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2012 IMIA Town Hall Session

Information presented is factual at the time of creation.
If no transcript and/or closed-caption is available, please notify us.
[music]
Ron Lofton: Good afternoon everyone. I know it's getting kind of late, so hopefully we will have something that we will energize the group with this afternoon and have a good session here. As David mentioned, this is the Emerging Trends for the Government, and one of things that we are trying to do as part of this, we are not going to do our standard Power Point presentations that the agency has done at the other conventions and conferences that you have attended.
We'd like to try and create some dialog between you and the agencies, of what they are doing, where they are going, and take this as more of a town hall session, and promote it. Trying to get some feedback about what we are doing, what we are doing well, where we can partner, and things of data acquisition, access to information, dissemination of information, changing business models.
We have a very distinguished panel for this afternoon, and I have Mr. Bob Moore from The Library of Congress, we are fortunate to have Bob here today. He wasn't on the program, a last minute addition, but we are glad to have him here this afternoon. The Library of Congress Map Chart Division has a long history with the association. It is good that they are back, and I think Bob will have quite a few things to share with us this afternoon.
If you were in Washington two years ago you might remember the presentation by John Abear, he was the director of the map and chart division. He did an excellent presentation on some of the new acquisitions, and one thing I remember, there was one of our European members who mentioned something about a map that we had bought, that we handed to the group leader for the collection.
Charlie: We've stolen it.
Ron: I think that is right Charlie, I can't remember who that was, maybe it Hans, but hopefully...
Audience Member: We stole it and then...
[laughter]
Ron: But again, great presentation, great Head of Library of Congress here, in Bob this afternoon. Mike Cooley is with the US Geological Survey, he is our US Topo Program Manager and he will be talking about that, with trends and changes. Connie Barrett from the US Census Bureau, she will be talking about their change in program.
And Dr. Bill Craftsman who is with the US Department of Agriculture Forest Services, so we have him this afternoon in the southwest region. Finally, John Hanna from the State DOM Office here, so again, I think we have a great panel this afternoon and I think it will be enjoyable.
How we are going to do this, we'll give them a little bit of time to give background, and share where their programs and agencies are going, and the changes and then open up for a question answer. Again, we'd like to take away from you what is working, what is not working, get some feedback. These folks are going to try to take it back to their programs and their agency folks, and see how it can influence those things in the future.
It might also tie into some of the discussion about the future of the association and where it is going, because the government definitely has interest of where this association is going in our partnership with them. With that, I'm going to have Bob go ahead and introduce himself and talk about what the Library of Congress has been doing.
Robert Moore: Thank you all. I'm going to assume that you are all familiar with the Library of Congress. But we are the largest library in the world. Within the Library of Congress there's the largest map library in the world. It's the Geography Map Division where I work. We say we have about 5.5 million cartographic items and counting. We've been collecting since the first Congress.
The first map library was burned up by the British in the War of 1812. We depended on Thomas Jefferson to sell us his collection of maps and books to begin building the Library of Congress again. That's a little bit of history. We are somewhat bucking the library trend. Libraries around the nation are seeing an increase in visitation, whereas the Library of Congress is seeing a decrease. The principal reason for that, although there's a host of them, the principal reason is we're putting more of our content online.
Anything that's out of copyright or we have the permission of the copyright holder to post, we're doing so. That's books, and an important case is the Geography and Map Division, we have over 40,000 images that are posted online. The vast majority, as I mentioned, are out of copyright, or we have permission from the copyright holder to post them.
Cottage industries have developed because you can go view those, download them totally free of charge and manipulate them any way you want, repackage them, and sell them. That's very much what's being done. We're always looking for new areas. We largely concentrate on our historical maps and defined quantities to post right now.
After we finish the Civil War maps, we did Revolutionary War maps, and now we're doing somewhat of a unique type of an American cartography, and that is land ownership maps that were done by private industry, rather than by local governance. We're working on that as I speak.
Another thing we're doing is we're partnering with the U.S. geological survey, and we're trying to get a complete census of all quads that were ever produced, the revisions, the editions, and those are going to be put online, allowing us to free up some very much needed space in our collections. Those will be posted, I think, but I'll let USGS speak a little bit more about that.
A new project that we're starting on...I guess let me mention first that the way we've grown our collections is a number of ways. We purchase maps. We depend on other government agencies, both federal and local and state to deposit maps. We depend on government agencies to transfer no longer needed maps to us. We depend on copyright registrations where it is mandatory deposit. We have foreign exchange programs with foreign governments. Those are falling by the wayside.
But what I want to mention mostly is we depend on donations. Donations have been a large part over the years and will continue to be a large part of the way we build our collections.
I know having sat through the previous session and speaking to many of you...Your business model, sales, always an interest in creating interesting products and supporting them but assuming that you all want to be somewhat immortal, one way to do that is to have the fruits of your efforts, what you created, live on. One way to do that, a pretty safe way to do that, is to deposit it at the Library of Congress.
I started out my career as a reference librarian. And I can't tell you how many greatgranddaughters or grandsons that were practically in tears when seeing a pristine copy of a civil war map that made its way to the library. It was properly preserved. And they only heard of it. They'd never seen a copy. So we would try and make it as easy as possible for you to every now and then think about packaging one copy of the material, and depositing it into the library so future generations could possibly enjoy it.
With that idea, I mentioned civil war and earlier, we've had to move forward a little bit, and we now have a project where we're contacting some of the initial participants in the creation of GIS. ESRI obviously figures into that dynamic. But the number of individuals, mathematics professors at Harvard and so forth. Back in, even, believe it or not, the late '50s and '60s that we are getting in contact with and they are agreeing to deposit their personal archives. We're going to somewhat document the history of the development of GIS at the library.
Another project that we're working on is moving away from...With the copyright office, moving away from making the hardcopy document the deposit item of choice. Your creators are going to be able to deposit the digital data, the digital form. That will certainly make it a lot easier in the future. We're moving away with eBooks, deposits is very much a trend that's emerging.
