Harry Wood Blog » maps http://harrywood.co.uk/blog Sun, 08 Mar 2015 16:03:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Typhoon Crisis Mapping ODI talk http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2014/01/14/typhoon-openstreetmap-odi/ http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2014/01/14/typhoon-openstreetmap-odi/#comments Mon, 13 Jan 2014 23:11:12 +0000 http://www.harrywood.co.uk/blog/?p=368 At the Open Data Institute, the office where I’m working at transportAPI these days, they have “Friday Lunchtime Lectures“. Presentations on all sorts of open data topics. It was my honour to kick off the 2014 series with a talk on “Typhoon Crisis Mapping with OpenStreetMap”.

This was an introduction to OpenStreetMap and to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and look back our recent crisis mopping work for Typhoon Haiyan.

Thanks to everyone who came along. Thanks for the kind words from attendees from British Red Cross, MSF UK, and MapAction. We shall have to get some follow-up meetings happening! Dan Brickley’s notes capture some of these comments. And thanks to the ODI for organising it, and making this:

Here‘s an audio recording:

Download LibreOffice slides (8.6Mb)

Jump to slide:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26

Slide 1


I’ve been dying to talk about OpenStreetMap at the ODI, because it’s an exciting Open Data topic. But first lets talk about typhoons. This is Typhoon Haiyan seen from the international space statione

Slide 2


I’m not much of a typhoon expert. I tend to think a typhoon is a bit like the weather we’ve been getting in the UK at the moment… only worse

Slide 3


But it is a regular weather pattern in this part of the world. In the Philippines they have a typhoon “season”.

Here we see all the typhoons which happened in 2013. There’s a lot of them. We can also see that they often seem to sort of meander off in unpredictable ways. And all of them start as weak blue lines. Many of them stay that way. A typhoon is a difficult thing to predict.

But this line towards the bottom is Typhoon Haiyan It smashed directly through the middle of the Philippines island chain, bringing a storm surge, and reaching peak category 5 intensity at the time it made landfall.

I’ll just show you a video of what that looked like on the ground: planinternational storm surge video: http://youtu.be/rS0gv4Xbw7w

Slide 4


So you can see why a lot of people lost their lives. This disaster killed more than six thousand people. But of course a lot of suffering continues after the initial typhoon, as people find themselves without shelter, food, electricity.

So disaster response is all about aid agencies bringing supplies of food, shelter, medicine, setting up makeshift medical facilities and helping with evacuation. This is clearly life-saving activity, and you can donate money to these good causes to help them do this great work.

But around this there are huge logistical challenges. In a crisis response scenario there can be desperate issues of information and coordination. Very often there is a location component, with all the burning questions beginning “where”. Where are the people in need? Where are the aid supplies arriving? Where are the teams currently situated.

This is why maps can be so important in a crisis

Slide 5


So I’m going to talk about OpenStreetMap.

I’ll do a bit of an intro to OpenStreetMap, but I guess a lot of you will have heard of it. How many people have tried editing OpenStreetMap? (surprisingly most people put their hands up!)

Slide 6


We need lots of people to edit. OpenStreetMap is a “mass collaboration”. We have more than a million registered users. These people can all edit the map.


Slide 7


To get lots of people involved we try to make the editing process very simple. It is a form of GIS (Geographic Information System) and it does involve editing vectors, so it’s always going to be a little bit complicated, but we try to simplifying it down as much as possible

Slide 8


Like the editing software, the underlying Data model is kept very simple.

The map is composed of nodes and ways. And these elements have tags attached to them, to describe what real world feature we are representing.

If you’ve tried using OpenStreetMap data, you may have found tags quite confusing, because they look a bit like “attributes” in a shapefile, but tags are free-form text. They form a folksonomy, in which popular tags are agreed upon and generally used more, but other ideas are allowed within the database.

Slide 9


When you make an edit, the change shows up on the map.

We have a map at OpenStreetMap.org Usually I we try to play down the significance of this, because after all there other websites where you can get a good view of a map for free (e.g. one beginning with G)

But this OpenStreetMap “standard” view is significant in crisis response, because we have the technology (no small feat) to allow this view to update in quite a short time cycle. After about 10 minutes you see your changes. This creates a nice reward feedback loop, but it also means that in a crisis OpenStreetMap forms a shared commons for geo-data.


Slide 10


A key area where we score against other map providers, is that we provide all the raw geodata to download in various ways, including a bulk download of the entire “planet” (planet.openstreetmap.org)

This aspect is hugely important although I wont dwell on it too much today.

From a humanitarian point of view it’s useful that people can work with the data offline in an unencumbered way. Offline is important for crisis response where there’s often no internet connection.

Slide 11


It’s also Open Data! (Licensed ODbL

http://opendatacommons.org/licenses/odbl/summary/ ) I Again I won’t dwell on this, even though this is a hugely important aspect of OpenStreetMap

Interestingly from a humanitarian point of view, we’ve occasionally had issues with our license because we allow commercial use. Talking to humanitarian organisations about sharing their data, often they say they would prefer it to have a “non-commercial” restriction.

Eugh! License fun. I won’t go into details today.

Slide 12


So OpenStreetMap has these various aspects to it. It’s designed with the goal of creating a free open licensed map of the world (which is a good cause!). It wasn’t actually designed with humanitarian uses in mind, but it turns out that these things all make for a powerful platform for disaster response mapping but…

Slide 13


Photo: Agencia Brasil http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Port-au-Prince_20_Jan_2010.jpg

…this is something which revealed itself, to the surprise of many people, back in 2010 when the earthquake hit Haiti

Slide 14


The OpenStreetMap community came together. Everyone had been watching the news, and spontaneously they created a good detailed streetmap, and they made it quickly! The basic streetmap was in place in about 48 hours.

OpenStreetMap suddenly had the best map available for the cities of Port Au Prince and Carrefour. The only map showing all the city streets.

Slide 15


And people used the map.

People used it as a base map, doing the web map “mash-up” thing. This is “ushahidi” layering data on top.

But more importantly, people were using it in Haiti. OpenStreetMap printouts were going up on the walls in the aid agency control rooms, and handed out to people driving aid delivery trucks.

But this is my favourite example. Search and rescue teams used garmin GPS units with OpenStreetMap loaded onto them. As well as being an example from the very sharp end of disaster response, saving lives very directly, it’s also a great example of OpenStreetMap at it’s best: There are open source tools as part of the OpenStreetMap ecosystem, which let you convert raw geodata into the garmin format. The maps are then available entirely offline.

Slide 16


Since haiti there’s a been a few other disasters. They haven’t always been success stories for OpenStreetMap to such an extent as with Haiti because of the characteristics of the disaster.

In Pakistan in 2010 there were huge floods up and down the entire length of the country. The scale of the affected area meant we weren’t able to get good hi resolution imagery, and in general the mapping task was to big.

Here’s Sendai, Japan. Now clearly in a developed country like this there are good maps available already. Same for Pakistan actually.

However there is still some value in crisis response mapping with OpenStreetMap. OpenStreetMap still offers the best way to create an up-to-date map reflecting post-disaster changes, which is readily available and open licensed for whoever may need it.

Slide 17


Since Haiti we’ve formed the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, and got organised in various ways.

We’ve developed some tools and processes including the “Tasking Manager” at http://tasks.hotosm.org .

The idea is to help new users see an answer to the question “Where do I start mapping?”. It’s also a coordination tool for the community. Mappers click on a square to acquire it, open the area in an OpenStreetMap editor, and click “done” when they’ve finished mapping.

Slide 18


This was used extensively in the Philippines and seemed to be very effective. It was very gratifying to see, not only a software tool working well, but a community process working well, with established rules of etiquette around how to use it. It all felt quite natural and fell into place very well for the typhoon response mapping. This kind of thing is great. It shows that we’re not just scrabbling around chaotically during a disaster. We are practicing and improving. HOT is maturing, and using its collective experience to help cut through the chaos of a disaster.

Here ( http://umap.openstreetmap.fr/en/map/hot-yolanda-haiyan-typhoon-activation_3628#8/11.558/124.887 ) we see the different regions where we placed a “job” grid on the map. Sometimes this was because a partner organisation requested better map data in an area. Sometimes its where we got access to imagery for a particular area.

Slide 19


So there was lots of editing activity. Here’s a visualisation ( http://resultmaps.neis-one.org/osm-typhoon-haiyan-2013 ) which starts to show what that looked like. Changeset bounding-boxes on a map.

(Also watch video showing edits in Tacloban city: https://vimeo.com/80922315 )

Slide 20


And here’s a brand new visualisation I created for you last night! The graph shows editing traffic over time. The time of the Typhoon is on the far left.So you can see we had a flurry of activity in the weeks following the disaster, which has tailed off.

Slide 21


This corresponds very closely to the level on interest in the disaster in general. Google trends for the word “Typhoon”, shows the amount of press coverage and buzz about the disaster.

Unfortunately we only get lots of volunteer enthusiasm when these things are in the news, although I think this may also show we have a slightly longer attention span than the rest of the internet!

The spike isn’t a bad thing though. In fact in some ways we need to work on making the spike taller, but shifting it to the left as much as possible. The best and most effective response mapping happens as soon as possible after the disaster.

Imagine aid organisation using the data, by taking a snapshot from OpenStreetMap 48 hours after the disaster. The bulk of edits will not be picked up by them.

Slide 22


This shows new users in green. These are people who appear to have registered to edit OpenStreetMap during the crisis response (probably purely in order to take part in the crisis response).

This maybe shows that our “old-timers”, the more experienced OpenStreetMappers, were a bit quicker off the mark, responding soon after the disaster, while the new users came along when we ran events and showed them how to do it.

Slide 23


So the aim of this editing activity is to produce good detailed maps, fast.

Here we see the Humanitarian style. This is an interesting aspect of OpenStreetMap. There is a “standard” style, but there’s also many other custom styles produced from the same data. This style shows humanitarian related features.

Also shown here are some buildings with a red outline, where they are damaged. The community was able to do simple damage assessment in areas where we got hold of post-disaster imagery.

Slide 24


And here’s the maps in use in the Philippines. Various aid agencies decided to print map posters from OpenStreetMap.

The Red Cross can be seen here on the right doing some big printouts. They also got involved in actually contributing to the map. The British Red cross had a team of volunteers in their office here in the London, adding data following the same community processes as the rest of us.

In general we’ve seen more buy-in from aid agencies, and more up-front participation. Whereas in Haiti in 2010 they seemed to discover OpenStreetMap by surprise, with this response we see them going straight to OpenStreetMap, and pro-actively taking part in a process of improving the maps.

Slide 25


That’s it. I’ll wrap up by mentioning some ways anyone can help and get involved with H.O.T.

You can donate to HOT, and we’re actively seeking funding sources if anyone has ideas.

As with the wider OpenStreetMap project, there’s many other ways to help, and these range from very technical things like software development, GIS skills, geo-rectifying imagery data, through to things like blogging, making promotional videos, and coordinating the community.

