Using ArcGIS Online to Manage Content

GIS Contributor


It’s no secret that ArcGIS Online (AGOL) is a great platform to share ideas, collect information and communicate with others using the power of location. However, if you’ve been working with ArcGIS online for a while, or if you’re a member of a “spatially vibrant and aware” organization with a lot of content in your portal, then you may find it difficult to manage everything that’s going on in the platform. People are building amazing content, which is an accomplishment in and of itself, but there’s a dark side to all of this. 

What happens when content reaches the end of its life cycle?  In some cases, content management is automated using Python, and in others there are folks whose primary job is content management. In most cases, however, the tasks of content management and curation are overlooked or assigned an ultra-low priority—and that’s a problem.

Keeping Content Up-to-date with ArcGIS Online

In a world where storage space and processing power are currency in the form of credits, unused content comes at a cost. In addition to the cost of credits, having deprecated content can also lead consumers to the wrong data, which can have a negative if not catastrophic impact on decision making.

So for those of us who don’t have a ton of extra bandwidth to dedicate to the task, how do we keep up with all the content that’s in our organization, manage credits, and clean up old and unwanted data? While there are a few tools on AGOL to manage your organization, several require the archaic method of viewing a .csv in excel. Others require programming knowledge or exist as paid extensions. In all cases, a lot of time needs to be invested into keeping your organization’s content relevant and up-to-date.

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Mike Bowen of GEOACE, an Esri enthusiast with an aversion to spreadsheet-based management, decided that he would set out to develop a simple yet effective solution to solve his management woes. The main goal was to make the process a bit more enjoyable and if possible save a bit of time.

Screenshot from the GEOACE Item Report Dashboard.
Screenshot from the GEOACE Item Report Dashboard.

Using ArcGIS Online as a Content Management Tool

Rather than stare at Excel spreadsheets to identify culprits for cleanup, he decided a better approach would be to use an Esri application to manage the content. The end product was an Esri dashboard.

Contrary to the norm of having a map front-and-center in an Esri dashboard, this one boasts a map-free, interactive display. The dashboard consumes an ArcGIS Online-generated report and gives it a user-friendly interface with everything you need to manage items right at your fingertips.

Screenshot showing item filtering with the Item Report Dashboard from GEOACE.
The dashboard is built around a standard report which can be generated in a few clicks within the AGOL Organization tab.

Rather than a map, the focal point of the dashboard is a window that showcases any given selected item’s management pages. Using this view, managers can do things like update metadata, change visualization settings, modify the data directly, or even delete undesirable content. Ultimately, this dashboard saves time and clicks when a manager would otherwise be going page-to-page within AGOL. 

The dashboard is built around a standard report which can be generated in a few clicks within the AGOL Organization tab. With the report generated and subsequently downloaded, it can be published back to the organization as a table. From there, you have all the data you need to build the dashboard around it. Once the dashboard is built, away you go! Management of the organization is now much easier than it was previously.

Here’s another bonus about the dashboard: At its base level, absolutely no programming is required. With that being said, the developers note that python experience, specifically the use of the ArcGIS API for Python, can take this dashboard further and open doors to more features. To name a few, Python enables the expansion of the tool’s functionality through the generation of reports that are more detailed than the “out of the box” report (annual usage, dependencies, etc.), automation and integration of the data which the dashboard consumes, and optimization of the dashboard’s filtering capabilities.

 If you want to make one of these dashboards for yourself, GEOACE has made their tutorial publicly available in an Esri storymap. The end product of the tutorial is meant to be a management starting point to help content managers put the analysis, navigation, and execution all in one place.  Once the dashboard has been built, the dashboard can be used and enhanced by anyone with an ArcGIS Online account and appropriate access to items within their organization. 

About the Authors

Aaron Laver and Michael Bowen are cofounders of GEOACE, a location-based technology company.

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Guest articles from GIS professionals. Authorship information is listed at the bottom of the articles.