Using Web Tools to Map the Members

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RossEvans
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Plan C

#91

Post by RossEvans »

After almost a week I still have received no reply from Tele Atlas, reinforcing my impression that big players such as this vendor are really not interested in seeking business from individuals or small non-profit organizaitons, even it their published pricing models are not unattractive on a small scale. There are other commercial geocoding vendors and resellers out there, and this route may yet be feasible.

However, in the meantime I have found a more attractive solution to the parochial case of geocoding my own ward's data. It turns out that the excellent public-domain data available from my city does include high-precision, parcel-level geocoded records -- both point coordinates and parcel polygons -- for almost every address for free. If I can match our ward's addresses against these files, I should be able to geocode almost every address in our ward at a level of precision that would equal or exceed whatever services I could buy -- and certainly would be better than what can be done for free online. And our use of the data would not be constrained by any company's self-serving TOS document.

I still would not have an easy way to process the city's data, which is disseminated in shapefile format, if I did not own GIS software to read and manipuate these files. Happily, I do have such software. And because I still don't have a fuzzy address parser, and don't plan to write one, this method depends even more on standardizing the addresses so they can be matched by commonly available text functions. I still expect to maintain an exceptions file that would accomodate some manual geocoding from any other source.

So this solution is not likely to help most other wards out there -- or even my own ward if I get hit by a bus and access to my personal GIS software is lost.. For the geocoding phase of ward mapping, most units may be better off waiting for whatever centralized solution CHQ releases. Since I sort of expect the CHQ methodology to allow -- or even require? -- clerks to identify precise parcel-level coordinates, I am pretty sure that whatever work I invest in obtaining those now for our ward will not be wasted. Or perhaps the Church will license or build centralized tools to allow most clerks to do this in MLS.

If there is interest, perhap I still could modify and resurrect the second of the two scripts I previously published here, based on whatever generalized method of geocoding any other wards choose to use. (Their input .csv files would just have to be edited to match my input format.) It is that second script that actually produces the KML files to render the maps in Google Earth for general ward membership and HT/VT companionshiops. I will be modifying this script for our own use in any event. I doubt that the HT/VT functionality will be obsoleted soon by what CHQ develops in the short run, since that data lives primarily in local MLS databases.
russellhltn
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#92

Post by russellhltn »

boomerbubba wrote:It turns out that the excellent public-domain data available from my city does include high-precision, parcel-level geocoded records -- both point coordinates and parcel polygons -- for almost every address for free.
While I realize that what you've found is unique to your city, where might others look to see if they might be so lucky?
RossEvans
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#93

Post by RossEvans »

RussellHltn wrote:While I realize that what you've found is unique to your city, where might others look to see if they might be so lucky?

I would just Google around with your city name and "GIS." You also might contact your city or county offices. which probably have a GIS department.. Perhaps they would provide the files for the asking but just don't publish them on the Internet.

FYI here are links to what the City of Austin provides online. There is a public GIS viewer, and another site for downloading GIS data files. The shapefile (.shp) format, with associated index and data files typically zipped into a package, is an open standard popularized by ESRI that is often used nowdays for disseminating public GIS data. For example, Census has adopted the shapefile format for publishing files on its web site.

(Note that getting the GIS data is half the problem. You also would need GIS software to read and process the files, especially if you want to do anything other than view them. Historically GIS software has been quite expensive, and the market leaders such as ESRI and MapInfo sitll are. But there are some more reasonably priced alternatives. I like Manifold, a small GIS software company whose product offers a lot of bang for the buck. Also, GIS sofware does tend to have a significant learning curve.)

As another local example, my bishop told me that when he recently visitied family in the Lindon 21st Ward near Orem UT, he was impressed that the ward leaders gave everyone a printed and laminated plat map with every parcel labeled by the ward member living in the compact boundaries (omitting the handful of non-LDS residents). So someone was able to get such data there, too.
russellhltn
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#94

Post by russellhltn »

boomerbubba wrote:I would just Google around with your city name and "GIS."
D'oh! Yes, my city has an interactive viewer. I've used it in the past to look up who owns what. I forgot all about it. No easy way to use it to go from an address to lat/lon, but it does give me exactly where the lot is.
RossEvans
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#95

Post by RossEvans »

RussellHltn wrote:No easy way to use it to go from an address to lat/lon, but it does give me exactly where the lot is.

