: Dan’s “5 Favs”

 Map Icon

What’s your favorite map, and why?

Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and all those inspired from them. I was impressed that Tolkien saw the maps as an integral part of his work. There is some good work done here by Robert Rose.


What’s your favorite place in the world?

I actually don't have one. I am not really a 'where' person, but a 'what' person. My 'travels' have been through the stories told by my students, who have come from, or traveled to all the continents.


What's your favorite thing to listen to while you’re working?

Sometimes radio news, but when I'm on the road, it’s tunes by Little Feat or Ry Cooder.

Desk Lamp

Favorite item on your desk?

Family pictures. They ground me and remind me that I really shouldn't be at my desk working .


What’s your favorite office snack?

Costco mini dark chocolates.  You could buy them by the bag. I had them in my office for students for years. They were there for the grazing, and I, of course, did quality control testing to ensure that they were still fresh.  Occasionally I got pressured to buy the milk chocolate kind, but the dark chocolates are healthier (I think).


New to GeoNet? Learn more and join the Community today!