But there’s one thing you really need to do first. A “gateway skill”. Lean to map! Learn to contribute to OpenStreetMap using the editor software. It’s supposed to be simple, and by learning this you’ll get a much better idea of how OpenStreetMap comes together. You’ll probably get a bit addicted, and you’ll clearly see the other ways you can help.

Slide 26


Thankyou very much! Check out the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team at http://hot.openstreetmap.org

Jump to slide:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26

http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2014/01/14/typhoon-openstreetmap-odi/feed/ 3
An OpenStreetMap training course intro http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2013/07/02/openstreetmap-training/ http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2013/07/02/openstreetmap-training/#comments Tue, 02 Jul 2013 10:03:21 +0000 http://www.harrywood.co.uk/blog/?p=337 A week ago I got together with Steve Chilton and Steven Feldman and gave an OpenStreetMap training course to a handful of enthusiastic young people who were about to head out to Ghana as volunteers with a charity called tzedek.

Steve Chilton & Harry Wood teaching OSM
Photo by Steven Feldman CC-BY NonCommercial

I’ve done similar things before but nothing exactly termed a “training course” actually. It was pretty similar to the UCL Masters Student mapping party Sept 2010. Back then I was asked to kick things off with an introduction, and had to stand up make something up on the spot. This time I had some slides prepared.

Which slides? Well maybe I should’ve just used learnosm.org teaching resources for this. I took a look at them, but I decided I wanted to say a bit more in the intro sessions (perhaps wrongly actually). The learnosm.org slides are the product of years of experience mostly by Kate Chapman giving training courses out in Indonesia. But I think slide decks are actually quite a personal thing. I have my own way of introducing OpenStreetMap, and maybe more importantly my own images which trigger memories of what to say. Having said that, maybe I can work on putting some of my ideas into the learnosm.org slides, perhaps to provide a longer slide deck for those that want it. And of course I’d love it if anyone else found my slides useful and wanted to re-use them in any way.

So I’m going to blurt them all out onto this blog post, as I have done in the past. I’m in two minds about doing this because I really just wanted to record the slides that I showed at this particular event, and have somewhere to link them. It’s good if this disappears into the archive over time, because it’s a work in progress. It’s also the same slides I have blogged before in the past, but arranged a bit differently, so to some people this will just be a very big repetitive intrusion onto blogs.openstreetmap.org. Apologies!

Download slides as Libre Office .odp file (25 Mb)

Jump to slide:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28


Slide 1

So I’m going talk about OpenStreetMap. Check out the website at OpenStreetMap.org

Slide 2

I’m an OpenStreetMap enthusiast and volunteer. I’m very active within OpenStreetMap and within the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. It’s not my job though.

For my day job I work a small startup company http://placr.co.uk We do a lot of work with open data, geo technology and transport related stuff. So I do get to use OpenStreetMap sometimes with day to day work, but essentially I do OpenStreetMap in my free time as a volunteer.

Slide 3

And that’s typical. There aren’t any employees of OpenStreetMap. Everyone takes part as volunteers. Only spare time volunteers in fact.

It’s important to realise, this isn’t a product pitch from a company called “OpenStreetMap”. OpenStreetMap is a very loose-knit nebulous community of thousands of map enthusiasts. At it’s core there is a not-for-profit organisation called the OpenStreetMap foundation. Overall the project has a “good cause” mission to map the world and release the data for free

Slide 4

OpenStreetMap was born here in the UK because people wanted, not just a map, but open licensed map data which they’re free to use. To do this, we have to create new map data without copying from existing maps. So even though we have great maps of the UK, people did this crazy thing of going out and surveying the world to create a new map from scratch.

So that’s the reason OpenStreetMap exists. It’s all to do with map data

Slide 5

Obviously that’s a bit technical, but basically if we can give people free access to map data then they can do wonderful creative experimental things… Things in 3D… Things on mobile devices…

skobbler.de, navmii.com, uktraveloptions.com, Rostock 3D, and others.

Slide 6

One really nice thing which is possible with OpenStreetMap data, is creating a new view of the map. In a process called “rendering” you can take the raw OpenStreetMap data and show the map in a different way, pulling out different features to show.

So OpenStreetMap is not just one map. It’s all about data, and many different uses of that data.

Thunderforest whitewater.quaker.eu.org,

OSMC Reitkarte, OpenPisteMap.org OpenPisteMap OpenCycleMap.org

Slide 7

But the aspect of OpenStreetMap you may find more interesting, is the ability to edit the map. OpenStreetMap is the wikipedia of maps. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia which anyone can edit. We have a map which anyone can edit.

Slide 8

Like wikipedia we do mass collaboration. We have over a million registered users. These people can all edit the map.


Slide 9

We need lots of people because we gather a lot of data.

It’s not just basic street map data, it’s landuse coloured areas of the map, and all sorts of “Points Of Interest” details.

We’ll get a better feel for what kinds of things to add as we look at mapping later on.

Slide 10

To get lots of people involved we try to make the process of editing very simple. We’ll be learning to use an OpenStreetMap editor. Hopefully you’ll find it fairly simple. Maybe you won’t, but certainly its easier than some systems. You don’t need a degree in cartography to use it. By keeping it simple we get hundreds of thousands of people involved.

Slide 11

Everything in OpenStreetMap is made up Nodes and Ways, and these things have Tags on them.

A node is a single point. It can be used to represent something like a pub.

A way is line drawn between several nodes. It can be used to represent a linear feature such as a road.

By placing tags on them (these “name equals value” pairs) this is how we tell the system what this thing is. Tags are the classification system.

We’ll see nodes, ways and tags, and this will become clearer when we take a look at the editor

Slide 12

Before using an editor to input data, we need to go out and gather some data. There’s a whole range of mapping techniques.

You can have fun with gadgets. e.g. use a GPS to record a line of dots. This can form a skeleton view of how a road layout looks. You can use camera to record information. Some people even use a dictaphone to speak into.

But it can be as simple as taking notes on a piece of paper.

Photo of me photo mapping by Gordon Joly http://www.flickr.com/photos/loopzilla/2465042085/

Slide 13

So OpenStreetMap was initially motivated by a desire for open licensed data here in the UK, but we have this editable map platform, and a set of techniques for creating maps from scratch. Obviously this can work anywhere, including the developing world.

This makes it a powerful tool for Humanitarian Work. We can look at creating maps in the developing world, and maps for disaster response.

So let’s look at some examples of humanitarian mapping.

Slide 14

Our best example of disaster response mapping is still the Haiti earthquake of 2010. The earthquake struck and as OpenStreetMappers saw the news…

Photo: Agencia Brasil http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Port-au-Prince_20_Jan_2010.jpg

Slide 15

…they saw our maps didn’t have much detail, so they started adding to it, using aerial imagery to trace out a road map.

Slide 16

Slide 17

Slide 18

Slide 19

Pretty soon the community came together to produce a good detailed streetmap. This happened quickly! The basic streetmap was in place in about 48 hours.

OpenStreetMap suddenly had the best map available. The only map showing all the city streets. This brought a lot of attention to the project, and people were impressed that this map has sort of spontaneously appeared through collaboration without the need for any special instruction.

Slide 20

And people used the map.

People used it online as a base map, presenting data on the web. This is “ushahidi” layering data on top.

But more importantly, people were using it in Haiti. OpenStreetMap printouts were going up on the walls in the aid agency control rooms, and handed out to people driving aid delivery trucks.

And here’s a message and a photo from a search and rescue guy. Somebody who worked very directly saving lives by digging people out of the rubble. His teams were loading the vector data onto their garmin device, to use offline.

Slide 21

Since then we’ve responded to other disasters. Here’s Sendai in Japan, after the tsunami there.

Now clearly in a developed country like this there are sure to be good maps available already, but we can create maps which reflect these kinds of situational update. Edits to the map data are shown within minutes.

While superior maps may be available if you know where to look, our maps are openly and easily available. If this can save time for a few disaster responders, then it’s worth doing.

Slide 22

So that was disaster response, but we can also do general mapping in the developing world

The mapkibera project has been working in the largest slum in Africa, to create a map like this, featuring on-the-ground information such as water points and kerosene fuel stations.

They did this by training local people to contribute to OpenStreetMap, using the simple editing tools. Using OpenStreetMap as a mapping platform, locals could take ownership of their own map. The project involved teaching them to collect data, but also teaching them how to make use of it.

Slide 23

More recently HOT has been active in indonesia with a long running project to map this developing country. This is also about disaster preparedness, mapping out where people live and where people are at risk of tsunamis and earthquakes.

The projects involve teaching locals to map, and setting up a competition between universities to map building details.

Slide 24

I’ve mentioned the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team (HOT) . This is an organisation within the OpenStreetMap community, brought together to do these things.

In particularly we’d like to engage with aid organisations, organise funding for humanitarian mapping projects and deploy people to run these projects on-the-ground.

Slide 25

There are many ways to help and get involved with H.O.T. and with the wider OpenStreetMap project. These range from very technical things like software development, GIS skills, geo-rectifying imagery data, through to things like blogging, making promotional videos, and coordinating the community.

But there’s one thing you really need to do first. A “gateway skill”. Lean to map! Learn to contribute to OpenStreetMap using the editor software. We’re going to show you how to do that today. Once you get a feel for that you may well spot other ways you can help.

Slide 26

If we look at how much people contribute to the project and rank people side-by-side with the most active contributors on the left, this graph shows an spike of “elite” mappers on the left, a relatively small group of dedicated contributors, but then a very long tail of thousands of people who contribute a tiny bit. In fact at the tip of the tail we’ve got many registered users who only add one object to the map. The size of this long tail is just as important as the size of the elite spike

But this is interesting today because we’re about to show you how to contribute to OpenStreetMap. If we can show how to add five or six things to the map today, this will actually put you ranking way above most people. You’ll be all the way over here on the left. You can quite quickly consider yourself an expert. You’ll be in a position to help other people learn how to do it.

Slide 27

So let’s do it. Time to learn how to map!

We’ll need to decide which editor to use.

We do some simple remote mapping in Africa just using aerial imagery, and trying out the editors.

Later we’ll head out, get some fresh air, and gather some data with an on-the-ground survey.

Slide 28

These slides are (of course) freely re-usable under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License

Map data ODbL OpenStreetMap.org contributors

Jump to slide:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28

]]> http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2013/07/02/openstreetmap-training/feed/ 4 Interview about VGI and OpenStreetMap http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2013/04/02/interview-about-vgi-and-openstreetmap/ http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2013/04/02/interview-about-vgi-and-openstreetmap/#comments Tue, 02 Apr 2013 00:30:15 +0000 http://www.harrywood.co.uk/blog/?p=326 The following is a set of questions which Bhaveen Dattani put to me, as part of his studies of VGI and OpenStreetMap for his course at Aston university. The basic questions are the always the big questions, and I had to take a step back and think a bit about all the broad issues around OpenStreetMap (my big hobby). In the spirit of openness I’m sharing these answers here:

What is Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI)? / Have you seen VGI?
I have noticed the term VGI used extensively in academia. There are several terms used for the same concept. Technologists will refer to the same (or similar) concept as “Crowd-sourced” geographic information.

