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Date: 12/19/2017

Presenters: Shane Wright (Office of Enterprise Information / EGIS), Roland Viger (Water Mission Area/Branch of Geo-Intelligence)

Video of call

The video is accessible if you are logged in to myUSGS, please email if you have trouble accessing the video.

General Notes 

  1. Shane: Background for the call: There was an announcement previously about decreasing support of eGIS, but we’d like to explain what this means more. It doesn’t mean that eGIS will be defunded or abandoned.

  2. Looking to start a Community of Practice approach as opposed to the formal help tickets.

  3. Current support structure can be seen here. No changes currently.

    1. GIS Talk

    2. GS Help GIS

    3. Esri authorized caller access

  4. Do we want support to change in any way?

  5. OEI Funded Activities also seen here.

  6. Roland: do we want to change the way we’re supporting GIS at USGS? Or the way our community communicates and collaborates?

    1. Have been hearing about ArcGIS pro - new to us, how do we need to support this? Do something more concentrated as an agency for this?

    2. Cloud computing - How one does GIS in it? - some folks on the call on Cloud hosting - getting the GIS community talking to them more regularly would be a good thing

    3. Open Source: not in scope of our corp computer model, but still a very valuable tool - will have some questions about this later - or add them to

    4. Big logistical thing: don’t want to throw away what we have, but in terms of support - what way are we going to go?

      1. Stack overflow - not a lot of energy in it right now,

      2. Esri forums

        1. Not all of our questions are private or just USGS related and this would allow us to get outside help/perspectives on issues we encounter.

      1. What does the USGS want/need?

7. USGS GIS Workshop very valuable, even if we’re not allowed to go to. Do we want to make a case about classifying/positioning this as “mission operational” or “critical” status?

8. Responses to "Other" for the Poll on What technical support mechanisms do you like to use or think we should investigate using: (other)

  • Type the question in to Google and see the response.  Usually ends up in StackExchange or ESRI forums.

  • Add USGS support to USGS-asked questions on StackOverflow/ StackExchange! Might look like adding a Q to Stack*, and then emailing the support team a link to the Q for answer? This would have been a nice format for the recent Q that came to the GIS_help email list that was titled seeking GIS analysis advise for spring plant emergence survey data analysis”. The good advice folks gave would be searchable in the future by others with similar problems v. lost into the wilds of email archives.

  • Google


  • How many folks use gdal directly vs. through another platform (like ArcMap or QGIS)?

    • Great higher-level ways to access in a script (e.g. Geopandas in Python, raster package in R. Don’t neccesarily need do get all the way down to using Gdal directly for open-source).

  • What is the cost of us using what we are most familiar with individually vs. all going towards one thing?

  • Support -

    • Training would be a component of support

      • +1 for any trainings in using R/ Python for repeatable, open science

    • Are people talking about email/call for support?

      • Rich Signell - One response: so many different models and ways of doing things - stack overflow - are there people outside of the USGS able to help - some of the questions will just be USGS related and this won’t be relevant

      • Combine our efforts where we need to - might be commercial software, might be open source and making sure they get out there

        • Ex: command line Unix tools - part of ArcGIS install package - has really paid off, and helped them stay on the same page

      • So- don’t lose track of support for what we own and use -

        • People shouldn’t have to start over from scratch

  • Enterprise thinking - For example, if qgis seems to be a way we are going, how do we justify allocation of resources there (what’s our business model?)

    • Who is paying for support, overhead?

    • Does this need more serious computing resources? Might need people who are more experienced in that area (cloud/HPC/HTC/etc) collaborating with GIS architects to help come up with a plan or prototype

    • does this need to be funded at a higher level?

    • Do we need to start talking to management folks about this if this is the way we want to go?

ELA/enterprise questions (follow up responses in blue, we were not able to address on the call)

    • Don’t have specific numbers on users (who is a user, ie does an internal user of NWIS Mapper in a browser count at all?)

      • We do have better data now on Esri usage, after the OEI data call in November, roughly 33% of the USGS population is an esri user.

    • Traditional OEI has paid ~75% of the USGS portion of the DOI Esri ELA.

      • Other 25% disbursed among top level of mission areas

      • Movement from the mission area to push those costs down to the Science Center level and ultimately user levels - this is ongoing

    • One option is that an FTE takes on support tasks, this does not seem to be supported by management at this point.

      • but would rather see it funded at a higher level, but higher ups want to see that pushed down to the lower level

      • Will likely see some costs at the user level at some point, but not sure how much yet.

        • This has been my opinion and recommendation to The BLT (business leadership team). However is had not been well received. It is their opinion that the cost should be pushed to the cost center level.

    • ESRI is a huge range of things, not just one product -

    • Open source

      • USGS is becoming more supportive, as is DOI

        • DOI forming a GAC subteam to craft policy and explore open source solutions. USGS will have representation.

      • It’s being looked at as an option

      • Do we need to hear from these folks at higher USGS levels? DOI levels?

    • R

      • How much education/thinking we might want around this tool suite in USGS? How much effort to expend adding it to standard skill set for USGS GISer?

    • Development team for open source GIS

      • Many versions, dependencies

      • Seems we should centralize building a viable, easy-to-use, secure stack?

Poll Results

  1. What open-source GIS-related tools do you use (check all that apply)?
68 responses
Python (w/out arcpy)50%

2. What technical support mechanisms do you like to use or think we should investigate using (check top 2)?66 responses
GIS Help GIS from EGIS71%
ESRI forums59%, stackoverflow.com44%
r-sig-geo (for R)5%
none (I already know everything)0%

3. What are the most important needs of the GIS community over the next 5 years? For example, training, services, data at the enterprise level (multiple answers allowed) Questions and Responses (follow up responses in blue, we were not able to address on the call)

  • What is the level of interest in having a USGS GIS Workshop again?

