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A Five-Year-Old Goes to the Esri User Conference - a guide for adults


Keeping in line with the “explain this to me as if I were a five-year-old” series (click here for the previous article), I’m going to make a compilation list of tips for first-time Esri User Conference -goers.

Reference: Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA: Jonathan Demme, 1993. film.


Top Ten Things a Five-Year-Old Would Do at the Esri User Conference (this is advice for adults)

Take a look at this forum post for many other great ideas


  1. Plan ahead.

Esri UC is huge. There are tons of terrific talks and you will want to see all of them. See will everyone else. Five-year-olds are not the best at planning ahead of time. Luckily, Esri has made an app and an online scheduler for you to browse through the talks and make a calendar of the ones you want to get to. Have a back-up plan. Oftentimes a popular talk will have an encore session the next day. Use those second and third sessions as additional back-up plans.


  1. Spend some time on the exhibit floor

Adults have a fun time collecting swag (conference goodies from vendors). Five-year-olds LOVE swag. Not only can you get some cool trinkets, you can see great new products, learn new tips on the software you’re using, and pick the brains of Esri personnel in the support services area. Don’t forget that “Family Night” in the exhibit hall is Wednesday, usually 4 to 6 PM! (The best swag comes out on family night – hint hint).


  1. It is ok to take a power nap

Esri UC can have really long days. It you are staying at a nearby hotel, there is nothing nicer than a quick cat nap to get you refreshed for the rest of the day. If it’s tough for adults to work all day; five-year-olds have a hard time too. Don’t neglect wearing comfortable clothes and shoes.


  1. Bring your technical questions with you

We all work in GIS and all have come across issues that we cannot solve. Going to technical workshops and trainings help. But sometimes we need a direct answer to a direct question. Five-year-olds are great at asking questions, even the simple ones. Five-year-olds often follow up with “Why?” (about six thousand times). Adults sometimes are more hesitant at asking questions. Be sure to stop by the Esri support services island at the exhibit hall to get your direct questions directly answered.


  1. You have to check out Balboa Park

Each conference attendee gets one free pass to the Thursday night party at Balboa. Each additional guest (over the age of 12) has to pay $50. PAY FOR IT. IT IS COMPLETELY WORTH IT. It may sound expensive but you will not regret it. Oh, and the best thing is, this five-year-old is under 12, therefore it’s free!


  1. Food.


Five-year-olds are picky eaters. Believe it or not, some adults are too. Not to worry. San Diego has you covered. You have to try fish tacos. If that doesn’t ‘float your boat’, then you will be happily pleased with: Mexican food, sea food, Italian food, Greek food, BBQ, and of course amazing desserts (there is a great Ghirardelli shop in the Gas Lamp District). Note: so many of these places are easily walk-able from the conference center.


  1. Take your family with you!

Many companies allow a certain amount for a hotel accommodation. Put that towards a vacation rental place (like or and stay somewhere fun! It may mean you have to drive into the conference center each day but it is totally worth it!


  1. The San Diego Zoo

Everyone has heard of the world-famous San Diego Zoo. If you have not gone, then it should be easy to check it off of your bucket list while in town. Five-year-olds love it, adults love it, it’s fun for any and all ages. Tips: Go to the Pandas first (especially if you get there in the morning). The crowds to see the pandas increase as the day goes on. Take a Gondola ride to see the zoo from above. It’s good comfortable fun and is a nice way to relax after walking long distances.


  1. San Diego is on water. Go get on a boat.

Many five-year-olds love boats. Some do not really care for them. Either way, there are a ton of ways to do something unique regarding boats.

  • Do you like military history? Check out the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier.
  • Do you like learning about things from over a century ago? Check out the Star of India sailing ship. She’s the world’s oldest active sailing ship.
  • Do you want to see something underwater? Check out the B-39 Submarine – an actual Soviet-Era submarine.
  • Need to go for a nice boat ride? Book a tour on the San Diego Harbor Pilot to see the harbor and travel around a bit.
  • Want to go on a boat ride but are scared of getting seasick? Take a 15-minute ferry ride to Coronado on the Coronado Ferry. It’s a real gentle and slow ride across the harbor that lands you near some great shops and restaurants.
  • Want to just see the boats and not really go on any of them? Jaunt on over the Embarcadero area where there are some great restaurants and a wonderful park/playground near the County offices.

Either way, you need to go to the boats.



  1. Have fun!

This is San Diego after all. And while the conference is “working”, typically it is something we all enjoy so have fun learning new tips and tricks! Also, go outside. Play. Enjoy the weather, etc. (wear sunscreen too).



Thanks for reading!

I really liked how Denzel Washington used the phrase “explain this to me as if I were a xxx-year-old” in the movie Philadelphia (1993).

Reference: Philadelphia. Philadelphia, PA: Jonathan Demme, 1993. film.


So, I will take it one step further and attempt to explain the concept of georeferencing to an actual five-year-old.




Five-year-old engineer says, “I have this PDF of a site plan. I want to put this on a map and have it line up properly.”



Here is my map.



We need to zoom in a little bit closer.


Open Street Map 1:100,000<-- click to make larger


A little bit more.


Open Street Map 1:5,000<-- click to make larger


Almost there. Zoom in some more so that our site plan will fit better.


Open Street Map 1:1,050<-- click to make larger


Much better. Now, we need to shrink the site plan to a more usable size. Currently, it’s larger than our map.



Let’s make it a little bit smaller.



Perfect. Now we need to place the site plan on our zoomed in map and adjust it to fit by rotating it and resizing it.



