Author Archives: Louis

What’s Valuable in Richardson

Richardson tax value visualized

I originally published this article on because I was enjoying reading there and thought the work might get wider readership there. Then they instituted a membership and asked me to pay before I read any more. Seeing as I had contributed valuable content to it already, I decided not to get a membership and not to post any more content. I’ll be posting here from now on if I post anything.

The original is here:

View story at

The most important feedback I got was saying I should consider adding the revenue from business personal property. I looked through the Texas statutes but could not find whether that income is distributed to cities the same way sales tax and property tax is. But I did find information saying it is difficult to assess so even if I did add it, it wouldn’t be accurate.

Probably the biggest change business property would make is the data centers. They have lots of expensive equipment there. But again, I don’t know what benefit the city gets from that if any.

Under Construction

This is here to list the projects I have yet to upload:

  • DC Trip on ArcGIS web, May 28 2015
  • Custom walk score program, Dec 9 2014 – github
  • Urban ecology slides, Nov 25 2014
  • GIS workshop project, Aug 11 2014
  • Design Principles project, May 14 2014
  • ULI contest entry, Jan 27 2014
  • GIS Day project, November 19 2013
  • Land Development Aug 1 2013
Clip art credit:

Featured image credits:

Back Online

I haven’t posted in a few years due to a technical glitch. The database for this site somehow exceeded it’s storage capacity when I went to upgrade… yada, yada, yada. It took some time to even figure out what happened and then I kept putting off getting it fixed until I completely walked away from it.

But now I’ve created a new database and a new site and tried to bring in everything I had here before. I don’t think I got all the images so you may see some missing if you go back to previous years. I’ve also condensed the categories because I don’t plan to write much more about marketing or try to curate business ideas anymore.

So what have I been doing in the last 3 years? After I finished my Masters of Science in Real Estate (see: for details), I got into the Arts and Technology (ATEC) PhD program at UT Dallas. There’s a whole story about that and now I’m technically a double major PhD along with GIS or Geospatial Information Sciences (more often referred to as Geographic Information Systems). Oh, and I’m now also a Commercial Realtor with Keller Williams Commercial. As if I wasn’t busy enough.  🙂

I’ve finished my coursework for ATEC and have begun my dissertation hours. But then seeing as I still need a few more technical skills to complete my PhDs, I’ve begun studying data science. I’m doing a sort of self directed boot camp for at least this semester if not the next. I’m enrolled in the data science tracks on both Coursera and Udacity and am reading a couple of O’Reilly books.

The reason I’m back online blogging here is that I’ve been accumulating papers and projects over the years that I want to post. And I’m investigating data science internships and jobs and they’re needing to see portfolio work. I’ve installed a portfolio theme here so hopefully that will work out. I probably should clean some of the work up and submit it for publication in academic journals but I have conflicted thoughts about that given the advent of open data and all.

The next few post will be the work I’ve been doing over the past few years. I’ll backdate the publish date so they appear in order that I worked on them. Enjoy!

Dallas Permits Visualized

This was my final project for a Web GIS class.

I took building permit data from the City of Dallas and visualized it two ways:

  1. Statically so you can hover and click to get more info based on value amount.
  2. Dynamically so you can see the land use and how they were issued over time (Sept 2011 – Aug 2016)

I excluded any permits below $1,000 so there would have been a lot of street barricade and less consequential uses excluded. There were still 160,000+ data points.

Richardson Location Intelligence

These are some maps I created for the Richardson Economic Development Partnership.

The gist of it was that we were trying to find economic advantages of Richardson’s location.

Commutes White Collar Workers North Dallas
Drive time radii around the North Dallas Center point

The first thing I found out from mining the census data was that we were missing an employment center in our analysis. I ran a cluster analysis and found that in addition to Downtown Dallas, Richardson, Plano, Allen, Las Colinas, Carrolton and Fort Worth, there was a new employment center: North Dallas. That would be the area roughly near Addison along the Dallas North Tollway.

It turns out that for the less than 15 minute commute it has about 170,000 white collar workers as compared to downtown’s 145,000 and Richardson’s 132,000. Of course Richardson is still the telecom cluster of the Metroplex but we already knew that.

Additionally we looked at relative costs of living comparing versus income for the Dallas-Fort Worth, San Fransisco-San Jose and the Boston MSAs. From the maps it appears that Dallas gets the most bang for the buck. The ones posted here are a comparison of home values over income using the same scale. I also did food prices, health care and transportation.

DFWMSA Home Value over Income SFMSA Home Value over Income

Here was one on household operations index. So it’s a relative index based on how much people are spending to keep their homes going.

7 North Dallas Household Operations Spending Index

Taliesen Model

I took a class on Frank Lloyd Wright this semester. Each week we were given a topic to present on. One presentation that I made was on Taliesen. Instead of the usual slide show that we were all doing, I decided to integrate a SketchUp model with some photography I found.

The model didn’t look exactly like the photography so I changed a few things in it. There were a couple of extra rooms so I was changing the building here and there. It’s still mostly not mine so I’m just posting it here as a visualization exercise I did with the georeferenced photography.

If you can see in the toolbar above the model in the image below, there were about a dozen different perspectives. If I clicked on the next one, it would animate forward. I think my humanities classmates were impressed. 🙂

I did zoom out extra for these images. Otherwise you’d mostly be looking at the photographs without the animation of having seen where it belonged.




Gamification of UTD

This is a follow up to my earlier post “Gamification in Education“.

