Sunday, September 11, 2011

Have GIS Questions? Here are the places to get reliable answers!

When I was studying for my Master's in GIS I used to get a whole lot of questions on software usage and technical concepts. Like any other student I used to rely on Google Search to search for answers. In the meantime I used to bump into several forums, mailing lists where one can find answers to large variety of questions. Sensing that this would be the scenario with every student, with this article I am making an attempt to provide web-links to few forums where one can get reliable answers to GIS questions.
If I miss out any good site please submit the links in comments section so that I can add them later.

Let me start with my first choice for asking questions. I am providing a numbered list but that does not mean that it is the order of my preference for asking questions.
  1. GIS Stack Exchange: This is a free, community driven Q&A for cartographers, geographers and GIS professionals. It is a part of the Stack Exchange network of Q&A websites, and it was created through the open democratic process defined at Stack Exchange Area 51. One can ask questions even without registering or can even use OpenID to register. Questions receive votes, comments, multiple answers(again answers receive votes), there are moderators to correct questions, members are usually very helpful and so on. During my dissertation work I got large number of queries answered at GIS Stack Exchange in the shortest possible time. The site has expert members who are well versed with leading software in the industry - be it proprietary or open source!
  2. CartoTalk: A Public Forum for Cartography and Design. The site is a home for forums, tutorials, map galleries, advices and a lot more.
  3. GeoCommunity GIS Discussions: The place to discuss GIS news, hardware, software, and data issues.
  4. GISCafe Discussion Forums: The site has different sections for education, business, GIS Tools, remote sensing and imagery, data and metadata etc.
  5. Other than the above generic resources there are specific ones aimed at addressing queries regarding specific software like ArcGIS Resource Center, ERDAS Communities, FME User Central etc.
  6. Open source software users would probably know about mailing lists. Almost all FOSS GIS software have their own mailing lists. There are times when I got answers within few minutes of posting a question. Users can post questions either via web interface or sending mails to a designated email ID. To post questions via web interface one must register at that website as well as be a subscriber of the mailing list.
  7. [Update: 18-11-2014] For Questions on MapInfo there is a Google Group MapInfo-L.