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Tom Chance: Why map data sometimes matters - jeu 1 déc 2011 - 21:53

I was contacted recently by a parent campaigning for a local school to ensure its admissions policy is properly applied. Over-subscribed schools like this one are a common source of frustration and worry up and down the country.

Here’s the rub. Which of these two homes would you say is closer to the school, and therefore more likely to secure a place?  By the way, I’m not sure that the location on the left actually is within the catchment area, it’s just a place I randomly chose to illustrate the coming point…

Routes to the school from two locations using CloudMade maps, the home on the right wins by 500m.

Parents at the location on the right were told they were too far from the school. The method they use to calculate safe distances to the school actually suggests that the location on the right is farther away than the location on the left!


Because they are calculating distances using a model that measures the distance as if you are driving a car. If you try that, you get a totally different result:

Routes plotted for cars to get to the school, the home on the left wins by 400m.

The school’s model uses the Ordnance Survey ITN maps, and apparently doesn’t account for this short footpath at the end of one road. It was pedestrianised 25 years ago.

Happily OpenStreetMap has all the relevant data (and a few minor corrections the parent, Jasia, pointed out to me) so anybody can plot the route to prove the point.

Incidentally, if you fancy showing your support for this campaign download this letter to the governors, sign it and send it to the address at the top of the document.

Tagged: equality, Free data, Green politics, inequality, OpenStreetMap, Southwark, Transport, walking

TripAdvisor Uses OpenStreetMap for On-Board City Guides

GpsBusinessNews - mar 29 nov 2011 - 9:33
Travel recommendation company TripAdvisor has recently launched a range of free city guides on iPhone and Android, all of them using digital maps from the OpenStreetMap community.

The applications are designed to be used completely off-line in order to curb roaming costs. Each app can be downloaded in a few minutes over Wi-Fi.

The apps...
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Image of the Week: Rome osm animation 2008 still - lun 28 nov 2011 - 7:00

Animation showing the progress of the map in central Rome from Oct. 2007 to Oct. 2011.

Meetings, Conferences and Coordination in Geneva

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team - dim 27 nov 2011 - 15:43

2 weeks ago Nicolas Chavent and I spent the week in Geneva. The initial impetus for the trip was the 3rd annual International Conference on Crisis Mapping (ICCM). Since there were many descending on Geneva for the event additional meetings were held. The two that we attended were the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) “Community of Interest” meeting and the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) “UN-Spider Experts Meeting: Crowdsource Mapping for Preparedness and Emergency Response.” Though meeting in the fine city of Geneva, Nicolas did simulate “fieldish” conditions by sleeping on a camping mat in a kitchen. I myself shared a room with some of the others attending the event.

ICCM has continued to grow and bring in more organizations since its start three years ago. About 400 people participated this year from organizations ranging from the UN to small individual hackers. Topics included everything from information security, to policy around satellite information, and early conflict detection and prevention.

I gave an Ignite presentation about HOT’s work in Indonesia. I will link to the video when it is available. For now my slides are on Slideshare.

The OCHA COI meeting occured the day before ICCM, this was the second of these such meetings. Back in June working groups were formed after a meeting held in New York City to discuss the volunteer response to the earthquake in Japan and the Libya CrisisMap. The goal is to figure out what is missing in coordination and to solve other problems. The current working groups are listed below, additional a separate group on Missing Persons has been formed and participated in the meeting.

  1. Cross Training
  2. Data Licensing
  3. Data Scramble
  4. Decision Makers Needs
  5. Humanitarian SBTF
  6. Impact Evaluation
  7. Preparedness & Prioritization
  8. Transition
  9. Volunteer Management

So far HOT has participated in the Data Licensing, Data Scramble and Preparedness & Prioritization groups. We can participate in more as people are interested in getting involved.

The second meeting hosted by UN-SPIDER was also the second gathering of people on this topic. The main initiative is to make access to satellite imagery easier for those who can help in a humanitarian response. This is particularly around crowd-sourcing. The initial meeting was mostly about discussing and presentations, the goal of this one was to work out details for a simulation. There is going to be a simulation on December 3rd surrounding a cyclone hitting Samoa. This was initiated by Dave Leng of HEAL Samoa who was present at both meetings. Dave should get the award for traveling the furthest and longest to make this meeting. Anyone interested in participated for HOT discussion so far is occurring on HOT’s mailing list.

