37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
37° 48' 15.7068'' N, 122° 16' 15.9996'' W
MODERN MAP MAKING HAS ARRIVED
Maps
Editorial
Mapscaping podcast: an interview with Felt's CEO
In this episode of Mapscaping, Felt's CEO shares how we are building the best place to make maps on the internet, and why a new way is necessary.
In this episode of Mapscaping, Felt's CEO shares how we are building the best place to make maps on the internet, and why a new way is necessary.

Referenced Resources

Topics Covered

[00:00] - Felt CEO's background as a designer, lessons from building his former company, Remix, into a $100m business, and vision for Felt

My quick story is I am a designer, a product designer who started working in government. So for something like a decade, I worked for Department of Justice, Department of Energy, NASA, designing an iPad for astronauts. So working on these really complex deep systems and trying to make them fun and joyful despite a lot of red tape, I did that for many years and I got good at making these kind of tools. Took that energy, that spirit. Started a business called Remix that did city planning software. So we helped cities plan out bike lanes, bus routes, street designs. It was sort of a real life SIM city. You could choose your city, move things around, and it would tell you going to cost this much, have this kind of social impact. Cities were doing this on paper before, so this was better. It was fun, it was exciting. Cities loved it. And so in five years, we got 400 cities we got New York and London and Auckland and San Francisco, more or less every major city in the Western world. And today, Remix is the default city planning software that cities use.

[04:24] - The evolution of the software market and what that means for people who work with maps

...if you talk to our customers, you'll find out it's a breath of fresh air. They've been waiting for something like this. I think that's the energy I get when I talk to our customers. And I think the reason is that software in general has changed. It used to be about when it made sense, all about just like make sure it's possible to get it done. And then people started spending a lot of time on computers. It became the main thing they did all day. And sitting in front of a machine and all day doing a functional task can really drain something deep within you and people realize, hey, this stuff should actually be fun to use. Joyful, you shouldn't be focused on the software, you should be focused on the task you're trying to accomplish. And so we saw spreadsheets become fun, right? You can use Google Sheets to play spreadsheets or weird games or plan out a wedding. We saw databases become fun with Airtable, we saw wikis become fun with Notion, we saw design become even more fun with Figma. And so I think that's what we're seeing, this idea that if people are really going to be using this all day, it's got to be a truly delightful piece of software.

[06:16] - Felt's target market and user base

Felt is for three clear, distinct audiences. The first is GIS professionals. So if you are a GIS professional, if you're using something like ESRI or QGIS, felt is an amazing complementary tool. You can use it to share maps online, share them privately with your team, gather comments, do real time collaboration, these kinds of things that traditionally were quite difficult in these desktop pieces of software audience. Two is people new to maps. If you are working at your job, you're managing a farm, you're an archaeologist, and you've always found map making a little bit too difficult or requiring too much upfront cost for the first time, you can jump into this medium and play with it yourself.And so we really want to encourage professionals in lots of different places to integrate maps more easily into their job. And the third of three is consumers. If you're planning a hike, or you are a student in a history class, or a teacher in a history class, or you're planning out your backyard and how you might plant the garden, Felt is a amazing consumer grade tool that replaces Google. MyMaps replaces drawing and paint. It's a great way for consumers to jump into maps for the first time.


[08:11] - What's Upload Anything and why it's changing how people work with data files

GeoJSON, geopackage, KML, GPS, Arc layers, GeoTIFFs raster, spreadsheets, URLs, esri feature servers – we really aspire for that anything mantle. And behind the scenes, we have built a huge path of code that figures out for each type what to do. And some types are harder than others. So, for example, if you upload a spreadsheet, how do you put that on a map? You might have latitudes, longitudes, you might have a well known text, you might have just a zip code or an address. And all those things need to be handled in different ways. So this is actually a place where we use machine learning. So we have a large language model that reads the spreadsheet and determines the most likely spatial data in there. And then for each possibility, we geocode it. We geomatch it, we translate that lat long, we do whatever is necessary. And of course, the user can always go make a different choice later. They have full control, but most of the time we get it right, so that most of the time you're not having to worry about, how do I open this file? ...If there's a viewer out there listening and does not believe me, just please go try dragging a file in felt and see what happens. I find that that's usually the magic moment for folks.
...if you talk to our customers, you'll find out it's a breath of fresh air. They've been waiting for something like this.

