Exploring Local
Mike Dobson of TeleMapics on Local Search and All Things Geospatial


October 6th, 2008 by MDob

Sorry I’ve been away so long, but I was wrapping up a couple of client reports, which were followed by a bad case of the flu. I’m just starting to climb back in the saddle. Since I was feeling so lousy, I managed to do quite a bit of reading during my “down time” and I wanted to share something with you that caused me to both laugh and grimace.

One of the authors whose works I read from time to time (especially when I’m not interested enough to really pay attention) is Vince Flynn and his Mitch Rapp series of spy thrillers. Mitch is, of course, devilishly handsome, brutal, efficient at mayhem and lacking a conscience – perhaps that is the formula for “bad ass counter-terrorists” with a winning record. Well, at least in fiction.

As might be suspected, Mitch is based in the Washington D.C. area and is employed by the CIA. Given his background, you might think that Mitch would have some familiarity with maps, map-like-objects, and spatial data, particularly the kinds of things you might see in tactical operations. But then again, maybe not – or at least not familiar with where the spatial things actually come from. The following is from Vince Flynn’s current paperback bestseller “Protect and Defend”.

Right there at the start of Chapter 11 (page 71), Rapp is thinking about the billions of dollars that Capitol Hill has thrown at the “War on Terrorism” for analytics but not for operations. In setting the scene, the author rambles through this passage

New agencies were created like Homeland Security, the National Counterterrorism Center, and the Terrorist Threat Intervention Center. Agencies that Rapp didn’t even know existed like the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency were elevated in importance and brought into the big tent of counterterrorism. Rapp still wasn’t exactly sure what the Geospatial gang did, but he did know they had a shiny new headquarters and a budget big enough to embarrass a lobbyist. Add to this satellite office in major cities all over the world, the ever-burgeoning counterterrorism operations at Defense, Justice and State and you were left with an unwieldy bureaucracy that was about as agile as a ballistic missile submarine in the Potomac River.

Apparently, Geospatial remains an unknown quantity to the world in general. Conversely, consider that few people can explicate the acronym GPS, but almost everyone can tell you why it is so cool.

I guess the work of geographers is never done and so, I approach the need to help broaden the understanding of all things geospatial bearing in mind the words of J.R.R. Tolkien from the Hobbit (Bilbo must have been thinking about the problems of publicizing geospatial):

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the road has gone,
And I must follow if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errand meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

Next time I will comment on the recent, interesting investment by Nokia and Navteq. Soon after that, I will start a new series active and passive UGC, map compilation and how it may re-level the table for map database providers and navigation service providers.

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Posted in Data Sources, Geospatial, Mapping, Navteq, Nokia

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