    • Jennifer Rapp - might be really useful to have it

      • Level of interest from the community is high. This is worth exploring more.

    • How important is the USGS GIS vs Esri (UC FedUC) vs CDI mtg

      • Coordinating across science centers all the GIS people - connecting all the users/practitioners better (+1!)

    • No substitute for meeting face to face - start speaking to management, bottom up approach for this kind of activity.

    • Someone suggested a DOI wide conference, good idea, it has been talked about for years, but never has materialized.

      • Shane will bring this up with the DOI team, it might be easier to get momentum if this is a DOI wide effort.

  • Any plans for USGS to have a stronger presence (such as conference meetings, sessions, etc.) at the ESRI Federal User Conference?

    • (Shane Wright) Great idea, no current plans on an organizational level! The Esri international UC has become somewhat difficult to attend due to spending limits and passes available, we’ll see how that shakes out this year. The Federal UC is much easier to get approval, no cost for federal employees, fewer travelers, etc. Maybe a good start, tack on a day or evening for USGS users to get together?

  • eGis python Library support and upgrades going forward?

    • (Shane Wright) Good question, with Curtis retiring, we will need help from the community to carry this type of activity forward. Any volunteers??

  • GIS Talk, GS Help will remain key for our USGS applications and data.

    • (Shane Wright) Not going anywhere for now, currently the best option for reaching the most in the community.

  • Is there interest in enterprise level on-premises 'Portal for ArcGIS'?

    • (Shane Wright) Any interest out there? If so, maybe a team can be assembled and set up a prototype, we have all the technology available, so it would be a matter of developing a site.

  • How about EGIS support in getting PR accounts back for GIS folks?

    • (Shane Wright) I’m not sure this is an EGIS issue, I am willing to make an argument to local sa’s or anyone else willing to listen.

  • What's the likelihood that we'll start getting charged for AGOL/ArcGIS Pro credits?

    • (Shane Wright) My guess (and hope) is a contract would be negotiated to avoid this, we should have a better idea in the coming months on the cost model.

  • Regular WebX of GIS technologies in use would be helpful for our community.

    • (Shane Wright) Yes, with EGIS staff declining the Brown Bag series has slipped off of the radar, hope to revitalize this in the new year.

  • Should all projects pay for other's support through increased overhead, when a project is using open support structures?

    • (Shane Wright) Perhaps this question should be brought up to the local science center if costs are pushed down. I’m not sure at the enterprise level it would make much of a difference, but we’ll see what the future holds.

    • (Shane Wright) Despite some misconception, the cost of our Esri suite is relatively low per user, and we haven’t seen a price increase in 15 years, in fact the cost has decreased over the last five years. When you consider the increase in technology/support/training etc, we really do get great value.

  • Proverbial Elephant: how do we balance the power & use of ESRI |VS| open source solutions?

    • See open source bullet above

  • The licensing is going to remain a USGS/DOI negotiated agreement with ESRI?

    • (Shane Wright) There are talks ongoing….

From WebEx: (having trouble transferring to slido)

  • Anthony Fischbach
    It is not clear why we support attendance to the ESRI vendor conference, but are not supporting a similar attendance to other vendors or open groups who offer similar geospatial data handling (QGIS, FOSS4G, GEOSTAT).

    • Any data on how many folks go to these other conferences?

      • There has been no special support except providing help coordinating a large group, and coordinating passes.

        Anthony Fischbach
        No such effort is made for FOSS4G conferences. It results in substantial travel and the benefits are unclear to those who do not participate, yet we are all paying for those passed through our contract.

        Curtis Price
        There is nothing preventing coordination of other conferences. I hadn't seen any of these conferences in USGS conf database, perhaps the EGIS group could promote this so it would happen. I hope you can participate!

        Roland Viger
        don't we get ESRI conference passes as part of our ELA? or is this just some "freebie" that isn't really a cost?

        Shane Wright
        As Curtis mentioned there is nothing stopping support for open source conferences and workshops. Included in our Esri ELA, USGS is entitled to 34 passes, however there are other forces that limit attendance, for example both USGS and DOI spending limits. There is no “enterprise” level support, ie travel costs etc. for conference attendance, all costs are incurred at the science center level, those dollars are used at the discretion of the users and could be used elsewhere. It has actually become quite difficult to get to the Esri User Conference in recent years, so it would make sense to look at other alternatives. For example last year USGS sent less than 10 travelers (can’t remember exact number off of the top of my head) to the conference.

  • Comment 2: As long as our work is compliant with gdal, we are all under one umbrella of interchangeable file formats, consistent with executive orders.

    • Esri uses GDAL and supports many open formats. Vector file geodatabase is a published format and that's why it's accessible from most systems (including R-spatial gdal etc)

      Anthony Fischbach

      Although this is true, the format of the ESRI file geodatabases has varied from version to version, and gdal has had at most read access to some of the versions. This has resulted in some federal agencies publishing data in formats that are only readable through an ESRI license (e.g.
      I do understand that there are great conveniences in having data structured in the filegeodatabase, however, I wonder if there are alternatives that would be compliant with the spirit of open government.

      Curtis Price
      What is your point? Under current policy publishing only in fgdb would not pass my review. There many compliant file (and web service) formats and we should use them when publishing data. It matters not what software we are using.

      Anthony Fischbach
      I am with you there. I am simply offering a situation whereby data was published (by a different agency) in a format that locked users into use of software by a single vendor. As long as we offer our data in openly described and readable formats, we are living the dream.

  • Can we comply with the executive order indicating "To promote continued job growth, Government efficiency, and the social good that can be gained from opening Government data to the public, the default state of new and modernized Government information resources shall be open and machine readable."?

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