GIS Monitor Mar 1, 2001


-Autodesk’s Q4 Earnings Exceed Expectations -Podunk Towns Hit the Web -GITA Preview -Wireless Technology Creates Talking Houses -Another Kind of Web Mapping -Points of Interest -New Lists at -Week in Review -Back Issues -Advertise -Contact -Subscribe/Unsubscribe

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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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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 content.

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.


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 for $12.50.

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 tune in!

Talking Houses are definitely a location-based information delivery technique. But doesn’t AM seem a bit old fashioned?


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.


-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. 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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