On iMapGeo, Geospatial Professionals Share Real-World Stories19 Dec, 2012 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin
New community portal from Trimble delivers first-hand accounts of people overcoming day-to-day challenges.
Earlier this year, Trimble launched iMapGeo, an online portal that showcases stories of geospatial tribulations and triumphs, shared by professionals around the world. In addition to user stories, the venture incorporates live iMapGeo World Tour events and contributor awards. Todd Taylor, senior marketing manager for Trimble’s GeoSpatial Division, was kind enough to provide his perspective.
Cadalyst: What is the primary goal of iMapGeo — to help geospatial users learn from each other, to engender a sense of community in the industry, to cast the technology in a more glamorous light, or something else?
Taylor: All of those suggestions have some role, but ultimately we simply want to make it easy for people to share and learn from the work that is happening across the geospatial industry. The industry is full of dynamic people who apply knowledge and technology to solve real-world problems. By encouraging participation from the larger geospatial community, we hope to collect a mosaic of insights, stories, and reports that highlight geospatial challenges and successes from across the globe.
Trimble launched the iMapGeo portal earlier this year, providing geospatial professionals with a new forum for sharing their experiences and learning from their peers.
IMapGeo offers partners and community members direct participation with minimal restriction. If you want to blog about a geospatial project or field experience, but don’t want to establish and promote your own blog platform, you have an opportunity to use the existing platform and audience on iMapGeo to achieve the same end. This is vastly different from the more formal abstract submission, academic publication, or professional editorial content development processes often associated with sharing one’s work. By focusing on stories of people solving problems, we show a fresh and human perspective. In this way, iMapGeo is not so much about profound breakthroughs, but more about the experiences that make working in this industry rewarding for the majority of us.
How do you define the audience for iMapGeo?
It is certainly intended for geospatial professionals, and most of the content relates to projects implementing Trimble solutions. However, we can accept stories that do not reference Trimble solutions whatsoever. We would not, however, directly accept content that promotes the products of companies that are not partners in the iMapGeo program. Simply put, that means we accept a wide range of stories, but not commercials.
The impact of the site on the general public knowledge is difficult to assess at this early stage. There are other projects — for example, "Geospatial Revolution" by Penn State Public Broadcasting — that specifically target this objective and do an excellent job of achieving it. In the longer term, iMapGeo may have some larger role to play in public awareness, but for now our focus is on the geospatial community.
In the four months since launch, we have had more than 4,000 unique visitors to iMapGeo.com. We’ve also experienced a 25% increase in our LinkedIn group members and a 40% increase in Twitter subscribers, and the World Tour attracted approximately 500 participants. These numbers are promising first signals; just like the geospatial industry itself, iMapGeo is growing, evolving, and picking up momentum.
The stories that have been shared so far address a variety of topics, ranging from classifying land cover to gathering imagery using a foam glider–mounted camera. Is there one that has special meaning to you?
There have been a number of interesting stories that have caught my attention. The contribution with the most shares across social channels was a simple story about a lady collecting geospatial attributes along 127 miles of county road together with her “four-legged, mobile data collection partner," Killer the dog. Another concerned a piece of equipment that was lost during a field mission and survived six months of exposure to the Canadian winter, only to be returned to operating service the following spring.
However, my personal favorite comes from a project in Borneo where remote sensing technology is being deployed to map biodiversity features including habitats, species distributions, and carbon stock in an effort to design a network of conservation corridors. For me, that story captures how the combination of geospatial professionals and technology can positively impact our world.
You held World Tour events in a dozen locations this year, ranging from Moscow to Melbourne to Rio de Janeiro. What do the events entail?
The program is designed so that we can learn from each other and better understand the challenges and successes in local communities. All of the events feature members of the local geospatial community sharing their projects, experiences, and insights. These presentations are an essential part of the event.
In terms of format, every event is a little bit different. For example, in Chicago and Kansas City we mixed seminar sessions with hands-on system demos. In Melbourne the session ran as a short-format breakfast session with several 20-minute "flash presentations." In Rome and Budapest, the events focused on one product and its specific applications. In China we held two completely different events: in Beijing we had more than 200 attendees, and in Tianjing we held a closed, invitation-only event.
You emphasize sharing via social media; what role does it have to play in the geospatial community?
The most obvious is as a bi-directional and discretionary communication channel between vendors, users, and other interested participants. Of course, channels such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn are heavily trafficked networks with the capacity to reach the majority of the geospatial community. Leveraging social web dynamics to enable quick and easy content embedding or sharing is a logical way to reach people. (To keep up with iMapGeo as it evolves, I’d suggest subscribing to @TrimbleGSpatial on Twitter or joining the "Trimble Geospatial" group on LinkedIn.)
Because participation is completely at the user’s discretion, you need to remain relevant and address topics of interest for the community. In this respect, social media is a noise filter for the community as well as an access mechanism and outreach tool.
Another important function is the socially augmented product experience. A good illustration of this is Trimble’s eCognition Community. Launched in 2008, the eCognition community is one of the industry’s largest, with nearly 7,000 members and more than 4,000 content entries, including wikis, discussions, code snippets, images, and more. It focuses primarily on knowledge sharing as a core value, functioning as a virtual resource for eCognition users that can be easily utilized in conjunction with eCognition software. As a vendor, this also allows us to engage with users virtually, generating product feedback, creating beta testing groups, and more.
About the Author: Cyrena Respini-Irwin
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