I have been tinkering with GeoCommons Finder and Maker of late. Finder is a data repository where users upload spatial data (either csv, shapefile or kml) and others can easily view and download the same data. If a user desires to map the data they can use Maker to create single variate or multivariate maps.
In the past when I have wanted to visualize data on the fly I either had to load up my GIS and create a base map, import the data and then make it pretty. This process (especially if a base map was not present) could take quite a bit of time. Google Maps was available to map small datasets. If I took the time I could create a mashup and put it on a hosted site. However, this can take a little bit of time, especially when I did not had a website to use for hosting.
Geocommons allows neophyte and experienced users a location to find data, or upload data and then quickly create a pleasing cartographic map. Of course if the data is not available you will have to create or find the data. Once found the data will probably need to be cleaned; it seems most datasets need a little cleaning. Obviously if you are upload a shapefile or KML the data has spatial element, however if you are uploading a csv file (such as a list of businesses) you will have to geocode the list to obtain the latitude and longitude of each location. Finder has some great tutorials on their site that show users how to use services such as Batch Geocoder to find the geographic locations of your data.
For my project I uploaded and mapped out the US Government’s fiscal year 2009 per diem rates. The per diem rates show how much the government will pay its employees for lodging and meals while they are traveling the country on business. For those locations that do not have any data the rate is $70 for lodging and $39 for meals and incidental, per day.
When I first started out working in a GIS environment I had a very simplistic filing schema.
Subject Folder –> Date and Description Folder –> Files
However, after a few years this has grown into a giant mess. The top layer of subject folders has been modified multiple times to allow for more subjects. Because many of the projects I have worked could belong to multiple subjects hyper-links have been created to point from possible subject areas to the project folder. The resulting mess is not very pretty to look at and it is very difficult for anyone to find anything.
Without doing a complete reorganization of the files I have augmented the file structure by using a tagging tool, Tag2Find. This has really worked great because it tags the files using NTFS’s ability to store data in the alternate data stream. This allows me to rename and move the files without losing the tags. However, if a file is moved to a non NTFS file system the tags are lost. The tags can be exported as a XML file so it really would not be that much trouble to transfer the tags to the new location, but still a hassle. Also the program does not work with shared folders, you have to remote into the source machine to view and update the tags.
The current machine that I keep my GIS projects on will be moving to a more restrictive environment in the near future. When that happens, Tag2Find will have to be uninstalled, because of future licensing issues, and other IT related concerns.
I have been trying to find a new schema and a way to track the files. The Tagg tool came to mind but alas, the same concerns are present with this software. I am planning to create a simple MS Access database that will store the location of the files, the tags created with Tag2Find and any future tagging information. I wish there was a way to store location information in the way of bounding coordinates, but I am unfamiliar with how to do this with PDF, JPGs and other non-GIS files. After reading through quite a few forums on how to organize business files I am leaning towards the following structure:
Year Folder –> Subject Folder –> Client Folder –> UID_Description Folder –> Files
The UID (unique identification number) will be created by the Access database. The user will have to create the project in Access and then create it on the computer and then go back later to add any tags. I think the hardest part will be to enforce the new schema and make sure the Access database is updated to reflect any new projects. I will also be locked into the name of the files and their location, unless I update all that information in the database as well. Also I doubt I will be updating the database with every file created just the finished projects and any new data created.
Whatever decision is reached I need to do something before anybody else inherits my tangled mess.