Another area where we're focusing on is the continent of Africa. I think it's probably safe to say almost every other continent with maybe the exception of Antarctica has been completely mapped and mapped numerous times. That's probably not true of Africa.
So, we've taken our 300,000 sheet series collection in there, documenting what we hold with the hope of putting all that online. With people being able to contact us and say, we have a sheet, we apparently have a sheet, any number of sheets that [inaudible 00:10:15] hold, with the idea of possibly growing the geographic knowledge, and including that historical geographic knowledge of the continent of Africa and going back to colonial times up the present.
I think I'll end there. But I hope that gives you an idea of somewhat of where we're heading. But largely, it is trying to put our conscience online and create a library without walls, is largely our focus.
Audience Member: I have a question for you.
Ron: Go ahead, we can question.
Audience Member: We were just talking here and he said, actually he said a bunch of your members haven't received anything in over three years and I produce a lot of things in the United States here. And you want me to deliver to this PDF, because actually anytime you pull that map, put it in that box, ship it to you, do you want me to send it as a...you don't...
Bob: Let me just get back to you on that.
Audience Member: Am I too early?
Bob: In a way you're too early.
[laughter]
Bob: But we will head there, but maybe this first generation, since it's been a number of years, I would say let's go hard copy initially. There's the issue of we are a library, and we have to be able to readily serve also to our patrons, so let me solve that hurdle first.
Audience Member: Now I have a number of quote...I publish on paper. I have a bunch of product that's never been published on paper because it is a piece of artwork. It never made it, and I don't know if it'll ever make it or not. Does that interest you?
Bob: Yes.
Audience Member: Because I don't know if it'll ever go out. You just mark [inaudible 00:12:22], you know. It might happen, but it might not happen.
Bob: A large portion of our collections or manuscript or what you would call prepublication prints and...it gives a researcher, an academic, an idea of what was in the early 21st century, the process that went, that a map producer, that publisher, would go through to create and end product, so definitely.
Ron: Do we have any other questions for Bob? Thank you, Bob.
Michael Cooley: All right. As introduced, my name is Michael Cooley. I am the product manager for the U.S. Topo Project with the U.S. Geological Survey, and we also have Greg [inaudible 00:13:09] here today, who is the product manager for the historic map, so if there are any questions that come up on our historic maps, I guess I'll defer those to Greg. He's [coughs], excuse me. He's really the expert in that.
The other thing I guess I'd like to say is I'm going to give a real quick, kind of five to seven minute kind of synopsis of my program. I'm going to focus more on where we're going. Hopefully most of you know where we've been and what we're doing now. There's some fact sheets over there. Onepage descriptions about my program, Greg's program, and some of the major programs the U.S.G.S has going on.
As kind of stated, we started in 2009 with the U.S. Topo Project. At that time it was called, "Digital Maps  Beta." That was our introductory year. It's been going on for about three years now. We're going into our second year of revision. Starting in next year, 2013, we'll actually start remapping those states and U.S. topos that we did in 2010, so I think it's big news for us.
Basically, the U.S. Topo is a digital product. We've moved away from storing it as a paper project at USGS in a warehouse. Most of you already know this. It's a GeoPDF format. This will be electronically available for free on the Web. So those are some of the major characteristics about it.
Right now we produce...we're on a threeyear provision cycle originally designed [inaudible 00:14:38] program. We're doing about 18,000 maps finishing, like I said, the continental U.S. this year. At the end of this year we're going to start Hawaii. We're actually having problems with the imagery over the main island of Hawaii, but we hope to get it started. Puerto Rico's going to get done early next year, same problem with Puerto Rico.
We're going to start Alaska in 2013. We hope to start Alaska probably about the third quarter. The big kicker with Alaska is the communities up there, one has to go to a much larger scale, so we're going to be leaving the 63,000:360 to a 1:25,000.
There are approximately 12,000 maps up there that we're going to be mapping. In 2013 we hope to get about 400 done, and then we'll step it up in the [inaudible 00:15:33] years. Again, if you want to know anything about it, we have some descriptions on our web page, some specifics about what we're looking at doing.
So with that some of where we're going in the U.S. Topo in the future, starting in 2013 we're going to introduce some redesign graphic. When we originally kicked the map off we purposefully kept some of the same symbology based upon what the GIS systems, or map production systems at the time could support.
We knew there was going to be a problem showing those symbologies over [inaudible 00:16:11] with U.S. Topo always an [inaudible 00:16:13] product as well as a topographic map product. So next year we're going to start introducing some of the redesigned symbologies. We're going to add shaded relief. We're going to continue to add features that we have.
So some of the features that we're going to be adding are more boundaries, national park boundaries, Fish and Wildlife, and military boundaries. We're going to add a shaded relief component to it, and we're going to change some of the...they call it, "transparencies," and some of the other features that we're showing.
Again, it's going to be a gradual introduction of it. It's not going to be a radical change at first, but we'll continue to change that over time. Some of the longterm goals of the U.S. Topo, right now it's a semiautomated process, like about 20 people working on this. Each map is individually looked at before it's finalized.
The ultimate goal is to move it to the Web with fully automation. That's my goal. I'm not sure if we're going to achieve it in the next three years, but that's what I'm trying to challenge our production centers to do. A lot of it's going to depend on the quality of data going into it. So there's still going to be some data prep in order to get the data ready for map production.
Once we do that, then the other thing that we're going to be looking at is offering it in other formats besides GeoPDF. At this time I can't tell you what some of the other formats are going to be, but it'll be formats that you'll be able to take it and adjust it for a GIS system.
The other major change is going to be moving it from a one third of the country or 18,000 maps a year to what I call a "change in the landscape." So it combines the graphics based upon the need of the provision where we get new lidar data, elevation data, hydrographic data. Those will be some of the drivers that will help us provide us our program.
Other drivers will be based on what we're calling our, "communities of use." We're kind of changing the way we're listening to our key users of our program, and so we're going to devise our graphics based upon input from these communities.
