Office Hour on SeaSketch

Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 1 pm EST / 10 am PST / 6 pm GMT

The EBM Tools Network and OpenChannels are pleased to announce a live “office hour” chat with Will McClintock and Evan Paul of the Center for Marine Assessment and Planning. Office hour chats provide an opportunity for participants to ask panelists questions as well as share their own experiences and insights with panelists and other participants.

More about the Office Hour: This office hour is a live online "chat" conducted by typing and reading text. There is no audio component. All participants are able (and encouraged) to post, and all participants are able to view all posts (i.e. nothing is confidential). These chats are an opportunity for multi-directional flow of information. However, the moderator will delete any inappropriate content including posts that contain inappropriate language and posts that do not pertain to the topic. Participants are encouraged to be frank but to elaborate on and substantiate all praise and criticism. You do not need to be logged into the OpenChannels site to participate in the chat, but you are encouraged to create a user account and log in so you do not need to type your name in every post.

The chat is now closed for comments. If you have additional questions, please feel free to direct them to mcclintock [at] (Will McClintock) or read more at and


Hi everyone! The Office Hour is currently open for pre-comments/questions. Will and Evan will join us in 30 minutes. If you have an OpenChannels user account, please login ahead of time to post your questions (your posts won't have to be filtered through our anti-spam protections). If you do not have an OpenChannels account you are welcome to create one now, but it is not required - you'll simply need to type in your name with each post.

Hi, All! Here are a couple of things you might want to check out, in case you haven't yet already. First, is a demonstration project in SeaSketch that demonstrates how the tool might be used for collaboratively designing a new shipping lane in the Santa Barbara channel:

SeaSketch is far more easy to customize and, therefore, much less expensive to implement. Project administrators have access to a feature-rich interface that allows them to add users, configure groups, create discussion forums, and give people permissions to access data and forums. As such, project administrators can do a lot to configure SeaSketch without ever contact us!

For those that are interested in understanding marine spatial planning as a whole, SeaSketch offers a fantastic new feature. Because all SeaSketch projects are hosted on a single web site (, all user behaviors are logged in a single database. That is, every time somebody clicks on a data layer, sketches a plan, shares that plan with somebody, generates a report, all of those behaviors go into the SeaSketch database. We can use that database of information to learn a great deal about how people use geospatial information to make decisions and collaborate (or not) with others when designing marine spatial plans. Because MarineMap is a stand-alone application, it does not offer this single database as a resource for researchers. As the number of projects grow in SeaSketch, the value of this resource goes up. We are hoping that geographers, social scientists, anthropologists and other researchers will collaborate with us in evaluating these data.

First, let's talk about the similarities. Both are "collaborative geodesign" tools in that they allow rapid, iterative sketching and analysis of prospective plans by anyone, regardless of their technical background. Alternatively, to do this kind of sketching and analysis you must use a desktop GIS which (a) requires specialized training, and (b) takes much, much longer to do. Without going into the gory details, suffice it to say that what took weeks to do on the desktop, we could do in seconds via the web using collaborative geodesign technology. Real-time feedback during stakeholder meetings means that stakeholders are arguing about real (data-driven) issues, rather than things that aren't supported by data. With a desktop GIS, negotiations take much, much longer (and are therefore costlier) because people aren't arguing about issues grounded in science and data.

MarineMap was designed initially as a custom app for the California MLPAI and was a single application on a single server. In contrast, SeaSketch is set up as a “Software as a Service" (SaaS), which means that the application is hosted on the Web by us, using SeaSketch servers, rather than being installed at your site. Additionally, this single SeaSketch website is used by all projects. This is similar to familiar services like Gmail or Facebook. The SaaS model means that every project benefits from our constant improvements to SeaSketch. Our central SeaSketch website is engineered to be very reliable and available, goals more difficult to achieve if SeaSketch was installed at a remote site. Additionally, if the software was bundled up and installed at a single site, that site owner would incur extra hosting costs because they'd would have to buy servers and pay for server admin time. In the end, using SaaS allows us to provide more features to you, more quickly and for less cost.

This concept of Software as a Service is so important! You'll notice that if you try to access MarineMap for the the final phase of California's Marine Life Protection Act Initiative ( it's no longer there! This is because MarineMap was a stand alone application that had to be maintained by people with expert knowledge of the software stack. The California Department of Fish and Game could no longer afford to contract us (the MarineMap Consortium: and, therefore, we had to shut the site down. This is a real shame because the tool was so useful and people continued to use the tool after the planning phase had concluded. With SeaSketch - a Software as a Service - projects like this won't simply go away once major funding for planning goes away. By simply maintaining a SeaSketch license, projects can live on indefinitely. As such, these tools will continue to be useful far beyond the planning phase.

Hi Will and Evan: The EBM Tools Network and OpenChannels are doing a study on what tools MSP processes are using worldwide. The preliminary results show that the most-used tool is GIS. Why do you think so many processes are using GIS, which requires significant expertise to use?

A lot of planners and resource managers have been trained in GIS, though a smaller sub-set actually use it. Among stakeholders and the general public, the numbers of active GIS users are an even smaller percentage. If we want planning to be participatory and collaborative, then the tools for planning analysis need to be accessible by the broadest possible audience you seek to engage. We've designed SeaSketch to be intuitive by non-professionals, so that the power of GIS analysis can be leveraged by everyone who wants to participate in the planning process. As we saw in the MLPAI, this can result in more buy-in to the final plan, as the stakeholders are directly able to sketch and analyze the plan elements themselves. Stakeholders are then also able to compare and contrast their proposals to others, so everyone is comparing apples-to-apples.