September 17, 2006

Why free GIS data is so hard to find! Error 404

We all know that free GIS data is abundant, however, why is it still so hard to find and why is there so much confusion? I'll tell you one HUGE reason... the bloody links to spatial data repositories are constantly coming and going... dead weblinks with no paper trail or forwarding link are commonplace. I have a number of directories that I've created over the years - like this one - (as do many others) but the links are typically out of data after a year. A few examples.. this pointer to a Colorado clearinghouse (page not found), SC department of natural resources (page dead), or how about this fabulous link to the datamil in Delaware which now leads us to a page that simply tells us to go away... nice! It never ceases to amaze me how a fabulous data resource can be easily found one day and then simply removed or moved the next with no forwarding link. This is but one of the huge problems that we are facing but has a simple solution... provide a simple page forwarding link or redirect when you move or replace a website... it's not rocket science!

4 comments:

David N said...

My employer has always had a webpage for our GIS department, with links to data, maps, etc. And it was written in HTML, by hand, not with FrontPage, but once the webmaster left, everyone else has tried to update it using FrontPage, and all the scripting now has failed, the links broken, navigation simply gone. It is a matter of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. I have the original page on my PC, but no one seems to ask, or pay attention when I tell them the simple solution is to upload it again. Of course, if it doesn't work with FrontPage, it is useless to them. FrontPage has ruined the world wide web if you ask me, anyone can now screw up a webpage, and no one has an understanding of what they are doing, and no idea of how to simply fix a broken link, or why it is broken.

Anonymous said...

When looking for GIS data for the US, I simply do a Google search for, "State Name" GIS.
Ex. Pennsylvania GIS

I have never had a problem finding a site for the state I'm looking for using this search string.

Broken links are just something we have to deal with in our industry and usually aren't that hard to find again with a simple Google search.

GISuser said...

I should state that I have no problem myself locating free data - there's tons of it out there. There are, however, TONS of people that seem to have difficulties - simply listen to many GIs discussion lists and you'll see what I mean. After all, if there was no problem locating the data then people wouldn't still be buying free data from the datawhores out there (ie. datadepot etc...) Many people still need to be educated about how to locate these data and they need to stop buying old, unsupported data products that come with no metatdata, gaps, corrupt files etc...

Anonymous said...

You mean geodata.gov doesn't help? What about The National Map? Or, as I suspect, folks don't know how to use Google (et. al)?