But in fact, when describing the project I am involved in, OpenStreetMap, I prefer the term “mass collaboration”. Some VGI initiatives are mostly about “sourcing” data on the cheap from a crowd of low-skilled contributors. You can think of OpenStreetMap in those terms, but OpenStreetMap has volunteers who bring a wide range of skillsets and levels of dedication, many of whom have specific use cases of their own in mind. Users are typically also contributors. People collaborate en masse, coming together to build a wonderful free geodata resource, and crucially it is open licensed and co-owned by everyone.

What is ‘authoritative/official’ data? Have you seen this data?
Maps created by mapping agencies. This is the traditional way of creating maps. A map making organisation, with map making professionals conducts the surveys and creates the maps. Often these are government, or government backed organisations. The data comes with a mark of authority because it is created by this organisation.

People often present “authoritative/official” geodata as the antithesis of VGI, but in fact it is produced in very similar ways, by humans who make judgements and also make mistakes, and at some stage there has been a decision to work towards a certain detail and accuracy level in representing the real world. There’s no such thing as a “completely accurate” map

Although not always the case, it’s worth noting that authoritative map data is very often not free. The standard old market driven approach is to license map data at great expense, and protect this business model through copyright enforcement. Exceptions to this include some open datasets from Ordnance Survey, and TIGER data in the U.S. In both cases “authoritative” data being released for free, but at a lower quality than other more expensive datasets. So “authoritative” does not necessarily mean non-free but also does not necessarily mean high quality.

Do you believe that there are more people using VGI maps in comparison to authoritative maps or do you believe that more people are using authoritative maps over VGI maps? Why do you believe this?
It is still the case that most maps that ordinary people encounter in everyday life are based on traditional authoritative data. VGI is very new, but large projects which release the data openly (I’m pretty much exclusively talking about OpenStreetMap here) are starting to have an impact and reach an increasingly mainstream user-base. We are seeing a shift towards end users seeing and using OpenStreetMap more and more.

If we think at the level of developers working with geo-data or just experimenting with geo-data in their bedrooms, there is a class of web developers and mobile app developers who make basic embedding use of raster maps. These are more numerous, and these are mostly still using Google Maps. But if we look at developers who are working with raw geo-data (not just basic embedding of raster), it’s quite likely we’ve already passed the point a long time ago where the majority of such developers are using OpenStreetMap data by virtue of its free and open availability.

If you had to choose between two different sources of data, would you choose a VGI dataset or an authoritative dataset? Why would you choose this option
I always try to use OpenStreetMap, because by using it you are supporting it. I use it when viewing maps on my phone, when printing maps, when emailing a link to a map, when embedding maps on websites I create.

OpenStreetMap exists to be used. That’s the goal. It creates a virtuous circle. Using it results in new people seeing and talking about it, and then some new people contributing to it. As an OpenStreetMap contributor, by using it myself I can help to spot areas of map data which can be improved. As an OpenStreetMap developer I can help to spot areas of the software tools and user experience which can be improved.

I choose to support OpenStreetMap because it is a wonderful open-licensed geodata resource which can benefit all of mankind. It is a not-for-profit good cause (This is not true of many other VGI projects I might contribute to)

Can you highlight any weaknesses of using VGI over authoritative data?
I think the weaknesses many people try to highlight are misplaced criticisms, or points which are outright incorrect. Let me give a few of these.

It is commonly held that VGI cannot be trusted compared to authoritative geodata. This issue of “trust” seems highly nebulous and subjective. I would argue that it actually boils down to a very indirect way of talking about data quality. No geodata is perfect, but if data quality is higher, more people will trust it, and OpenStreetMap data quality is ever-increasing.

People commonly criticise OpenStreetMap data shortcomings with a particular location in mind, but they should really fix it! (or at least point mappers to the location so we can tackle it, e.g. using osmbugs.org) With an open wiki-like process inviting anyone to improve the data, to criticise OpenStreetMap is to criticise yourself.

It is very common to hear people criticise aspects of the cartographic style presented on the ‘standard’ OpenStreetMap.org home page. This is a very visual thing which people are quick to notice, but it’s actually largely irrelevant. With open access to the underlying geodata (which OpenStreetMap offers for free) anyone can customise the cartographic style.

If I were to highlight a weakness, I would say one of the only fair criticisms of OpenStreetMap is the inability to achieve consistency across the dataset. OpenStreetMap currently has no upper limit on the level of detail volunteers can add, and this means that tremendous detail is added in one area, while another area is lacking. This weakness might mean that for some data use cases, a technically challenging process of smoothing over these imbalances can be necessary. For many use cases this is not a major shortcoming (and this is true of other issues of data quality)

What interests you about VGI?
I am excited by people coming together to collaborate on creating something great. I feel passionate about OpenStreetMap for this reason. The process and progress of map data being added is glorious and fascinating thing to behold.

VGI initiatives in general? I find many of them less worthwhile and subtractive from our global efforts. In particular many initiatives fail to open license and release the raw data which volunteers contribute. I would question the ethics of this exploitative practice. Hopefully potential contributors will see this and stay away, but this doesn’t always seem to work. I find it interesting that anyone would contribute to Google Map Maker.

What is required to produce high quality VGI within the UK?
There is no special requirement in the UK. OpenStreetMap’s approach to VGI was invented in the UK, but works worldwide, including creating the very first maps in the developing world for example. There are some differing considerations on a country by country basis. A key one is the availability of existing map data.

In the UK the Ordnance Survey still dominates provision of geo data. Many people in the UK are fiercely proud of our national mapping agency, but there is also a tremendous desire for open geodata. This gave rise to OpenStreetMap and continues to motivate volunteers to contribute in the UK. Partly in response to the “threat” of OpenStreetMap, the O.S. decided to release some of their lower quality datasets under a free open license. Nowadays we attract volunteers to OpenStreetMap showing that it can be better (mostly it is!) and more free compared to O.S.

What challenges do you feel would arise in the future of VGI?
I’ve already mentioned imbalances in level detail as a weakness we are struggling to tackle. This will become more of a challenge. Likewise other data issues such as vandalism and rogue importing will likely increase as the project grows, and we face challenges in structuring our project governance, but I think we will overcome these challenges within our community.

A big question is whether OpenStreetMap will remain relevant at all in the long run when faced with the challenge from other competing map providers. OpenStreetMap provides map data. It doesn’t attempt to compete on other features. There’s no OpenStreetMap aerial imagery and certainly no OpenStreetMap version of any 3D lidar photo synth features. It’s not something we are even *trying* to do, but If those things turn out to be the future, then OpenStreetMap might fade into irrelevance. This seems unlikely. Google streetview has been around for years, and hasn’t stopped people using normal maps for most use cases. Other forays into 3D have so far proved to have good gimmick value, but no long lasting effect on the way we use maps.

Another challenge might be if our form of vector map data can be auto-generated by some yet-to-be-invented machine learning OCR techniques. Of course competing crowd-sourcing initiatives might also be a challenge.

But there’s a certain glorious inevitability about the success of OpenStreetMap. It keeps getting bigger and better because people want open licensed map data. Even if OpenStreetMap somehow dies out, the data will live on with the same open license.

Do you feel that VGI is currently growing?
Yes. Massively so. In terms of quantity of data, and number of people taking part. See http://wiki.osm.org/Stats for some exponentially increasing curves.

How long do you feel VGI would be used for? Why do you believe this?
The data will be around, and will form the basis of interesting geo-experiments long into the future I’m sure. As a snapshot of the world as we see it today, OpenStreetMap is fascinating, because of the way it has be built by real people with local interests. But OpenStreetMap’s data is not being used to its full potential yet. The interesting question really is how long will it take for OpenStreetMap to really go mainstream?

How long do you feel authoritative data would be used for? Why do you believe this?
As mentioned, authoritative data currently forms basis of most maps in use today. I think this will continue until OpenStreetMap not only goes mainstream, but starts to push all other map data providers out of the market. I’m not sure if this will ever happen (I think in ten years time we’ll know either way) but in any case OpenStreetMap is adding value, and can add much more value, alongside authoritative map data.

Where do you see VGI in five years from now?
Impossible to say. We’re at an exciting juncture right now. In five years OpenStreetMap could be massive, or it could be coasting along still yapping at the heals of other map providers.

What do you believe the future trends are for VGI?
We’ll see more commercial propositions built on top of OpenStreetMap, and I think this will help to drive things forwards. We may see the emergence of a new kind of “authoritative” data, built on top of VGI. Map data authorities could take a snapshot version and “bless” it as trustworthy, or perform some elaborate branching of the dataset to arrive at an authoritative version.

Is there anything else you would like to add about VGI and its future trends?
VGI / crowd-sourcing initiatives should open-license the data they gather, to provide it back to those who contribute. In fact it should be regarded as unethical not to do so, and we must campaign strongly against instances of closed data crowd-sourcing (such as Google Map Maker) to ensure that this exploitative practice does not become a trend.

Open licensing is about giving the data back to your contributors (which should help you attract them in the first place) but it’s also about data sharing *between* different initiatives, and ensure your data gets used as widely as possible. New VGI initiatives should also consider the compatibility of their open license with that of OpenStreetMap. How might we share data? Or could OpenStreetMap be a good platform for directly publishing the data? By doing this you can be taking part in the largest VGI initiative of them all!

http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2013/04/02/interview-about-vgi-and-openstreetmap/feed/ 0
HOT at PICNIC http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2012/09/28/hot-at-picnic/ http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2012/09/28/hot-at-picnic/#comments Fri, 28 Sep 2012 13:39:29 +0000 http://www.harrywood.co.uk/blog/?p=309 I was invited to speak at the PICNIC festival in Amsterdam. I was presenting OpenStreetMap and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team again, a slimmed down version of this presentation. I followed after Helena Puig Larrauri presenting the “Standby Taskforce”, and then we sat together and took questions. You can watch that whole thing here:

I had the impression I was bringing OpenStreetMap to a very new audience which is always worthwhile. In this case the session had a journalism theme to it. It was organised by European Journalism Centre. Big thanks to them for inviting and organising for me to speak. It was an interesting session overall, and the EJC folks even took me and my fellow panelists for dinner on boat ride around Amsterdam! Here’s another video with me on the boat:

The connection between Humanitarian OpenStreetMap and journalism is one I haven’t given a lot of thought to before, and I probably should’ve given more thought to it before trying to answer those questions! Clearly OpenStreetMap has great potential for unrestrictive (free!) use in presenting maps for newspaper & TV news. Perhaps I should also have mentioned that journalists can of course help our cause simply by talking about us. OpenStreetMap has made the mainstream news in Germany more than anywhere else, and we can see the benefits this has brought in increased contributions (Or maybe the contributor interest came first. Who can say?) More people viewing and taking an interest in opensteetmap.org is all good news. hot.openstreetmap.org also offers an interesting window into the project. I think the more obvious “good cause” nature of that may appeal to more people, and things like tasks.hotosm.org might present a more obvious starting point for people looking for places to contribute.

I hung around for the second day at PICNIC which was also fun. I’m not quite sure how to categorise this conference. It’s sort of about technology, or just new ideas I suppose. Apparently there were ~3000 attendees. Lots of creativity and buzz and picnic boxes for lunch, all set on the opposite side of the river from the Amsterdam city centre in an amazing new building which looks like a crashed alien spaceship.

