Wisconsin Geospatial News

A message from your (former) editor

Yes, it’s true, although I may not quite believe it myself until it really happens. I’m hanging up my spurs as editor of this newsletter after 16 years. It’s been quite a ride but it’s not the end of the trail completely. Although I am leaving the SCO at the end of April for retirement, I probably won’t be forsaking the community of geospatial data and mapping permanently.

Having been trained first in environmental science and then turning to cartography/GIS twenty years ago, I didn’t envision myself settling into a role as a newsletter editor and writer in general. Now having done exactly that, the experience has only enhanced my awe of people who function daily as journalists. Those folks crank out understandable stories quickly, one after the other. It’s all in a day’s work, I suppose they would say.

For those of us less gifted or skilled at writing, it’s not only harder than it seems it should be, but I for one am never sure how good my results are. Yet perhaps all writers fret likewise. I do appreciate the positive feedback I’ve received over these years. I have never doubted that this newsletter serves an important function.

Of course, there is no perfect phrase, sentence, paragraph, et al. This is parallel to cartography, where there is no perfect or correct map.

Continuing evolution

My first issue editing the Wisconsin Mapping Bulletin in the spring of 1988 coincided with the SCO’s adoption of desktop publishing. We employed that method, through a series of minor internal changes, for over fifteen years. Now we have negotiated another major shift in medium: using the Web as a publishing vehicle.

Content has evolved, too. Early on we had a mix of information gleaned from press releases and stories we wrote ourselves. We had to mine many published lists of upcoming conferences to construct a calendar of events.

A few years later we added a topical area (“department” in publishing lingo) for a Guest Opinion which morphed into a Guest Interview. About the same time we added a column for the state cartographer’s views, sort of a soapbox to bring important issues to the fore. And once we could post information on upcoming events on a web site, the need to list these in detail in the newsletter lessened.

The wonders of the web

The Internet, now just over ten years old, has changed the way many of us do our work. As a vehicle for issuing information its speed is unparalleled. And while in the early years it was a clumsy process to change the content of web pages, now with databases doing the heavy lifting behind the scenes we can add or update quickly and without having to know web page language.

Because the SCO already had a large web site (including brief news stories) when we shifted this newsletter from a printed publication to web presentation, some lines have become blurred. A news brief may link to a newsletter story or vice versa. Either may link to a relatively more permanent part of the web site. Any of those may link to information elsewhere on the web. If anything this trend toward interconnectedness will only accelerate.

Next moves for me

As I’ve described to a number of people over the last few months, I have a long list of family-related projects to take care of over the next few years. However, I also have some ideas related to visualization from the environmental/landscape perspective that I’d like to experiment with. If something results from that, there likely would be some writing involved, and by then I would be ready to tackle some more working with words.

Now I will resume the role of reader of the Wisconsin Mapping Bulletin, as I was prior to 1988. And I will check the SCO web site regularly to see what brief news stories have been posted between issues. It’s where the news is!