GIS Spring 2016

In a May 2013 op-ed piece, “How to be a Woman Programmer,” Ellen Ullman describes quite well what it takes to be a programmer (setting aside for now the woman part):

“The first requirement for programming is a passion for the work, a deep need to probe the mysterious space between human thoughts and what a machine can understand; between human desires and how machines might satisfy them.

The second requirement is a high tolerance for failure. Programming is the art of algorithm design and the craft of debugging errant code. In the words of the great John Backus, inventor of the Fortran programming language: You need the willingness to fail all the time. You have to generate many ideas and then you have to work very hard only to discover that they don’t work. And you keep doing that over and over until you find one that does work.”

Quoted in Doing Data Science, Cathy O'Neil and Rachel Schutt p. 41


  1. Demers, Michael. 2009. GIS For Dummies. For Dummies Press. (978-0470236826) $20.60
  2. Brewer, Cynthia. 2015. Designing Better Maps: A Guide for GIS Users. Esri Press. (978-1589484405) $39.22
  1. Graser, Anita. 2014. Learning QGIS Second Edition. (Amazon, Kindle & paper, also on Google Play as ebook) (ebook $9.99, paperback $24.99)
  2. Menke,Kurt et al. 2015. Mastering QGIS. (Amazon, Kindle & paper, also on Google Play as ebook) (Ebook ~31, paperback ~39)

Class attendance (20%). This is a fast moving, one module course. Getting behind in the work will likely mean not completing the work by the end of the semester. Except in the case of extraordinary circumstances, incompletes will not be granted.

Attendance graded as follows: 13-14 A; 11-12 B; 9-10 D; If you miss more than 5 classes you will be considered to have withdrawn.

Timely completion of assignments (50%)

1. Introduction to GIS and to the Course

This course is a deep dive, rapid infusion, introduction to using geographic information systems (GIS). The goals of module 1 are for you to have a sense of what GIS is and to have QGIS loaded and running on a machine you have regular access to.

Watch these two videos.

● Sutton,Tim et al. Gentle Introduction to GIS (GIGIS) or here. Pp. 1-8.
● DeMers, Michael N. GIS for Dummies (GdD) pp. 9-22

Assignment 0.

  • Create an account on Wikidot and join the SOC128-2016 wiki.
  • Go to the wiki category of your three initials (or your first initial repeated if Mills does not know about a middle initial) from the link on this page.
  • Click on EDIT and remove ":home" from the title of the page
  • In the upper right of the page you will see a "New Page" button and box. Type "Assignment 00" in the box and click the button.
  • The new page will open in EDIT MODE. This is wiki-mark up language. Don't worry about it now - we will become familiar with it over time. For now, change "Heading 1" to "About Me" and "YOUR CONTENT GOES HERE" to a paragraph or so about what you bring to the class background-wise. Are you a coder or completely new to computer applications. What have you taken on the methodological or quantitative side of the world? Give me a sense of what sort of background you have that might be relevant to the course. NOTE: don't include identifying information - just generic background info.


STOP AND THINK. What might you want to use GIS to do? Edit your assignment 0 page, changing the title to "My Interest in GIS" and the content to a short essay in response to this question.

Assignment 1: Editing Open Street Map

Your first assignment is to create an Open Street Map account, learn how it works, edit the map, and save your changes. Watch the video below and follow along with it in a browser, trying out the skills the video teaches.

  • Pause at about 2:30 and open a browser window with OpenStreetMap in it. Use the search capability to locate some area related to your past. Zoom in close enough to recognize features you know.
  • When you are where you want to be, center the map in the browser window and click on the share button (red arrow below) and then click "Set Custom Dimensions" and then use the handles on the box in front of the map to adjust the selected area to be 450x450. Select PNG (portable network graphic) as the format. Then click download. This puts a file called map.png into your downloads folder.
  • Now return to your wiki home page. On the bottom of the page are several buttons. Click the one that says "Files" and follow the instructions to upload the map.png file you just created. This attaches this image file to this wiki page.
  • Now click EDIT and then where the wiki markup says

[[=image main:images/bathy-sf-bay.jpg]]





Click on save.
  • Follow through the rest of the video, stopping along the way as the narrator suggests. When you get to the part about editing OSM with the iD editor, select the same area you did in the first part of this exercise.
  • Use satellite imagery to add at least ten map elements - points, lines, and areas - to OSM. Save your edits. And export another 450x450 pixel png file of the area you have edited.
  • From your wiki home page, create a page called Assignment 01. Change heading 1 to Editing Open Street Map. Save the page. Upload the map.png file you just saved (it might be called map(1).png).
  • Click edit to open the wiki editor. Click the icon for the INSERT IMAGE WIZARD and look for an "attached image." Select the one you just uploaded and click "Insert Code" and then save the page.

CHECKING IN. As of class 2 you should have created a wiki page, viewed the above videos, registered at OpenStreetMap, learned how to use the Id OSM editor, edit OSM in an area you are interested in, written up "what interests you about GIS," and uploaded a PNG file of your edits in OSM.

CLASS Session 2

Open wiki and go to your "why I'm studying GIS" page. Tag the page "why." (SKILL: tagging pages and building listing pages by tags).
Create a new page in your portfolio - use the new page button - called "INSTALL." Answer a few questions:

  1. What system: windows or macOs?
  2. What version?
  3. How much free space on your hard drive?
  4. How much memory does your computer have?
  5. Did you succeed?
  6. Can you describe where things seemed to go wrong?