Amsterdam Amsterdam Amsterdam

http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2012/09/28/hot-at-picnic/feed/ 0
Workshop on Using OpenStreetMap Data http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2012/09/06/workshop-on-using-openstreetmap-data/ http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2012/09/06/workshop-on-using-openstreetmap-data/#comments Thu, 06 Sep 2012 22:49:16 +0000 http://www.harrywood.co.uk/blog/?p=298  

I presented a workshop (or at least a live demo session) at the Society Of Cartographers conference with the rather vague open ended title of “Using OpenStreetMap Data”   –  “A tour of the various options for downloading and otherwise accessing OpenStreetMap data from a geo-data user’s perspective. Harry Wood will explain how to delve into the raw data structures using tools on the website and elsewhere, how to explore the wiki-style editing history, how OpenStreetMap’s unique ‘tags’ approach works, and some ways of manipulating the map data.”   At least that’s what I wanted it to be. It didn’t go entirely to plan (see apologies below)

I started by presenting some slides from my OpenTech OpenStreetMap developer ecosystem presentation which highlights the central role of raw geodata, and gradually builds up a picture culminating in this diagram (see above link for the full build-up and explanation)

Also a re-use of the slide explaining different levels of OpenStreetMap use which developers and data user organisations might consider.

Then it was on to the live demos touring around various different topics and tools. I don’t think I actually timed it well enough to get through all these things in either of the two hour-long sessions, but the following were things I intended to at least note briefly, if not doing a full-on demo.  I’ll resist the temptation to flesh this out with more text. Brief notes and lots of links is the best way.

Workshop demo notes:


Wiki and other documentation
Go to OpenStreetMap.org and click the ‘Documentation’ link.  http://wiki.openstreetmap.org  Search box usually works
http://help.openstreetmap.org has lots of info in Q&A format.
Map tiles
On OpenStreetMap.org right click, show image, to reveal a tile URL e.g.
Format is {base tile server URL}/zoom/x/y.png
Using tiles as a slippy map. OpenLayers example:
Download options
Planet download  http://planet.openstreetmap.org 22GB of compressed XML (300Gb uncompressed)
“Extracts” at the country level e.g. http://download.geofabrik.de/osm/
and “Metro extracts” http://metro.teczno.com
Shapefiles from geofabrik and cloudmade.
Garmin img files.
API map calls.
Nodes, Ways, Relations, Tags  - Seen within the following, and within the raw XML
Simple views of the data
‘Data’ viewOpenStreetMap.org Edit tab drop-down. “Browse Map Data”
Potlatch 2 – The flash editor
Download a jar file and double-click
Folksonomy approach.
http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Osmosis  Small tool. Extract to install. Requires java again.
To extract central London from the greater London area metro file:
./osmosis-0.41/bin/osmosis \
   --read-pbf london.osm.pbf \
   --bounding-box top=51.5398 left=-0.2018 bottom=51.489 right=-0.0534 \
      completeWays=true \
   --write-pbf central-london.osm.pbf
Takes several minutes, but here’s a quicker bounding box extract of just UCL area
./osmosis-0.41/bin/osmosis \
   --read-pbf central-london.osm.pbf \
   --bounding-box top=51.523351 left=-0.133344 bottom=51.522196 right=-0.131353 \
           completeWays=true \
   --write-xml small-UCL-extract.osm
Wont run this one, but here’s how you would use unix piping to unzip and rezip input and output bz2 files
bzcat london.osm.bz2 | ./osmosis-0.41/bin/osmosis \
   --read-xml file=-\
   --bounding-box top=51.523351 left=-0.133344 bottom=51.522196 right=-0.131353 \
           completeWays=true \
   --write-xml --write-xml file=-\
     | bzip2 > small-UCL-extract.osm.bz2
Get just the ways representing large buildings tagged shop=supermarket:
./osmosis-0.41/bin/osmosis \
   --read-pbf central-london.osm.pbf \
   --tf accept-ways shop=supermarket \
   --tf reject-relations \
   --used-node \
   --write-xml supermarkets-ways.osm
Get just the nodes where a shop=supermarket was mapped just as a single point
./osmosis-0.41/bin/osmosis \
   --read-pbf central-london.osm.pbf \
   --tf accept-nodes shop=supermarket \
   --tf reject-ways \
   --tf reject-relations \
   --write-xml supermarkets-nodes.osm
Merge two .osm files together
./osmosis-0.41/bin/osmosis \
   --read-xml supermarkets-ways.osm \
   --read-xml supermarkets-nodes.osm \
   --merge \
   --write-xml supermarkets.osm
“all-to-nodes” feature of osmconvert is handy simplification
./osmconvert supermarkets.osm --all-to-nodes >supermarkets-all-nodes.osm
(output shown in JOSM at each of the above steps)
osmconvert can convert this file to CSV
./osmconvert supermarkets-all-nodes.osm --csv="@lon @lat name"
Can imagine further uses of this simplified data e.g. “find my nearest supermarket” phone app
Other tools: osm2csv.rb, osmium,   osm2pgsql  (import to PostGIS)
example URL (supermarkets in central london) :
Consume updates from the community.  Osmosis replication.
browsing editing history.
- via data layer on the web
‘recent edit’ displays (itoworld) http://www.itoworld.com/map/group/20
full history dump – even bigger bulk download!
Phew! That’s more than enough for an hour.


I was a little wrong-footed from the start, and I need to apologise for this. I couldn’t get my laptop onto the internet. I could blame the over-complicated university wifi, but it was my own fault for turning up 2 minutes before running the workshop… which was my boss’ fault for organising a lunchtime client meeting immediately beforehand, then leaving at the time when I needed to be leaving. Anyway, I was able to fuddle along using two different computers to demonstrate most of the intended topics. …Oh and by the way, in all the confusion I also managed lose my apple power charger (white square thing). Anyone got it?

I also realised from the start that my planned demos involving command-line XML manipulations, were going to be pitched poorly for a least some of the less techy audience, so I dwelled longer on more basic topics for their benefit… which may have bored the more techy folks.  It was a bit of a mixed crowd, but that’s all part of the fun of the Society of Cartographers, and hopefully everyone learned something!
http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2012/09/06/workshop-on-using-openstreetmap-data/feed/ 1
#geomob presentation on HOT http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2012/05/22/hot-geomob/ http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2012/05/22/hot-geomob/#comments Tue, 22 May 2012 00:39:14 +0000 http://www.harrywood.co.uk/blog/?p=249 Last week I gave a talk at #geomob, London’s second most important geo meet-up group (after OSMLondon of course). It was good to be able to get up and present something after watching so many others over the past couple of years.

My talk was about the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (hot.openstreetmap.org) I’ve been doing a fair bit of HOT stuff lately, so it came at a good time. I’ve just got back from a week long trip to Washington D.C. for a board strategy meeting, followed by various events there. The talk is a refresh and update of previous talks I’ve given on the topic, plus some new info inspired by this recent trip (newer stuff from slide 18 onwards)

Download slides for OpenOffice (28Mb!)

…or just see them below with notes (kind of a transcript) alongside:

Slide 1

I’m going to talk about the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. How OpenStreetMap offers a great platform for humanitarian mapping, and a look at some of the achievements and challenges of the H.O.T. organisation

Slide 2

I guess everyone knows OpenStreetMap, so I won’t do the full intro, but let’s just recap some of the key characteristics of this project.

Slide 3

These are also things which make OpenStreetMap valuable as a platform for humanitarian mapping.

OpenStreetMap is a massive community. An army of volunteers doing mass collaboration using simple map editing tools and simple data gathering techniques

Fundamentally OpenStreetMap is about providing free raw map data in vector form, but we do have a map display which is updated within minutes, showing changes made to the map, and this can be important for humanitarian uses.

Slide 4

There’s two different aspects to humanitarian mapping. Disaster response; maps to help agencies respond to earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, also things like famine and human conflict.

Then there’s maps to help in with economic development. Lifting people out of poverty.

Slide 5

We can sneak in another category related to disasters. Disaster risk reduction. Finding ways to make disasters less disastrous.

Slide 6

Photo: Agencia Brasil on wikimedia commons

Disaster response is the most attention grabbing category. Haiti is still the best example of this.

There was a terrible earthquake in January 2010.

Slide 7

In January 2010 we also had a geomob! This was a couple of weeks later, and here’s a Mikel talking about a rather interesting thing which happened in the OpenStreetMap community

Slide 8

They made a map. Using the normal openstreetmap processes, and coming together to collaborate.

Slide 9

Slide 10

Slide 11

Slide 12

A good detailed streetmap, and they made it quickly! The basic streetmap was in place in about 48 hours.

OpenStreetMap suddenly had the best map available. The only map showing all the city streets. This brought a lot of attention to the project, and people were impressed that this map has sort of spontaneously appeared through collaboration without the need for any special instruction.

Slide 13

And people used the map.

People used it as a base map, doing the web map “mash-up” thing. This is “ushahidi” layering data on top.

But more importantly, people were using it in Haiti. OpenStreetMap printouts were going up on the walls in the aid agency control rooms, and handed out to people driving aid delivery trucks.

And here’s a message and a photo from a search and rescue guy. Somebody who worked very directly saving lives by digging people out of the rubble. His teams were loading the vector data onto their garmin device, to use offline.

Seeing a message like this, we realise this isn’t just hippy nonsense. We really can save lives with maps!

…So that’s disaster response.

Slide 14

Mapping for development is partly just about mapping the unmapped parts of the world, bringing open data to shine a light on these places. That’s pretty much what the wider OpenStreetMap project will do. With HOT we can focus on developing countries. We’re not just talking about helping aid agencies delivering of aid. Free maps can spur all kinds of economic development.

But there’s another interesting aspect of this. Because the tools are simple, we can go there and train local people to contribute to the map and use the map. That’s a better way of getting and maintaining detailed map data, but it also means communities take ownership of their map.

There’s been various projects along these lines. Kibera, India, Gaza, and…

Slide 15

Photos from Haiti are on the HOT facebook page

Ever since the earthquake we’ve also been doing these things in haiti.

Aid agencies are still operating there, and there’s funded projects to keep OpenStreetMap involved and build a capacity for mapping among the Haitian people.

It’s looking like we’ll be doing similar work in Senegal this year.

Slide 16

Earthquake map on wikimedia commons

So what about disaster risk reduction? You can’t predict where the next disaster will happen, but actually we can look at seismic hotspots and vulnerable population centres. Where are disasters likely to happen? One answer is Indonesia.

That’s something Indonesian government are aware of, as are many aid organisations, and so there are many DRR projects and initiatives here.

We’re working with some people who developed a plugin to QGIS which will do risk analysis, but they need map data. Specifically they need data on where buildings are.

Slide 17

Kate Chapman has spent time in Indonesia on and off for the past year or so. We have funded projects there. These involve doing the training thing again, teaching locals to map, also going into universities and setting up a competition to map buildings.

