Editing control techniques for public maps in ArcGIS Online

17th December 2015

A recent office debate revealed some confusion about the ways in which ArcGIS Online can control the editing of hosted feature services. Some new tools have been added to give administrators more control over who can edit content in your organisations.

Scenario 1: let’s say that we have a hosted feature service that we want to make visible to the public. We only ever want members of our organisation to be able to edit it. Because feature services are either shared publicly or require a login to access, and are either editable or non-editable, these requirements are mutually exclusive. Right?

Wrong! The July update introduced the ability for administrators to create groups with update capabilities which override those set at the feature service. This means that a layer can be shared publicly, be non-editable at the REST endpoint and also be updated, and edited, by members of the item owner’s organisation. Item owners and users in these update-enabled groups can use the ‘add layer to new map with full editing control’ option to edit feature services that are otherwise non-editable.

This means that we can update and edit data in a public-facing web map directly – without having to temporarily remove the content, create another map, or risk any unwanted changes by other web users.

Scenario 2: now let’s say that we are crowd-sourcing information. We want members of the public to be able to create data, but we don’t want the REST endpoint to be publicly accessible for anybody to use and abuse. Surely this is too much to ask?

Wrong again! Your credentials can be embedded alongside a private REST URL as a new item in ArcGIS Online. Usage of this item can be restricted to specific referrers such as web maps or apps. This means that the REST endpoint remains protected and changes can only be made through a map or app that you’ve designed. Remember that if you embed credentials you will need to update these when you change your password, or else your layer won’t load and your app may fail.

This method allows us to use ArcGIS Online to crowd-source information and be confident that our data is only created through the maps and apps that we have designed. Try the new Crowdsource Reporter or the classic Geoform template for more ideas.

This is not an exhaustive list – users of Desktop and Server will have other options available which may be useful in place of, or alongside, these methods. If you have any suggestions or questions then please leave a comment below.