Last Thursday, 24 February, I went to a meeting of the Dutch ArcGIS user group (AGGN) at the ArcGIS offices in Rotterdam.
I don’t know a whole lot about ArcGIS. I had a course on it at the university somewhere in 1997 or so. And I’ve been doing some programming on it for our “turtle” product, which (on the technical level) is a whole bunch of scripts that extend ArcGIS. (It is also a method of working with your data, but I’ll leave that for now).
I do know a whole whopping lot about Python. Indirectly, I got an invitation to tell something at that AGGN meeting about the Dutch Python user group.
I thought it would be nice to look around at such a user group meeting to get a better impression of the level of Python knowledge and the way of working of ArcGIS users. I always like to have a better feel for the audience for which I’m programming, it helps me to build better programs. Attending such a user group meeting is a good way for me to get a better feel.
So I joined a colleague who was also going. Actually, he was going to do one of the two cases, as the idea was to get everyone behind a computer and with the hands on the keyboard, typing actual Python code! So he didn’t mind having an extra pair of eyes and an extra brain full of Python knowledge at hand.
The level of knowledge varies a lot. Some never wrote a single line of Python, others are the Python expert at their company.
The level of interest varies a lot. Most were actively trying to get something nice working. A few were just chatting. A few were very enthousiastic and one pair even had a good Python book next to their keyboard.
There’s a lot to learn. Python itself isn’t hard. Learning Python while also learning the various ArcGIS library calls at the same time is hard. There are often just too many unknowns at the same time.
There’s a lot of power once you get to a basic level. So many things you can automate. So many menial repetitive work you can prevent. I mean, ArcGIS is very powerful and once you add a full-blown friendly programming language (Python) to the mix… You can get a lot done.
My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.
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