Slide 18

And here’s an interesting thing which came out of this work in Indonesia. The “Tasking Manager” at http://tasks.hotosm.org . This was paid software development (unusually for OSM), as part of this initiative to map lots of buildings in Indonesia, but the developer likes the project so much he continues to work on it after we’ve stopped paying him.

So what’s the idea of this thing? You may be able to guess just from looking at it. Mappers can go here and pick a square to work on. The chosen square launches into your editor software, you map all the building outlines, and then you label the task as done.

A very common problem new users have is that, on top of the learning curve of the editing software itself, they also need to figure out what kind of data they should be adding and where exactly to zoom in on the map to add it. The tasking manager spoon feeds them with a job to do and clear instructions. It’s a way of directing the community, and helping new users.

Slide 19

Here’s me and the H.O.T. board in Washington D.C. last week. We got funding to get together and hold a meeting to discuss the strategy and direction of the organisation. A two-day long meeting to thrash out strategic ideas.

Slide 20

H.O.T.’s positioning as an organisation is quite interesting.

OpenStreetMap is this big community of volunteers who can come and go in quite an ad-hoc fashion with many different motivations. Its a confusing thing for outside organisations to try to interact with. So an important role of HOT is to act as an interface to governments and aid organisations, helping them use OpenStreetMap, and presenting a more legitimate organised face which is very important for attracting funding for example.

But the power of HOT is the power of OpenStreetMap. We’re built on the same volunteerism. This presents difficult questions. For example if we hire paid staff, does that put off the volunteers? How can we make sure people feel involved and assign roles and responsibilities?

Actually all these are questions facing the OpenStreetMap Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation at the core of OpenStreetMap, managing the servers and funding of the project. There’s a great deal of political pressure, and a lot of eyes on the OSMF as they try to decide when to take on issues of project governance, and how to interact with the community. The chosen path for them a lot of the time, is to play only a minor supporting role, devolving as much as possible to the community of volunteers, limiting mission creep, and remaining lean as an organisation.

For HOT there’s less of this pressure, and most people are happy to see the organisation grow, in order to better respond to humanitarian challenges, e.g. hiring people, and spending money on flights etc for people to do humanitarian projects.

To help with this, we’re appointing an executive director (and making sure she is properly paid) (announcement). This also helps with this thing of interfacing with aid organisations and attracting funding. They will expect HOT to be arranged as a more classical organisation.

OpenStreetMap feels chaotic sometimes. But it’s interesting to reflect that actually on the right hand side of this diagram, all of these well-organised charities etc in the humanitarian sector all add up to a bewildering landscape. Everyone’s partnering, collaborating, or often viscously competing. They all have acronyms for names. Funding flows in all directions. It’s a different kind of chaos. In between that and the chaos of OpenStreetMap lies H.O.T. It’s an interesting place to be!

Slide 21

I’ll wrap up by mentioning some ways anyone can help and get involved with H.O.T. As with the wider OpenStreetMap project, there’s many ways to help, and these range from very technical things like software development, GIS skills, geo-rectifying imagery data, through to things like blogging, making promotional videos, and coordinating the community.

But there’s one thing you really need to do first. A “gateway skill” : Learn to map! Learn to contribute to OpenStreetMap using the editor software. It’s supposed to be simple, and by learning this you’ll get a much better idea of how OpenStreetMap comes together. You’ll probably get a bit addicted, and you’ll clearly see the other ways you can help.

Also if you’re attending geomob and you haven’t tried editing OpenStreetMap…. shame on you! You must try it!

Slide 22

Thankyou very much! Check out the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team at http://hot.openstreetmap.org

Slide 23

In general these slides are freely re-usable under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License

…although they use a bunch of other open licensed images. See specific credits provided alongside. All OpenStreetMap Map images are CC-BY-SA2 OpenStreetMap.

Jump to slide:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23

]]> http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2012/05/22/hot-geomob/feed/ 1 My SOTM11 talk http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/10/10/sotm-talk/ http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/10/10/sotm-talk/#comments Mon, 10 Oct 2011 09:28:54 +0000 http://www.harrywood.co.uk/blog/?p=212 We had the annual “State of the map” OpenStreetMap conference a month ago. This was in Denver. I had a choice between this or the more sensible carbon-effiecent location of Vienna for SOTM-EU a few months earlier. I decided to go to Denver. To be honest I sort of drifted into that dicision in a disorganised manner, but I did have some reasons as I said at the time.

I knew there was a core of London OSMers who were deciding to go to SOTMEU, and not to Denver. I felt it might be important to be in Denver as a representative, to meet, explain, and be an ambassador for the heart and soul of OpenStreetMap. The “OpenStreetMap way” as I see it. This is what I tried to do with my talk: “Blossoms, weeds and blades of grass: Growing the map”

The following is all the slides and a transcript of roughly what I said (or intended to say) It’s a bit of a whopper. Sorry if your RSS reader just blew a fuse. Alternatively you can watch this as a video showing slides and good quality audio, or a live action video from the front (but not so good audio). You can also see the slides on slideshare, download for OpenOffice, or powerpoint (32 MB).

Slide 1

I’m Harry and I’m from England… and I thought I’d compare OpenStreetMap to an english country garden.

It sort of blossoms with a wondrous variety of shades and colours. I’ll show you what I mean.

Photo CC BY-SA 2.0 Katy Walters: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/231339

Slide 2

As we started the map in the beginning…


Slide 3

…it was like crocuses pushing up their heads in the early spring.

Photo: Frühlingsblumen Krokus by Benjamin Gimmel, CCBYSA 2 etc on wikimedia commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fr%C3%BChlingsblumen_Krokus.jpg

Slide 4

Somebody mapped the whole of Cambridge…


Slide 5

…the towering foxgloves of Cambridge

Photo: CC BY 2.0 psd on flickr: http://flic.kr/p/2uUoQ

Slide 6

All of Hull was mapped by one person in glorious detail…


Slide 7

…blossoming like beautiful marigolds

Photo CC BY-SA 2.0 mariosp on flickr: http://flic.kr/p/8A1DsY

Slide 8

The collaborative mapping of Birmingham…


Slide 9

..is like a bunch of forget-me-nots

Photo GFDL/CCBYSA3 Quadell on wikimedia commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wald_Vergissmeinnicht.jpg

Slide 10

Sometimes I like to imagine I’m managing to keep a watchful eye on the map, and seeing how it develops worldwide.

This is nonsense, because the map is big, and the community of mappers is big. I really love it when I look around the map and come across things which surprise me.

Image from the flyer by Frederik Ramm: http://svn.openstreetmap.org/misc/pr_material/english_flyer_2010_10/marble_new_shadow.png

Slide 11

A couple of weeks ago I was just casually panning around somewhere in South England and I came across this glorious patch of detailed countryside mapping.


Slide 12

And what’s this pink thing with circular footpaths around it? I dont know. I have never been there! It’s a wonderful and surprising patch of detail to encounter. Somebody clearly feels passionate about the map of this area.


Slide 13

So these blossoms appear by surprise. Perhaps it’s more like blossoms in the desert, appearing from barren desert floor, when the conditions are right.

Photo CC BY 2.0 Slideshow Bruce on flickr: http://flic.kr/p/7YGuns

Slide 14

Or like splats of ink

Image by Kamikaze Stoat CC BY 2.0 on flickr http://flic.kr/p/rMHgf

Slide 15

….or perhaps like bombs dropping. But mappers dont drop bombs of destruction, they’re dropping map bombs. An explosion leaving behind a circular areas of map coverage near where they live or work.

I think the way the community builds the map is a glorious and fascinating thing to behold, and utterly unique to OpenStreetMap.

Slide 16

We see a similar thing within an area like London, where we have a backdrop of "complete" coverage in terms of having all the roads and basic features in place, but now we get these patches of mega-detail blossoming with every building drawn in., and lots of POI detail added.

This is all good fun, and part of the same wonderful blossoming of map detail, but I am going to come back to talk about problems particularly related this kind of example, a little later on.


Slide 17

I want to compare that situation with another type of map growth, which is more relevant to the U.S. Here we see a lot of data imports. In particular we see TIGER data across the whole US which has really shaped and characterised OpenStreetMap here ever since it was imported


Slide 18

TIGER gives us even coverage. Perhaps like a nice flat garden lawn.

Photo CC BY-SA 2.0 AdamKR on flickr http://flic.kr/p/7SkGUP

Slide 19

And then there’s more detailed imports in some areas of the U.S. This Is MassGIS



Slide 20

Perhaps more like a field of corn. There’s even coverage but none of the exciting blossoms of coverage coming from passionate local mappers

Photo CC BY-SA 2.0 Lilli2de on flickr http://flic.kr/p/8jGXZC

Slide 21

It would be unfair to say there are no blossoms in the U.S. In fact here in Denver we see some great details appearing, and as I keep an eye progress here I’m seeing more and more of this kind of mapping starting to pick up in the U.S.


Slide 22

Before TIGER was imported there really wasn’t very much data in the U.S. and the community wasn’t progressing well, but there was always a lot of talk about the TIGER data, and perhaps the community was in some sense waiting for TIGER. Perhaps the proactive tech-savvy folks who we need as community leaders, were aware of the pre-existing free data


Slide 23

But after the tiger import, with all this new data in place, the growth of the U.S. community was still slow, and this caused people to start speculating and theorising about the negative effects of imports.

There was an imports panel at the Vienna conference a few months ago. I’m going borrow s slides and quotes from this.

Slide 24

“The best imports are those we avoid” was Frederik Ramm’s summary. Matt Amos said “Imports bad. Surveying good” Actually that’s not really a quote. That was his suggestion for my entire slideshow.

So some fairly strong anti-import opinions.

Slide 25

This is also from Matt. A few years ago he ran some simulations showing how the map completeness progresses, taking into account new users arriving, and running out of areas to map as it gets more complete.

It shows that if we start from nothing, but build up momentum and growth we actually end up getting better map coverage quicker than if we start with a certain amount of imported data.

Obviously it’s just a simulation, and with different parameters it would follow a different line. Also it doesn’t take account of this effect of people waiting for an import when they know the data’s available.

Slide 26

Frederik showed this example of an area of rural france where there’s been an landuse import. As you can see the map looks quite rich with data, but if we count up the number of users editing, there have been 20 users editing in this area since the import, and only four in the past year.

Slide 27

He compared this with an area of the same size and the same population in rural Austria. Here we see a much more active community. 81 users editing, and 27 users in the past year. And the map is an expression of local interest and passion.

Slide 28

But why would an import stifle the community in this way. The usual theory is that a blank area of the map entices and excites people. It feels like exploration to go and map an empty area.

But here’s a different theory. Often imported data is just not very beginner friendly.

Slide 29

I thought I’d show you what I mean with an example in Atlanta. [Demo] Atlanta has imported TIGER data, but also an import of some landuse data. There’s been a little bit of mapping activity in the city centre, but if we zoom in here http://osm.org/go/ZQqo7cqLm- a little way out from the centre, there’s a patch of woodland. I can bring in the bing imagery and just straighten this out a little bit.