Our interactive viewer suffers from the same deficiency. But you can use it in conjunction with another interactive viewer in a second window, such as Google Earth, that you can use to plot a single coordinate interactively in two steps. Aggravating, but still easier than traveling to the site and pushing a button on a GPS.

In my case by far the biggest benefit from the city's system comes from the downloadable shapefiles. There are two files -- one describing the parcel polygons from county property tax records, and the other a file of discrete address ponts that I believe are used more directly for emergency dispatch. If only the polygon files are available, any decent GIS program can compute a centroid point. This works okay for smaller single-family lots, but centroids on large mutlifamily parcels can lead to anomalies similar to the case you reported awhile back for the ward chapel in Oregon. (Different cause, but similar effects if the coordinate is not close to the street where the address lies: Driving directions can get fouled up.)
russellhltn
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#96

Post by russellhltn »

boomerbubba wrote:Aggravating, but still easier than traveling to the site and pushing a button on a GPS.
OK, well, now that you put it that way.... Yeah, I guess it is better then nothing. :)

There are also some downloadable files, but I've got nothing to load them into so I don't know as it will do anything for me. Any of the stuff over at SourceForge promising? Maybe Easy GIS?
RossEvans
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#97

Post by RossEvans »

RussellHltn wrote:Any of the stuff over at SourceForge promising?

There is a large body of open source geographic software out there -- see also opensourcegis.org-- and you remind me that it is worth surveying the field again.. No doubt there are some nuggets there to be mined, and I don't pretend to know much about all the offerings. Many are specialized programs, such as file converters, and many are basic map viewers. What the world needs is a full-featured GIS application for free. Not finding such a unicorn, I opted a few years ago for low-priced commercial products for my primary toolkit. The high-end stuff from ESRI is way out of my price range, although many GIS professionals would look down on anything else.
joevans3
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Thanks Boomer

#98

Post by joevans3 »

Boomerbubba,
thanks for your efforts anyway. I think we all appreciate having a savvy and ethical programmer on our side. :)

I haven't been following lately, we have a new bishopric and a counselor with CAD who made a gorgeous ward wall map for my office: Better than the one I'll get from GIS months from now when they catch up to the ward split.

But, when I was using it last year, your script worked great!

So, in simple terms, what is it that is protected? Does the Yahoo API include the address information that allowed your script to convert addresses to GPS data? The Church must use some kind of data like that to, for instance, forward records of lost members to a ward in the area. The new meetinghouse locator must use some kind of license, too. I wonder if there is some way units could piggyback off of the Church's licenses.

-J
RossEvans
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#99

Post by RossEvans »

joevans3 wrote:So, in simple terms, what is it that is protected? Does the Yahoo API include the address information that allowed your script to convert addresses to GPS data? The Church must use some kind of data like that to, for instance, forward records of lost members to a ward in the area. The new meetinghouse locator must use some kind of license, too. I wonder if there is some way units could piggyback off of the Church's licenses.

The intellectual property that is being protected is the underlying commercial map and street data, which Yahoo licenses from third-party publishers such as NAVTEQ. Other online providers are similarly situated. Thus it is understandable that such online providers restrict the reuse of the geocoding, which their suppliers make money selling in various forms, and it is difficult to gain access to such geocoding reliably for free and without restriction. I now use public-domain data provided by my city, but that is just lucky. My local government is unusually open about publishing such GIS data.

I do hope that when the Church completes devellopment and releases its own member-mapping applications, which presumably use licensed mapping and geocoding tools, that units will get geocoded data available for our extended use in applications of our own.

Meanwhile, you might look at this application, which looks interesting to me. (I am planning to try it myself soon.)
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zabaki
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#100

Post by zabaki »

So here is a new question.

the stake and ward web site is only accessible in the US and Canada.
How do I get a .csv file for my stake and Ward in Norway?
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