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What are the most annoying facts about our industry/market?

What makes you angry? Is there anything that you can't stand it?

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30  
People who think GIS is google maps. –  CaptDragon Apr 13 '11 at 17:53

35 Answers 35

Proprietary spatial data formats

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7  
Amen. Lack of interoperability has become a major headache and annoyance of mine. –  Roger D. Sep 30 '10 at 11:39

Products not listing what they don't support - either because they haven't implemented yet or never plan to. Too much has to be read "between the lines" of the marketing material on what is and isn't supported.

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The way I need to suddenly be an expert on "apps", programming APIs and all sort of technical tools and acronyms just to understand what the heck someone is talking about.

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6  
this is really a big issue. it sucks to have to learn 734242 apis to move on :P –  George Sep 29 '10 at 16:43
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I had to upvote this one ! –  Akheloes Jun 30 '13 at 16:25

SHAPEFILE I can't believe that there is no better standard that has been adopted yet. Do we really want a format that limits the field names, does not always come with a projection reference, uses multiple files, and has tables that are no longer editable in excel?

ugh!!

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4  
Not to say that in case the language you work with uses non-ASCII 7-bit characters (Galician and Spanish in my case), rendering labels and showing results of GetFeatureInfo requests so regular users do not see 'trash chars' ('Abadín' instead of 'Abad?n') is a hell, a time sink and not always possible. –  dariapra Sep 29 '10 at 17:31
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+100 if I could –  underdark Sep 29 '10 at 18:37
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Unfortunately nothing matches it for speed and portability. But this is only the result of 20+ years of use. GML was a good idea, but a binary version of GML would have been better for the spatial industry. Who needs the overhead of processing 100,000+ features from a text format! –  OptimizePrime Apr 13 '11 at 16:32
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Fascinating! The two most highly voted replies are (1) proprietary data formats are annoying and (2) shapefiles (perhaps the only non-proprietary vector format) are annoying! –  whuber Feb 16 '12 at 15:55

The way the "spatial is special" mantra is used as an excuse to build information silos.

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The cost of the software.

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Open Source to the rescue. You should really check out Quantum GIS, GRASS, OpenJump, et al if you are worried about costs! –  Darren Cope Nov 3 '10 at 23:15
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Or PostGIS + GeoServer delivered to end users via OpenLayers or uDIG. Configure it using Chef or Puppet and run it on EC2 for the price of a couple cups of coffee per day. –  Sharpie Dec 30 '10 at 1:08
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Labor is expensive too... in some cases, many orders of magnitude more than licensing. Depending on your industry, time constraints, and geographic region, the cost of experienced employees may be unbalanced in favor of FOSS or commercial. –  James Schek Apr 12 '11 at 0:33

The almost exclusive focus on tools and much less on either process or the implications of the ways in which we model data.

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The fashion in the industry that's making everything that we used before obsolete, on every new trend that comes along. A bit like Ivar Jacobson is writing in this blog post: Are we working in engineering or in a fashion industry??

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Having to wait for others to do the simplest tasks in order to move beyond just making maps.

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When GIS Software Support is slow and useless as a 'chocolate teapot' some vendors charge high maintenance fees and 90% of cases cannot fix or solve the problem - they come to the statement of it will be FIXED in the next available upgrade/service pack. Which not a satisfactory conclusion when clients wants it solved yesterday.

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Co-workers who won't move beyond ArcView 3.x... ;)

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ArcMap started with version 8! –  whuber Nov 4 '10 at 2:18
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In comparison to 9.x and 10.0, many things just simply worked in AV 3.x. In light of that, I'm not sure I can fault anyone for sticking with all these years. ;-) –  Roger D. Nov 7 '10 at 12:44
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It is interesting to follow the comment thread at gis.stackexchange.com/a/20168 where (somewhat accidentally) performance of AV 3 and AV 10 is directly compared. You can also compare the complexity of the scripts used to generate the solutions. –  whuber Feb 16 '12 at 15:51

Co-workers who won't look beyond Arc... ;)

