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Land Surveying is TimelessLand Surveying is Timeless:

Shared Experience is Education for those new to the field. There are no shortages on complaints around the internet about newbies relying too much on tech. However, the veteran land surveyors are just now- for the first time in history- sharing and documenting their expertise from the field. Students and new surveyors simply have never been exposed to the methods and approaches to land surveying rooted in history. If you think you have nothing to contribute, consider sharing experiences on several ways to approach the same surveying job. Every moment you spend communicating with other surveyors pumps 10 years into the profession. Photos, video and stories shared from the field will outlive you online.

Aside from a few years as a surveyor myself, I have always been a fly on the wall in respect to surveyor discussions, whether in my dad's shop, online or otherwise.  The follow are really just some ideas that I think about quite a bit, in general terms.  Perhaps a few of you will recognize what i am trying to do here.  


Historically, surveyor communication was a geographical challenge, presenting legal hurdles, traversed by technological adaptability and controlled by print media. Most of those problems still exist. The fence which silently causes the most lack of agreement is the one many can’t help straddling.

button pushersMany of the problems plaguing the surveying industry are related to generational gaps which have been created by differential technological adaptations with a lot of push back as well as resistance. As one surveyor from Wisconsin has expressed to me on many occasion, “We will never advance as a profession with the same old “All in Favor say I” mentality.” The young surveyors do not understand such processes. So as they eagerly try to adapt themselves to rigid systems without any social engagement, they find themselves in an awkward position, having to ask for advice from a person with more experience,without really knowing what it is they should ask for.

This is why we must act.  We must continue to build our sub groups and local hubs in order to do more than just maintain categorical /topical organization of our living library of surveying, we must create campaigns to create local public awareness of the importance of measurement professionals to society and civilization. For student surveyors, this will never occur if two important things do not happen simultaneously.

1) The student must be brave enough to ask his/her mentor other ‘analog’ approaches to a solution.

2) The experienced surveyor must be willing to explain and demonstrate other methods and do away with the idea of the "button pusher" because it doesn't help anyone involved.

Students, don’t be afraid to grab a pencil and field book every once in a while and see if you could have done your job without your fancy equipment. The wiser and more experienced surveyor most likely didn’t need that equipment in the first place and could show you 3 ways to complete the work with a chain, plumbob and transit. This is why they call them Chief. You are a new member of their tribe and you can only Party when the Chief trusts the product.

The Chief has his own party to go to. The older and wiser surveyor who has been in the field with a calculator, field book and transit for 30 year, like his father and his father’s father similarly facing challenges of job security and has been adapting to new technologies for thousands of years. This Surveyor has the experience and expertise that will disappear in the pages of time, if not purposefully shared for the surveyors of the future to learn from. This knowledge has not been publicly recorded until recently.This means we simply have hundreds if not thousands of years of surveying knowledge to document together.  This is our opportunity.

The public understands why real estate agents would work together, but surveyors unite under and around different issues which arise during normal operation, with equipment, software, competence, inner crew dynamics,environmental change,animal conflict, human conflict, vandalism, market changes and the list goes on. The wise one resents the button pusher because they wish they could have all the time back that they could have saved with the newest advancement, but at the same time, they wish they could inject their years of experience, like a USB, into their newest crew member who controls all of the gadgets on site. Chief eventually becomes ambitious immediately followed by frustration after realizing the young guy will always know more about how to operate the digital version of an analog process. Problems spring up when the wise try to muscle the solution from the data collector. It doesn’t do what it should have. Asking the new guy for help lowers credibility and may show signs of weakness. With ease, the fresh college grad simplifies the daily tasks for the wise one. Socratic dialogue rarely happens as it does in other industries where fresh new ideas are introduced on a regular basis.

Surveying Veterans and Student Surveyors Need One Another More than Ever Before..

