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Monday, October 19, 2015

GIS Education Brief: The Value of "Top x" Lists

Listicles and Top "x" Lists

BuzzFeed is know for its listicles.
via @spikedonline
Readers are likely familiar with the explosion of content on the Web in list form. There's even a term for articles that are just lists: listicles. And, of course there's always interest in what someone (or a publication) thinks are the top people, companies, events, etc. in any given category. Do these have any value in education?

Interestingly, the publications behind lists related to geospatial technologies both cite educational value, but in different way. One list is complete, and the other is coming later this year. Both lists are from publications I put in the category of "surveying."

Top 100 Geospatial Companies

Back in September POB (Point of Beginning) posted an article about a summer survey of geospatial companies. The article promoted purchasing the report from the survey ($750) and offered a link to the list the top 100 companies by revenue. There are a few other summary statistics, too.

I was one of the respondents; I responded on behalf of my tiny consulting firm. I did not make the top 100. For reference, the 100th firm on the list had $700,000 in geospatial revenue.

The list includes a number of companies of which I've not heard. That could be because they are more geared toward to surveying or it could be that I have a very limited idea of companies that "do" geospatial work. At least one company falls into the second category.

Consider Healthcare Realty of Nashville (#22). About 1% of its gross revenue comes from geospatial; that's $12M!
Healthcare Realty is a publicly-traded Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) that focuses on owning, managing, acquiring and developing outpatient medical facilities throughout the United States. As the first REIT to specialize in medical office buildings, the Company has built a well-regarded medical real estate portfolio affiliated with market-leading healthcare systems.
I'm guessing the company provides some geospatial services to its partners, but I can't really say for sure.

How is this list valuable in GIS/geospatial  education?

First, POB suggests on the purchase page for the report, its value related to education. I'm curious if in fact it will be used as suggest below. I wonder if educational institutions will find the data valuable as a competitive intelligence tool.
The POB Top 100 can be used for decision making in a number of ways. First, the report explores the education and license/certifications of geospatial professionals. Purchasers of the study can use the information to make well thought out decisions on what kind of continuing education strategies they need to use in order to stay competitive. It can also be used to determine which licenses/certifications are needed to stay competitive and which ones may give them an edge over others.
Second, the list itself (free) can provide an interesting research project for students. They might be assigned to research or guess how the company makes money from GIS (as I did above).

40 Geospatial Leaders under 40 

xyHt, a publication once known as Professional Surveyor, asked for input this summer to identify "the current young geo-leaders" "in the many disciplines we cover: surveying, geodesy, education, construction, location sensors, spatial IT, and more." Young here means under 40.

Nominations were due at the beginning of October and the publication will put out a special supplement with the results in December that includes profiles of the selected individuals. xyHt feels profiling these individuals will help inspire current students.
Let’s think about the kind of young leader who inspire today’s youth, giving them examples of the great things they can do in geospatial fields, by providing shining examples (closer to their age). Let them know they can make a difference even early in their careers. Who are the geospatial equivalents of the bold folks who shaped their world? The Elon Musks, the Jobs, the Gates—folks who made a difference long before their 40th birthday?
I want to suggest this list, though we do not know who is on it yet, might introduce faculty and students to people, ideas and companies of which they've not heard. Many GIS programs, for a variety of reasons, introduce just one or two software packages and the organizations behind them. I'm guessing few undergraduates had heard of Mapsense, the company recently acquired by Apple. I'm not sure how old its founder, Erez Cohen is, but he's the sort of person I hope might appear.

Lists in Education

Would you, as an educator, look at these lists? Use them in your teaching? How? Do you use any similar lists in teaching and learning? Or, are they just ways to lure more eyeballs to websites, prompt advertising and generate revenue via paid reports? Or perhaps both?