There’s a simple indicator I use to tell when I’m too busy at work; it’s called the FME scale. Any time it takes me over a month to play with a new feature in Safe Software‘s FME, I’m swamped :)
In this case, it was particularly painful. I’m really interested in GeoRSS because I see the potential that it has for increasing the level of information my municipality can deliver to its residents. For instance, we could offer insight into current housing starts with a feed of new construction building permits.
For me, the beauty of GeoRSS is that it has value even without the maps. With a single format, I can publish information that our residents can view in their favourite feed reader, while allowing more sophisticated users to benefit from the spatial information.
As you can see from the following screenshots of a GeoRSS file displayed in Google Reader and Google Maps, I’ve finally found a little time to play around with the GeoRSS support in FME. You can click on the second image to see how it works. Keep in mind that the data is static, and not guaranteed to be accurate for any use:
Until now, much of the GeoRSS that I’ve had a chance to look at has been point-based, so it’s nice to have a way of generating some more complex elements in Simple and GML varieties and, now that Google Maps supports GeoRSS, an easy way to visualise it.
So anyway, how did I generate this GeoRSS file? It was pretty easy, and I’ll take you through the steps.
First, I had to set some basic parameters for the feed in FME. This image shows the basic workflow, from create a single feature with no geometry, through to writing the feature out to the “Feed” output:
Inside of the AttributeCreator, I’m setting some basic values for the feed as a whole:
Pretty simple, eh?
Next, I pull in some data from our property records database, and merge it with an Oracle Locator spatial table which holds the City’s parcel base:
And finally, I set the same the entry-specific GeoRSS parameters, this time using attributes of the building permit records instead of static text to fill in the blanks:
And that’s all she wrote. I still have to find time to fine-tune some of the attributes (such as dates and link), get some approvals, and work out the logistics of getting the data out to our external server nightly. It sure is nice that the technical part is so easy though.
If you deal with spatial data on a regular basis and haven’t evaluated FME, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Pick up the latest beta from their site (for GeoRSS support), request an evaluation license, and play around a bit. Everyone’s usage pattern is different, but I was able to justify the cost of my initial license and training with the time it saved over about six months. Safe Software deserves a lot of credit. Apart from the usefulness of FME, their support is incredible. They are the only company that I have ever dealt with where I felt I was getting real value from the software maintenance plan.
And, in case you’re wondering, they didn’t buy me a nice laptop or a 3D mouse to use while writing this. I’m just a satisfied customer :)