Land Surveyors United is your community and your venue for engagement. You have a dynamic professional development resource with a global reach at your fingertips- do all you can to uplift your surveying profession and you will build alliances which can withstand all tests of time, just like surveying. After all, it is what you are.

Every moment you spend communicating with other surveyors pumps 10 years into the profession.

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Justin Farrow... Creator of Land Surveyors United and Mobile Apps for Land Surveyors

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  • The Chinese have a saying that wisdom comes with age. They are the oldest civilization & it would be very foolish to underestimate their capabilities or their intellect. We have quantum physics today but engineers still rely on Newtonian physics. Christopher Columbus didn't have satellite navigation but he used the same basic techniques to navigate across the Atlantic.
    Some must think that any surveyor past middle age is still pulling a chain & using a compass. Surely, all surveyors should stay abreast of technology.
    The first time I heard the term "button pusher" was in an article in POB, authored by a very well educated Land Surveyor whom is also a lawyer. There is nothing wrong with "button pushing" as long as you understand what the button is doing. No surveying program can take the place of sound surveying practice & a comprehensive knowledge of the legal principles of boundary location & retracement. Today, a competent surveyor must also have a working knowledge of State Plain coordinates, geodetic surveying & survey grade GPS positioning. Today's surveyor is better educated than ever before, especially those with a BS degree in a good surveying curriculum. Unfortunately, an alarming number of surveyors are happily pushing buttons and accepting the results as absolute without the foggiest notion of what they are doing. Some don't know the difference between a transit plane survey & a geodetic survey. I had a young man that graduated from a surveying tech curriculum tell me that there was no difference between ground & grid coordinates. Don't laugh, his boss, a registered PE & land surveyor of over 35 years, almost as long as I have have been a PLS, didn't know either.
    AS a side note, Mr. Carlson came to the office where I was briefly employed a couple years ago & demonstrated his software. I was working with his full Civil Suite at the time. Except for that unpleasant interlude, I have been self employed since 1983. Pretty powerful stuff if you have an application for that sort of thing & can make it pay for itself. I don't & wasn't impressed. That engineering department had all sorts of expensive equipment paid for by the taxpayers that nobody could operate.
  • Hi my dear JUSTIN and friends.
    I am so proud to be associate with you being a Sri Lankan,Oldest Department started in 1800,
    As a young guy aged 21 years,joined as a apprentice surveyor,
    On the first day we had an exhibition of the history of surveying and film,
    Showing a base lone measurment,
    A 1second thiodolite used for triangulation.
    I was a proud surveyor to see all these,and I had along breath ,and so anxious to step on to my future.
    We started with seven figur log tables,Fasit calculating machine,slide rules,sun azimuth observations and gone through basics.
    All young surveyors should creap through the ladder.
    So they will get that plesure every time they push a button!
  • Hi Everyone,This has always been,every generation of Surveyors,has faced this,because there is always something new.When you get Tidal Locked,nothing changes,when you start to rotate different ,you see new things. I have watched surveying evolve. You must evolve,with it,or you will be stuck in the past,and will not learn nothing new. One time crossing a River,there was no EDM's,so Triangle time.After it was all said and done, i told my mentor, I have a new programmable calculator, i like to solve these triangles. He gives me that look,but then he let me do it, of course i had to set down and program it, He watched as i done this, but there was only 30 lines to this program, a few minutes, i was done,He did not own a scientific calculator,he thank me,and the day was over,but i felt i had hurt his feeling, this man, was like a father to me, as far as respect goes,I look up to him in every way, we had worked along time together, and he had taught me everything i knew as far as land surveying the US public land system, I had even worked for him when i was in high school,but that day everything changed,That night he had recalculated all the triangles at home ,with out a calculator. The next morning, I was nervous,wishing i had not even asked,when we met he was all smiles, Bill, all your answer were good,how much does this calculator cost. Can you teach me,how this works and what else will it do. This event,started this man ,who had surveyed since 1949,to evolve into the Future, and before it was all done in his life, he had learn how to use a HP 41CX and a HP 48GX TDS survey pro Data Collector ,after that i do not know. This is the magic that can take place. Modern Calculators to me are not old school to me. The HP 48GX TDS, even today works as good or almost as good as any Data collector, just not GPS. Some of the new calculators today or using computer language, and touch screen,Everyone has to use one, to get there License, you sure can not take a lap top to the test and only certain calculators you can use, so somebody has to teach them how you can do this on a calculator,But surveying is also a tradition,almost a word of mouth,being pass on to the next line,young surveyors ,need to see how it was done and learn how this can be done,why because you need plan A ,B.C, because there will be times in a young surveyor life,maybe the way something he is doing, something ( A ) will not work,the way he is doing it. Is there another way, also ( B ) problems with equipment,then back up plan, or do i have a calculator or i need to calculate something. ( C ) , when all else fails a note book and a pencil,. And please tell me again, how do you become a surveyor when all 50 states in the US, you must take your test with a calculator. As far as i know!!. I always could not wait to get my hands on something new, and there has always been something,some one has showed me Young or Old, so do not get hung up on, no matter what you know,young Dogs and Old dogs can learn new Tricks.And i have been lucky to experience this my whole Survey career.Help can go Both Ways.surveyors have always took Pride on how they were able to perform certain things from rolling up a chain to tying a plumb bob knot,to setting up a instrument,and how good you were on a level run, this pride should be taken on all the new methods,of surveying as well as the old.So the next time you hear me speak of something in the past,I am always stepping into the future no matter who or what, Young or old,  and where i can find it from , It doesn't matter.