So with all this said, we've made a lot of progress in the last four years I know for some of you it's been kind of difficult because you were moving from an analog, paper distribution product to a digital product, but we're ultimately be going to as we've been kind of envisioning now for about 10 years just in time to get all the map making. So, thank you.
Ron: Questions for Mike?
Audience Member: Hey, Mike, what kind of downloads are you getting of the new topo maps?
Michael: Thank you, I forgot to say that. I'm pretty impressed. When we started out, it was actually pretty low. We were probably, the digital map data, so I'm going guess here, we are probably around 1,000. We are now up to about 4,000 a day.
Audience Member: Nice, thanks.
Michael: You're welcome.
Connie Beard: My turn, I'm commandeered with a sense of Spiro. I'm the Chief of the Cacographic Products Branch. I usually get to talk maps, and hold up pretty things, and just talk about how we made them, or why we made them. I'm kind of handicapped because I don't have any pretty things to hold up and talk to today, so bear with me.
I was asked to talk about trends in government from the Census Bureau perspective, and I had framed this several different ways, but this is my final go through. I thought to mention some of the influences on how we face trends, or how we decide what trends to follow, and it's influenced at the bureau, I believe. Under a number of things, one of them is our mission, our culture, the policies that we are affected by, the technology, of course, and then budget as well.
I walk to talk about those things, and talk to you a little bit about our culture at the bureau to help frame how the approach trends in the industry.
Our mission, of course, primarily is to...We have a constitutional mandate to count heads in the United States at least every 10 years, and we do that to provide the information to the states so they can draw their congressional districts for elections. Our culture is framed by about four primary categories, I would say, one's quality, innovation, cooperation, and sharing.
From a quality perspective, I believe that one of our prime directives is to make sure that all the information that we collect and disseminate is as complete and accurate as possible. We take that very, very seriously. In terms of innovation, the bureau has always been innovative. We innovate to improve our efficiency, try to make things cheaper and better as much as possible. We do that through a variety of steps.
We evaluate ourselves constantly. We do overall operational evaluations as part of the census and surveys that we conduct. We're always doing lessons learned activities for ourselves and amongst ourselves. We solicit input from academics, from scientists and other groups that work with us, for us, and advise us.
We automate everything as much as possible. That includes the data collection, the data processing, and the data dissemination. We have a lot to do, so we try to automate that to the greatest extent possible. It reduces our risks and helps us with our quality control.
We're always trying to improve our operations. As part of our lessons learned, as some of those other evaluative processes, we revise existing operations. We'll even eliminate some along the way that have proven not to be so helpful, or not as productive as we have hoped, and we implement new operations along the way if technology or to meet user demands as needed, and we leverage new resources as much as possible.
We love to do testing, more statistical agencies, so we're always testing everything that we do, to be sure it really meets those standards that we set for ourselves. We cooperate. We're a cooperative organization. We partner with other federal agencies, USGS, USPS, tribal, state, and local governments to the greatest extent possible. We do this to collect boundaries, features, feature names, and address information to conduct our censuses and surveys.
We collaborate on operations and programs for geographic area encoding, for geographic area naming, for feature area and database standards, and for emergency preparedness.
And we also like to share. If we've collected it, created it, processed it, or mapped it, and if it's appropriate and suitable for public consumption, then we'll reprocess it as needed, and we'll try to share it with the public to the greatest extent possible.
That's how we sort of frame ourselves, and how we conduct our business in the Census. So we talk about trends, and the trends that we are pursuing recently. When you say the word "trends," for me, it really almost translates to "challenges." I think about it in terms of then and now, and how we do some of the same things, but with different tools in a different fashion.
When I think about trends and challenges, I think about data quantity, and the challenge that's presenting this, recently, the sheer volume of data is just increasing exponential, and I think that stems from the demands for better precision of our TIGER special data, and also the demographic data that we collect to support GPS, to support geocoding, and even data exchange.
There's more layers of data. There's more coordinates in the data. There's more attributes and more relationships, which means more interactions and intersections to the various pieces of data. It makes it a lot more difficult to process and manage this volume of data, so that's a big challenge for us right now.
Even the concept of quality is becoming a challenge. I say we strive for completeness and accuracy, and it's becoming a little bit more difficult to really define what that really means in the now sense. How precise should this data be? Even our TIGER database, I think we have accuracy and precision in much greater granularity than anyone could ever see on a map at any scale, but we still maintain that precision, it makes it more difficult.
On the flip side, what might be good enough or precise enough to conduct a census may not be so for public consumption for various, for any particular views, so it depends on what perspective you are coming from. There are local levels or national levels, especially for attributes as to what level of quality you need to meet. One of the greatest trends that is changing the way we think about doing our business, is our customer base.
In the past we had a pretty well defined customer base, we had our internal customers, we had the union writers that we had to support, and the data collection for the census and surveys. We had states for redistricting, commerce was an important customer, planners, analysts, academics, and of course UAS and mapping activities. To put that into perspective, in terms of enumerators, and keeping enumerators, they are providing the tools the enumerator's needed, that was a big part of our work.
The 2010 census was supposed to be the paperless census, but my office ended up writing software to produce 18 million unique maps in about eight weeks. It was a completely automated system that we need just apply a pack of maps for numerators to walk the streets in the address canvassing operation across the nation. Something that we really haven't counted on but we had to pull it off at the very last minute.
As much production as that was, our customer base now has expanded to even the general populace. The individual on the street holding their cell phone, they can stand on the corner now with the widget that the Census Bureau prepared. They can learn what the population is for that particular census track even down to a block route. I don't know how much value there really is for somebody, but they can do it.
The trend really, is to embrace social media and things like that, to bring Census data to the common person. In terms of product, again, that's something that's becoming a little more difficult for us to find. Then in the past, we knew what our data products were, we had traditional products, we created maps to conduct the census, and we created maps to accompany the data tabulations that went out after the census.