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3  
Interesting. . .If you have already PAID for ArcGIS use it, if you are branching past it or the licenses you have, then look at alternatives. I am just saying if you have a tool that does what you want why look beyond till your scope does. –  CDBrown Jan 6 '11 at 1:51
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Why? - Out of interest. –  underdark Jan 29 '11 at 20:26
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Why look? Because it's important to know what else is possible... The better question is why force yourself to use something else if your solution fits your needs. –  James Schek Apr 12 '11 at 0:30
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Once an organization has invested in Arc, likely including training, then it makes financial sense to use Arc as much as possible. Sure, the alternatives may be free, but there is still an investment of time/salary to learn how to accomplish a task in other software. Not to mention the cost of integration of the alternate software, and any different data formats that might be required. –  user3461 Aug 15 '11 at 14:49
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To know ArcGIS is to know ESRI software and some GIS. To know open source GIS is to know GIS. –  valveLondon Feb 16 '12 at 5:28

A 13 character filename limit.

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  1. GIS is a technological discipline, not a software package

  2. Personal and File geodatabases are not adequate replacements for the shapefile. A better interchange format is needed. (Even just zipped up SQL statements)

  3. A licensing or certification process wouldn't be a bad thing. Engineers have it, IT folks have it. It should be used to guarantee competence and not as much of a rubber stamp (As I seem to hear that GISP is)

  4. GIS education programs need to emphasize fundamentals of databases and a little bit of programming and coordinate system math. Similar to 3, there needs to be better organization of GIS focused education.

  5. RESPECT! GIS Analysts need to be respected as much as any other technical employees in an organization.

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Hmmm... I wonder whether there's any relationship between 1-4 and 5 :-). –  whuber Sep 30 '10 at 3:41

For me it is the recreation of existing functionality, where I look there seem to be a lot of people spending an inordinate amount of time, and business risk to fulfill already cluttered niches. An over simplified example is where people build a new geoprocessing tool to do a series of functions which the core GIS application they are using already does. So writing code rather than scripting or using the existing functionality.

We spend so much time on this, think of the things we could be doing if we used that time more efficiently. Scientist can then do Science, Engineers can design, GIS Professionals can make sure that these functions work.

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Census.gov TIGER files and usps.gov ZIP+4 files that only specify address ranges instead of individual addresses. It's time to catch up to Zillow/Google Streetview/county parcel files/et al. (I realize the .gov entities claim US Title wording imposes privacy restrictions, but information that can be gleaned by walking down a street isn't actually private.)

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Title 13 forbids the Census Bureau from disclosing address information whether it can be gleaned by walking down the street or not. At least, that's the current interpretation of it. –  Sean Apr 20 '11 at 19:24

Inaccurate data. People will always blame the messenger.

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Making countless maps that are ultimately useless (if you have or currently work in the Public Sector you will know this).

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Playing off of this: Having a boss who changes study areas every two days and having to reaggregate Census data every single time –  Emily Aug 16 '11 at 14:40

The lack of layout / composition possibilities. GIS packages permits spatial data analysis, but not their beautiful presentation on a page. Also the thematic cartography tools were not adapted or scientifically correct (think about area proportional symbols), but that's improving.

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Wow! So many great posts (or horrible things) about our field. I'm going to mirror someone else's post in reference to RESPECT. I'm sick of being held below engineers in the food chain. This clout of an engineering degree vs. geospatial has got to end. I'm a GISP with almost 7 years experience, with a M.S. in GIS, yet I'm compensated equal to a jr engineer with less than a year experience, with no license and only a undergraduate degree.

I have witnessed Sr. Engineers abuse spatial data now for long enough. They lack the training and experience I have when dealing with geospatial data, and processes. They don't fully understand what the "GIS is doing". They don't understand the limitations of the spatial data they are using. They believe that more detail (vertices) means the data is more accurate.

After only a week of working with a company, I was able to take a 2 week process (using +2 staff) they have done for over 10 years, into a 4 hour process using only a single staff member...

Yet, I'm just a Sr. GIS Analyst, what do I know about anything. I just push buttons for a living and make maps.

OK. This was more therapeutic than I thought it would be. Thanks for creating this thread!