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CycleStreets: CycleStreets Android App Release 1.1 - sam 26 nov 2011 - 18:06

Jez Higgins is the lead developer of our Android app and has been working on lots of useful new features. He writes:

The new update to the CycleStreets Android app was released to the Android Marketplace this week. If you already have the app installed, it should update itself automatically. If you don’t have it installed, you can read about it in an earlier blog post and download it from the Android Market place here – for free.

This updates adds:

  • New Points of Interest main menu option. Show points of interest, including cycle parking, pubs, cafes, post boxes, and London Cycle Hire points, on the route map. Choose the icon size from the settings menu.
  • New main menu option Open route number. Want to load a journey you planned on the website? Just type in the journey number and off you go. Journey number is also shown on the itinerary tab.
  • Saved routes can be renamed. Press and hold on a saved route to bring up the menu, then choose Rename.
  • CO2 and calorie savings: Itinerary now includes the estimated CO2 saving from cycling rather than driving, along with the calories used on the journey.

Please do give a review of the app in the Android Marketplace! (Click on ‘User reviews’ then ‘Write a review’).

The Points of Interest menu option brings up the POI selection menu. You can choose as many different categories as you like, and they will be overlaid on the route map.

Tapping on a POI icon brings up a bubble with more information. Tap the icon again to dismiss the bubble, or tab bubble itself to start or end your route at the POI.

You can choose the size of the onscreen icons from the Settings screen.

The Points of Interest facility uses our POIs API available to mobile apps. It’s basically a convenience function replicating the same data in OpenStreetMap. We’ve focussed on practical location types in this app, as our main focus is on everyday, practical journeys.

Every route planned by CycleStreets is given a unique number. Journey number 1332563, for example, guides you from Euston Station to the Natural History Museum. Perhaps you planned a route on the website you now want to open in the app, or maybe someone emailed the route to you? Whereever that number came from the Open route number menu option lets you type it in open the route with the app.

If you’d like to help out with our app, perhaps to add new features, do grab the code and hack away!

Jochen Topf: QGIS Plugin for Controlling OSM Editors - jeu 24 nov 2011 - 16:07

Lately I have been working on OSM-derived data in QGIS and finding bugs in the OSM data in the process. To fix the data I have to go into an OSM editor (that’s JOSM for me), find the right position and do the actual fix. To make that process easier I added a button to the QGIS user interface that uses the JOSM remote control feature to tell the editor which area to load data for.

Adding this button was actually quite easy. QGIS has a very nice and powerful plugin system and it took me only a few lines of code. The plugin is here.

Ah yes, before somebody asks: There is QGIS plugin that gives you an OSM editor right inside QGIS. But it is pretty basic and doesn’t do all those things I am accustomed to from JOSM.

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Image of the Week: Domblick Innstadt - jeu 24 nov 2011 - 0:45

St. Stephan's Cathedral in Passau has such detailed roof attributes that OSM2World can render it in 3D with POVray

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OpenStreetMap Foundation Blog: Engineering Working Group + Hack Weekend - mar 22 nov 2011 - 23:12

cc-by2.0 Patrick Hoesly on flickr

Back in August we announced the formation of the Engineering Working Group, tasked with trying to attract more developers by lowering barriers to entry. Since then we’ve seen some good technical coding work and other achievements in and around the activities of this group:

  • OpenStreetMap is now rolling with rails version 3, thanks largely to the hard-working Tom Hughes. Besides deploying it, and ironing out a few nasty problems with sessions, he did the work of porting the code over. The website and API code needed to take account of differences and new features of rails 3, particularly the use of AREL for database querying.
  • Kai Krueger has packaged this rails code, and also Mapnik and mod_tile, into an unbuntu PPA. This packaging system offers a very simple way to install these tools (and keep them up to date) on ubuntu/debian . We’re currently testing this, and hope it’ll make it much easier for developers to hack on the code for
  • Working with Mike Migurski we have a more attractive, and more helpful page sitting at, the OpenStreetMap data downloads site. Mike, and stamen design, are also now providing “metro extracts” – more manageable (smaller) files for OpenStreetMap data, one city at a time.