In terms of spatial data, we pretty much repackaged the TIGER data that we used to collect the census in, a format that initially was our own format, spawned a tiny little service to translate TIGER/Line data into something that was actually usable in GIS system. More and more, we're trying to format products that are much more userfriendly, so now we offer a variety of different formats, even KML, some overlay on Google Map. The product base is starting to expand as well.
Technology is always something we try to look at to improve and enhance our operations. From our perspective, the technology is volatile. If you just think in terms of just the decennial census, we're already planning for the 2020 census. We're trying to imagine what the technology might be available in 2020. It's almost an impossible task to do so.
We did a pretty good job, I think the 2010 census we did use handheld devices, but the data that we ended up putting onto the device was much more complex than the devices that we had procured could handle. It's a difficult challenge to be able to plan for exactly what technologies going to be available five or six years in the future.
In terms of human resources, the trend in government and probably other places as well, is for shrinking resources. In the past we've had organizational structures that were what I call maybe structure specialization. We all had defined roles, but we're moving a little bit more toward loosely structured task oriented teams because we're trying to take advantage of available resources across the organization.
When they become available, we try to tap those, bring them into a team to get a specific task done. It works for some things, but I'm not sure it's an all that efficient way to do business. We're still working through that.
Then media is a trend that we're trying to get a handle on. What we just talked about today, there's availability of many different kinds of media. There is still hard copy that we support to a certain degree, digital maps. We are releasing our spatial data in a web map server, a web feature server arrangement. We're trying to support mobile apps, widget.
There's the concept that we want to be able to support the individual user to get it now. Whatever kind of data, ask any kind of question that they might want to have to get that single number or whatever they needed. That's a very difficult thing to support.
From the perspective of my discussion with this group today is that I don't know whether or not the Census Bureau can really support this broadening customer base and this broadening product base with the resources that we have at the present time. I'd be very, very interested in knowing from this group what you expect to get from your Census Bureau, from your government to support your work.
Based on what I hear about that, how we can work together to make and direct customers that end up coming to the census bureau that we maybe cannot support and be able to direct them to these resources here. Whatever dialog we can come to with that I'd be very interested in hearing.
Ron: Questions for Connie?
[silence]
William Krausmann: Hi. I'm Bill Krausmann. I'm here representing the Forest Service. Forest Service is a finally large federal agency. We've got 30,000 fulltime employees, another 14,000 depending on what time of year it is, largely because of fire season.
We manage around 181 million acres of ground in 155 forests, 20 grasslands, all that aggregated into nine regions. From a geospatial perspective we get a lot of management direction from our geospatial management office in the Washington office, but the fact is the information management programs in each of those regions is operating pretty much autonomously.
What that means is they vary in functional capability, and they vary in size from one person in the case of Region 9, that's the area in Northeast United States to programs in the neighborhood of about 30 people in Region five which is California.
I'm from the southwest region. This is my home turf. I have a staff of 16 employees. And we're one of the few regions that still maintain a full suite of math and science capabilities. So that what means from our perspective is cartography GIS remote sensing, photogrammetry, spatial databases, and supporting IT technologies.
You know, when we look at what's going on in the world today in our specific area, what we see is a river of technology flying by at a very fast pace. Some of the regions of the Forest Service have sort of stepped away from the bank. Others are have stuck in a toe to get a sense of what the water's like. My gang threw in a canoe and tossed me in the bottom, and I've been paddling like crazy ever since, bailing like mad so we don't get swamped.
There are a lot of different technologies that we have the potential of using. The ones we selected are largely driven by customer interface. We spend a lot of time out on the ground with our customers, and there are basically two schools of customers for us. There's the people in the Forest Service that we serve, the range cons, foresters, etc. that are actually out there doing the work out there on the ground.
And then there are folks such as yourselves, the private industry people and our private sector customers who are relying on those products. It's important to us that we're producing product that meets needs of not only our internal customers, but also our external customers.
And what we're hearing from both groups is that they want to see things netbased, they want to see mobile applications, and they want to see them sooner rather than later. As a consequence we've been working hard to modify the program and develop in that direction.
One of the first things we did was try to update the work in the field of our current flagship product, the Forest Visitor map. Take a look at our booth, you can compare our old and new product. That's something people have been asking for, for quite some time now. And then we also started stepping into the electronic arena.
One of our first steps was with FS Topo. The USGS folks are creating a product called U.S. Topo. The Forest Service has a mandate to build topographic maps over Forest Service ground, and our product is FS Topo. It's a webbased, database driven digital applications producing digital topo quads using ArcGIS technology, so ArcServer, ArcMap.
And what we have in that is a nationwide seamless transactional database that we can derive real time PDF maps from. We produce those internally for the Forest Service right now. This is webbased so you can log into a website, pick any piece of ground in the Forest Service in the United States and produce a topographic map real time.
We have not been distributing that to the public yet. We're starting now. GSRTC, the Geo Spatial Services and Technology Center in Salt Lake recently released that to national libraries, and they're planning to release it to the public this coming year.
In our region, what we have done is produced a map kiosk compartment, so we can start selling those quads to the public now. We have that demonstrated as well here today. Take a look at it if you're curious. We think the product's useful. We'd like to get some input.
Beyond FS Topo, one of the things we're also working a lot on is web services, map services in particular. We're doing that a lot with respect to a forest plan vision process. You know forest plan vision really needs to be an interactive process with the customers in the field and Forest Service.
One way to do that is to allow the customers to look at maps of the forest plan, make real time revisions to it, give us that feedback over an active map service. We're starting to put those sites up.
We also have a novel mapediting site that we're in the process of creating. When we do our map updates we often do field reviews, sometimes three cycles of field reviews. That process is expensive and timeconsuming so in the early stages of putting up a map service now it will give us the ability to do it online field reviews with the forest and customers such as yourselves.
What that means is that you'll be able to go to a website, look at a map that we're in the process of building, provide your comments, and feed those back to us directly. We'll reach a broader audience and, hopefully, a better product down the road.
