A map is worth ____ of words

We’re all familiar with the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”. Well here’s a discrete example where a map is worth significantly more.

Sooner than later, every GIS user in the territory will need to convert spatial data into our standard Yukon Albers projection and be presented with a dialog that has no less than 17 choices and wonder What is the right choice??.

“Hmmm, I don’t know. I should read the help doc, and the next one, and the next, and… Aieee, this is hard for my little brain, let’s ask peers on the mailing list”. Followed by a looong discussion.

Geographic Transformation of WGS84 to Yukon Albers: 17 choices in 2019.

The help docs (1st three pages)

A 4th knowledge base document, a supporting 162 page reference doc, and a very long mailing list thread and summary.

Several hours, days, and then weeks later post a summary to the list. At which point a colleague, who actually works only 10 minutes away, says “oh yeah, I got these graphics about this in a course I took last year. Here.[1]”

5 of the choices; answer springs to mind in < 3 seconds, no docs needed.

If I’d had that, my epic quest would have been answered in minutes instead of weeks. I’ll forward it to ESRI tech support for the next confused technician who blunders in mumbling incoherently about witchy dahdum transphomayshuns. I guess this answers the question about whether ESRI tech support personnel take their own courses! Oh, just in case you are wondering, those diagrams are worth 4,434 words (of the summary!), or almost 1500 words each. Expelliarmus!

— me, in 2007 on the Esri-L mailing list (ref)

[1] The map figures are from the exercise package of Data Production and Editing Techniques, which doesn’t exist anymore.

So why am I writing about this a dozen years later in 2019?


… in 2007 there were 8 transform choices and now there are 17;

… these simple graphics, crudely drawn, mickey mouse even, are still not in the authoritative help documentation;

… nor have I been able to find them in the paid-members-only Esri training courses;

… the only extant copies I’ve been able to locate are intellectual-property-gray-zone copies by myself and an outfit called Juniper GIS;

… I want a similar treatment for the 11 new choices;

… concrete well described examples of maps solving wordy technical problems are actually kind of hard to source.

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