As an experience user I know that this is imported data with limited accuracy, and I have the confidence to plough in and make some improvements. For new users this is difficult, and that’s before you consider that we’re dealing with ways on top of ways which are fiddly and technically difficult to make sense of.

I can also see some NHD data which has many nodes, but clearly isn’t very accurate.

Slide 30

So for new users this is less like a field of corn and more like a thorny patch of weeds or brambles.

Photo CC BY SA 2 Richard Webb on geograph http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/640790

Slide 31

Here’s another quote from Frederik. I think this is a great way of putting it.

“It’s not enough to just make sure you’re leaving the map in a better state…” If you’re running an import you may imagine that you’re doing a good thing provided the map ends up being better.

But “You should make sure you are you’re leaving the community in a better shape”

Slide 32

Here’s some more analysis form Matt. This shows the growth in number of different users editing POIs normalised to population.

Germany and Austrla rank highly. We know they have very strong mapping communities.

The U.S. comes in last.

Interestingly the Netherlands scores quite well. They imported the whole country , but it seems they’ve still managed to build a strong mapping community.

Slide 33

I’m going to talk about fixup. I dont want to give the wrong idea. If you’re doing an import you should not be dependant upon users manually fixing up the mess you’ve made afterwards. Or if you do need a manual fixup phase, this should be planned and discussed before during and after the import.

Slide 34

But with existing imports, particularly the massive TIGER dataset, there’s no point dwelling on whether or not the import was a good idea. We need to move on and think about fixup now. This is the big challenge in the U.S.

There’s been a lot of talk at the conference about ideas for encouraging more mapping. When it comes to doing this in the U.S. we’re talking about encouraging fixup.

Slide 35

While we had our team at Cloudmade in 2009, we set up the “250 cities” project which looked at encouraging fixup with a focus on basic routing in the US.


Slide 36

Most routing disconnects are actually caused by duplicate nodes. Nodes sat directly on top of eachother. These need fixing all across the U.S., and the duplicate nodes map lets us see the progress with this.

There’s some confusion around this. Let me be clear: Yes, we should fix the duplicate nodes, and no, we shouldn’t do it automatically


(Note this is broken/unreliable at the moment due to problems with OWL)

Slide 37

Also a widespread problem with TIGER data is the general positional accuracy. This is a display we created as a tutorial resource. I can flick between before…

Slide 38

…and after. To show the kind of corrections we need people to make. Just simply dragging the roads into the right positions using the aerial imagery. It varies from one patch to another, but there are a lot of patches of TIGER data which are wildly inaccurate in this way.

Slide 39

I can show you a quick example of this in Cleveland (Tennessee) where this kind of fixup is needed and hasn’t happened yet.

Note: I skipped over this demo to save time. At time of writing there is still some good juicy TIGER alignment fixup to do here: http://osm.org/go/ZQ6IJ2qF- I would expect this example to get fixed some time soon, but there will be other similar pockets for some time to come.

Slide 40

To measure the progress of this we have the TIGER edited map, showing in red any areas which have never been edited since the TIGER import, and green for those which have.

This kind of thing really should receive more attention from the U.S. Mapping community, and perhaps also from developers working to make improvements (it doesn’t work perfectly).


Slide 41

Likewise the keepright tool has an excellent array of automated checks built into it. It discovers all sorts of problems with the TIGER data. Again this should be brought to the attention of U.S. mappers more, but I think there’s various ways the tool could be developed to make it more compelling for mappers.

Slide 42

So it’s fair to say that in the U.S. we’ve got a bit of weeding to do, to tidy up the TIGER data.

Photo CCBYSA2 Gordon Joly : http://flic.kr/p/aoj2ij

Slide 43

But if we look back at the situation in countries like the U.K, where we have grown our map organically, I want to talk about a different set of problems in relation to this.

Local passionate map coverage appearing in blossoms is wonderful, but we often have a problem of uneven map coverage. This is an acute problem for map users.

Slide 44

My favourite example of this is my jigsaw puzzle. I got a jigsaw puzzle printed with the map of London on it. I wanted this to be a good clear complete map image from OpenStreetMap.

But the London map has patches of building coverage, some arranged logically in the centre working outwards, but many patches sporadically appearing as blossoms of passionate building mapping around the outskirts.

Building coverage is quite prominent in the default rendering. This illogically arranged data actually makes the map of London quite ugly and not good for map users. Knowing how to do so, I was able to use a rendering with the buildings switched off, but in general sporadic blossoms of detail can make the map uneven and difficult to use.

Slide 45

I think this points to a deeper problem. Perhaps one of the trickiest problems facing OpenStreetMap as we work towards a “complete” map.

Mappers are working on their blossoms of mega-detail near home and work, and applying different ideas of what “complete” means. The level of detail we go to is a tricky question.

Slide 46

There’s no real limit to the level of detail, because of the way we’ve framed our mapping process with the opportunity to flexibly invent new tags.

Tagging ideas are open to progressively more insane levels of detail. It’s a sliding scale. I regard things like mapping sidewalks and roads as areas, as rather crazy, but people are seriously talking about more and more detail.

Soon we’ll be talking about mapping every blade of grass

Slide 47

Of course this is taking things to silly extremes, but where do we draw the line?

The usual response to these kinds of concern, is to say “why is it a problem?”. People map crazy levels of detail, and we all have a good laugh about it. It’s a problem because its a waste of time and energy of the mappers doing it, but It becomes more a problem too when people encourage others (including confused new mappers) to follow their lead. This happens within the tagging proposals and documentation, and also blogs and other communication channels. More mappers mapping more and more crazy levels of detail.

Image: CCBY2 meddygarnet: http://flic.kr/p/7YZzim

Slide 48

I dont have a solution to this problem, and as I say, I do think it’s a big problem we’ll be facing more and more.

This runs quite contrary to the way we’ve celebrated detailed mapping in the past, but perhaps we need to think about a new message. Among our pro-mappers perhaps the message should be: “consider the levels of detail around you”. Dont go crazy with the levels of detail within your blossom of map coverage. Keep a cap on this and map further afield instead. Go to a level of detail which is realistically attainable by you, or with the help of other mappers, across a wider area.

It’s almost like we’re trying to make our coverage more like an even field of corn…

Slide 49

So we’ve got problems. Two sets of problems really.

Here in the U.S. we want to see more blossoms of detail created by passionate local people. We’ve got a lot of a fixup work to do, and we need to attract a community behind the data to take on this task

But where we’ve grown our map organically, it can be like blossoms in the desert. We need to find ways of creating a map with more even coverage between the blossoms.

We need to work towards something more balanced, more gentle and serene. Something more like…

Slide 50

…an English country garden.

Thank-you very much!

Bottom image: Summer Garden, Munstead Wood CCBY2 sarah from gardenvisit.com :http://flic.kr/p/6zbGiw & http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/munstead_wood_garden

Jump to slide:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50

http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/10/10/sotm-talk/feed/ 5
Society of Cartographers Plymouth http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/09/24/society-of-cartographers-plymouth/ http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/09/24/society-of-cartographers-plymouth/#comments Sat, 24 Sep 2011 18:17:57 +0000 http://www.harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/09/24/society-of-cartographers-plymouth/

A couple of weeks ago I was in Plymouth for the Society of Cartographers Annual Conference. Lots of interesting talks and a fun and friendly atmosphere, particularly during the evening entertainment: pub quiz, boat trip and rum cocktails. [update: forgot to say my photos from the conference are here]

I came across a strange new breed of people who knew all about making maps using only adobe illustrator. That’s a side of “cartography” which rarely surfaces at the geo events I’ve been to before (and I’ve been to quite a few now), but this seems like a rather interesting artistic end of a map-making spectrum. I didn’t come across anyone who had tried out OpenStreetMaps options for exporting to Illustrator. This probably needs to be made easier, but I suspect Maperative might be a kick ass tool in this arena. I don’t have illustrator myself, so I’d be interested to know how well it works.

I gave a talk on a blend of topics to do with transport and open data and some of my experience of mobile geo development. I talked through some stuff I’ve been working on at placr.co.uk: The UK Travel Options iPhone app, and the more recent placr.mobi mobile website. Then I gave a few more nice bits of bus route related technology (and cartography) coming out of OpenStreetMap.

The slides and notes (approximately what I said in the talk) are included with the presentation on slideshare, or OpenOffice download, or PowerPoint download …or here it all is in good old pictures & text:

Slide 0

I’ve got four different things I want to talk about.

I want to talk about Open Data, and specifically Open Transport Data. And I want to talk about the work I’ve been doing at placr.co.uk, and finally my hobby and passion OpenStreetMap.

Lots to cover, but fortunately they’re all wonderfully interrelated, so it’s really just one big topic.

Slide 1

So there’s this open data revolution going on, and I believe it can be a revolution.

Data owners are resistant. I think there’s two main reasons. Either they are very directly protecting revenue they get from selling data, or they’re just scared the data (or even just the manner in which they publish it) will make them look bad. But happily Open Data is a political hot topic at the moment so data owners are coming under pressure.

One of the main political arguments for open data, is about transparency and accountability, which we see with datasets such as local council expenses. This is important of course, but I think there’s something quite negative about it. It’s almost like we’re saying “give us your data so we can sit here and more easily complain and criticise”

The second reason is to fuel innovation

Slide 2

Innovations can be enabled by open data, but there’s an awful lot of datasets being published because of this new political pressure. Some of them are quite uninspiring. Some are just a front onto a set of less open more high value data. The more exciting innovations, really useful applications which change our lives for the better, are only enabled by what you might call “high value datasets”.

Transport is an area with great potential for really useful apps. 51 billion passenger kilometres by train in a year. This a big number, although contrast it with 700 billion passenger kilometres by car. We can help change that. I like to think of it on a more personal level. How much of my life have I spent on trains and buses? If we can build apps that make this even a little bit better/easier, then that’s something quite powerful and transformative.

Slide 3

The reason we can talk about innovation coming from small companies and even bedroom coders, is of course that’s it’s very easy to put out applications on the web, and more recently apps for mobile phones.

It’s easy & cheap. This is deceptive though. It’s not that easy or cheap, but there are no up front costs, and people who have the the skills and the time to do it, can produce wonderful results on zero budget. The best results come from people with technical skills but also design flair and a deep understanding of user experience.

Obviously for transport, if we can easily develop for mobile platforms, this lets us put our app in the hands of travellers while they are travelling.

There’s a thriving community of developers and all of this drives demand for useful data.

Slide 4

I’m going to show you a mobile web app which we’ve been developing called placr.mobi

Let me say straight away, when it comes to talented app design and useability, I like to to think we’re somewhere on that spectrum, but I appreciate that this isn’t the greatest ever showcase.

We’re very much following the “release early release often approach“, and there’s quite a few glitches we still need iron out in this app, but it is available to have a play with at http://placr.mobi and interestingly one of the test areas we have data for is here in Plymouth!

Slide 5

But actually we’re not just in the game of trying build a great consumer oriented mobile app. It’s one of three areas we’re looking at.

We want to help other developers create mobile apps and web services for Transport. Some transport datasets are very awkward to work with in their raw form (I’ll explain more in a moment) We are offering a transport api which makes life easier for developers.