Another area we're looking at is the use of QR code. It's been around for quite a while now. We're thinking...in fact we are putting QR codes on our maps. We produce some product now called Motor Vehicle Use Map. Basically, it's a simple line graphic that finds where you can and can't drive a vehicle on a national forest.
On our new Forest Visitor map product you'll see a QR in the corner. If you flash on that QR code you'll be taking to a website where you can download our Motor Vehicle Use Map. That way you'll not only have the standard Forest Service flagship map product, but you'll also have the Travel Management maps letting you know where you can and can't go.
The reason we're not putting all that information on the Forest Visitor map is that the Forest Visitor map is in a three to five year map cycle. The Travel Management Maps depending on conditions on the forest can change immediately, and so they're updated.
Mobile applications is also becoming something that's really key for us. You know, it's foolish in this day and age to be sending range cons, [inaudible 00:38:37], wildlife managers out in the field with notepad and paper. There's any number of digital devices that they possibly could be using to collect data that would download directly into our natural resource databases.
And so we're looking at developing mobile applications. We're in the process of putting one together right now for our wildlife specialists that will allow you to go out into the field, collect wildlife data, come back to the office, hook it up to a computer, and download directly into our wildlife database in Kansas City. Keeps a lot of erroneous information out of the loop, provides them with a fast way to update your data, and it's simpler and less expensive as well.
Then there are other applications that we can build, too. One of the questions we've asked ourselves several times is how should we be building these? On the Forest Service we have a Window space so we're looking at probably Windows tablets, and you might think that would lead us to something like C# as a development platform.
But what we're looking at really is more likely to be HTML5, primarily because it's device independent. It gives us the ability to work on Apples, iPads, on Androids, or Windowsbased devices depending on what may or may not be available for the next few years.
Along with this there's a number of challenges that we face. I'm going to think of them as opportunities. One of them is computer security. We've talked a bit about public facing pages. One of the things the Forest Service is seriously concerned with is viruses getting into our databases and viruses getting into our systems and bringing us down.
We had an episode about five years ago, for example, where we picked up a worm that knocked out several thousand computers in the agency for about a week. Imagine the lost productively in something like that. We can't afford for that to happen again. So external security has become really key to us.
One of the other things we're facing is declining map sales and declining budgets simultaneously. One thing that people don't realize about the Forest Service is that our mapping program is only partly supported by appropriated dollars. Most of the money we use for mapping and in turn to salary my personnel in my shop actually comes from map sales.
So when you have a situation where map sales are falling and appropriated dollars are falling, that really puts a pinch on our programs, and it's something we're going to have to be dealing with. Currently in my shop I have three positions I likely won't be able to fill at a time when I could really use digital development skills.
Similarly we have a corporate GIS system that we use as well. We're in a Citrix environment and enterprise data system in Kansas City. The problem we face with the Citrix environment is that it frankly doesn't work very well.
There are days when it can take my analysts 30 to 40 minutes simply to get into the environment. That's very painful. One of the problems we have is that we don't know how fast or if we'll be able to fix that, and so as an agency we're already looking at the next generation of capability.
Because budgets are going down succession planning becomes an issue. If you look across geospatial functions in the Forest Service, about half of our personnel are eligible for retirement. Similarly we don't have money for training so how do we stay current in a rapidly changing environment? Our software turns over about once every 18 months. It's very difficult to keep ourselves up to date.
Along with that something that I think is important to all of you is data maintenance. In my shop we have 15 themes of corporate data running to about 60 or so feature classes. This is data that is used in any kind of mapping you can imagine, especially [inaudible 00:42:33] and topographic mapping. It is information that you people can have for free.
It's available on our website. It's collected quite a bit by a number of folks. The problem we have is maintaining that. When budgets go down one of the first thing that typically falls off the table is data maintenance and keeping ourselves up to speed has become a real issue for us.
Similarly data storage and archiving are in the same position. Our photo program now is totally digital and the aerial photography for a simple forest can be over a terabyte. Right now in my shop I have about 100 terabytes stacked up on hard disks in the basement. The thought of losing that is really scary.
And, finally, something that's big for us is rural connectivity. We're the Forest Service. We work in the woods. If you look at the cities in new Mexico, Coyote, Quemado, what else have we got, the north rim of the Grand Canyon.
These are places that are still served by copper wire. The kind of connectivity that you look for from the Internet, that you look for from mobile applications isn't there yet and may not be for three or four years. How do we serve those people with the technologies we have?
All of these are opportunities that we're looking at now at our agency. So I think that's a fair introduction. Do you have questions?
Ron: Questions for Bill?
Audience Member: Your seamless database you mentioned, what's the scale?
Bill: 1:24,000.
Audience Member: How does that differ from what the U.S.G.S is using?
Bill: In many ways it's the same. Our standards are slightly different. If you look at the maps side by side, theirs has some photo database. Our photo database is optional. It's a basic USGS topographical map with some simple changes. The reason we do it is because we are mandated to do topographic mapping of Forest Service lands, not the USGS Anybody else?
Audience Member: Thanks.
Bill: Yeah, sure.
Audience Member: I have a question for Mike, and for you, Bill. So you mentioned you're experimenting with kiosks for printing these maps and selling them. I assume the kiosks have a printing capability. Is the USGS partnering with any printers or any sort of similar ways to print them? Do you guys have a partnership with a Kinko's or something where someone can go in and get a printed map or are there plans for anything like that?
Michael: The short answer is no. I know our Denver distribution is now looking at a way, or looking at a contract to do the printing outside just in time for any [inaudible 00:45:26]. I think it's going to morph from there, and it's just the start of it, but I have no plans right now to do any kind of [inaudible 00:45:35].
Bob: I'll comment about that, Mike. Years ago we had a trade agreement with National Geographic, and they had a map kiosk, and they had those, and I think they had about 260 machines in various sports stores, ADI, REI, and places like that, and I think they've stepped back from that. Charlie, are you guys still...?
