GIS Monitor Mar 1, 2001
-Autodesk’s Q4 Earnings Exceed Expectations
-Podunk Towns Hit the Web
-Wireless Technology Creates Talking Houses
-Another Kind of Web Mapping
-Points of Interest
-New Lists at TenLinks.com
-Week in Review
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AUTODESK’S Q4 EARNINGS EXCEED EXPECTATIONS
Autodesk’s recent 4th quarter beat expectations and helped cap off a good
year. Even though some new accounting procedures were in use, most would
agree that overall it was a successful year for Autodesk.
Carol Bartz is still short on her stated goal to make Autodesk a $1
billion company (2000 revenue was $936 million). The innovation in the
Inventor product and the continued growth of Discreet should carry
Autodesk to its $1B forecast for 2002 even if rollouts such as Point A and
the new Architectural Desktop don’t dazzle. Expect high visibility
investments (Buzzsaw, RedSpark and the new Location Based Services
division) that may need years before showing a profit, to be looked at
critically as Autodesk gets closer to its $1 billion goal.
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PODUNK TOWNS HIT THE WEB
ePodunk attempts to breathe new life into smaller geographies. This site
“celebrates the cultural diversity and heritage of America’s 28,000 home
towns.” The people behind it are all journalists: a former director of new
media for the Detroit Free Press, a former editor-in-chief of American
Demographics, a former multimedia editor of The New York Times on the Web
and a former publisher of Marketing Tools and advertising director of
American Demographics. The site boasts that it was built by hand (whatever
that means) and includes offbeat content such as well-known residents and
movies that were filmed in the area.
They’ve also listed “top towns” in each state, basing their outcome upon
the proportion of each county's population who stayed in the same
residence for 5-year periods, and other statistics.
The company plans on making money by licensing it findings. “Our
information is designed for licensed use by companies trying to capture
the local market. This information is designed to be ‘plugged into’
existing sites and wireless services, as a complement to travel
information, maps, weather forecasts, Web site directories and other
information about place.”
Visitors are invited to contribute and correct information for towns with
which they are familiar. Given that detailed information about 28,000
small towns is a pretty tall order, this is probably the only way that
ePodunk could even hope to add a substantial and significant amount of
Out of curiosity, I looked up my hometown of Winchester, MA. I read that
it was named after William P. Winchester (which I learned in 4th grade),
was on the Aberjona River (also 4th grade), its population (though not
what year the data is from) and the average January and July temperatures.
All the information is readily available elsewhere. Missing was any
mention of the town’s Nobel Prize winner, Allan Cormack or famous
clarinetist, Richard Stoltzman.
A bigger “town,” Chicago, gets a bit more coverage, but nothing earth
shattering or unavailable in a decent encyclopedia or almanac.
ePodunk will need to clearly distinguish its offering to pull in potential
users of its data. One suggestion: offer an incentive for Podunk natives
to contribute content. At this time the site has a ways to go to truly be
on the map.
One of the biggest GIS shows starts in San Diego, CA on Sunday. GITA
(formerly AM/FM International), the Geospatial Information and Technology
Association holds its annual meeting focusing on GIS in utilities,
communications and other areas. If the show is anything like past years,
there will be lots of big booths, press announcements and slick demos.
Unlike other shows, GITA’s exhibits have limited “open to all” hours and
extensive “private demo” hours. This way companies can do extensive
presentations to large groups without having to rush on to other clients.
If you attend the conference, I invite you to come to my presentation on
Wednesday morning called “Open GIS Interfaces: The Glue for GeoSpatial
Interoperability.” Or just stop by afterwards to say hello.
WIRELESS TECHNOLOGY CREATES TALKING HOUSES
The motto of Talking Houses is “Talking houses sell faster.” Using an AM
radio transmitter the size of an answering machine, Talking Houses
broadcasts your message 24 hours a day at the frequency posted on the sign
in the yard. Radio Technologies in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin rents a model
that holds a 3-minute message along with the yard sign for $139 for 3
months. Alternatively, you can purchase the unit for $399 and add the sign
The unit is FCC approved and can be tuned to any AM frequency desired,
though the company recommends 1610 since that is not given out to
commercial stations. The range is 200-300 feet, allowing interested buyers
to sit in their parked cars and listen. The gadget can be used for any
type of business that wants to put out a location-based signal.
Radio Technologies claim that they grew from selling a handful of units to
100,000 units in about 5 years. The device is rented to home sellers, sold
and rented to real-estate agents, schools, businesses, historic buildings
etc. I ran into a Talking House, literally, on my morning jog through the
neighborhood. Unfortunately, my Walkman is only FM, so I was unable to
Talking Houses are definitely a location-based information delivery
technique. But doesn’t AM seem a bit old fashioned?
ANOTHER KIND OF WEB-MAPPING
There are those who suggest that the hodge-podge nature of the Web with
its hyperlinks may not be the best way to deliver and organize content. A
different approach, Context Mapping, suggests collecting topics and
defining the relationships between them (belongs to, is part of, etc.).
The University of West Florida provides free software for non-commercial
use to develop these maps and use them on the Web.
POINTS OF INTEREST
-I suggested a few months ago that one of the big costs of online business
was the delivery charges for the large bags of dog food and groceries.
That is true also for shipping a Palm Pilot or other hi-tech gadget.
Outpost.com learned about these costs after offering free overnight
shipping on all purchases for two years. On Feb 1, to regain ground, the
company instituted a “charge for shipping policy.” The results? The
average order has risen 40 percent, to $280. Jupiter Research reported
that 44 percent of all Internet merchants lose money on delivery.
-I received several e-mails from readers regarding the use of the Peters
Projection on the West Wing episode scheduled for last night. Most agreed
with Karen Mulcahy, Professor of Cartography and GIScience, Department of
Geography, East Carolina University, East Carolina University who wrote:
“Oh, no not again... Will this bloody Peters projection never go away?
‘Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality’ --- no real
cartographer supports the misleading arguments that support the Peter's
projection. Who writes this stuff?”
Dr. Dennis Fitzsimons, Southwest Texas State University explained
“The reason American cartographers have not jumped on the Peters bandwagon
is that the projection is but one of many existing equal-area
projections... and it is not a particularly good one at that. You have
fallen for a marketing fiasco. The public is being misled.”
For the final word on this and other cartographic matters, I agree with
those who wrote to suggest reading How to Lie with Maps by Mark Monmonier,
published by the University of Chicago Press. He covers Peters, which he
refers to as Gall-Peters since it is so similar to the 1855 version from
the Scottish clergyman, Gall, in detail.
-Autodesk hosted a web seminar on Tuesday highlighting their new GIS
Design Server. I had some trouble since the audio was not in sync with the
video. And, the “live” demo seemed to be a recorded AVI file. Also of
note, the presenter described the product as the “most open” solution –
not something I can agree with, since I don’t know what that means.
Autodesk had to overcome the challenge of “showing” a server since data in
AutoCAD all looks the same whether its comes from the server or is local.
Autodesk was using Web presentation software from Placeware which seemed
to be new to the presenters. Unfortunately, the inexperience may have
extended to the GIS Design Server itself. Many questions about the product
went unanswered or received “guessed” answers. I’ll suggest that those
wishing to catch this seminar wait until after GITA.
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