We’re also talking to transport operators and they are showing some interest in the analytics we can do with their data, and the channel we have to developers and end users.

So we’re looking at building apps, and it might allow us to earn some revenue with ads or through charging for a premium version. But it also feeds into the other two strands.

Slide 6

While I’m explaining placr, let’s take a further step back. Placr is an “open data services company”. We work with organisations who need help with releasing datasets.

We’re working with Pearson, the global publishing firm, reformatting their data, developing RESTful APIs, to help them engage the developer community (developer.pearson.com)

Along the way we also do a lot of open data campaigning, particularly my boss Professor Jonathan Raper who campaigns for open data in the highest levels of government.

Slide 7

For now though we need to work with what we’ve got. These datasets were particularly of interest to us.

TfL (Transport For London) has departure board displays as HTML, which we’ve scraped, but we were also one of the first people to test out their new API for this.

We’ve parsed their TransXchange files for static timetables.

There’s a brand new countdown display for live bus information released this past week. We will be taking a look at that.

NaPTAN is a dataset of bus stops with locations. This is useful alongside other bus data.

We’d love to do more with train timetable/live data, but this is an area where we’re actively campaigning, because the data isn’t open. ATOC are the open data villains here.

Slide 8

So the first dataset I mentioned was departures. This is data as displayed on the dot matrix screens on tube platforms, showing a train coming in 4 minutes and another train in 7 minutes for example.

We take this and run statistical calculations and averaging to let us create performance stats and displays. You can see these at http://tube-radar.com

Slide 9

Here’s the first bit of “cartography” I can show you. I can’t really take credit for this. It’s a wonderful map display engine created by a company called Faster Imaging, and available as a free iPhone app “UK Travel Options”. The screenshots don’t do it justice actually. You have to try out the fluidity of the interface and finger gestures for manipulating the map, to fully appreciate this. The map data is OpenStreetMap.

On the left though we see traffic light indicators on the tube stations, based on the performance statistics from placr.

Slide 10

And here’s those same traffic light indicators again on a more basic web map. http://apps.placr.co.uk/transportapi/tube/dashboard

Slide 11

We looked at the dataset for bus timetables from TfL which was in TranXchange format. This is a rather complex XML format which feels rather hairy and bloated for people trying to do rapid development. So I spent a few days trawling through big XML files.

Slide 12

I came up with this diagram of the objects and their links within the file. It seems to be suited to loading into a database, to make sense of these linkages.

Slide 13

The desired outcome which took an awful lot of data wrangling to achieve… was of course something which looks like a normal timetable.

Once we’d figured out how to get a timetable grid like this, we made some quick progress, loading that data into a database and then into ruby on rails to produce some new outputs. For example here’s a little web display of a bus-stop, showing when the next few buses are departing from the current time.

Slide 14

So this is that same content presented within the placr.mobi mobile web app. So we’re parsing the transXchange and providing a content API. This can be easily consumed by mobile app developers.

For placr.mobi we use a javascript library called jQuery mobile, which very quickly and easily makes a website look like an iPhone app. It’s quite nice, but we’re encountering a few gotchas with it.

Slide 15

We start to see a geo element to this app when we tie into bus stop location data. So the app lets you find nearby bus stops. We use the web browser location features, which result in this prompt. This will be familiar to iPhone users. Essentially the user has to say that they’re happy for placr.mobi to know their location.

…and then we can list the five nearest bus stops.

When designing simple geo apps, I think its really interesting to think about foursquare. Dont worry. I think it’s a pretty silly game too, but it’s a poster-child of location based mobile apps, and what’s really interesting is that it doesn’t show any maps in it’s interface. It’s a terrible thing to say at a cartography conference, but you can build exciting geo-apps, without showing any maps, and maybe this can help keep things simple and appeal to a wide demographic.

Slide 16

But don’t worry. I love maps just like the rest of you, and in fact I couldn’t resist putting some maps into the app.

This is an easy thing to do. If you’re developing a web or mobile app and you have a lat/lon in your database, just drop in a link to OpenStreetMap.org You can pass the lat/lon as parameters. Use the ‘permalink’ feature to see how the URL should look, but then you can also add a marker by changing the url parameters to mlat and mlon.

This is an iPhone screenshot, and you can see that the map fits nicely in the browser due to some custom mobile css. However the OpenLayers library used, doesn’t allow pinch zooming

Slide 17

So I’ve started looking at using another javascript library called ‘leaflet’ from CloudMade. It’s free and open source, and you don’t have to use it with CloudMade tile servers, so they’re not trying to create any lock in, which is cool.

And this does allow pinch zooming.

Slide 18

But here’s another simplification to think about. Static map image APIs allow you to just use a plain old img tag in your HTML. This is perhaps the ultimate map display solution for cross-browser mobile compatibility.

The src URL of the img tag has all the location and size parameters. One thing to watch out for with this is that you’re very dependant upon another server somewhere generating these images.

Slide 19

So we’re working with transport related open data and building a transport API at transportapi.com. We’re doing some JSON/XML stuff, but also content APIs, so formatted HTML fragments which are then taken by placr.mobi and other app developers to be displayed.

Looking at placr.mobi you’ll also see some stuff to do with activity streams, and a short URL service pla.cr I won’t talk much about that now, but essentially we’re doing some experiments with social networks and social engagement with and between bus travellers.

Slide 20

NaPTAN is the bus stops dataset. It’s quite well organised in that every bus stop in the country has an atcocode. It does include a lot of closed/discontinued bus stop locations which you have to watch out for, and the locations are a little inaccurate.

OpenStreetMap has imported NaPTAN bus stops in some parts of the country.

Slide 21

This might amuse you. I sometimes manipulate or view geo datasets by converting them to .osm files and then opening them in JOSM, the Java OpenStreetMap Editor. This is what happens when OpenStreetMap people try to be GIS people.

I can do various comparisons this way, but what we see here is the OpenStreetMap bus stops in the south west, and highlighting in red those which have been imported from NaPTAN.

Slide 22

The interesting thing about taking this data from OpenStreetMap, is that OpenStreetMap contributors can make improvements, so in particular it could be good to encourage people to refine the accuracy of bus stop locations.

It is possible to develop editing functionality within mobile apps. Users can “authorise with OpenStreetMap” via the oauth mechanism of the API. This is complex in terms of development, and also in terms of user experience.

Another way which I think lots of mobile app developers could think about, is to follow a triage approach. There’s a database of map bugs called “OpenStreetBugs”. Users can very easily (with a simple interface) report problems, but OSMers need to make the actual edits later

In a simple mobile app it may be a challenge to explain that OpenStreetMap data should not be copied. Also smartphone GPS accuracy is not good enough for placing OSM nodes

Slide 23

We haven’t delved into this much with our placr work so far, but OpenStreetMap does have bus routes data. It’s not complete but the more people use the data, the more motivation there is for the community to fill it in. A great thing about working with OpenStreetMap, is that your service has the potential to be worldwide. If you get something working well in the UK, it can work just as well in New Zealand, or even in the developing world. Wherever local people have filled in bus routes data.

Slide 24

When I’m introducing OpenStreetMap I generally explain how the data is made up of Nodes and Ways, and these have tags on them. And this data model is wonderfully simple.

Slide 25

However for working with bus routes I need to introduce another datatype: “Relations”. Basically these things relate different nodes and ways in some way, and they also have tags. But they can make things a bit complicated

But we can use them to represent a bus route with a relation made of roads, with the tags type=route, route=bus.

Slide 26

And we can render these bus routes on a map. Here we are in Plymouth. We can see that there’s quite a few missing bus routes here. Maybe we should do a mapping party later!

This is öpnvkarte.de, a very german website with an umlaut in the domain name, but you can also reach it via openbusmap.org It’s been around for a while, and it’s one of the nicest examples of OpenStreetMap custom map styles. It looks great at the higher zoom levels too. And there’s some interesting dynamic clickable bus-stop features on this site too.

This site was having some some server instability, and wasn’t showing OpenStreetMap updates. This thing of bringing in updates is really important as a way of spurring the OpenStreetMap community to add in more. Happily the site is now working well

Slide 27

But during a period when it was failing to update, I was motivated to come up with my own attempt. I wanted to see how the london bus routes coverage was progressing. So here’s my mapnik rendering, which I did as a one-day “hack” at a rewiredstate event.

Slide 28

But this was quickly redundant because shortly after I did it, Andy Allan launched this transport map.

I believe Andy presented at the Society of Cartographers last year. This is his new transport map. Again some really nice cartographic styles. He’s gone for simple thin streets and dropped a lot of detail to highlight the bus routes.

You can see this on http://opencyclemap.org if you flip to this alternative layer in the top right.

Slide 29

I didn’t make it along to the OpenStreetMap conference in Vienna unfortunately, but you can see video of the talks. There was an interesting presentation from Dr Bartosz Fabianowski of dobini.com http://sotm-eu.org/talk?62

He’s done some interesting work, again using Mapnik, but just rendering small images alongside strip diagrams for print display at bus stops. He has an emphasis on automation, so this whole display is generated automatically from the raw data.

Slide 30

And of course I have to mention our sponsors at this conference. Itoworld are doing some good looking stuff around bus timetables and maps, also creating print output. It’s a little bit hidden behind the scenes, but the sample images on there site look impressive.

Slide 31

Thankyou for listening. Here are my contact details, and you can try out the app I’ve been describing by browsing to http://placr.mobi on a smartphone, or just on a desktop P.C.

And of course… check out http://OpenStreetMap.org

Jump links: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31

http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/09/24/society-of-cartographers-plymouth/feed/ 0
Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team talk for Article25 http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/08/13/humanitarian-openstreetmap-team-talk-for-article25/ http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/08/13/humanitarian-openstreetmap-team-talk-for-article25/#comments Sat, 13 Aug 2011 20:58:03 +0000 http://www.harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/08/13/humanitarian-openstreetmap-team-talk-for-article25/ Last week I gave a talk about humanitarian mapping with OpenStreetMap. This was at an event organised by Article25, sponge network, and RIBA knowledge communities.

Download slides as an OpenOffice .odp file

Slides on slideshare.net

Or here are the slides as plain old images and slide notes alongside:



I’m going to talk about mapping as in creating maps, and the not-for-profit mass-collaboration project “OpenStreetMap”. I’ll show various examples of how OpenStreetMap has helped in disaster response and developing world situations.

But first let me explain what OpenStreetMap is…



OpenStreetMap.org is a website which displays a map. Here is a map of where we are right now for example. The site lets you zoom in and pan around the map, much like google maps. But you can already see some interesting details which you wouldn’t get with google maps.

OpenStreetMap is much more than just a map…



Openstreetmap’s mission is to release map data for free.

This means free as in zero cost

And free as in freedom

Access to the raw data with an open license, means developers have the freedom and flexibility to use map data in new and exciting ways.

This is a rare thing for geo-data. Map data is generally owned by somebody, and raw map data is normally expensive.

So how do we get raw data to release with an open license? We do a crazy thing. We pretend there are no existing maps. We go out and build a new map from scratch.



We do this by being openly editable.