Charlie: No, it became a maintenance issue, keeping the software and the hardware and the connectivity in stores, particularly some of the rural ones, just became the cost. It was difficult to maintain that. Technology's come a long way since then, but there's a lot more than just print the data to stores that didn't want them.
Bill: And, you know, you're absolutely right we are in the process of releasing kiosk environments to our supervisor offices. We have computers available in the supervisor's offices we can run on. The printer's about $2,500. We build the database in my shop, and service it from my shop, so for us the costs of the maintenance are fairly limited at this point.
We'll be happy to share this with other regions in the Forest Service. If they decided to take it on they would have to have the capability internally with their geospatial programs to deal with it. Some do. Some don't.
Audience Member: How about private partnerships? It's not always as easy to set up from a government standpoint, but I know the USGS is doing some really interesting things. Are you...when I do hear things like printers, I mean we do a lot of work with HP and others. Like I say, we're razor blade salesmen. We make a lot of money on blades and shaving cream, etc.
HP's the same way. They make their money on ink and paper, not on the printer. So I'm sure there's discussion with the...Where do you guys stand? Are there anything exciting you guys are doing right now with [inaudible 00:47:33]?
Bill: You know, not really. We're pretty new in the kiosk business. Our concept has been, buy a printer, put it in an SO and make maps, bare bones. We're printing on waterproof paper, selling it for $10 a piece. We've had it operating in the regional office now for several months.
We sell a few dozen maps here and there. Quad maps typically aren't a big seller for us. But out at the districts, especially during the hunting season, that's a different story, and so that's the market we're targeting right now, and we're trying to target it with off the shelf [inaudible 00:48:14].
So we really haven't made...we really haven't tried to develop a relationship with HP, for example. Relative to volumes of maps out of Forest Service Topo we do a printing contract with the Geospatial technology center. So for example, if there was a fire someplace, and they needed 100 copies of a given quad sheet, we can have those printed quickly.
Ron: Any other questions for Bill? Thank you.
John Hannah: I had to be the last to go. My name's John Hannah. I work for the Bureau of Land Management here in New Mexico, [inaudible 00:48:52] state office. As far as technology goes with Bureau of Land Management's mapping, I manage the 100K mapping program. I'm sure you've all seen our BLM 100K.
But we're fairly old school in our methodology. I mean we still sell paper copy maps out of our field offices to our biggest clients, which are hunters, recreation folks, as well as oil and gas industry. So with that being said there's a big push...I can't really speak that much for the national level, but from what I understand, there's a big push for web mapping services so that we can get more information to the public.
In New Mexico, particularly, we have the IT4M initiative that we're pushing. It's getting some national light. And that whole concept is that the GIS data that we dish out to the public and that we manage for internal decisions is being managed more and more by the resource specialists themselves. So if we're talking about oil and gas data or wildlife data, it's managed by the wildlife biologists, and by the oil and gas engineers rather than by GIS specialists.
And the reason that I mention that is that particularly when you combine that concept with the web mapping stuff, members of the public and folks like you can rest assured that the GIS data coming out of the BLM is going to be more accurate and updated more frequently if you guys do use it in your individual mapping applications.
That's not all the data. I mean there's some data that we manage that we can't necessarily give out to the public, in particular law enforcement or cultural information, but most of the data that we do manage is publicly available to everyone.
Currently it's just downloadable from our each individual state and field office levels. But we're seeing big trends with SE technology in replicating data up from the field offices who, like in the case of the Forest Service, are in very rural areas that don't necessarily have good network connections. And as we migrate that up to state office levels and out to the national levels what we're seeing is that the data is getting better, and it's getting out into the hands of more people.
I want to talk a little bit more about the 100K mapping program. That's primarily why I came and was invited. I manage it for the state of New Mexico. It's a national mapping program, but I manage it for New Mexico.
Like I said earlier, it's pretty old school. We still sell paper copy maps. I've talked quite a bit with Bill Jackson who is the...he manages the program nationally out of our national operations center, and I've pushed this idea of QR barcodes on there to him that people need to be able to access these maps digitally from an iPad or from an iPhone as well as a hard copy.
And with Bill in particular we have roots in a lot of different arenas as far as resources go from oil and gas to range. I mention those two because could you imagine a rancher on his horse out there in the field, herding his cattle, trying to use an iPad to look at this stuff? I know that a lot of them do have iPads and they do use them.
The idea there is that we at least we need to keep that paper map copy available. I know it comes under fire quite a bit in our particular agency as something that is not necessarily needed anymore. I think that, like with the other agencies, it's vital that we keep paper copies out there, as well as continuing to push for these new trends, and Fielden does have a Facebook page. I don't know how many likes we have, I've never even looked at it.
[laughter]
Bob: Do you feel left out?
John: Yeah. That's pretty much all I'm feeling.
Ron: Question for John.
Audience Member: This is a question for all of you. You just mentioned looking at mobile apps, then there are tablets, there is phones, there is all these new devices. Several of you and Bill mentioned this, Connie mentioned it, several of you mentioned working more with mobile devices, the need for working with mobile devices.
Are there limitations you are running into with these, and I understand about the not being able to be connected issues and things like that, but are there things you are running into with these that making that difficult to implement? Is it something you guys are planning on going forward with just throughout government? I imagine a lot of your customers are asking for them, that is why I am asking the question.
John: I can answer real quickly for the BLM. One of our biggest hurdles is IT ground. Those things you mentioned opening up these web maps to the public and letting them get into our networks, and all this other stuff, it definitely throws up a lot of red flags, but like Bill had mentioned about the Forest Service.
One thing with the BLM is, we are very separated, as far as our field offices. They are very atomist from each other, so New Mexico right now, at our state office, we are putting things on JS online whether or not Washington frowns on it. We are trying to get stuff out there and available, to more people to view, but that is one of our biggest hurdles, is that security issue.
Connie: We did have challenges, and I think that IT is one of them. We are all ready exposing TIGER, the TIGER Map Service, and maybe TIGER Feature Service, if not right away, be out there pretty soon. In terms of mobile apps per say, there are two directions that we are going. We have our public information office people that are trying to use mobile apps just to expose, like I tried explain, census data to the common person.
