ABS Consulting Group, Inc.: Home | Blog | Resume | Speaking | Publications

Thursday, December 17, 2020

GIS Edu Weekly: Mapbox license change is a teachable moment

Mapbox Changes it Software License
Mapbox powers AccuWeather maps

I saw this news last week but did not understand it, so I decided to wait until I did to write about it. Thankfully, Paul Ramsey explained what's going on in a reply to Joe Morrison's post on the topic. In short, going forward Mapbox is changing its licensing of Mapbox gl-js such that at version 2.0 it's no longer open source. "Updates to the v1 releases [with the BSD license] will be made only for critical browser compatibility or security issues for a limited time" per a Mapbox blog post

From 2.0 onward, the license is this one detailed on GitHub, that includes fees when an application passes a threshold (which is further detailed in the Mapbox blog post). That's akin to what Google Maps does; the service is free to a point, then you pay. Mapbox was among the companies who tried to "woo" disenchanted Google Maps users to Mapbox after its 2011 price change.

Morrison suggests Mapbox was open-core and no longer is. Ramsey argues it never was open-core. So what is open-core? My understanding is that a company provides an open source project under an open license, but also offers a product/service based on it under a proprietary license. (There's a deep dive here.)  

Sarah Gooding notes comments from Tom MacWright who wrote the original open source policy for Mapbox. He argues that since there was really no community outside of Mapbox working on Mapbox gl-js, an open source model was not really sustainable.

How are other mapping companies who have used Mapbox GL JS responding?

  • This thread on GitHub has a number of responses and an FAQ.
  • CARTO states in a blog post: "In the short term we are going to support one of the key initiatives to maintain a fork for Mapbox GL JS v1.13, like other companies will be doing, to ensure there is continuation of support for current CARTO basemaps used in deck.gl and existing applications. Check out this example."
  • Caliper, the company behind Maptitude and TransCAD, published a press release (the only "coverage" I found on the traditional GIS websites) about the license change. The final paragraph stated that the company would continue to maintain a version of the library. "For those looking to access an actively maintained version of the Mapbox platform, for sharing, visualizing, and analyzing maps, then the Maptitude platform is an attractive commercial option." I contacted Caliper for more information. Stewart Berry responded: "There are a couple attempted V1 forks right now and our goal is to wait for them to consolidate, to see which one will survive in the long run." 

Bootcamp GIS "Launches"

Bootcamp GIS, a teaching and learning platform from founder Andres Abeyta, has been online for a few years. I noted it in August 2019 when it was hosted on a platform called Teachable. I reached out to the contact address then and did not hear back.

This week I saw the first press release announcing Bootcamp GIS. I again reached out to both the e-mail addresses on the site with questions, but again, I did not hear back before press time. This is my take on the offering based only on the website site.

Unlike GIS certificates offered through university departments or their online programs, the Bootcamp GIS certificate courses are offered by experienced GIS professionals who may or may not be associated with academic institutions. To get an  Enterprise GIS Professional Certificate from SDSU, a student must complete any six courses, in any order, at the highest payment option, $997 each (more on that later). 

There are currently 17 courses listed, but I found only six currently available for enrollment. The rest offer a waiting list, along with a 10% discount, which I imagine is applied when someone on the waiting list actually enrolls. I found no requirements (bachelor's degree, experience, GRE) so it appears anyone at any experience level can take the courses or pursue the certificate.

The courses are all pre-recorded and include exercises. The instructors have lots of industry experience and the press release and website highlight that the exercises are "realistic" if not actually "real." Students can take any course at one of three levels:

  • Knowledge builder (KB) - independent learning, $397 each
  • Professional builder (PB) - KB + live instructor access, $697 each
  • Certificate builder (CB) -  PB + access to CEUs/a certificate once you complete six, $997 each 

The courses do not have names that would be expected in a college catalog. One is titled "Apply geospatial web tools to large scale forest planning" but the webpage describing it refers to: "A New Paradigm in Forest Planning." Another is "Design a Field Data Collection Workflow: Smartphone to GIS Dashboard." These sounds more like short courses or task specific tutorials akin to those my team, Esri's Learn ArcGIS team, writes. The software referenced includes QGIS, ArcGIS and FME. 

