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Best practices for sharing

The web has had an impact on obtaining information, connecting with others, and accomplishing daily work. GIS has also been transformed by the web—it’s now easier to access content, create diverse maps and apps, and share results. But the web has also added new challenges for finding content and verifying what is authoritative. You have a compelling set of maps, layers, scenes, analytics, and layers. When you share this content, how do you make sure people can find what they need and trust that the content is reliable and remains available to them?

Share the right content with those who need it

When you share your items with others, consider the following questions:

Who needs access to the content and in what format?

Before you share your item, consider your sharing privileges and the security settings of your organization. Then consider the format and your audience. Do you want to share a map or an app, embed a map in your website, or add a file to a group? For example, if you want to share data with your constituents who probably don't have ArcGIS Desktop but do have access to the Internet, you could publish your data as a web layer, create a story map, and embed the app in your website.

Once you determine the format, share the content with the appropriate audience. Though there are times when you need to share items with everyone, it is rarely a good idea to share all your content with everyone. At best, sharing all items with everyone makes it more difficult for people to find what they need. At worst, it can inadvertently expose sensitive or proprietary information to the public. To get the right content to the right people, who you share with will vary by item. You have the following options when sharing an item:

  • Groups—For many items, your audience is a specific group of people. Create a group, share relevant and related items with the group, and invite or add organization members to the group who need access to that content. If group members need to contribute to the group, you can configure the group to allow that as well.
  • Organization—If every member of your organization needs to use your item, share it with the organization. Be aware that if the item is an editable feature layer, sharing it with the organization gives anyone in the organization with permissions to edit the ability to alter the feature layer data.
  • Everyone (public)—If you need to allow people outside your ArcGIS Online organization to access your item, share it with everyone. Be aware that sharing editable feature layers with everyone means everyone can edit the data in the layer.

Will the audience for an item change over time?

You may need to share your item with different audiences at different times. For example, you might create an app, such as a story map, that you want reviewed for feedback—first by a few colleagues in your organization and later by a selection of individuals outside the organization—before sharing it with the public. In this type of scenario, the following steps are recommended:

  1. Create a group that is viewable by group members. Share your app item—and any layers, maps, and scenes in the app—with the group, and invite reviewers from your organization to join the group. Send the reviewers a link to your app.
  2. Once the internal review is complete, share your app with reviewers outside the organization by inviting them to join the group.
  3. When you're ready to make your app public, change the sharing properties of the item (and resources used in the app) and of the group to make them accessible to the public.

Is the item composed of other items?

Some items contain other items as resources. Apps contain items such as maps, scenes, or groups. Maps and scenes contain layer items. Be sure that when you share an item that is composed of other items, you share all the items with the same audience.

For example, if you want to share a gallery app with everyone, be sure the group, all the items in the group, and the app are public. If you share the app with everyone but share the group with your organization, no one outside the organization will see anything in the app. If you share both the group and app with everyone but don't share all the items with everyone, items will be missing from the gallery.

Is the item an editable hosted feature layer?

Only share editable layers with those who need to edit the data. If there are multiple editors in your organization who need access to the layer to make updates, create a group, invite the editors to that group, and share the editable hosted feature layer with the group. If you have content in an editable hosted feature layer that noneditors also need to see, create a hosted feature layer view from the hosted feature layer and share the view with the wider audience (another group, the organization, or everyone).

For more information on controlling access to editable data, see Best practices for using layers in maps.

Help people find the content you share

Once you determine the format the content needs to be in and who needs access to it, help the people you shared it with find the item by adding relevant and complete details to your item. Some ways to help people find your content are as follows:

Improve search results

When you type keywords in the search box, ArcGIS Online compares the keywords to the following information on each item:

  • Title
  • Tags
  • Summary

Therefore, to improve the search results, be sure these item details contain the sorts of keywords that you anticipate people will use to search for a specific type of data. Be consistent in your use of keywords in tags and summaries to improve a user's chance of finding similar content.

Another way to improve search results is to boost your item's status. This is discussed in the next section.

Add informative item details

When people get a list of search results or when they browse the Content page or a gallery, they need to determine which items meet their needs. To help people find the correct content, be clear and specific in describing your item details. Spend some time creating an informative title, a summary, a description, and tags so others understand the purpose of your content. Use the Item Information section on the Overview tab to help you identify missing or incomplete item information and determine how to improve it. The higher your item information status, the higher the item will appear in the search results list.

Be sure to include accurate terms of use, credits, and spatial extent. You can also assign one or more categories to your item, and consider designating it as authoritative to make it easier for others to find and understand the purpose and reliability of your item.

Finally, be sure to respond to any comments about your item. You can proactively add comments to promote a specific feature of your map or app. For example, you could encourage users to view a new aerial image you added to your map.