[17:20] - The power of collaborative browser-based tooling and what it means for maps

I think this is how the internet is evolving, which is you go in a document, a video and image and now a map, and you can see the other person's cursor if they're in that same doc, you see what they're doing. You can chat with each other live as you do that activity and this unlocks a whole set of new use cases that before were impossible or difficult. So for example, one of the largest newspapers in America uses felt internally as their core tool. And every time there's a breaking story so something going on in the Ukraine like that dam bursting or being damaged or a major wildfire or a train derailment, they will go and throw a bunch of their journalists on the same map and each of those journalists will know a part of the story. But together they can map out the full extent of what the river damage is or what the fire damage is. They'll compile that together, export it, and then put it on their website in their own format and their own storytelling tools. But Felt becomes that collaboration, that real time collaboration tool that allows journalists to spatially talk about what's going on.


[21:05] Felt's QGIS Plug-in, API and support of QGIS (and QGIS users!)

We launched our QGIS plugin and a new API you can use to interact with Felt, including what we call the Open and Felt button. So let me walk through all of these because I think they're all exciting. The first is so many of our customers use QGIS as a tool alongside Felt. ...we ask them, "Share your screen so we can see how you're doing this", so we can learn. And then right next to that, Felt browser tab will be their QGIS window. And there's so many flows where they go into QGIS and do a really deep analysis, something that QGIS is perfectly suited for, that they want to share it with their team. And sharing today is often taking a screenshot or taking a file and asking the other person to install QGIS and load it up that's not accessible for a large audience. And so making that more web friendly, they export to Felt, they drag it in, and they use felt as the shareable medium for collecting comments and collaborating. So we saw this and we said, hey, let's just make this easier. So we launched our plugin this week, and it's a single button, the add to Felt button. You click it, it takes your QGIS project, it puts it on the Internet. Again, we have the magic of uploading anything. So every single thing in a QGIS project will work – in less than 10 seconds, you have a shareable link that you can send to your friends or your coworkers.


[27:59] - How and why Felt feels deceivingly simple to use

If you go into Felt, it's like a toolbar with a big Felt tip marker as an icon, a set of scissors as an icon. There's a big juicy 3D pin there. It feels so shockingly simple. And then if you get into it, there's a surprising amount of stuff you can do. And so that's often where we get the most caught up, is people don't realize how many things Felt can do. And so we've been trying to show people how other folks are using it in really, really deep ways. So we launched our subreddit. So if you are a Reddit fan, please go to reddit.com r slash Felt and you can for the first time see our subreddit, where people are posting maps that they've created inside Felt. If you're not a Reddit user, you can go to Felt.com Gallery and see an incredibly extensive collection of maps that people have made. I think we have a responsibility when we build software that feels this simple to show them all the things they can pull off with it. ...we want to be as powerful as Google Sheets. Of course, it took Google Sheets years to get there, and it'll take us years to build out that complexity as well. That doesn't mean we will ever replace QGIS or ESRI. These are very powerful, very complex tools that serve their need really well. But you often need a complement, the online Google Sheets complement. And so we've been building out that suite of tools over the course of the next few years. We're really dedicated to this. And I think if you talk to our customers, by far the number one thing they mention is you guys are shipping so fast, if you sign up, even if you don't use the software, you'll get the newsletter every two weeks. We show you what we've built. No secrets up our sleeve.
We launched our plugin – it's a single button, the add to Felt button. You click it, it takes your QGIS project, it puts it on the Internet – in less than 10 seconds, you have a shareable link that you can send to your friends or your coworkers.
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