Serious question. How do high reputation users find time to commit to GIS Stack Exchange as much as you do?

It's a bit difficult for me to justify spending the time here with everything else I have on trying to stay afloat.

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    break times and a team that works more productively if self managed.
    – Mapperz Mod
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 1:19
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    – blah238
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 2:01
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    Serious question, maybe, but pretty vague: exactly what does "so much time" mean? This question could legitimately be turned on its head, too: can anyone consider themselves a GIS professional if they do not spend considerable time, on a regular basis, in developing and broadening their skills? If you accept that professionals do need to be pushed intellectually, to interact with their peers, and constantly to exercise their skills, then the natural question is who can afford not to engage intensively in SE-like activities?
    – whuber
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 3:56
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    @blah238: Thankfully the GIS.SE community is quite good, otherwise this xkcd would have been more relevant: xkcd.com/386 Commented Sep 28, 2013 at 16:01

8 Answers 8


I'm happy to share how this works for me.

As you will see from my profile I am a Freelance ArcGIS Specialist, and I operate as a Sole Trader which means I work for myself (and have done so for just over a year). I find myself onsite and working from home in about equal proportion.

I see time spent on GIS Stack Exchange mainly as part of both my skills maintenance and development and also my marketing strategy. Through reading many Q&As, occasionally asking, and often answering Questions here I am able to learn new techniques and demonstrate my existing skills to those who may be interested in using my ArcGIS consulting, training and support services.

By participating on a daily basis I am able to keep abreast of GIS software trends, especially those which lead to people needing quick free advice, and can lead to paid assistance for more intractable problems.

I learned long ago that few employers provide adequate time for ongoing skills development so to achieve that in GIS, I have found that it is a matter of finding the time by looking for synergies between that and my day job.

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    "few employers provide adequate time for ongoing skills development" this is true in the GIS industry.
    – Mapperz Mod
    Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 13:21
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    @Mapperz: That statement is true in most industries I know. Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 8:27
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    IT sector job gave me a budget for training, never had any paid for training in GIS sector has always been 'training on the job'
    – Mapperz Mod
    Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 13:30
  • @Mapperz: In my experience, that was more a reflection of the organization that you were working for, rather than a reflection of the Industry as a whole. Commented Sep 27, 2013 at 5:55
  • @PolyGeo How often do you get hired by clients which you have found in stackexchange? Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 8:21
  • @ArditSulce I have only been trading for just over a year, and came to GIS SE with an existing large network, so I am not able to yet attribute a particular hiring to GIS SE exposure, but that is the case for many marketing campaigns. One thing to note is that a client would need to find me through GIS SE rather than the reverse.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 8:32
  • @PolyGeo Probably you need to include some contact information on your profile. I see no other way of privately contacting someone here on SE. Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 8:43
  • @ArditSulce My website (which has a Contact form) should be visible on my profile.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 9:21
  • @PolyGeo Not easily spotted. I would include it at the end of the profile description where every one looks at. Commented Oct 7, 2013 at 9:24
  • They are bots.. Commented Jul 1, 2014 at 19:11

This is an interesting question, and I'm glad you've asked it.

Of my top 10 questions (most up-votes), only 2 are not directly related to a specific work project. At 5pts per vote, that's 1145 work vs 205 casual rep points.

Of my top 10 answers, 4 are directly related to real on-going problems I needed to solve for work (and the top one which has garnered near double the next highest is a self answer). 4 are ones I could easily answer because of work, and are of the sort I would share with anyone who asked in whatever medium, on work time. 2 are ones that I could say should probably be answered on my own time. (Speaking of which, while certainly the bulk of the time spent here is on the work clock, I come here in my spare time too.) So for top answers I've garnered 960 work points vs 940 casual.

So for the top 3250 of my current 10581 pts, 65% is work related and 35% casual (and in the fullness of time most of casual sooner or later becomes relevant at work).

I should also point out that my Q&A that the community has selected to be the most valuable are not the ones which have been the most valuable to me in getting my work done! I will happily ask/answer on 5 threads for other people in order to get a single piece of information that solves one my issues. I think of it as the price of doing business.

[edit] It's taken me 3 years to get to 10k; I don't remember at what point I reached 5k, but it wasn't swiftly.

Postscript: while the value of participating on GIS.se is proven beyond reasonable doubt, to me, I admit to occasionally spending more time here on my employers dime than is fair for that day or week. I make up for it when I notice that. (And when I walk by the coffee room and see folks still talking about their last fishing trip I'm completely cured.)