I'm not really sure what the value is in that, and what happens is that, that activity is really generating more product, more need for product that is coming from the same resources that are trying to build TIGER, conduct our internal mission activities, and that sort of thing.
It's a little bit of a resource drain, and in my personal opinion, this is definitely just me talking at the moment, but I'm not really sure that is the best use of resources. But on the flip side of that where we did use, as we use the handheld device in the 2010 census, we are trying to pursue that as well.
I think the biggest challenge is trying to be able to plan and be able to develop the tool or the functionality that we'll need to have on those devices not knowing what that device or instrument will be. So that's huge. I'm not really sure how we even approach that. That's one of the likely challenges.
Bill: Just kind of a followup question. We produce a valueadded product. So I work at [inaudible 00:57:09]. We produce business analysts online, which consumes all of that demographic information from a [inaudible 00:57:15], and we go through and process it in a number of different ways, and come up with our own category kind of structures for the demographics of a particular area.
We have our own mobile app that you can go on and wherever you're at, see kind of age ranges. There's a huge amount of value in that where all sorts of businesses, all sorts of people interested in marketing or selling to specific demographics. We've actually been able to use that data a lot for that purpose. It's actually one of our really good products that we sell a lot of.
Connie: From my perspective, I'd like to be able to direct that.
Connie: And from my perspective, I'd like to be able to direct that to you guys so that we can concentrate more on building the data support for this.
Ron: Connie, can you use the mic?
Connie: ...to be sure that we can make that as complete and as accurate and as authoritative as possible.
Michael: The USGS, for me personally, taking the US Topo to remote devices. I've added a research project or research group a couple of years now to look at, and unfortunately, for budgetary reasons, it keeps getting cut and cut. One of the things I want to do is be able to take it out to the scientists to use, so they can use the base information to create their science, take it back to the office, and not have to redo it again.
Two things I think we're going to...well, three things I think we're going to find. One is [inaudible 00:58:48]. Right now, as we continue to add data to the product, the [inaudible 00:58:54] keep increasing. I keep pushing it down, but we keep fighting that one. Or a way to be able to transmit the data quickly, so the format's another one, where the PDF format is the right format multiple [inaudible 00:59:09] question on that. I don't know if that's what the true answer is.
And the third one would be the layering. How do you get the product out there with layers that can be opened to some of the scientists that have worked on upgrading specific layered products for each individual scientific community? There are probably others out there [inaudible 00:59:31].
Bill: I want, at least, to make a couple comments about mobile devices and the cells. Especially in our business, the natural resource business where you're out in the bright sunlight. Most of the mobile devices that are available today have screens that aren't bright enough to work effectively in that environment. I mean, I suspect many of you have been outside on a really bright, sunny day taking a look at your cell phone and not being able to see anything. That doesn't work for somebody who's trying to collect range data up in Arizona.
Another problem is battery life. iPad has an eight hour battery life. That's roughly a field day, but often when field days start at 6:00 in the morning and end at 8:00 or 9:00 at night, and they do sometimes especially for wildlife people, it's not enough. There are mobile devices that have interchangeable batteries. You can do swapping batteries in the field. So that can be a little problematic too.
We believe the devices are right on the cusp of being ready for prime time. We'd like to see brighter screens. We'd like to see more comparatively.
[silence]
Ron: Any other questions for the panel?
Audience Member: Over here.
Audience Member: Yeah recently Ralph Nader's watchdog group kind of ripped into the Government Printing Office for producing products that were really only accessible via the Internet. And what they cited was about 19 million Americans who still don't have access to high speed Internet. And about 50 million Americans above the age of 20 who still don't regularly use the Internet. Now in my mind that's roughly 20 percent of the population. Have these issues been addressed or bounced around?
[silence]
Bob: Yeah. Unfortunately that's a very hard one. I guess from my perspective, [pause] I wish I could print them out, I wish I had the budget to be able to do that. I'm producing 18,000. There's no way I can do it. The only feasible way for my organization to exist and do the map making is to take a good digital, so yes, it's a problem, I understand. I don't know what the solution is to that.
Ron: Other comments.
Bill: No. We recognize that as well, and that's part of the reason that we're setting up a map kiosk environment in our SO's. Sometime next year our FS Topo products will be available online to the public, but in places where the public can't get online, in a lot of our rural communities, at least they'll have the option of going into one of our pseudo [inaudible 01:02:21] offices and acquiring the cartography there. And we have no intention of getting out of forest district map business anytime soon.
Connie: The other thing I'll say, is that I believe that there is so much momentum, and the perception that based on the social media presentation earlier, so many, such a great percentage of us are online.
There is that perception, there is that momentum, that to keep up the government, just like business, to keep up, you have to be online, you have to be digital, you have to be this, you have to be that. So again, this is just me talking, but I believe because of that, partly because of that, the paper community or those that only rely on that, you know, are a smaller group.
John: I'd like to make a comment. You know, we've had [inaudible 01:03:15] for a number of years about that portion of population that's just where they're at, and we need to be able to get them with more creative means, because we are your government, and those 20 percent, and that's 60 million Americans, you know, that's important.
Government has to address that, and with shrinking budgets, it's probably more innovative approaches, working with people in this room to get to that, you know? We provide it in digits, our digital data and PDF opportunity to provide it in a paper format or get it to that community.
We need to be more creative in partnerships, and needing that, that's, you know, that's not going to change as quickly as people think, because I've been talking about that for five years, about that group that's not being served as we transition. And we don't have all the answers.
Michael: Well, it's just an interesting, and you have budgetary restrictions, and Kahn, you mentioned you'd really like to concentrate on creating the best data or gathering the best data, but it's an accessibility thing. You all mentioned that at one point, it's like we have this great stuff, and it's accessible, and I'm looking at it from a publisher or public stand point.
