Unorthodox GIS

I started a journey of being a noob GIS specialist in a very classy and family-like consulting firm. It was quite daunting. Most of the seniors at my job have greater than 10 years of traditional GIS experience. Like Picasso to a blank canvas, they weave their magic to a blank map with such flair for color and technical smarts. I found myself constantly catching up to the bosses and seniors. While I enjoyed learning traditional GIS, I vaguely felt that something in me was amiss, as if the traditional GIS was just a primer for something else that I could not grasp. My instinct was correct. Some things arrived and showed me what it was I am meant to do for life as far as work is concerned.

One time at work, I was invited to attend a 2-day training on web mapping. Actually, the whole core of GE employees were invited but only two of us were available to attend it in full. It started a journey towards mapping through the browser, an on-the-fly, unorthodox mapping experience. It was a very sunny day in October. A funny guy and mapping monk named Ranel paid us a visit and taught the monkey how to make online maps.

I keep thanking him whenever I have the chance. I thank him again in this post because he helped pave the way and get me started in this fascinating journey.

From generating sickening frequencies of selfie photos in days gone past, I kind of resorted to making online web maps and photo bombing it with my face when I am testing my point creation:


(You can actually see that thing online if you click the Map View of our pilot site at hohoho)

As a young engineer, I was tempted to succumb to the traditional millennial person accusation that I was moving smack and solely in the center of an orbit of my own making. I still have that self-absorption typically found in my generation; but over time, I have learned that it’s really more about the work that transcends my life than life itself.

I was just trudging through what I thought was a random path of odd jobs and unfit jobs. I kind of hit pay dirt when I found web GIS. The days of going around in circles have slowly come to a halt. As a working professional, I have finally defined what I value in a job, what I want, and what I do not want. It became easy for me to convey myself and what I stand for. It’s a mesmerizing experience, a journey that one would never expect in mapping. But I share no less meditative states in a cloister than when I am here in front of my computer and doing some changes through a series of text files tied together.

I make maps. I make maps with new things that have been otherwise unthinkable when I was still in the university.

I know that soon, this unorthodox and new field will become part of the school’s curriculum. That other people will find profit out of the things that I love now and dive head first into it. But I won’t let that mar my confidence in the adage that the web GIS work is the reward in itself.

Even when other people get away with marring or besmirching this open source segment of my work just to have more millions in their pockets, I kind of feel happy to stand my ground and maintain my course.

I absolutely hate the casual way that other people mention this activity. So many times, I have seen people just rush in and tell me “I want to learn that, too.” It really tries my patience. I hold what I do with high reverence, and I hate it when people try to tell me that they want to “learn” it without actually doing the work required to do it and are just saying it to affirm themselves or prove something.

Try giving a bunch of e-books and resources to the people who say they want to learn something. If they actually read the books and apply what they learn, that’s the ONLY time I will believe there is some substance behind those empty proclamations. The one thing that drew me close to web development is that it has little room for vain charlatans who do no substantial work but take all the credit for other people’s work. It’s either you work it or you don’t. You don’t “learn” things by lightly mentioning it in conversation.

If you really want to learn even an iota of this sub-industry, you will not talk about it carelessly; you will actually roll up your sleeves and brace yourself for THE WORK it entails. The real people who know what the work this entails do not talk about it carelessly like a headless chicken. I find that in the company of serious web development enthusiasts, we actually discuss about all those other unglamorous things that produce the glamorous views you see on the computer. Any engineer or developer worth his salt will know better than to be a careless dilettante when it comes to things that other people work hard for.

For a world which has so many avenues for expressing one’s self with words, so many people just use words like “WANT TO LEARN” without backing it up with action. It’s really ironic. And annoying, when heard by people who actually DO the learning process. In fact, if you are actually learning, you will not even have the luxury of time of painting your nails while making such empty proclamations.

My unorthodox GIS background has taught me that what you see in the outside is but a mirage, smoke and mirrors of what’s really underneath. Despite my supposed privilege of rubbing elbows with a lot of smart people in my country, I find that the real smart people are truly hard to come by… You will not always find them in places that you will expect.

It’s really a marvel how packaging can fool people. Some are taught to think. Others are just taught to dress well so that others can perceive that there’s a functional brain underneath the garb.

I don’t know about other industries, but one clear benefit of being in an unorthodox GIS niche is that you somehow learn how to differentiate the real learners and doers from technical charlatan posers. Like layers of a nice geoportal, you learn to turn off the layers that do not matter and use the ones which have best use to you.

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