Point of Beginning

Editor’s Note

October 1, 2001
McGray

You learn something every day.

That bromide is probably true in most any field of endeavor, but I am constantly reminded that in the world of surveying, rare indeed is the day that passes without opportunities for learning. We hear a great deal of discussion about formal education—higher education programs at colleges and universities, continuing education and paraprofessional training programs. Those are of great importance, to be sure. But the kind of learning I’m talking about here is the everyday informal kind. It’s the kind of learning we need just to keep current with all the technological advances in our profession. It’s the kind that incrementally advances our understanding of the business side of our profession. It’s the kind of learning that sharpens our insights into our relationships with our colleagues, our employees, our employers, our clients. It’s the kind that comes to us as an accidental bolt from the blue or as the treasured kernel of truth we uncover after exhaustive digging.

A good personal example I might cite is within the field of GPS surveying. Our firm got our first single-frequency receivers in 1992, whereupon I set out to learn all I could about the subject. I quickly realized that there was a lot to learn—but that realization didn’t take it far enough. I remember thinking in those early days, “Wow, there’s more to this stuff than I thought. It’ll probably be months before I’ve learned enough.” Well, it’s been months, all right ... as in several dozen months. And guess what? I don’t feel that I’ve learned “enough” even yet. Oh, I’ve written lots of columns and articles on the topic and given some seminars. And on the whole, my understanding of GPS is probably adequate to work through most day-to-day issues. But new insights and, yes, challenges pop up on practically every project. A surveyor assumes he knows it all at his own peril.

One of the most fertile fields I’ve run across for harvesting new knowledge is the surveyor’s bulletin board www.rpls.com. If you’re not a regular reader of the messages, questions, answers, random thoughts and plain old yakking that goes on in that forum, then you are definitely missing something. Although not every statement that appears on the board is necessarily 100 percent correct, there are enough careful (read: picky) readers to set most of the wayward thoughts straight. Add to that ad hoc review panel a host of nationally recognized experts, including former and present NGS luminaries Bill Strange and Dave Doyle, and you have a treasure of information sources that costs nothing but the time it takes you to read the content.

It’s often said that the main thing we need to learn is how much we don’t know. The fact that you are reading this magazine is evidence of your acceptance of information and ideas, and of your recognition that there is still much to learn. As for myself, when it comes to learning how much I don’t know, I’ve learned—and am still learning every day—a great deal.



Editorial Mission

POB is edited to help the progressive surveying and mapping professional succeed. The magazine is dedicated to achieving this mission through concise and aggressive coverage of the industry, highlighting:
    • New applications and evolving technologies (particularly GPS and GIS),
    • Practical solutions to surveying and mapping problems, and
    • Business, legal and educational issues.