Good Bones

Things have been quiet lately on here and that’s for a good reason. We’ve (my husband and I) embarked upon (and completed!) a major home renovation project. We totally gutted and remodeling the kitchen and it’s kinda a big deal. As in, it has already changed my life in unexpected ways.

We learned a lot in the process, and luckily – we planned ahead and had excellent contractors – we didn’t run into any super major issues and completed the project in just about the timeline we anticipated.

One thing that blew me away is that, over time, there was A LOT of lipstick put on the pig… but that pig had good bones.

Four layers of linoleum peeled up in the kitchen. About the same amount of wallpaper layers pulled off the CEILING in the music room (who does that?!)

Some things I harp on in GIS that are equally applicable to home renovation are the following:

  • What’s the goal? Make sure you  have a clear vision of what the problem is and what you envision the solution being. These two items are the bookends for all the steps in between – it defines the planning and implementation and helps you keep sight of what you NEED. I wanted a kitchen that was easy to clean, had more storage space and flowed better. Keeping this in mind at all times ensured that we didn’t fall for stupid traps like… dedicated drawers built specifically for utensils that cost a bajillion dollars, or shitty up-swinging shelves that took up AN ENTIRE CABINET just for my KitchenAid (and cost a bajillion dollars, and would probably fall apart in less than a year.) There’s a lot of bells and whistles and rabbit holes to explore with GIS, but if it’s not meeting the goal then you just end up pissing people off.

What are your resources? If you’re asked to answer a question using GIS, or any platform for that matter, you need to know what your resources are to answer the question. Embarking on the renovation, we first met with a financial advisor. This wasn’t just to set up our method for crediting the kitchen. It was also to get an idea of what kind of shape our finances were in, in general. You always need to have a keen sense of where your information stands. Metadata, as annoying as it is to maintain, is actually really important. Whether we realize it or not, metadata isn’t just the crap we fill in to satisfy the requirements to publish it.

Metadata includes actually communicating… like, between two human beings, mano-y-mano, capiche? Unless you’re really F’ing lucky, I’m willing to bet most of the data you deal with is: 1.) messy 2.) in a zillion different formats and 3.) probably not spatial (yet.) It probably has NO metadata, so you actually have to understand the why and how of its existence, and this may actually require some follow up questions. So, you have to talk to people and figure out what their perspective is and understand the limitations of… your resources. If it’s data or finances, you gotta know what you’ve got to work with.

I think my biggest pet peeve, as it relates to GIS, is a lack of understanding that if you want to involve a GIS deliverable in a project, then you’re going to need to involve someone intimately familiar with GIS on the front end… from the planning and resource-finding stage. When we remodeled the kitchen, we didn’t purchase a bunch of materials first and then ask a contractor to come and try and figure the puzzle out. We planned, we measured, we had goals, and we designed it all with that framework keenly in mind and communicated to everyone involved.

Additionally, know your limitations… as an individual and as a team. If you come into a system that has a lot of potential to be efficient and productive and ripe with spatial questions to analyze, but the data isn’t ready to work/doesn’t exist, then consider your options for investing in gathering that data. What will it cost? What amount of time will it take? What do you need it to do for you? For others? What’s the biggest bang for your buck and what’s your ROI? Do you collect it yourself or do you contract it out?

Of course- these needs and considerations are also intimately tied to scale, as well. With the kitchen… some electrical and plumbing issues here and there? Hubs can handle that. An entire kitchen? He can handle that too… if only he had 5 years of time and infinite funds to get it done. Time is money. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Our kitchen pre-remodel
Our kitchen post-remodel

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