Another day, another interview with an open geo thought leader. But with the weekend fast approaching we thought we’d take a more light hearted approach and spend some time with Atanas Entchev, publisher (editor-in-chief? bossman? head dude? not sure what the hip term is) of the influential GeoHipster blog.

1. Who are you and what do you do? What got you into geo?

_I work at ENTCHEV GIS in New Brunswick, New Jersey, the company I founded in 2005. We provide GIS services to a diverse clientele, primarily municipal governments in New Jersey and the Northeast US. I got into geo in 1991 during my graduate studies in urban planning at Rutgers University. I got my first GIS job in early 1992 – “only temporary”, while I was looking for a “real” job as an urban planner. 23 years later I am still in geo. I am not looking for a planning job any longe_r.

2. What is the GeoHipster blog? Actually, what is a geohipster?

I started the GeoHipster blog in December 2013 with the vague objective to make it “a fun place for self-identified geohipsters to hang out.” Glenn Letham suggested to kick it off with a poll, and Renee Sieber proposed the interview format (Renee was also our first interviewee). The interview format proved very popular, and we have since published seventeen interviews with geohipsters from various corners of the geoindustry. Our goal is to present a well-rounded composite profile of the geogeek – quirks and all.

What is a geohipster? When I started the blog a year ago, I thought I had a pretty good idea what a (geo)hipster was. A year later I am not so sure. In the course of running GeoHipster I found out that “hipster” means a lot of different things – sometimes not very nice –  to different people.

I have since become a student of hipsterism. My current understanding (which continues to evolve) is that outward manifestation of hipster attributes does not a hipster make. Inner attributes – which are not always openly manifested – are key to telling a hipster from a fipster (faux hipster). Attributes like rebellion and altruism.

3. Does being a geohipster imply being open? What’s the relationship between hipsterdom and openness?

Openness is not necessarily a hard requirement for the hipster label, although hipsterism and openness often go hand in hand. Geohipsters like to share, which is not the same as giving the farm away. You can share and still make a living. By comparison, the fashion industry copyrights colors. They may be fashionable, but they are not hip.

4. Surely open has become so mainstream that at some point the true geohipster swerves in the other direction? Are not innovative, albeit closed, services like What3Words, (geo)hip?

Let me first say that I am not an arbiter of what is and what is not hip. Having said that, I am happy to offer my personal opinion. Any new and innovative service – like What3Words – is hip at inception and stays hip until stagnation and greed take over. Microsoft was once hip; it no longer is. I am sure your readers can think of many more such examples.

5. One geo social stratification we occasionally hear bandied about is the divide between the “neogeo” and the “paeleogeo” world. Does being a geohipster imply neogeoness? Or is that measuring on a different axis? Can the paeleos be hip?

Paleos are definitely hip! As is your spelling of “paeleo”. Madonna’s fake British accent, on the other hand, is not. But I digress.

British artisanal globe maker Peter Bellerby, whose company we profiled on GeoHipster, is as hip as they get. David Imus, who created “The Greatest Paper Map of the United States You’ll Ever See”, is a geohipster icon. As far as geohipsterism is concerned, there is no neo-paleo divide. There is a real-fake divide; innovation-stagnation divide; altruism-greed divide.

6. To date most of your interviewees have been based in the US. As an organizer of London’s #geomob (which we occasionally hold in Shoreditch, epicentre of London hipsterdom) I can assure you the geohipster scene here is thriving. Any plans to turn your attention to Europe?

Absolutely! We do not aim to be US-centric. Actually we have one interview in the works with a guy Down Under, and two UK prospects who have agreed to be interviewed. The issue is, of course, that most of my and my collaborators’ contacts are in the US. We are actively looking for ways to expand our reach and representation, and not just geographically.

7. The major innovation in geo in the last 10+ years has been the widespread access of digital mapping to the consumer, kicked off of course by the launch of Google Maps and the rise of the smart phone. But now we’re seeing more and more people experimenting with taking mapping back offline; here in the UK we have examples like: Telescope Cards, SplashMaps, MapBrushHerb Lester, etc. So this begs the question, is offline the new online?

I am an horophile – a watch aficionado. All my watches have had gears and springs and escapements. I have never owned a digital watch, or even a quartz analog watch. I am happy to see that mechanical watches are experiencing a Renaissance of sorts, as if a rebellion against the iWatch and other “wearables” is under way. Could it be that we have reached Digital Peak?

The offline maps examples you mention and the success of the “paleo” artisanal map makers send the same signal. Maybe people don’t want to keep their to-do list in their microwave oven, maybe people don’t want their refrigerator to tweet. Maybe a nice hardcopy map will allow you to better experience your next car trip.

8. What does the future hold for the geohipster scene?

I hope we continue to carry the momentum and keep adding to the GeoHipster map. I hope our blog continues to attract readers and interviewees from all corners of the world. I hope we truly become a fun place for self-identified geohipsters to hang out. I hope we don’t get greedy.

Many thanks Atanas. As someone who moved OUT of Shoreditch in 2009 (don’t want to say I made it cool, but hard to argue with facts), I personally of course have no need for anyone to tell me what hipness is (geo or otherwise). Nevertheless, it’s great to know there is a forum for those seeking the answers. I too look forward to watching the GeoHipster map grow. Until of course it becomes mainstream. 

You can see all the Open Geo interviews here. If you are or know of someone we should interview, please get in touch, we’re always looking to promote people doing interesting things with open geo data.