SQLite for ArcGIS Pro FTW

I work in an Esri shop. My workflow includes periodic ingestion of MS Access and shapefile data. ArcGIS Pro doesn’t recognize Access. This has caused me to stick with ArcMap for one particular process. Esri’s suggested alternative to Access (“Use Excel”) has proven problematic for me to use with Pro for a variety of reasons.

Enter SQLite, which I wish I had tried sooner. Pro works with SQLite. Unlike Excel, SQLIte does not try to guess your fields’ data types (though it will if you ask). Access ⇒ CSV ⇒ SQLite ⇒ ArcGIS Pro is my new workflow. I haven’t opened ArcMap in a while.

Back in February 2019 I used Pro instead of Map for a full month, as a test. I went back to hybrid Map/Pro after that, until now. I may never open ArcMap again.

Ten Things You Need to Know About Starting a GIS Consulting Business: The Sequel

Ten years ago, at the invitation of Directions Magazine then-editor Adena Schutzberg, I wrote the article Ten Things You Need to Know About Starting a GIS Consulting Business. The article was published on May 31, 2012. To this day I receive email inquiries from all over the world with follow-up questions from young GIS professionals, eager to establish their own consulting business, asking for advice. I try to respond to every email, and it’s pretty much the same response, because the questions are pretty much the same. 

In January 2021 I sent the piece below to Directions with the suggestion to publish it as a follow-up to the article. I never got a response, so I am publishing it here.


Dear Curious:

First off, thank you for your inquiry. It amazes me that nine years after publication, my Directions Magazine article still generates interest and inquiries at the rate of about once per month. Isn’t the internet amazing?

On to your questions. These are tough times to be looking for a job, and even tougher to start a business. I should also caution you that whatever worked for me 15 years ago in the States may not necessarily work for you today in your country. Having said that, on to specifics.

The first thing to figure out is where the money is going to come from. It sounds kind of basic and obvious, but a lot of people overlook this most important aspect of starting a business. When I started my business I had already been working as a consultant for bigger companies for over 10 years. I had a professional network. This is important. 

You should ask yourself: “What would I be selling, to whom, and why would they buy it from me as opposed to from someone else?” If you have a niche skill and you have identified a niche market that is underserved, that is great. If you’re planning to offer general generic GIS services, that would be much harder. The market is already saturated in the US, and it’s probably the same in your country.

Another very important thing is that you must be a salesman. If you’re not a good salesman, or if you don’t have the resources to hire a good salesperson, things are going to be very hard.

Finally, on to your question about equipment, etc. That is the easiest part. Assuming you would be selling your skills and knowledge, you don’t need much in terms of equipment. When I started my business I already had a laptop which was good enough to get me going. I bought a license of ArcView which at the time cost me about $1,500. Today you could probably get away with QGIS which is free. I worked out of my living room for 6 months, then I found the tiniest, cheapest office downtown and moved there. This added cost for rent, telephone, internet, etc. Your situation will vary.

I can’t help you with any connections in your country, sorry.

Good luck! Please keep me posted. I wish you success.

A Tale of Two NFTs

“[…] it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness […]” –Charles Dickens, 1859

It was bound to happen, and so it did. After the release of the first shapefile NFT back in April, it was only a matter of time before a geopackage NFT also materialized. Its creator is Oliver Burdekin; the NFT is listed on Rarible for 1 ETH (same as the shapefile NFT).

Now it’s up to the discerning geogeek / digital art connoisseur to vote with their wallet. Which NFT will sell first? Exciting times!

The Ten Commandments of GIS

Voted by GIS users

  1. Thou shalt save often
  2. Zip before you ship the shapefiles
  3. Thine date format shall be YYYYMMDD
  4. Thou shalt not mingle thy units, feet and meters, together
  5. Thou shalt back up your files
  6. Use a unique ID column for joins
  7. Honour thy project and define projection tools
  8. Use Geopackage
  9. Thyself is thine own master if you use open source
  10. Postal codes are great … if you are mailing a letter

Two of my favorites — “Never open the XLS file with Excel” and “Thursdays are pantless” — did not make the top ten. Such is life.

