Story Map Gallery Fine Print

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Those who have been keeping an investment in ArcGIS Online will know that the “story map” is an often promoted, frequently updated project on behalf of Esri’s push to an online format. They’ve even promoted it in their annual user conference, wherein (registered) individuals can submit their work to be recognized as a “thought leader.” Though it is questionable how much of a thought leader one can be when a fair number of users are unable to submit their work because they are not able to afford the price tag of the event. The site has also maintained a Story Map Gallery, a place where users of AGOL can submit their completed projects and be recognized for their quality and ingenuity.

However, Esri has failed to elaborate on some of the newer regulations, and additional “fine print” standards that the gallery now has. Even when allowing it a cursory glance, it’s easy to glean that what they feature normally falls within the categories of Esri employee content, or content from outside corporations / governmental institutions that provide greater clout for the usage of their product. However, they do not indirectly state it on their list of requirements to submit.

During my final year at my university, I had gotten the opportunity to intern for the PA Department of Transportation. Seeing the consistency in selection for the Story Map Gallery, I decided to conduct an experiment. Working on a large story map for the state, on driver’s license policy, I submitted it. It was accepted and remained there for about two weeks.

Then, I received a comment by a representative of the story map gallery. They inquired as to whether the story map had received a public feature on the Transportation Department’s website. After confirmed that it was not, the story map was removed from their gallery with no further indication as to why.

After following up with them through email, they had confirmed to me that the story map had been removed – due to not being featured prominently enough. When I inquired as to why this standard was not blatantly stated on their submissions page, there was no direct answer provided.

While this may a perfectly fine policy to have – regarding a corporate entity trying to promote a product –  it is disingenuous to portray story maps, or the Story Map Gallery, as places for open thought and discussion by all users of Esri products, or by GIS professionals in general.

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