Tag the page either "install_success" or "install_frustration"

Mapping Our Neighbors

We will use the Id editor in OSM to trace building footprints in the blocks adjacent to Mills. You might want to use the Alameda County Assessor's Map as a reference. Find your number in this list ( 1-aac 2-anb 3-ans 4-aym 5-ccc 6-cev 7-cgg 8-cln 9-dks 10-dmd 11-elh 12-elr 13-ems 14-fem 15-hhf 16-jdv 17-jhh 18-kmm 19-nmg 20-ppm 21-rah 22-sls 23-sna 24-ssk 25-wwm) and then find your block on the map below. Then go to Open Street Map and locate this block and then trace as many building footprints as you can in 20 minutes.

Mapping Anything

Visit and make an account. Field papers allows you to print a paper map and update it, either by tracing or by walking around in the real world and annotating the map. You can then scan and upload the result and it gets incorporated into OSM.

2a. Let's get started I

In this module we will install QGIS, download some data, and start getting to know GIS and QGIS.

Graser, Anita. Learning QGIS, ch 1 "1. Getting Started with QGIS"
Watch and work along with these tutorial videos

STOP AND THINK. Questions about setup.

2b. Let's get started II

STOP AND THINK. What's the biggest country on the planet?

STOP and SUBMIT. Take a screen shot of your first map, save the file as "lastname-firstname-yyyymmdd-map01"

CHECKING IN. You should be able to define/describe explain (without saying "you know") the following: geospatial data | geographic coordinate | latitude | longitude | geographic features | vector data | raster data | map projections | map layer | points | lines | polygons | digital satellite imagery. IF you have not been reading GIS for Dummies, you should start.

An Idea Worth Knowing About - Vector and Raster Data

Class Session 4

3. Diving In and Getting Output

Graser, Anita. Learning QGIS, ch 1 "1. Getting Started with QGIS"
Watch and work along with these tutorial videos


STOP and SUBMIT. Create PDF of map and insert in portfolio.

4. Import and Georeference a Digital Raster Image

Mutual Aid Bracket Answer the mid-mod-rating:mid-module survey to determine your seed level and get matched with partner.

Watch and work along with these tutorial videos

STOP and SUBMIT. Create PDF of map and insert in wiki portfolio (note you need to use IFRAME markup for pdfs) OR a png/jpg on a wiki page for this tutorial.

STOP and SUBMIT. Create PDF of map and insert in wiki portfolio (note you need to use IFRAME markup for pdfs) OR a png/jpg on a wiki page for this tutorial.

5. GISing on Open Street Map Data

Watch and work along with these tutorial videos

Or, do Oakland: Oaklandish OSM Polygons]

STOP AND THINK. Progress documentation.

STOP AND THINK. Progress documentation.

Brewer on labels and text?
Watch and work along with these tutorial videos

STOP AND THINK. Progress documentation.

STOP AND THINK. Progress documentation.

6. Preparing for Mapping Local

*View and Do
Work with Bernard through tutorial 27 which introduces you to two important skills: **joining
a shape file to an Excel data file and creating data maps. Two kinds of data maps are mentioned: choropleth and heat map.

In this tutorial you encounter a CSV file - it stands for Comma Separated Values and it refers to a text tile in which the kind of data you see in a spread sheet - rows and columns of numbers - are represented by ordinary text with each value separated by a comma and any text fields surrounded by quotation marks. You will also learn a little bit of fancy footwork that we do with CSV files to get QGIS to treat them nicely.

You will also learn about the idea of a "join." This refers to the operation of matching together two tables (each with row (features or records) and columns (fields or variables) based on some column that matches. In the tutorial we have a shape file of all 3232 counties in the United States. We also have an Excel file with poverty data on each county. We want to copy the data from the Excel file into the shape file (that is, we want to add the columns of the data file to the shape file so that each feature in the shape file (each polygon is a county) gets its matching data.

To do a join we tell QGIS what the two things we are joining are (the shape file and the CSV file) and we tell it what field in the first file should be matched with what field in the second file.

After you get your data joined, Stephen shows you how to make a choropleth (aka "shade by value") map showing the distribution of poverty in the US and how to layout US maps in the print composer with a legend.

Your assignment is to create a poverty map along the lines Bernard describes but to use one of the sequential color schemes described in the Brewer book around page 152. Also, see Bernard's tutorial #28 for how to get rid of the black borders and add state boundaries.

You probably don't have access to Adobe Illustrator, so feel free to do a screen shot of your print composer (because it won't allow you to export three different projections).

7. Oakland Data

Have a look at some of the following websites

  1. Oakland on LocalWiki
  2. OakData at City of Oakland
  3. OpenOakland
  4. Oakland datasets for Code for Oakland hackathon
  5. Gentrification maps and data at Governing
  6. Oakland's Public Participation Route to Open Data Legislation
  7. Alameda County Open Data (news about)
  8. Oakland Crime Data
  9. Oakland Crimespotting
  10. See Click Fix Grafitti
  11. Foreclosures in Oakland, 2007-2011
  12. Violence and Stress in Oakland’s Neighborhoods
  13. OpenOakland

Assignment. Develop data and base map for Oakland/Alameda County. Your task is to put together and document a data source and base map and to make a beautiful and meaningful map of something in or around Oakland. This will involve procuring and documenting both base map files and data files, joining data files or geocoding data, and creating a map. See this page for more details and resources.


Stress data

7.1 Geocoding

Try this geocoding workshop

8.0 Put Your Oakland Map on the Web

After you have made an Oakland map in QGIS, we will modify things slightly so that you can have a live version of it on the web.

Put my map on the web