GIS Tech News (#35)

16 Apr, 2007 By: Kenneth Wong

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GIS Footnotes on Political Theater

Reexamining the Role of Metadata in the Wake of Google's Katrina Maps Controversy.

Shortly after Hurricane Katrina crashed into the Gulf Coast in August 2005, the do-no-evil search engine Google was doing a lot of good. Forbes wrote that Google was "coming to the rescue of victims of Hurricane Katrina," adding, "Ad hoc communities of Internet users are using mapping technologies from Google to track storm damage, analyze aerial photos and try to make sense of what little information is available” (“Google is Everywhere,” September 2, 2005). BBC News remarked, "Using maps and images provided through Google Maps and Google Earth, a number of hackers are building detailed models of the flood-damaged areas” (“Net Offers Map Help after the Flood,” September 2, 2005). Subsequently, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, an amalgam of defense and intelligence units, honored Google with the Hurricane Katrina Recognition Award "for their direct support during the Katrina disaster."

But a year and a half later, the same poster child of corporate altruism took a direct hit in a political firestorm. Representative Brad Miller (D-NC), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology's subcommittee, accused the previously lauded Google of "doing the victims of Hurricane Katrina a great injustice by airbrushing history." He was upset that Google had replaced the post-Katrina aerial maps with those predating the storm. The company quickly did damage control, restoring the most updated dataset that reflected the changes in the devastated region. John Hanke, director of Google Maps and Google Earth, explained that the revision to pre-Katrina maps was not an attempt "to rewrite history" but a decision motivated by the desire to provide "aerial photography of much higher resolution."

Google might have avoided the latest debacle if its free mapping applications clearly showed when the aerial images were acquired, distinguishing those showing the Gulf Coast without damages as the ones taken before the storm. But the absence of this critical metadata gave some people the impression that Google was presenting the images without storm damage as the most current status of the region. Public debate on this topic, now spreading from the mainstream media to the more specialized blogs, shines the spotlight once again on the gravity of metadata. Read more>>

CAD Clinic: Civil 3D -- Defining Label Styles,
Part 1

By Phillip Zimmerman

Last month we finished up a three-part series on translating data with Civil 3D. This month we're going to delve into defining label styles. No matter what type of label style you develop, it uses the same process and dialog boxes. The main dialog box for a label style is the Label Style Composer dialog box. The dialog box names the label style (Information tab), sets general label rules and layers (General tab) and defines text content for the label style (Layout tab) and the dragged state behavior of the label (Dragged State). Read more>>

Cadalyst's complete list of upcoming events is always available on our Web site. Cadalyst's sister publication, Geospatial Solutions, also offers a full calendar of GIS-related events.

2007 Topcon Positioning Systems Technology Roadshow
April 10-November 15, 2007
Various cities, USA and Canada
In this fifth year of educational seminars and hands-on demonstrations for surveying, GPS, GIS and machine control operations, representatives, in conjunction with Topcon dealers, will host regional seminars in more than 100 cities across the United States and Canada. Read more

Webinar: 3D Imaging, Positioning, and Tracking Technologies for Plant Construction, Retrofit and Maintenance
April 17, 2007
11:00 a.m. EDT
Sponsored by Fiatech and presented by Trimble Navigation, this Webinar will address the implementation of 3D imaging, positioning and tracking solutions in plant and facility construction, retrofitting and maintenance work processes. Read more

Web Seminar: Working with CAD Data in ArcGIS 9.2
April 26, 2007
9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., and 3:00 p.m. PDT
This free online seminar will teach the new methods and tools in ESRI ArcGIS 9.2 software for working with CAD data. The seminar’s presenters will introduce the new CAD dataset organization, rendering and expanded property support as well as the new tools for georeferencing CAD data. Read more


Hot Tip Harry: Tips from Our Readers
Many of this month's tips are related to layer control. Read more

Cadalyst April Print Content Now Live Online
A fresh batch of Cadalyst Labs reviews, CAD Central news, Cadalyst exclusive columns and much more is ready to view on

Cadalyst's Exclusive AutoCAD Tutorials for April Now Live Online
The latest editions of all your favorite AutoCAD tutorials, including Steve Johnson's "Bug Watch," Lynn Allen's "Circles and Lines" and Bill Fane's "Learning Curve" are now available on

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Cadalyst's sister publication, Geospatial Solutions, offers a Web site packed with features, news, events and other information for users of geospatial technologies. Check out this latest news from