The turbulent journey of getting data onto maps

Alex Wilson - data officer, here again with more chat about the data side of Communities up Close 

This time I will leave my spreadsheets to one side and move on to maps.

So you want to put different kinds of data onto a map, but your colleagues can’t help with where to start? This is how I tackled that challenge.

I’d used Esri ArcMap - mapping and analytics software - previously, but it had always been already set up with data on it ready to look at and navigate around. So when I was tasked with getting our data for Communities Up Close onto a map it was something that needed to be learnt and quickly. We needed to be able to visualise the data on maps and spot any trends which wouldn’t stand out as well when buried in hundreds or thousands of lines of data in a spreadsheet.

My first port of call was some web based training from Esri called Gis247  This was an online training resource which our council had paid for. Gis24 has some video tutorials to follow and various modules to work through. I didn’t really get on with this training, it was OK for the very basics but I was already familiar with these bits and it was difficult to find the tutorials on the things I needed to know. It may work for others but for me it wasn’t that useful.

Via searching online I stumbled upon a course on LinkedIn Learning [ArcGIS Essentials] which suited my needs perfectly. I signed up for the 1 month free trial and got started. The course was called ’Learning ArcGIS‘ and consisted of over 3 hours of tutorial videos accompanied by exercise files used in the tutorials, so I could follow the videos and practice the tasks myself. This course taught me all I needed to know and I was able to refer back to the various different tutorials and apply them to my own work. When the trial ended I had completed the course [and got a certificate!]. I would definitely recommend this approach to anyone at beginner level.

I also referred to the ArcGIS website which has a lot of guides, but no videos, and general ‘Googling‘ of solutions to solve the problems I was coming across.

With the use of these learning resources I was up and running getting our data on to maps within a couple of months of starting. The software itself does look a bit dated and can be quite slow, I would recommend anyone considering using it to:

  • Check your computer is up to the task [my work laptop has 16gb RAM and i7 processor and generally copes well with ArcMap and massive spreadsheets]. A fast and reliable broadband connection and a large monitor will also make your life much easier.
  • Have a good level of computer literacy before starting. It is not easy software to get to grips with.
  • Learn how to use some basic SQL code for some tasks such as adding labels, which is surprisingly quite complex.
  • Be patient and not in a big rush, it takes lots of attempts to get to what you really want. I think I let out a little cheer when I got my first dots on maps!
  • As with anything in life, if you can’t work out how to do it, Google it and let someone else show you.


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Page last updated: 28/08/2020 07:16:16

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