In addition to these, the Engineering Working Group has dived head first into the big tasks of improving technical documentation, and tidying up the bug tracker.

Clearly these are things which would happen anyway within the OpenStreetMap developer community, and the achievements are down to the hard work of individual people. But the Engineering Working Group lends a little structure, and provides a forum for taking a step back and looking at these kinds of meta-development. Development which helps development!

You can find out more about the Engineering Working Group on the OSMF site, and anyone is welcome to join in their discussions, which take place every Monday on IRC (details)

London Hack Weekend – 26th, 27th

Perhaps you’d prefer to join in face-to-face? Come along to a “hack weekend”! EWG is also involved in this, and trying to get more developer events happening, in more locations. For the moment though we have one coming up at the end of the week…

See the London Hack Weekend details on the wiki (and sign up there)

Previous hack weekend at the same venue (MapQuest offices)

“An OpenStreetMap ‘hack weekend’ is a meet-up where we bring along laptops to an office space and spend the weekend doing some technical work to improve OpenStreetMap. This may be development of the “core” components, the editors, or any other side projects and pet projects we fancy hacking on. OpenStreetMap has development tasks sprouting from it in all directions. There’s work to do in almost any programming language, as well as tasks like documentation, and even some non-technical graphics design and translation tasks.

We mostly take a fairly unstructured free-form format. People turn up and start beavering away on something, or they turn up and see what they can help with. However we can also run more structured workshops if there is demand”

Whether you can make it to a hack weekend or not, we are always looking for more technical people to help with improving OpenStreetMap.

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Pascal Neis: New OpenStreetMap Germany Webpage - sam 19 nov 2011 - 11:20

The German OpenStreetMap project webpage has been online for three years now. During these years several small updates have been made to the page. But it is about time to create a complete new webpage with a “state of the art” layout and style. Jonas created the first drafts of a possible new design of the site a while ago. Unfortunately he hasn’t had enough time to finish his work, but luckily Fabian and Pascal came up with a new webpage. Both of them considered Jonas first draft during the development and expanded it with their own ideas.

The new site is based on HTML, CSS and Twitter-bootstrap. Most of the content has been taken from the old webpage with minor improvements. In their opinion the biggest change lies within the way the users are welcomed to the page with information such as: “What is OpenStreetMap?“, “How can I help?” or “How can I use the data?“. The following image shows the important changes made to the welcome-page:

The map has moved to a different web location, but on the welcome-page you will find a large icon that is linked to the map. Similar to the old map, all German local groups are displayed as an overlay. Furthermore, they integrated the OSM Nominatim address search and two buttons in the header of the page, so users can notify the community about bugs or edit the map.

A big shout out to all the people who gave us their feedback (Jonas, Jochen, Frederik, Marc, Matthias & the WN-Team). Special thanks to Fabian who implemented most of the new site.

You can find the new webpage starting from today at the old URL:
We hope that you like it! What do you think?

Einen deutschen Blog Post findet ihr hier:

thx @ maɪˈæmɪ Dennis

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The Amazing OSM Community, and the Tasking Server, Maps Swaziland

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team - jeu 10 nov 2011 - 22:10

One month ago, I asked what to do with 10 million GPS points, and it turns out one awesome answer is map an entire country.

I wanted to experiment with the new HOT Tasking Server, so I set up a task using the Swaziland GPS tiles, but I didn’t bother to promote the effort at all. One month later, and the task is 100% complete, and about 25% verified. Amazing work by the community, and a quickly proven, easy to use, compelling tool.

Here’s Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland, before the editing.

And here are the GPS traces of Mbabane, today.

And finally, the map today.

New roads have been filled in throughout the country. It would be interesting to calculate the growth in road features over this month.

There are still lots to do. There are gaps in the GPS coverage, and Bing might help. This was only roads, and unnamed, unclassified roads at that. It’s really now up to the small and growing community of mappers in Swaziland to bring the map alive.

I asked some of the incredible top contributors about why they took part in the mapping, and how the tasking server helped out.

David & Christine Schmitt:

The tasking tool is really nice to keep the motivation up and to keep track of what’s already done. You see the progress and the small chunks are mostly manageable.

It is good for my inner self. It is rewarding on both a greater scale (creating a needed map) as well as a smaller scale. Also, I find tracing a very relaxing activity that leaves my analytical programmer’s mind open for podcasting, talking or just recuperating from the day.


