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SpatialTau - GIS Documentation

Hi,I’m James Fee. You’re getting this email because you signed up for SpatialTau, a weekly newsletter on spatial, workflows and technology. If you’d like to hop off at any time, simply scroll to the bottom of this message and unsubscribe. I appreciate you being here.

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The first “professional” GIS job I got was back in 1995 working for the City of Mesa. It was in their planning department and most of my work was creating small site maps for all the cell phone towers that were being put up by hundreds of companies. We had a copy of ArcView 2.1b, but the thing that really got me excited is that there was a Sun SPARCstation 20 workstation with ARC/INFO 6. This is where I taught myself how to do spatial analysis. Remember, ArcView 2.1b was basically a viewer, it could only do very basic functions (and even then in this weird Shapefile format), but ARC/INFO was everything. 
I used to save all the documentation for everything.  Now it is in Google.
I used to save all the documentation for everything. Now it is in Google.
The great thing about old ARC/INFO was that they had the best documentation. I mean, nothing I’ve ever seen since then has come close. Binders of the functions with real world examples. I kept those binders for years because IDENTITY never changed:
IDENTITY <in_cover> <identity_cover> <out_cover> {POLY | LINE | POINT} {fuzzy_tolerance} {JOIN | NOJOIN}
I’m sure this command is exactly the same in ArcGIS today if not ArcGIS Pro, except the input is no longer “cover”. But that is how one best teaches themselves. What made this documentation special was the content, not the binders. 
I was thinking today what examples of documentation really shine for learning and one really comes to mind. Notebooks. I really have been impressed with Jupyter Notebooks. I really love how it combines both analysis and text to help you better understand what the purpose of an action it. So many companies (including Esri) have embraced this style of analysis including AmazonGoogle and Microsoft. I’m continued to be impressed by Notebooks and what people are doing with them.
I think deep down, those who have a sciences degree just like documentation. Even if they aren’t sharing it with anyone, good docs just make whatever you’re doing better. At least that is how I roll.
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James Fee
James Fee @jamesmfee

Spatial, workflows and technology

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