Geospatial Developer Survey Results

Newly refreshed after a week of vacation, I thought I’d start things up with the results of the informal “2008 Geospatial Developer Survey”. I’ll start by thanking the 320 people who took the time to complete it. Admittedly it was a little rough in spots – turns out that writing good survey questions is tougher than you’d think!

Since there were 30 questions in the survey, I’m breaking this into a few posts. As promised, I will post the results as an excel file with the last post.

Who are you?

I thought I should start off the survey with an easy one – what’s your role.


The split across titles was somewhat interesting – almost even between “Analysts who write code”, and those who consider themselves “GIS Software Developers”, with “Software Engineer” trailing slightly. I see this as a progression from “getting things done” coding towards more “built to last” coding.

Primary Development Language

There were a lot of “other” responses on this one, mainly along the lines of “Mix of languages – VB.NET, VBScript, JavaScript, Python, and others”.

The idea of this question was to get a feel for what you most commonly work with. I went through the “others” and tabulated them into the mix. Since there were so many variations in the “other” categories, I collapsed them into one group for the pie chart. Perhaps not surprisingly, .NET was the prominent platform with a 61% share.




Here is how the “other” broke out by count of times they were mentioned. I’m pretty surprised that there are still people using VB6 and VBA. While these tools get the job done, the lifecycle for VB6 apps must be coming to a close.



Who do you Develop For?

Almost a 50-50 split on internal vs external clients. Some people were asking why I asked this. I was interested in seeing any relationships between engineering practices and the client base – would there be more advanced software techniques used for the external clients vs internal? With a 50-50 split, it’s not entirely obvious, but I’ve since downloaded the data into a database and I’ll try to split out the data a little more to see how this breaks things down.


Use of ESRI GIS Products

This is another question that I got some flak for – but I think it’s relevant in that I’m interested in knowing what my readers are using. 40% of the respondents are only using ESRI. Actually I had thought this would be higher – the idea that 60% of respondents are using some mix of non-ESRI GIS tools is very interesting. I’m sure a lot of that is Autodesk stuff, but there’s got to be some MapServer, GeoServer, PostGIS and other open source stuff making an appearance in here. Next year I’ll change this one up so we can see the mix of packages being used.


Coding Standards

It’s nice to see that most respondents have some type of coding standards.


Mostly informal, but that’s a start, and if you have a solid team, it’s likely all you need. Those folks with out any type of coding standards should really consider setting up something – most languages have some sort of recommendations or conventions. The goal of coding standards is simply to ensure that everyone on your team is writing code in such a way that anyone else on the team can easily tell what’s going on. If nothing else – simply using clear names for your variables is a good starting point.


Development Life-Cycles

This was interesting, and will require more analysis, but here’s how I look at this. 50% of respondents classified themselves as Developers or Software engineers, and just about 50% also fell into Agile or Waterfall. 30% classified themselves as GIS Analysts who Code, and we see about 35% of cowboy coders.


I’ll cut things off here for now – next time I’m going to cover some of the more technical questions – design patterns, unit testing etc. I also need to get the data out of survey monkey in a database format so I can use SQL to tease more information out of the results.

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