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This problem is general to many other fields: A jr Engineer without experience is often less skilled than an experienced non-Engineer ! –  julien Nov 11 '10 at 8:37
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I have been concerned about this for a long time: I collected some data and wrote about it 11 years ago. But to advance the conversation, we need to be aware of how engineers work. Would you be willing to get a degree in a GIS-related field and take a lengthy set of standardized exams in GIS in order just to get a job? And then, many years later, take several days of practice-based exams, graded by your peers, to get your final license? –  whuber Feb 16 '12 at 15:48

The lack of standards in GIS positions and pay scales. Ie. paying someone with GIS development experience the same as a GIS Technician.

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Some people still thinking the GIS department is just a map print shop.

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1  
When people ask me what I do, I often succumb to just saying.. "I make maps" because trying to explain GIS and the endless possibilities of it would take too long...and I'm lazy. –  GISKid Aug 27 '13 at 17:04

One of my biggest gripes with the Spatial Software vendors, is the lack of coherence in GUI and its lack of intuition. I've been working with Spatial Software for some time (~10 years) and even though I swap between 3 (ESRI, MapInfo, ERDAS) packages regularly, I still find myself searching help menus for relatively simple tasks. I feel standardizing the names of commonly performed functions and procedures that these software vendors can utilize will make our jobs easier. Ever used Microsoft Word one day and OpenOffice Writer the next? Apart from some little changes in experience, you're still able to navigate the software with minimal impact to productivity.

The Spatial Software Industry need to follow this model. Distinguishing yourself by using differing and confusing titles for common tasks for the sake of "being different" is counter productive and extremely annoying

Also the fanaticism of a single software package. Its software, not an ideology! Don't let being a fanboy stop you from building your skill set and learning.

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People who think GIS is someone who uses google maps a lot.

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2  
or "Google Image Search" –  Mr_Chimp Feb 6 '12 at 15:44

Slightly different from an answer above - The assumption, especially in Government bodies, that the software costs money.

Too many organisations assume they need to buy expensive solutions because GIS can be complex - yet, as is often the case in software, the reference versions are almost all opensource.

If Government users spent a small percentage of their license fees supporting projects like GRASS, QGis, and postgis instead then the tools would be even more amazing, Government spending would be a lot lower, and opendata would be more consistent.

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Polygons are not true 2-D topology, they are just closed lines with a defined "in" and "out". Surface topology requires 2-D primitives, just like vertices and line segments which are sufficient for any 0- or 1-D topology.

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People thinking you cannot perform GIS related activities outside of a propriatary GIS e.g. use maths, to perform calculations, rather than use a bit of software, with it's overheads.

I always have a library of code to implement in projects which avoid GIS completely, and are much quicker as a result. All too often, you will have PM's or Analysts who baulk at this, and make the end application less effecient as a result.

Sometimes, its best to use a computer for what it is good at, and thats number crunching. All too often, there's a simpler solution in Maths (a cornerstone of gis imo) that should be implemented instead of a call to an ARCGIS/ARCPY (there are of course others).

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People are taking an advantage to use GIS to gain jobs? Can they be for the GIS people with degrees in Geographers and Cartographers ??

Once we train them they take an adavnatage of your skills and your expereinces, they move on to other GIS positions.

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I don't really understand where you are going with this. –  Nathan W Mar 17 '12 at 12:36

Explaining to the average person what you do for a living, or what GIS means, e.g.

GIS Videos - That Mom Can Understand

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I'm seriously late to this party, but since the software side is well covered, I'll touch on the knowledge side.
What bothers me about the industry is the lack of attention to the "Geographic" portion of GIS. The university programs and classes are more and more focused simply on how to use software, in many cases, ESRI software here in the U.S.A. Once people learn the software, they are given a certificate and are considered a professional. There is little to no instruction on fundamentals of geography, like projections, data sources, data integrity, critical thinking, cartography, etc.

People don't think about the fact that the data they are working with represent places or objects in the real world. This disconnect causes them to not be able to easily certain problems, or to make leaps of reasoning that are not physically possible.

This is specifically with people who do GIS as a profession, not specialists in other fields who have begun to use GIS as part of their jobs. Specialists are generally more aware of the source and limitations of their data, and thus do not make some of these errors.

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