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Using GIS and visualization interpret proposed laws.

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    This is a fantastic post. I’ve been meaning to try out some non-trivial PostGIS functionality, and this is amazing.

    It’s also a little disheartening for someone like myself to start a project such as this, mostly due to the fact that a huge amount of the setup involved is finding the right shapefiles for what you’re hoping to accomplish.

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      I did a project last year where I finally had a good reason to knuckle down to learning some PostGIS, and I found out exactly those two things:

      (1) PostGIS is amazing, especially with the QGIS integration. It allows you to perform what seems like magic in terms of processing times on layer calculations compared to the ArcGIS or QGIS+python-script world, spitting back out perfectly-transformed QGIS layers in double-quick time. It’s also surprisingly approachable; from a standing start, a lot of it does seem like magic, but once you get your head round the fact that it’s “just” a bunch of clever hashing and smart indexes, and all just in SQL, meaning you can do some really interesting stuff by “just” joining on those fields and using those provided functions, the magic fades away and you can get what previously seemed like really complex stuff done pretty quickly.

      (2) Oh man, yeah, the dearth and spottiness of public availability of data for this kind of regulatory stuff is really, really painful. The sheer fact that most US stuff is broken down into totally irregularly-sized and -scaled legislatures is bad enough, let alone the fact that each one makes its own call about what data to publish and how. Don’t even get me started on LA cities and counties. Let alone the Valley.

      But seriously, the fact that there are so many GIS-vs-SQL wizards actively involved in the ongoing development of an open-source tool like PostGIS is a pleasure to behold. That sort of thing really is the pinnacle of what a technologically advanced civilisation is about. (Excuse me, I think I have a speck of sentiment in my eye.)

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        I fooled around with some shapefiles a few years ago for a personal project, and it legitimately took 10x more time to source the shapefiles (or other formats that I then had to figure out how to convert to shapefiles) than the very simple thing I was trying to accomplish in the first place.

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      Fun fact: local SF tweet/blog celebrity Burrito Justice got his start and his name on this same issue.