Great! Now, after some quality control of adjustments and transformations, we can rectify this image and call it georeferenced!


OSM 1:1,050 with Image<-- click to make larger


We can make the georeferenced image transparent to where we can see the basemap behind it.


OSM 1:1,050 with Image, Transparency 50%<-- click to make larger


Finally, we can add existing linework and other GIS files to give the image a more solid reference.


OSM 1:1,050 with Image, Transparency 50% and Linework<-- click to make larger





Please leave comments and let me know if this is helpful and/or what I should change with this blog post. Thanks for reading!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! (at least, it is Thanksgiving time in the US). I thought this would give me a fun chance to write a blog post on “GIS for Dummies”, but with a cooking/recipe twist, Thanksgiving style. Some folks at my office and I came up with this idea and this would be a good place to share it.


For starters, this is GIS:


GIS: A Map, But More Than a Map

  • A way to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, and present data
  • A series of layered geospatial data organized in one space
  • A way to solve problems and answer complex questions


However, let’s make it fun so that anyone can understand.


GIS for Dummies Recipe




  • 4 parts Database
  • 1 1/2 parts Geographic Data
    • Points, Lines, Polygons, Rasters, DEM, and 3D Data
  • 1 part Data from Forms / Spreadsheets (Tabular Data)
    • Address Lists, GPS Coordinates, and Files
  • 1/2 part Basemap
    • Satellite Imagery, Street Map, Topography
  • 3 parts Graphics
    • Graphical User Interface (GUI) and Mapping Tools



  • In a large Database: Stir Geographic Data with Tabular Information
    • Geocoding, Database Design, Make Event Layers
  • Select a non-stick User Interface and press Basemap evenly into the Corners



  • Preheat the GIS toolbox to Automate Tasks using Models or Scripts
  • Divide Data mixture evenly into Feature Layers
  • Sift and Fold the Feature Layers into Geoprocessing and Analysis tools
    • Perform Analyses, Generate Statistics, and Analyze Networks


Finishing Touches

  • Glaze with Thematic and Map Elements to tell the Story
    • Symbols, Labels, Layout, Legend, North Arrow, and Scale Bar
  • Trim excess and Overlay Layers
    • Demonstrate Statistical Hotspots and Illustrate Spatial Patterns
  • Cool the map on a Web Server for Publishing
    • Interactive Maps highlight Spatially and Temporally Dynamic data
  • When baking at a high altitude, use Custom Widgets to show Data Trends
  • Decision-makers see Correlations and answer Complex Questions


(this image was too cool not to post! source:


I would love to hear what y’all think about this and would love to hear of anything I should add/take away from this as well. I can continue to update it.  


title Image source:

This blog post is taken from here, but I thought I'd share it on the GeoNet:

Meridian Has the AGRC Solution | Meridian Engineering, Inc. 


On August 31, 2016, Utah GIS users lost their connection to the State of Utah ArcGIS networks. After many long hours of making phone calls and exerting technical genius, Meridian’s GIS Project Manager Adrian Welsh has a working alternative to help Utah GIS users access this crucial data. The following are his instructions.

How to utilize parcel data from the AGRC with ArcGIS Pro

If you have used ArcGIS Desktop (ArcMap) for utilizing Parcel data from the AGRC (Automated Geographic Reference Center), then you have probably come across this article describing the deprecation of SDE server connections (here: It is past August 31, and that means the server connection is gone (for GIS users outside the State of Utah networks). While the above article goes on to show how to utilize AGRC’s GIS data from ArcGIS Online into ArcMap, this blog post will show you how to utilize this online data (particularly Parcel data) in ArcGIS Pro.

Open up ArcGIS Pro and load a new map (or use an existing one). Under the Map tab at the top, click on the Add Data button:


On the left hand side of the Add Data dialog box, look under the Portal category and choose the All Portal option:


In the search box, type in “AGRC Parcels”


Choose the newly created “Utah Statewide Parcels” Feature Layer and then click on Select:


Because there are hundreds of thousands of Parcels in the State of Utah and this layer contains them all, it is a good idea to zoom in to a specified location in order to minimize drawing time. While this is different than how it used to be (each county was once its own layer), you can now utilize the entire state at one time which is helpful when your data spans across counties.

After it is loaded, you can treat it like you would treat your regular data:


One additional note about adding ArcGIS Online data: Oftentimes it is unclear what kind of data is being displayed in the Add Data dialog box. Here is a tip on how to know what the data types are. Open the Add Data dialog box, click on All Portal in the left hand side, type in SGID (or whatever) into the search box, then click on the three lines icon at the top, and choose Gallery:


In the list of layers, now you can see what the data types are (examples include: layer, feature layer [hosted or otherwise], map image layer, layer package, tile layer [hosted or otherwise], imagery layer, etc.).

Special thanks to Matt Peters at the AGRC for getting this layer put together.

I love using Flickr for hosting, storing, and sharing the photos that I take of my family.  I also like how you can geotag your photos in Flickr as well.  For a while, I really wanted to do more with this ability to geotag, such as add my photos to an Esri Story Map.  However, it seemed that this ability did not exist just yet.


I recall reading an Esri blog post from Bern Szukalski about possibly using the features found in to try and link your Flickr photos to an ArcGIS Online map (link here) that really confused me.  After about a year later, a new blog post came out (that turned into an ArcWatch Article) that demonstrated how to easily use geotagged photos from Flickr and put them in a story map (link here).


So, without much modifications, here is my first Story Map!

Trip to San Diego - July 2014

This is my first story map, so I am still tinkering around with it some!

I am not sure if that link will work, so here is the url:…


Please let me know what you think!