  • As my mind and body go away I continue to hope that the people in my past reaped some benefit from what I shared with them.  I am one of those old fashioned surveyors who decided to integrate new technology with old methods of problem solving.  My mind and body are broken.  I am glad for those who will follow my footsteps.  They may find my mistakes and they may admire the things I did right.  But whatever they find it is certain the future belongs to them.  May God bless them.

  • GEO Ambassador

    Good to see you Mike and William!  Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.  This community would not be what it is if it were not for your future oriented contributions to our living library. 

  • GEO Ambassador

    I fear the same Pat.  Welcome to the community, by the way!  I love that you mention relevance because it seems to be the hardest thing to achieve in the surveying profession on all sides.  Perhaps that is what is truly missing- if everyone understood and acknowledged one another as truly relevant regardless of age or tech proficiency the conversation would become more honest, more engageable and more progressive. 

    I am but a fly on the wall of surveying history.  Truthfully, so are all of you but with a more intimate view.   Thank you guys for chiming in..

  • Yes, I don't embrace the full extent, two reasons, sometimes old school work better for us, we know the process, we know how to error trap and we don't waste time trying to figure out new stuff. and second, the technology is change so fast, why waste time on obsolete stuff.  For example soon apps will be available which combine everything needed to survey, with dual frequency GPS chips and network corrections, allowing photo shots to create 3d models to scale, put that one your drone and smoke the job!  I dont know civil3d but I use Carlson with autocad and Boston Harbor add on ribbon to my 2006 autocad (anybody know how to make it work on intellecad?)  I now carry my spin plot, record surveys and CAD file on a 8" tablet (Sony or Samsung) their batteries last 14 hrs plus of use, the screens are visible in daylight. Whats next Safety Glasses with in view real positioning 3d rendering of BIM.  See what I mean?

  • Land Surveyor

    I fear we Baby Boomer Surveyors are believing that the X and Y Generations have a higher understanding of technology. What I am finding is that the graduates are not embracing the full extent of the technology as we are. They are comfortable with what they have learnt during their course and that is what they practice in the field. Perhaps it is that fear of being superseded that forces me to study every user manual looking for one more routine or application that will keep me relevant on the work site. 