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    Postscript x2: I just realised that prior to Stack Exchange (BBSes, newsgroups, forums, mailing lists) there's no way I could have reasonably measured and assigned any value (or negative value) of participating in the community, in only 20 minutes, like I just did now. Commented Sep 24, 2013 at 16:33
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    Interesting timing for this topic! A few hours after I posted this I was called to task for spending too much time troubleshooting and documenting technical problems far outside my job description (SharePoint). Apparently just because I can solve problems across a variety of knowledge domains doesn't mean I should be. A type of self discipline that doesn't come naturally. ;-) Commented Sep 25, 2013 at 20:57

My account is over three years old, based on my reputation that averages out to a reputation increase of 6 points a day. I think I spend about 15 minutes a day, tops, answering/reviewing questions here. I figure it's a more productive and work-related use of my time than say, gossiping by the coffee machine or playing a game on my phone while waiting for Visual Studio to compile or attach to a process.

I find the small amount of time to contribute to the site because I make the time to contribute to the site, and for that I have a few motivating factors.

  • As a member of a technical community, it's my obligation to get better at my craft and to share what I know with others.
  • I am one of the developer of the Python stack at Esri. Sites like this and Esri forums help me see how the software I write is being used in the wild. If the same problem/question crops up multiple times, I can recognize it as a pain point and try to fix it. I can also get ideas for new features that people actually need. And complaints about bugs that are too vague or small to get into the official bug tracking system come to my attention and can get fixed simply by the fact I am now aware of them.
  • I can make sure the "right" answer to a question on my domain of expertise is on the internet so it can be found in a search, and I hopefully am not asked that same question over and over via email any more.
  • Having what I consider the "right" answer out there is important to me because I often see a lot of speculation and cargo cult thinking, and I can set the record straight in a direct, succinct way that doesn't require interpreting some dry documentation.

Great question and good answers! Here is a "hot potato", go down any corridor in any University and just take a peek at what people have opened on their tabbed browser. I guarantee you'll see at least email, twitter, facebook...

I choose to have SE and the ESRI forum open...


I first ran across GISse shortly after it went live. I may have seen it a time or two when it was in the Beta version, but didn't realize what it was at the time.

As with many others, I happened across the site when I was looking for the answer to some problem I had at the time. I posted a question, had a few answers provided, then ended up answering my own question. I may have answered a couple of other questions as well, but then left for a while. When I finally returned, it was because I had another question, was searching, and this came up in the search results. At the same time, I was starting to get more interested in open-source software, and saw GISse referenced in a few places.

Once I came back and started answering questions, I can't say that there was any particular amount of time per day that I spent. It was mostly something that I would keep open on a tab in Firefox. I'll admit that part of the draw to it was the validation I received when answering questions and seeing that people appreciated those answers. Also, it was and is one of the only places where questions consistently are answered, unlike many of the ESRI forums where a valid question may sit and never receive any attention.

These are some of the reasons I started being a regular visitor. I think @whuber really hit the nail on the head though. The breadth and depth of question topics that you find here provide an exposure, however brief, that is hard to find elsewhere. I had developed a few career goals, and saw how GISse could help with them.

  • Continued Education - By trying to answer questions about topics that I was not comfortable with, I have learned a lot, mostly related to python, and now using PostgreSQL. Had I just continued working at my job with the intention of learning new things, it wouldn't likely have worked as well, since other things always get in the way. Taking time to answer questions, and research the solutions, was my way of creating continuing education opportunities

  • Online Resume - With a goal of building up a consulting practice, the answers that I have provided and the reputation score I am building up are an ever-increasing resume of my GIS knowledge and experience.

  • Traffic Driver - With the goal of building my own website, GISse has inadvertently become a traffic driver through views of my profile.

With this all being said, I have not been a consistent visitor to the site. My contributions ebb and flow as time at work allows. I do feel though, that it is critical for me to maintain a presence here, both for my professional development, and as a means of giving back to the GIS community.

That leads to my last point, which is the need to give back. I've seen a number of articles recently about the need to have a mentor. This is something that can seem hard to come by, especially in the GIS industry, where there is such a myriad of ways it may be utilized, and thus ways people concentrate their skills. GISse really provides a place where many aspects of the profession are represented, and in fact, any kind of GIS related question is encouraged. It could become a sort of defacto mentorship site if you take the time to learn from the many extremely knowledgeable people who contribute here.

I feel I'm at a middle ground where I can provide insight on some portion of the questions here, but know there are a much larger percentage where it would behoove me to read and learn as the best of the answers are voted up. That is why I think it is vital to spend a portion of my time here each day.