Add a representative and attractive thumbnail image

A beautiful thumbnail image that accurately represents the item's content will help your item stand out in a list of search results or a gallery. Review the image that the website adds by default. If it doesn't seem inspiring or accurate, replace it with your own.

For best results, add an image that is 600 pixels wide by 400 pixels high or larger with an aspect ratio of 1.5:1 in a web file format such as PNG, JPEG, or GIF. Pan and zoom to what you want to appear in your thumbnail. Depending on the size and resolution of your image file and how far you zoom in to customize the thumbnail, the image may be resampled and scaled when it's saved. If you add an image in GIF or JPEG format, it will be converted to PNG when it's saved.

Establish trust

You've shared your content and done what you can to ensure people can find it and identify whether it meets their needs. Now, how do you convince them that the data is trustworthy? The following are some of the ways you can help people to trust the content you share with them:

Provide a descriptive profile

Take advantage of your profile to establish your authority in geographic information, map design, app development, and so on. Useful descriptive information includes your first and last name, the organization you belong to, contact information, and your areas of expertise and interests. Adding an image that represents you or your organization will help personalize your description.

Identify authoritative content

Within your organization, administrators and content curators (members who have privileges to view all content and update it) can label content authoritative. When organization members look for content, they can filter for authoritative content.

The following steps describe a workflow you could implement in your organization to identify and assure content is authoritative before labeling it as such:

  1. Create a group for the purpose of nominating items as authoritative. Group members can share items they consider authoritative with that group.
  2. Configure the group to allow members to contribute to it.
  3. Decide whether the group is open to the entire organization or to only a few members using a combination of the two group settings, Who can view this group? and Who can join this group?.
    • To allow everyone in the organization to nominate items, set Who can view this group? to People in the organization, and set Who can join this group? to Anyone.
    • To limit group membership, set Who can view this group? to Only group members, and set Who can join this group? to Only those invited by a group manager. In this scenario, the group owner will need to invite members.
  4. Content curators or the administrator need to review the items in the group to determine if they are truly authoritative. If they are, curators or the administrator can add the authoritative badge to the item. If it is not, curators or the administrator can remove the item from the group. When rejecting an item, curators or the administrator can provide comments on the item's detail page to indicate why it wasn't considered authoritative. This gives the owner the opportunity to improve the item's quality.
  5. Over time, items that were once authoritative may no longer be. For example, if more accurate data is added, it may supercede existing content. To retain users' trust in the authority badge, content curators should periodically review items that are designated as authoritative to ensure they still are.

Protect shared content

You want to be sure that the items you share remain available to the people who need them. To help with that, you can enable delete protection on items to help prevent accidental deletion. You may also want to limit use of secure service items and premium content; if the servers running the service items become overloaded, performance is affected, making them less useful to all users. If too many people access premium content, you run the risk of depleting credits, which will render those items (and other functionality) unavailable.

Guard against accidental deletion

Once you share your items with others, those people use the items in their own maps and apps. If you delete a shared item, the maps and apps that relied on the data from the item no longer have access to the data, possibly rendering them useless. To prevent you or the administrator from accidentally deleting shared items (for example, when choosing multiple items for deletion in the Content page), consider enabling delete protection on the items you share.

Limit usage on premium content and secured services

If you want to share secure service items with the public, for example, as part of a public web app, store the credentials with the item so the public is not required to log in to access your app. You may also want to limit usage to control how many times and by whom the service is accessed. You can specify the rate limit, and to further restrict usage, designate the specific referrer URLs or IPs that can access your service, for example, the URL of your organization.

Similarly, when you want to share Esri premium content in apps that support anonymous access—for example, a public site locator app that includes the Esri World Route Service—you can follow a workflow similar to sharing your own secure services. Add the Esri service item as a new item to My Content and be sure to share the item with everyone (public).

Be aware that your organization will consume credits for the premium content used in your public apps.

To limit use of a secure service item or an app that contains premium content, follow these steps before you share it:

  1. Open the item page for the secure service or app.
  2. Click the Settings tab and scroll down to the Limit Usage section. Click Limit Usage.
  3. Check the Enable rate limiting check box and set up the limits: a maximum number of requests allowed for a specific period of time or the referrer URLs and IPs that can access your service—for example, the URL to your organization such as http://myorganization.arcgis.com. You can also limit the rate and the referrer.

    Your referrer URLs and IPs can be fully qualified URLs (http://www.arcgis.com), wildcards to include all subdomains (http://*.arcgis.com), or the IP address (http://10.4.3.4). You need to specify ports and add http and https if you want to allow access to both. For sharing services in apps hosted in your organization, you can provide either the URL to your app, or if you plan to have multiple apps that use the service, the URL to the organization's app directory (for example, http://myorganization.arcgis.com/apps).

  4. Click OK.
  5. Share the item with those intended to have access to it: your organization, everyone (public), or specific groups to which you belong.