It was a chance to contribute to a very underdeveloped part of the map and make a real difference to what was available in that country. This is also a country that would take a long time to reach a critical mass of roads without outside work. Hopefully this will give a base for people when they look at a rendered map, which in turn might encourage other people in/near Swaziland to fill in the gaps.

I like mapping because you get to look at somewhere in more detail than you normally would. I now have a real feeling for the geography of Swaziland.


I’ve been interested in HOT for a while and participate when I can, but it’s not always clear how to contribute. The task manager made that easy. To the larger question of why do this at all: it’s like knitting a sweater for millions of people at once.

I think it’s important to get the tile size right. For the Swaziland tracing, it was perfect. I peeked at another task (tracing buildings in Indonesia) and a single tile was too overwhelming.

stethoscope’s insight on the right tile size was among many great points of feedback. We’re learning lots about how to improve the experience of the tasking server even more, that’s getting captured in issue requests, and Pierre continues to push development.

It was after Haiti that this idea began brewing, with identified need for “Mechanical turk style process for working through and importing individual features from large imports” and “Tools for ongoing coordination and identifying needs, addressing the problem of what to map now?”. And really, it goes back to the search for Jim Gray. At my talk at Microsoft last weekend, I was fortunate enough to meet some of the team who worked on the first mechanical turk process for collaborative imagery interpretation … the inspiration has results!

cross-posted from GroundTruth Initiative

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7 Indonesian Students goes to Denver for SotM and FOSS4G!

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team - mer 28 sep 2011 - 10:00

We hope you guys still remember about our project in Indonesia. There was a mapping competition happen during the project and the winner was announced on the second week of August. There are five winners, they are:

1) Irwan Maryon (University of Andalas, Padang)

2) Dimas Raharjo (University of Indonesia, Jakarta)

3) Irwan Abdul Rohman (Institute of Technology, Bandung)

4) Bakhtiar Arif Mujianto (Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta)

5) Andriya Gunartono (Institute of Technology Sepuluh November, Surabaya)

And these people deserved to go to State of the Map (SotM) and Free Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) in Denver on September. But, unfortunately four of them didn’t manage to attend SotM because there was a visa issue. Somehow the consular officer refused their visa application, but we are very glad because they made it for FOSS4G!

It’s been a while since SotM and FOSS4G happened. But we still have a lot of story to share. Anyway, we think that SotM this year was beyond success!  Based on Steve Coast keynote, there were 250 attendees, 159 are from the United States, and the rest were coming from 34 different countries, and more than 50 talks. And most people in the conference are very friendly. We also met with other scholars such as Guensmork Alcin from Haiti, Parveen Arora from India, Maning Sambale from Philippines, and Humberto Yances from Colombia. We also met with many people from around the world; each of them has different interest about using OpenStreetMap. There are mappers, some of them are developer; they are using OpenStreetMap for their products, and we were surprised that some of them also came because they just want to have fun. Anyway, it seems that all of us had fun especially on the last day where Gregory Marler with Iván Sánchez singing on the stage. The auction session was fun too, thanks for Steve Coast who bought $20 mystery box contain OpenStreetMap’s clappers and gave all the clappers to attendees.

OpenStreetMap Clappers!

When we were in FOSS4G, the atmosphere of the conference was slightly different from SotM. First, there was not too much twitter fan in FOSS4G. Second, every end of session, there was a lot of people moving to other room and it was funny because there was confusion between people who walk either on the left or right side. And the last one is, there was a musical performance brought by GeoGlobalDomination (Kate Chapman as herself, Iván Sánchez as Dr. Northingham, and Schuyler Erle as our hero: Captain Geo!). We didn’t think that there will be a musical in a conference, who knows! They should perform in general session! Anyway, same with SotM, there was a lot of people coming to FOSS4G with different interest. Just like quote from the musical “everyone is a mapper in their own way”

People who involve with Community Mapping Pilot in Indonesia at FOSS4G. L-R (top): Vasanthi Hargyono, Dimas Rahardjo, Kristy Van Putten (Australian Government), Bakhtiar Arif Mujianto, and Irwan Abdul Rohman. L-R (bottom): Kate Chapman, Irwan Maryon, and Andriya Gunartono.

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