Although i don't have >5000 points, i'd like to share my methods.

I have setup my browser to open some pages when it is started and GIS SE happens to be one of them. I quickly browse through them, in GIS SE i scan the questions and see if something is interesting. If i know answer then i post it.

All this happens in less than 5 min. And when you know the answer, it is a luxury to solve others problems.

  • You do have already ;-)
    – Taras
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 14:07

I guess it's been a very natural thing for me.

Back in the mid 1990's when I started working with MapInfo Pro and MapBasic at a Danish MapInfo partner, I had a lot of questions. I join the mailing list called MapInfo-L where users from all over the World posted question which often where answered within an hour a day by other users.

Just following the conversation on the mailing list gave me a lot of insight and soon I also started answering questions.

Now, as I work for Pitney Bowes, I find it natural to keep following the discussions on MapInfo-L but I also watch the questions that appear on other forum such as GIS Stack Exchange.

I have a couple of RSS feeds setup to give me an overview of the questions around the MapInfo products.

So to put it short, it's a way to keep myself educated as well as helping out our customers using our products.

  • It's great to have someone with your background, experience and skills here. At a current rep of 5,021 have you been waiting to pass 5K just so that you could answer this question? :-)
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 10:44
  • Thanks, @PolyGeo, and it's great to have one with your experience, too. Even though it could look as if I just had been waiting to pass the bar, that's not the case :-) I only saw this question today, and to be honest it wasn't until I had written my answer that I noted that it was dated back in 2013. It appeared some where in a sidebar, so I guess some one must have "liked" one of the other answers Commented Aug 30, 2016 at 11:13

I have been thinking about this for a while and would love to share some of my insights. This is the list of benefits / reasons why I spend my time on GIS.SE.

To answer briefly first on "how to find the time" - I think it is all about prioritizing. You can either choose to watch a telly, scroll through the Facebook news feed, or to answer a question. When short on time, I think finding 15 minutes of dedicated time is never a problem. And quite often this is just enough to help someone.

Answering questions is a great exercise which you can do just for fun.

For instance, someone has asked a question – Displaying attributes upon their polygons within ArcMap legend? I have never done it myself, so I got curious whether this could be done. After searching around in the UI for some time, I finally found the sequence of steps to perform and shared it with the questioner. Great. I think many other people are just curious and thinking "Hm, I have never thought of this, is it really doable?" and it keeps them motivated.

An answer can be a form of organizing own knowledge about a subject.

For instance, someone has asked a question – Formatting street network data for ArcGIS Network Analyst? I have been working with Network Analyst for many years but never have compiled a short “getting started guide” on where to find data sources, what skills are necessary etc. Answering this question gave me a chance to put all my reference information into one place which other users can also find and read. I can also refer customers or colleagues to this post which is really helpful.

My answer can help someone who has faced a very peculiar problem to get a solution quickly without spending hours if not days.

For example, someone has asked *.lyr to *.style conversion in ArcGIS. I needed to do exactly this just a few weeks earlier and was searching for the tool to do this for a few days. Being able to answer a question in 10 minutes after it was posted knowing that someone else wouldn’t need to go through all possible UI tools in ArcMap is incomparable.

An answer I give to others can be an answer I will be looking for in the future myself.

It is funny, but sometimes, when I have a question I am trying to find an answer to, when using a search engine, I find the GIS.SE page with the answer I just needed and a sample code snippet I can use. I am so pleased someone has found the time to post it. Looking at the author of the answer makes me laugh because it was me.

Answering questions makes me a better writer.

This is because I need to formulate my thoughts very accurately and convey the information in a clear and consistent way. I should also be concise yet comprehensive. I believe answering on GIS.SE helped me to become a better writer which I think is a great skill to have.

Answering questions makes me a more competent professional as I learn a lot about the GIS software and GIS programming.

I have answered many arcpy related questions while I was learning arcpy myself. In addition, some questions gave me a chance to play with a software I don’t use daily which helps me to stay up-to-date on what software is being used by other people and how.

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    I agree with all your points but particularly "Answering questions makes me a better writer" because I remember well the first meeting I had with my Ph.D. supervisor years ago when his first bit of advice was to never stop writing. Trying to write without seeing his red pen applied to what I had written was one of the greatest learning curves that I ever went on (ARC/INFO was the other :-).
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 1:41
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    Haha, this is great Commented Feb 19, 2018 at 8:28

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