Posts Tagged ‘opendata’

Code Sprint Photo

OSM hard at work

I am sitting on a plane flying eastbound at 37,000 feet over middle of America. A few hours ago we left San Francisco the host city for State Of The Map US 2013. State of the Map US is the American regional conference for OpenStreetMap participants and enthusiasts. A common theme for the weekends events was building community.


Yesterday (It is still the 10’th in my timezone) was my 3rd OSM birthday. Pascal Neis has built a site that shows you your OSM signup is anniversary and how you rank (in terms of signup time) with respect to other OSM contributors that have made an edits.

I am contributor 17,540 (out of about 143,000 and growing).

In the summer of 2008 I bought an Openmoko Freerunner, an open cellphone running Linux (with xterms and vi). The phone includes a GPS, I needed a source of map data for it to be useful. The first GPS application that I installed (tangogps) used OpenStreetMap tiles. The OpenStreetMap was missing many streets in Oakville and it wasn’t long before I was taking summer walks with my Openmoko and notepad collecting data for OpenStreetMap.

A little over a month later on a friday night I drove to a cafe in Hamilton where I nervously climbed up a set of creeky old stairs. I walked into a dark room illuminated by an overhead project and laptop LCD backlight. The room was filled with a handful of people sitting around a table. Glancing at the people in the room I was pretty sure that I hadn’t just walked into a meeting of the local chamber of commerce, which was fine since I was attending my first OpenStreetMap mapping party and not my first chamber of commerce meeting.

During the evening and the mapping party the next day I met some interesting people, learned some new mapping techniques and made it out to do some mapping. The trend of meeting cool people and learning new things (and not just about OSM), has continued for the past three years.

During the past three years in addition making friends and attending mapping parties I have

  • Conducted an import of GeoBase roads in Alberta and Ontario. I am proud of and happy with both the process we used for the import and the results of it. The imported roads aren’t perfect ( no map is ever perfect) but resulting map is a lot more than the map we had before
  • Given presentations on OpenStreetMap at a number of conferences
  • Seen looks of delight on peoples faces when I’ve handed them a free ledger sized colour map of there local area made with OpenStreetMap data
  • Perhaps made a few enemies along the way

I’m looking forward to meeting more mappers next month in Denver at StateOfTheMap and many more years of mapping.

Over the past few months I have been watching the reaction people have when I have introduced them to OpenStreetMap. I have noticed a number trends worth commenting on.

Describing OpenStreetMap as a free wiki-editable map doesn’t excite them. The problem is that when most people think about an online map they picture a slippery map, and google maps is free enough for them. When I tell them that OpenStreetMap is like the wikipedia of maps they seem to understand what I am talking about. Typically, these are people who have used wikipedia to look something up, but have never seriously considered editing an article. To most people wikipedia is a free source of information on a wide variety of topics. The ability to edit and contribute to those articles isn’t at the front of their mind.

Peninsula Lake, June 2011

The June 2011 version of the Peninsula lake map is ready. You can download a PDF or get the SVG and the map styles from github

This version includes more buildings, docks and rocks traced into OpenStreetMap from Bing imagery along with a few bay names and some cleaner text. My next step is to try and collect depth data in some areas the that the Hydrological service skipped. I’ve already been out in a kayak with a weighted container and rope trying to develop techniques.

Yesterday I attended a meeting of SiliconHalton, a technology group in Halton region. The topic of the meeting was OpenData.

Nik Garkusha, an Open Source strategy lead at Microsoft was gave a really good presentation on what open data is, and why it is important. Based on the quality of Nik’s presentation I suspect that he often gives presentations on Open Data. I particularly liked that he started the presentation talking about how OpenStreetMap was used in Haiti after the earthquake and how crowd sourcing projects are mapping the floods in Quebec and Manitoba.

There were about 30 people in the room and most of them were not ‘opensource’ people. I hope some of them left having a better understanding of open data.

I was also talking to someone who works in the I.T. department of one of the local municipalities. He was saying that they were talking about releasing more of their data under open licenses but are worried about losing revenue. He said they currently charge land developers a lot money for some of the data. As open data advocates, I feel we need to convince these municipalities that the things that can be done by the public when the data is opened outweights the relatively small amount of money they collect selling this data.