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Monday, November 23, 2015

How to Prevent the Geospatial Oops

There is room for improvement in how we in the geospatial world present ourselves online. Here are some unfortunate errors I saw during Geography Awareness Week. I want to share how they might have come to be, and perhaps more importantly, how we might prevent such errors in the future.

Press Release

This is part of a call for papers for a 2016 conference.
... the annual meeting ... covers Lidar, Remote Sensing, Professional Practice, Photogrammetry, Unmanned-Autonomous Systems (UAS), Graphical Information Systems (GIS), geospatial analytics, and emerging themes, e.g. pervasive sensors, geospatial big data, and the internet of things, among others.
My guess is the organization had a copyeditor look over the release. I'm gong to suggest the copyeditor is not too familiar with the industry and Googled GIS to find its meaning. Graphical Information System was likely a top result and sounded like it fit with the other topics. I know it's a rarity and a privilege to have a copyeditor who specializes in the geospatial industry. If you don't have one consider sharing this list of common errors with whoever serves in that role.

Company Coverage

A GIS publication wrote about a company's work. Here's a sentence from the article:
The command center can be completely offline and disconnected,celery thing is hosted inside the trailer.
My guess is that "autocorrect" (or one of its friends) stuck in the "celery." The intended sentence probably was:
The command center can be completely offline and disconnected, everything is hosted inside the trailer.
I'm guessing that in the name of expediency someone decided to skip the copyediting, review, and/or format checking step(s). That happens.

But, there's more. The article appeared online and soon after the author, as well as the company profiled, tweeted the link to their followers. I would suspect that neither of the tweeters did a full read first. If they did, they'd have fixed the error or requested a fix. I encourage organizations that are excited about press coverage to read the text thoroughly before sharing it. If you find an error like the one above, share it with the publication/site/author. Most publishers are happy to correct typos, formatting glitches and errors of fact.

Bad Map

A map from U.S. presidential candidate Ben Carson's campaign misrepresented some of the states in the northeast. Many outlets and bloggers pointed out the error, made jokes and otherwise highlighted the map during Geography Awareness Week.

There are two measures that might prevent these sorts of errors. First off, I think the individuals who made the map may have used the wrong level of data (county rather than state boundaries) and perhaps mixed two different packages (GIS and graphics) to create the end product. In short, I don't think they knew how to make a choropleth map! Some basic training or even a MOOC like Maps and the Geospatial Solution would be a great jump start for those involved in communication in general and in political communications in particular. The second preventative measure is, again, a copyeditor or graphics editor. The ideal editor may be hard to find at the last minute, but any "fresh eyes" can be pressed into service to hopefully prevent embarrassment.