We have been talking on how to make our community grow. We have all sorts of user bases, but we only see a slice of it in GIS Stack Exchange.

Since we are an open community, we should try getting more members and show the full strength of the GIS community, in all it's diversity.

So far, we have a lot of programming/users related questions, meaning in part, that most of our users do these tasks on a daily basis. But we are leaving some people out of the loop.

In here I would like to discuss how we can advertise GIS Stack Exchange and make it bigger and better. Size alone is not important. Quality is a must - and we must keep that in mind.

So far, we have identified a few "holes" in our user base, listed below. If I forgot someone, feel free to edit my post or remind me in a comment.

  • Remote Sensing Users
  • GeoDjango and Python GIS Libraries users (geoscript, and others)
  • Spatial Databases guys, specially: Oracle Spatial/GeoRaster, MySQL Spatial, Spatial Lite, SQL Server 2008
  • .NET Library fellows. NTS and other great libraries developed for .NET
  • All OsGeo developers users (I know a lot of them, and some are already here - thanks for the support)
  • Cartographers
  • Topography and GNSS people.
  • Theoretical GIS researchers/students. There a small number of them here. Who else can we include? Remember that GIS is a tool that is applied to a diverse number of disciplines, like biology, geography, geology, marketing, military sciences, transit and transportation and many, many others.

In short: we need ideas to call all this user bases to become part of our community. How can we attract them?

Give ideas, take initiatives, let's make this community big and a top notch place for GIS/Geotechnologies experts!

7 Answers 7


I'm a somewhat marginal participant here, but maybe the cause of my limited participation affects others, too: most of the questions here are just uninteresting to me. As George notes, most of the questions are programming or user-interface related. I'm primarily a statistical analyst, so the extensive technical questions on the main page just make my eyes glaze over. They're either way too technical for me to even begin to answer, or way too trivial, or yet another iteration of "What's an alternative to [ESRI tool]?" Obviously these questions are not inherently bad, but they just don't interest me and are generally irrelevant to my work.

In some ways, I suspect that this is because of the amorphous nature of GIS: it's very programming-intensive, its GUI programs are huge and packed with features, and there are strong links to several disciplines, from geography to statistics. Statistics has the same shape, albeit to a lesser degree; however, stats.stackexchange.com is relatively strict about what kinds of questions are allowed. We don't allow most questions about "How do I do [procedure x] in [software y]?", and questions that are mostly about programming are encouraged to be diverted to StackOverflow. Many of the questions that remain are focused on concepts and theory, and are often quite challenging.

I'm not arguing that that model would work here - distinguishing between questions that should stay here, go to StackOverflow, or perhaps to another StackExchange site (like Stats) is a hard problem. But if we don't have questions about remote sensing or spatial stats or whatever else here, people who are interested primarily in those things won't show up. Worse, I think, if we don't routinely have questions about those kinds of things here - if they aren't showing up on the main page regularly - people who are interested primarily in those things won't stick around to build up the community(1).

I think the key to building the site is to work on both our push (putting the address in signatures and mentioning it on other forums and at professional gatherings, actively poaching questioners from StackOverflow, etc.) and our pull (interesting questions with awesome answers on a variety of topics).

Those of us who are interested in the non-technical stuff definitely need to ask more questions (sorry!), and those of you who have the amazing technical skills could perhaps ask questions about your peripheral interests. Even asking questions to which we already have answers will help, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that while we're in the bootstrapping mode (or anytime, really).

And hey... when those R questions start showing up, I'll be on them. I just haven't seen any yet :)

(1) I think StackOverflow avoids this problem because of the sheer volume of questions - even a tiny language like R still gets several questions per day, so I can reasonably expect to find something interesting there any time I visit.


I have been advertising it a little bit on Twitter, just sent one out just then. I have also posted a message on the Australian Local Government Mapinfo User Group, which might bring some more MapInfo/MapBasic people.

Another place which might be good is http://www.directionsmag.com/ but you would have to find someone to write a article about it and see if they will post it.

Linkedin also has some GIS groups, which you could advertise in.