  • Land Surveyor
    I find myself right smack dab in the middle of this dilemma! I was blessed to have been trained by a group of surveyors that didn't let their egos dictate how they taught or ran their crew. Technology was just starting to come of age back in 1999 when I started. Fortunately I began with the basics at the time. An HP48...It wasn't a data collector and all my angles had to be written down by hand and we used the gun "Naked" as I like to say! I learned trig, how to solve curves, and base 10 arithmetic. That was all fine and dandy to start out. As time progressed GPS became more user friendly and more readily available. The jobs got bigger and the pace of construction accelerated. Then in 2006-2008 the economy fell apart. For me technology was at a standstill. The only companies I could find work with couldn't afford to upgrade their equipment and stay competitive. It wasn't until years later after moving to South Carolina that I was inundated with all the latest and greatest tools of the trade! Total stations, GPS with RTK, new data collectors with Bluetooth, WiFi, and completely new software, laptops, and smartphones! I was up for the challenge but I knew I had to let go of some of the "Old" ways and evolve into one of the those "Button Pushers" on get passed by! Needless to say it has given me a whole new zeal for my job! As time goes on the "Old Timers" are retiring and passing the torch down to surveyors like me. I think it's important to share my past experiences as well as to keep an open mind to new techniques! I was told early on that a surveyor is only as good as his bag of tricks. What I'm saying is remember where you came from stay focused on the horizon!
  • I have trained many surveyors, and the one thing I look for is the desire and love to be a surveyor, this means they put in the extra work to advance their skills.  I have learned much from such as these, and consult with them when I have tech problems in their field of expertise (static, RTK, Robotic comms and interface for example) They come to me with the hard boundary or estimating problems. Sometimes for opinions on professional relationships.  I was taught most of what I know by two other surveyors, Rod Vargus and Ceaser Chacon, who took me under their wing, because they saw my love for the profession, and like I wanted to pass on what surveyors have passed on for 3000 years to the next generation.  For our craft to survive another 3000 years (should the Lord not come sooner, and it looks a lot sooner from what I see) then we must also be willing to do so, even at the cost of losing some work in the short run to younger, stronger, physically faster surveyors (experience does save one a lot of time avoiding and fixing screwups). Just as we must not fear the "Young Lords" of our profession, we must embrace and not fear competition.  Without competition we stagnate and we price ourselves out of the market.  Many in California believe in all sorts of regulations for land surveyors, I have met many, and usually their hands have little or no calluses, they are what we field dogs can house dogs or lap dogs, they usually fear competition because if you put them in the field, where 80% of a successful survey takes place, they have trouble cutting the cheese. No to degrade office surveyors, but to encourage them to get out more often, then they will have more respect for what the field guys have to go thru, and perhaps help their pricing and discussions with the clients.  But back to the subject, I firmly believe that this group of surveyors who cannot or will not compete on a level playing field fear giving consumers a real choice of what they really want. When I get a call to stake a fence or a garage setback, I used to be able to stake just that, but now because the opinions of these surveyors, any line staked must be witnessed by the 2 endpoints meaning setting the corners and filing records. Now while I love the idea of corner records, 15 years ago they were a simple plat with the minimum information that any incompetent surveyor could retrace, in California these have become exercises in  clairvoyance (which last I checked wasnt on the exam) in what exactly the plan checker wants, who almost always isnt even an LS, so some layperson or apprentice who doesnt know how to get radial in a cul-de-sac is bleeding all over the CR.  When I tell them file as is, they just bleed some some and return it.  This process now reflects on the price of staking a garage from $700 here in CA to now $1600 minimum.  So who wants to pay as much for a survey as they pay for the fence, clients tell me, I just build the fence and if its wrong move it. So where does it go from there, of course to the already plugged up courts, everybody loses, including those who advocated this change to the rules, why, because I have to eat, so I bid the jobs they used to get, maybe I dont win them all, but now, they are hurting because of their own short sightedness.    

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