My first semester at UTD I wrote a paper that was to create a new idea based on combining two existing ones. I was new to the Arts and Technology program hoping to do real estate based simulators but I had a strong interest in education as well. My wife and I had often talked about starting a hybrid Montessori school after seeing the TED Talk on Hole in the Wall education.

I concurrently took the first offering of the Coursera Gamification MOOC offered by the University of Pennsylvania business school professor Kevin Werbach. I decided that the university experience could be gamified as well. In fact, I wasn’t the first to think of that but my implementation was significantly different.

Here’s the paper if you’re interested in reading it (pdf,  13 pages, 216 KB).

121113 Burns – Gamification of UTD

Mockup Layout for Quests
Complete Quests!

In a subsequent class I attempted to build out some of the infrastructure that could have supported the implementation. I used BuddyPress for WordPress. I then hired a contractor in India to create a plugin for me to complete the functionality.

I wrote out the specs and detailed exactly what I wanted to do. Turns out I made a big mistake hiring the cheapest bid. His English wasn’t all that great and he wasn’t able to do what he said he would after all.

So I learned a good lesson about outsourcing. Here was one of my mockups on the left (completing a quest that required attendance at a cultural event).

Another friend in the class agreed to do some concept art for the game. I worked with her to make quest-like versions of our school mascot, Temoc (Comet backwards). The composite of those follow below.

I think this is still a valid idea. Hopefully someone will pick it up someday.

Temoc Concept Art
Credits: Joyce Hong

Cinque Terre Virtual Environment

This was our virtual environment final project. For my part I helped with context, color selection and built most of the small assets (pizza, wine glasses, patio furniture, etc.).

We built the assets in Maya and the environment in UDK. The weekend before the deadline we couldn’t get UDK to work right and export a fly through so we used a screen capture but the frame rate seems to have been too slow – hence the jerky video. And then then UDK kept altering our path so it feels a little like you’re staggering through the cafe area.

Click the image below to watch the video on YouTube (it has a sound track):

Cinque Terre YouTube

Gamification in Education

Here’s a comment I just posted on the Coursera website inside the Gamification course forum:

I tried to read as many of the gamification in education posts I could find before posting this. There seems to be a good amount of interest in the subject but not much practical application yet.

So far the best higher education gamification effort seems to be from a joint program between RIT and Microsoft According to their site they will be allowing other universities to use their platform after mid-2013. It’s not clear from that site exactly what all the mechanics of it are.

We also have The Multi-Player Classroom by Lee Sheldon that features a couple of gamified university courses.

From this Extra Credits video on Gamifying Education, it seems that the most important element to changing the educational paradigm is to count up like a game instead of down when it comes to grading. Personally, I don’t see much difference in calling them grade points versus experience points.

It also seems that most of the literature out there on gamification in education is more about games introduced into a traditional curriculum and approach than something truly gamified like Khan Academy.

What I’m interested in hearing from others is how to gamify the university experience over and above an individual course. What could a fully implemented experience be like? What elements would there be? Without knowing all the particulars of the RIT model, what would a crowdsourced solution from this forum look like?


Every student has a smart phone to engage the experience with (if not, then their ID and a station in the computer lab). When they begin to apply for admissions, they get a progress bar to welcome them in the application process. They may have a check-in or not and have the opportunity to share with friends. They may see a current running total of applications to their program, the overall completion rate and overall acceptance rate.

Once they’re accepted, they get a badge. They can recommend friends for acceptance. If their friends are accepted, they both get badges. When they go to orientation or visit their advisor they get a badge. When they’ve selected their major, they get a technology tree to follow their coursework. Other students who they have friended will be able to see their progress and decide to take courses together or not.

Completed courses are assigned skills. Multiple courses in the same subject increase their level. If they help other students, they receive some sort of currency to be used within the system – perhaps a tuition discount or something. When they visit university sponsored events and check-in, they get progress toward badges. When they visit cultural locations near the university, they get credit. When they participate in or attend sporting events, they get credit. When they participate in social clubs they get credit. Volunteering in the community could get credit. As they accumulate hours and advance in levels, there are more rewards.

If I remember correctly, I think it was mentioned in the Multi-Player Classroom that one day students will be able to “Like” other students’ comments in class. Students would start each class with a fixed amount of conversation currency. A student would spend currency to make a comment and other students’ liking would replenish their currency. That way the obnoxious talkers would run out and everyone else would get a chance to talk. Top contributors could earn badges. I heard of one class that introduced a Twitter feed into the class so even those in the back row could register their comments. We also have Unishared which I just read about here today. That’s supposed to be an open sourced collaborative note taking platform.

There’s a forum where student projects, work and videos would be featured. One of the most important features of a university is the ability to interact with peers in an academic context. For the most part that only happens in group projects within courses. If everyone had profiles where you could see their interests, projects, etc. then students could seek each other out for networking or collaboration. Of course they would have privacy settings like Facebook (public, university system only, friends only or private).

We’re moving toward more courses that are ripe for the introduction of simulators and serious games. Doing well in these could get you more points. Developing one would be a lot of points.

A system resource like this could poll students for new programs or course ideas. Only one university in the US now has a course on gamification and it’s way sold out. Any university with its finger on the pulse of culture and innovation will offer one too. A gamified system would facilitate knowing about that kind of demand. A system like this would also help with reviews and accountability for teaching staff. The world is moving too fast for tenure anymore.

Another thought I’ve had is that any professor that can be replaced by video should be. If they’re just going to lecture, then put it on YouTube or wherever and make it private if they must. Reserve class time for discussion and collaboration.

From a brainstorming point of view (we can decide what wouldn’t work later), what else could a gamified university experience look like?