The map editing software is designed to be quite simple, although it does involve editing vector data, which is inherently a little bit complex. This editor is JOSM. It looks a but like autoCAD, so hopefully familiar to architects and engineers

But in general we’re trying to keep it very simple because we want to attract large numbers of volunteers to help make the map.



And we’re having some success with attracting contributors. We recently passed 400,000 registered users, and the we’re seeing more and more editing activity all the time.



To build maps, we often need to do on-the-ground surveying

This can involve GPS and other gadgets.

…Or a more simple pen and paper approach.



We can trace maps from aerial imagery of course

It’s important to realise though, that companies making maps would normally buy an expensive license from imagery providers, giving them the right to derive vector maps. A lot of money changes hands for something you might imagine to be free.

Generally OpenStreetMap can’t afford licensing costs, but we have agreements with Yahoo! and more recently Bing imagery which covers some parts of the world. Here in London it has excellent resolution.



Like the editing software, the underlying Data model is kept very simple.

The map is composed of nodes and ways. And these elements have tags attached to them, to describe what real world feature we are representing.

This low level vector data is rendered into a maps with various style choices. This flexibility is rather like the having many layers of vector data in autocad, and select the layers and styles to print out.



So OpenStreetMap is not particularly a humanitarian project. It originated with this open data purpose in mind for developed countries (it originated here in London in fact)

But we have this simple map making framework in place, and the map is editable worldwide. All of the same mapping techniques can be applied anywhere in the world. This makes it a mapping platform with huge potential for developing countries, and for aid agencies operating there.



When the earthquake struck in Haiti a few people people in the community very quickly went and looked to see if there were improvements to be made to OpenStreetMap there.

The stricken cities of Port-au-Prince and Carrefour have yahoo imagery coverage. So straight away a handful of people set to work tracing in roads to create a street map. As you can see, this imagery is a bit fuzzy, but good enough to see the streets.



Because of the severity of the disaster and the international attention it received, aerial imagery providers GeoEye released an area of imagery for free.

This was post-quake imagery so you can see some collapsed buildings, and people camping out in the streets.

More people started getting involved in tracing the imagery. We also found old military maps which we could use as a source of some street names.



There’s some clever technical people in the OpenStreetMap community. They were able to marshal the large imagery datasets into tiles which could appear within the openstreetmap editors.

Other imagery sources became available with varying resolution and updated-ness. This shows a patchwork of different sources brought together in one place, and set up as tiles which can be brought into the OpenStreetMap editors.



So the community mapping by remote was able to go from this…







…to this

The campsites here are the positions where people were visbly camping out in the streets.



So we produced a good detailed streetmap of these cities, and we did it quite quickly.

This is the map as it appears now on OpenStreetMap, but we had created the important street map in place within 48 hours.

This was appearing very publicly in a useful display on OpenStreetMap.org

But let’s look beyond displaying the map on our website…



With OpenStreetMap you can do the classic google maps style mash-up thing, so embedding a map on your website with OpenStreetMap as a layer and push-pins or other information on top.

People launched all sorts of other initiatives around the web to help with disaster management, some more successful than others. A lot of them used maps to try to track things happening on-the-ground in Haiti.

This site is called “ushahidi”. It does aggregating and tracking of reports coming in on various communication channels, all plotted on a timeline, and on a map. So they’ve followed this mashup approach, and switched from using google maps to OpenStreetMap as the background map.



But more exciting than that, aid agencies on the ground were finding out about OpenStreetMap

In fact we had by far the best map, of these cities. Printouts of OpenStreetMap were pinned up in the control rooms and tents of aid organisations.



OpenStreetMap offers raw data downloads and also downloads of formats converted to work on various devices.

Garmin downloads are particularly popular, and search and rescue workers found our garmin downloads useful. Allowing them to find their way through the chaos without needing to be online.

In fact we received an impassioned message of thanks. That was was very gratifying for everyone involved. That’s when we knew we had made a difference.



Here are some other quotes

One from a MapAction coordinator. One from UNOSAT technical staff

So that is the story of how OpenStreetMap helped with the Haiti earthquake response



Watch ITOworld haiti OpenStreetMap animation video

This video shows a white flash for every edit taking place on the map data. Each one represents some work, perhaps 10 minutes, perhaps a hour, by an individual contributor.
You can sit back get a sense for all this mapping work going on, and the buzz and activity of the community as they pounce on the aerial imagery and respond to the disaster. The blue glowing bits are campsites



So that was a disaster mapping situation. OpenStreetMap is also of interest to aid organisations working on more long term development goals.

A guy called Mikel Maron spearheaded a lot of the humanitarian work with OpenStreetMap. He spent a long time out in Nairobi Kenya, and went to the largest slum in Africa, a place called Kibera.

He received some funding from aid organisations to do this as a project called MapKibera (MapKibera.org). They used OpenStreetMap to make a map of the slum including water supply fountains, and medical facilities.



So they managed to create this map, but they did it by training local people to contribute to OpenStreetMap, using the simple editing tools. Using OpenStreetMap as a mapping platform, locals could take ownership of their own map. The project involved teaching them to collect data, but also teaching them how to make use of it.

Official maps of nairobi didn’t acknowledge the existence of Kibera. This new map gives them the knowledge and the power to enter into informed discussions with the authorities about their plans for bulldozing areas of the slums.



There was a project to map the gaza strip, again engaging with the local community. On this early project the OSM community held a fund-raiser to buy an area of aerial imagery from a satellite company.



We thought the Pakistan floods would be the next big example of the power of OpenStreetMap to make a difference in disaster response, but in comparison with Haiti, the disaster struck area was collosal. Floods spread up and down the length of Pakistan.

The dark blue area is imagery specially provided to us by SPOT. Quite a large area, but fairly limited resolution, so this limited what we could achieve during the flooding.



Similarly there was quite wide scale descruction all along the coast in Honshu part of northern Japan when the tsunami struck.

We were able to see some good imagery in Sendai for example. Bing merged in some useful imagery into their standard offering. You can see some patches here are showing post disaster destruction and flooded areas on the sea front.



Now clearly in a developed country like this there are sure to be good maps available already, but we can create maps which reflect these kinds of situational update. Edits to the map data are shown within minutes.

While superior maps may be available if you know where to look, our maps are openly and easily available. If this can save time for a few disaster responders, then it’s worth doing.



And this map is available to embed in other websites which may be providing services to aid in disaster response. Here (on sinsai.info) we see the “ushahidi” system deployed again to allow temporary situational reports, and requests for help coming in various communications channels. With a better basemap, this data can layered on top in a clearer and more acurate way



This summer a team have travelled around Indonesia running a series of workshops to get local people involved in detailed mapping. This has been the latest HOT project, just coming to an end. It’s the first time we’ve looked at doing a targetted disaster mitigation exercise, aiming to better map an area identified as at risk of seismic activity. This project has also seen a focus on building mapping, with a competition between univerisites to make a game of the process of adding buildings in.

(For more on this see ‘indonesia’ category on the hot blog)



This is a new slide. I’m not sure if it really belongs in a slide deck about humanitarian mapping. When you think that 300,000 died in the Haiti disaster, London isn’t really facing a “disaster” right now, no matter how much the media builds it up.

Even so, there is an interesting need to filter and tame the information overload. Maps privide a way of doing this. Here we see a validated list of riot incidents layed out on a map.

And of course it’s our map. Me and my friends have walked these streets to create a detailed map. It’s always gratifying to have it used (and frustrating when people use boring old google maps)

Perhaps we’ll aim to add some new contruction areas after the riots …and remove a few shops.



After haiti we formed a new organisation: the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team (HOT) . This is an attempt rally some the openstreetmap community around the humanitarian mapping cause, and to put a more organised face on the community, which can seem chaotic and anarchistic for outsiders.

In particular we’d like to engage with aid organisations and get more funding, and deploy people to do humanitarian mapping on-the-ground.



So that’s OpenStreetMap.org and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.

You can find out more at these sites (openstreetmap.org, hot.openstreetmap.org) You can donate to OpenStreetMap directly. We’ve also got some fund raising more direcly related to hot on the hot site, but I hope you’ll also be inspired to learn how the OpenStreetMap editors work, and have a go at contributing to some mapping.

These slides are (of course) freely re-usable under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License

Credit to Schuyler Erle and David Dean for some slide images and slide inspiration

Map images are CC-BY-SA OpenStreetMap

http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/08/13/humanitarian-openstreetmap-team-talk-for-article25/feed/ 1
VisionOn.TV OpenStreetMap interview http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/05/27/visionontv-openstreetmap-interview/ http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/05/27/visionontv-openstreetmap-interview/#comments Fri, 27 May 2011 13:26:16 +0000 http://www.harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/05/27/visionontv-openstreetmap-interview/ As well as giving a talk at OpenTech, I also did little interview about OpenStreetMap for VisionOn.TV:


On VisionOn.TV site this is in various categories, or this individual interview is on blip.tv, or youtube

The “Documentation” link I mentioned is wiki.openstreetmap.org. Find out all about the OpenStreetMap project there.

The video featured here is an animation of OpenStreetMap edits back in 2008 (It’s stunning. Watch it full-res for the best effect) There’s even more worldwide editing activity on OpenStreetMap these days.

The talk I gave at OpenTech earlier in the day, is described in the previous blog post (also available as a video) That was going into more depth particularly for developers interested in using OpenStreetMap


Thanks to the nice folk at VisionOn.tv for organising an interview in their “pop-up studio” there. VisionOn.TV is a pretty interesting citizen journalism project. Their approach was to do almost all their editing (e.g. dropping in the OSM animation video) “live” as they recorded the interview. This probably gives them a more fun live TV feel to their “studio” activities, but it also seems like a clever approach to avoid endless faffing with editing

…which is a big problem with creating video. I spent hours and hours on this tutorial video. The results were not really worth the time it took (That tutorial is now out-of-date for several reasons too) At the time I realised that I could have achieved almost as good a video by practising a few times and then recording the whole screencast in one take, rather than doing things piece by piece and editing clips together, which just takes forever.

I’m interested in this stuff because video is the way to reach out to the masses. Make stuff which appeals to the short attention span of the youtube generation. The Video approach is a no-brainer. The process of making video is difficult. For OpenStreetMap we need better promotional videos and video tutorials. Compare videos on that list, with the “guided tour” video (well flash animation actually) which is front and centre on waze.com . It’s a slick persuasive pitch to ordinary non-technical people (Important note: Don’t be persuaded! waze.com is one of several companies who get people to contribute geo-data, and then hoard it for their own commercial benefit. You should be supporting the not-for-profit OpenStreetMap project instead!)

This interview video is not a slick pitch. I’m concentrating on trying to explain OpenStreetMap in a persuasive way, and as a result I’m furrowing my brow and looking too serious. And when I first watched it back I thought I’d really failed to get various important messages across, particularly about the open data aspects of OpenStreetMap. But I guess that’s the short video way. Dumb things down and miss out the details. I feel better about it when I see a facebook comment from my (non-techie) sister saying “good explanation, I get it now!”.

http://harrywood.co.uk/blog/2011/05/27/visionontv-openstreetmap-interview/feed/ 1