Disclosure: Two of my current/former colleagues from Esri's education team are on the Bootcamp GIS advisory board.


Tennessee: With Help from Student Emergency Fund, Graduate Thrives As Educator - David Leventhal took a winding path, through history and GIS, to his position as a social studies teacher. "Leventhal would like to start a geography club at his school and potentially a GIS club. He wants the subject matter to be relevant to his students. 

AAG Press Release: Three Geographers Honored for Diversity and Inclusion - "...AAG Diversity and Inclusion Awards... honor geographers who have pioneered or actively participated in efforts to encourage a more diverse discipline over the course of several years." "This year, the Diversity and Inclusion Awards were awarded to Raynah Kamau and Whitney Kotlewski, creators of Black Girls M.A.P.P. and the People for the People (P4TP) initiative, and Dr. Jovan Lewis, an economic geographer who is assistant professor in both the Department of African American Studies and the Department of Geography at the University of California Berkeley."

WAGM: UMPI Professor Creates COVID-19 Maps  - "Dr. Chunzeng Wang is a Professor of Earth and Environmental Studies at the [University of Maine at Presque Isle] university. Each day Wang creates a map of the state, helping to keep track of case counts and so much more." The maps first appeared via Facebook back in April. 

Clermont Sun : Batavia native Lauren Pride wins People’s Choice Award for high-tech map making - "Two Cedarville University students earned the People’s Choice Award for their global [sic] information system map showing Ohio wild animal-vehicle collision sites and hotspots."

RIT: RIT imaging scientist receives funding to improve how LiDAR can be used to study forests -  "Professor Jan van Aardt from the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science received a $194,000 award from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and a $197,000 award from NASA for two different but interrelated remote-sensing projects."

California Trout: Field Note: Making Maps Using GIS - Project Assistant Raine LeBlanc describes the path to becoming their organization's GIS person.

CU Denver: Weed-Chomping Goats in Lab Coats? Weaver’s Ruminants Assist in Urban Farm Research -  Amanda Weaver, PhD, a senior instructor in CU Denver’s Department of Geography & Environmental Sciences changed directions and became a farmer as well.

Resources for Teaching and Learning

NBC News: Map: How far are you from where a Covid vaccine is expected to be administered? - I wonder how many people would guess correctly without this map.

Skyscanner: Travel Restrictions - Data is from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for the travel restrictions and from Johns Hopkins University coronavirus data for case rates. The map tech? Mapbox. WaPo wrote about the map, which is still in beta, earlier this week.

Hopkins: Johns Hopkins adds county-level hospital, ICU occupancy data to national COVID-19 tracker map - "The data is sourced from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and adds to the scope of data visualization options the JHU Coronavirus Resource Center provides."

NPR: Why Do So Many Places In Texas Have 'Negro' In Their Name, Despite A Law Against It? - The short answer: U.S. Board on Geographic Names halted planned name changes.

Navigating Our World

Twitter Thread: Kathleen Lu had a bad experience on an OpenStreetMap listserve and provides a valuable perspective for both those who create challenging environments and those who are victimized there. Via @kathleenthelaw.


Esri: Mount Everest grew? Exploring with your class why Everest got taller - This StoryMap from my colleague Kylie Donia takes the current news and uses it to explore measurement. Via @kylie_donia.

ArcGIS Blog: What’s New with Census ACS Living Atlas layers (Fall 2020) - As of Dec 11, you can find the newest 2015-2019 5–year estimates.

Happy Holidays!

I'm going to take the next two weeks off. Look for the first issue of GIS Edu weekly for the new year on Thursday, January 7, 2021.