I just sent the first draft of this answer, which I spent 40 minutes writing,to the great electron recycler in the sky. It was a list of the spatial sites, forums and mailing lists I frequent from time to time with a short description of what the site is about or like. I deleted it because I realised it was the wrong answer to this question, for me, and not the right way to enrich this community, for me.

These are all places I already frequent, why am I posting a "hit list" which well meaning and enthusiastic people who aren't familiar with the community would go and bombard with messages? That's called spam darn it. I am already a part of these other communities. All I need to do is let them know where I like to go for cross-disciplinary information.

The real key to growth is having good answers and a helpful community. We can't just invent answers to realms we have little or no experience in, R for a personal example, so we'll just have to focus on helping where we do have expertise, which means spending time. Time helping others improve their answers with helpful comments and encouragement. Time researching and testing our own answers, and updating them when knowledge deepens.

A good answer is a good answer, and some will find it, eventually, and when they do they'll bookmark it, share it, blog about it. My only job then is to increase the signal to noise ratio, and that starts right here, in arms reach. Vote up, vote down, add a few well chosen words.

...and put http://gis.stackexchange.com in my signature line


Am trying to promote it via twitter and the mapperz blog. Do see a lot of ESRI questions (they have their own forums) so some questions are better placed elsewhere but not exclusively.

The design: I do like the layout and formats, not to bothered about badges and rep though can help new users, maybe a star system (1-5?).

Like the Google groups if you get the right people in you keep your audience.

Hope the GIS SE growth continues and attracts professional people and they are willing to give answers/guidance for free.


Periodic Twitter/LinkedIn links myself. Ive also passed the message around our company (ESRI Distributor).

Perhaps if we could get some of the more popular bloggers out there (like Mapperz) to perhaps do a post on this new community. - It could make an interesting post, comparing the StackOverflow style of "forum" to perhaps the new ESRI forum structure.

Ideally James Fee or Dave Bouwman, but plenty of other high traffic geo-related sites. - Not sure how to get there attention, perhaps even a direct email from someone high up on this site?

I guess we could also encourage the users to use this sites link when posting comments on geo-related blogs (not spam, but just link backs via the name).

  • I did blog post did post when first went public mapperz.blogspot.com/2010/07/… I will update soon on the progress of the site soon. Hope to see even more geo-professionals, though time is money.
    – Mapperz Mod
    Commented Sep 22, 2010 at 16:34

I have been working through some of the ideas I have, as such I have incorpated this into my forums discussion while I give training as well aswhen I am discussing options at client sites.

A lot of the content is very useful and some rally nice integration questions which you do not tend to get at vendor specific forums. Keep up the diversity


Instead of "bombarding them with spam", maybe we should post questions on other forums like: "Is this forum as useful as GIS.se?"

While GIS.se evangelists may lack expertise in some domains (like R) we can still participate in meta-discussions describing the benefits to mavens the GIS.se platform provides.

Convince the mavens to come, the rest will follow.

Certainly there must be other forums where the most frequent answerers feel the plumbing hasn't scaled with the community. Can someone post links to forums used for each community in the bulleted list?

As evangelistic meta-questions are asked on other forums, let's post a link here so other evangelists can jump in.

As an ESRI business partner, I'm reluctant to rain on ESRI's parade any more than I already have. Still, I'm tempted to reply on ESRI's forum with something like "Post this question on GIS.se and I'll try to answer it".

  • I've asked a couple of questions both here and on the ESRI forums, and cross linked the posts. After getting answers here and no responses there I added "follow up on this thread at Geographic Information Systems". The next time it might work the other way around. Either way, it builds a path. Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 5:49
  • I've started replying on ESRI forums with a simple "This is a good question" answer, when someone asks a good question, and the person asking the question is a frequent forum user (like Marc). I guess the ESRI forums are a customized phpBB. The big shortcoming there (besides no rep points) is that good questions don't rise to the top. forums.arcgis.com/threads/… This is a bit more subtle than suggesting he post his question on GIS.se. Commented Aug 25, 2010 at 13:51

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