This is a snapshot of the vote as of 20210716T154422Z. The poll is still open. You can see the other candidates and the live results after submitting the form. Submit a blank form if you just want to see the results.

My first NFT

I minted my first NFT. To the best of my knowledge this is the first-ever shapefile NFT. 

My shapefile NFT

The project began as an inside GIS joke, then expanded to the world of crypto and ‘art’. This NFT builds on the success of the original “I ❤ .SHP” series of products. I manually digitized a vector polygon shapefile over the original raster “I ❤ .SHP” PNG graphic (thus creating a shapefile about the shapefile), then derived a second shapefile (point) from the nodes and vertices of the polygon shapefile. Both shapefiles are overlaid and displayed in the PNG graphic shown here.

The NFT includes the two source shapefiles plus the two PNG graphics, with their provenance and ownership verified on the Rarible blockchain (ERC-20). Buy it here and own a piece of history.

UPDATE: For those who would rather NOT own the original, we have stickers.

UPDATE 2: And shirts!

The funniest geotweeps

A week ago I asked Twitter to nominate candidates for “The Funniest Geotweep”. Here are the results, ranked high-to-low. I will keep the poll open a while longer to allow for late nominations, and will update the results periodically.

Poll results as of 2021-02-03T23:59:59Z:

Look, Ma! I made a mobile geodatabase!

I did, indeed. Prompted by a tweet from the ever-vigilant Randy Hale, I fired up my just-updated ArcGIS Pro 2.7, created a new mobile geodatabase, and exported a feature class into it.

First impressions: It works. It’s nice. It is new in ArcGIS Pro 2.7, and only works in ArcGIS Pro 2.7. ArcMap 10.8.1 doesn’t see it. It has many advantages (compact, modern, high size and name limits) over other geodata formats such as shapefile and file geodatabase. It is very similar to the geopackage in that it uses the open-source SQLite database. It also looks like it’s Esri’s attempt to push users off ArcMap and onto Pro by recreating the personal geodatabase for the 2020s. 

If you are a member of a GIS team where everybody uses only ArcGIS Pro 2.7 (and whose data partners also only use ArcGIS Pro 2.7), the mobile geodatabase looks like an attractive proposition. In my own work experience however (1, 2), no GIS data-sharing partner has ever requested or delivered anything but the much-maligned shapefile. YMMV, and this will likely change going forward, but as of today this is my reality.

So where does that leave me? What should I do with the mobile geodatabase today? I will dive deeper and try to discover all the advantages (and eventual drawbacks) of the mobile geodatabase. I may eventually move my data out of file geodatabases and into mobile geodatabases (which will require an update to all my maps’ sources). And I will begin to offer mobile geodatabases to data-share partners. I think I know what they’ll say.

2020 for 2020

UPDATE 2020-11-14: Done.

2020 for 2020 2020-11-14

2020 for 2020 2020-11-14

2020 for 2020 Strava stats 2020-11-14

2020 for 2020 Strava stats 2020-11-14


UPDATE 2020-06-13: Yesterday I inched up ahead of the curve, meaning that I got 45.84% to my goal 44.81% into the year. NerdsЯUs, I know…

2020 for 2020 2020-06-12

2020 for 2020 2020-06-12


After having plateaued around 1,500 miles per year for each of the past five years, I aim to ride 2,020 miles in 2020. This is both a physical (I am not 17 anymore) and logistical (full-time job) challenge. A challenge I welcome and embrace, for it helps take my mind off all the craziness that surrounds us. Call it mental escapism.


So while the rest of the world worries about the coronavirus and politics and toilet paper shortage and Bitcoin crashing, I’ll be thinking about ride schedules and training schedules and bike tuning and nutrition and rest. I’ll be making charts and graphs. I’ll be listening to ABBA and Billie Eilish.

You should join me, even if only in spirit.

2020 for 2020 2020-03-14

2020 for 2020 2020-03-14