Some of the stuff is easier to get mapped than others, but the speaker this morning, Joe held up the phone and said, just look at this as another publishing platform, because sometimes we make mobile apps, et cetera. It's like a scary new universe, but the reality is, it's about the data and the content.
What I find interesting too though, and I've seen this transition, and I don't have an answer. When we started creating websites back in mid 90's, you created for the lowest common denominator, right? You had to make sure that everyone could access it. Whoever had the smallest computer, the slowest access or dialup time, but it is the complete opposite now.
You don't create, at least in the private sector, we don't create to the lowest common denominator anymore. We create for what is going to happen six months from now, if we can, and the burden is back on the public to say, we can't get our stuff, you need to upgrade your software, or your compliance. It's just an interesting switch. You have a demanding as public agencies, but it's a real tough, tough question.
Bob: I guess along with that, last year in February, I was up in Alaska when we were trying to figure out what we were going to do up there, in regards to a product, what scale, what data, just the whole thing. When we talked about the DOPPF, to be honest, I actually got a lot of praise on that. Simply because there is no connectivity in a large end parts of the world, up there, of the area. What they would do is just carry from CD to CD, or flash drive, or friend to friend, so they were perfectly OK with it.
Connie: I think that you are right that within our...at least with the Census Bureau, we do still have to service the lowest common denominator, so for our programs for which we reach out to local governments and that sort of thing, to collect data boundaries, features, and that sort of thing. We still make a lot of paper maps to do that, but in terms of the data dissemination we're not doing as much printing as we used to do, it is mostly PDF, digital.
That is why I would like to know from this group, how we can partner with you guys to do more of that perhaps, but maybe not like, this group is not doing so much of that either, I'm not really sure.
Audience Member: Sorry to keep asking questions. There is a question, and someone asked this all ready, Jill asked this morning. Is there a correlation between digital, more digital products versus print products, we all have different stories. I can tell you that it helps to have our brand in "National Geographic," but the more our content, from a map stand point, and thoughts around a digital format, whether it's on the web or on mobile apps, the more print maps we are selling.
It's hard to make a direct correlation, but in certain product lines, like our "Trails Illustrated," back country maps, there seems to be a real correlation, because it's not, in some cases, like hiking in the back country, it's not an either or. It truly is an app, because that's a signal when your battery goes, and drop the device in the river or creak, but we've actually seen an uptick in our print for this line, but very selective lines.
Bill: Sure, but could that be because they're not doing it?
John: Possibly. That's a good question. There's a lot [inaudible 01:07:53].
Michael: I'm from Washington state. Very hard for North Cascades [inaudible 01:08:00] up there, national park. Is it because they're not doing, and you're taking up that site, because it's not found in there? I don't know [inaudible 01:08:13].
John: For some people, well...
Bob: Are you speaking about a topographic map?
Michael: Sorry?
Bob: Are you talking about a topographic map of North Cascades?
Michael: Yeah.
Bill: Yeah. Inside national forest land, the implementation and utilization [inaudible 01:08:30] varies from region to region, as do the geospatial programs. It's possible that in region six, they haven't concentrated on it in the same way we have, so I'm not surprised to hear that.
Michael: I just think that's a...
Ron: Were there other questions that the panel had about the membership here that you would like to take away from this?
Connie: I have a question about digital archiving, especially from a Library of Congress perspective. If we collect everything, or we collect more, in eBooks and PDF, that sort of thing, do you have a concern that in how you'll maintain the access to those, given the fact that even the formats change dramatically from revision to revision?
Bill: Definitely there's a concern, and that's why, I guess, we've been, in a way, moving so slowly. The formats will change. That's why we've, up until now, intended to stay with the...
By far, the known format that we knew how to handle would be a hard copy, so we've been very resistant to venture away from that, but I think the reality is every one of these government agencies represented here at this table is looking at flat or shrinking budgets for the foreseeable future.
We've seen a reduction in just my division of 48 percent in the last 12 years or so, so we're venturing into areas where we don't have a lot of expertise sometimes, but I guess it's a necessary direction that we have to head in.
Obviously, the number of eBooks that are being published, and publishers, quite frankly, are only publishing in an electronic format, so it's not like we have much of a choice, but yes, there are definitely concerns about how we're going to maintain access to these type of formats into the future.
Ron: Any other questions for any of the panel members to each other or the audience?
I want to thank the panel this afternoon. It's been a long afternoon, but I appreciate the energy and everyone staying and participating. Again, let's give the panel a round of applause.
[applause]



Transcription by CastingWords
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Details

Title: 2012 IMIA Town Hall Session

Description:

The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Geospatial Program (NGP) was a significant participant in this yea’s International Map Industry Association (IMIA) Americas Conference, September 9-11, 2012, Albuquerque, NM. Among the presentations and events was the Town Hall Session, titled: “Emerging Trends in Government”. The focus of this session was changing government business models related to geospatial information in the areas of data availability, information access, and dissemination. This interactive forum linked experience and knowledge to trends and issues facing government mapping organizations, the changing role of government, how they are evolving to e-commerce, changing from paper map inventory to digital products, and distribution via the Internet. This session was presented as a Town Hall Session to promote active participation and dialogue between the government panel members and the audience. The Panel was moderated by Ron Lofton of the NGP and included representatives from the following Federal agencies:

  • Robert Morris, Library of Congress;
  • Michael Cooley, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS);
  • Connie Beard, U.S. Census Bureau;
  • William Krausmann, U.S. Forest Service (USFS);
  • and John Hannah, Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Location: Albuquerque, NM, USA

Date Taken: 9/10/2012

Length: 1:11:02

Video Producer: James Maxwell , U.S. Geological Survey


Note: This video has been released into the public domain by the U.S. Geological Survey for use in its entirety. Some videos may contain pieces of copyrighted material. If you wish to use a portion of the video for any purpose, other than for resharing/reposting the video in its entirety, please contact the Video Producer/Videographer listed with this video. Please refer to the USGS Copyright section for how to credit this video.

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