Diary Entries in English

Recent diary entries

OpenStreetMap Carto 2.34.0

Posted by Mateusz Konieczny on 29 August 2015 in English (English)

Most obrotowy w Giżycku

OpenStreetMap Carto 2.34.0 has been released and rolled out to the servers. It might take up to 48 hours before all tiles show the new rendering.

Changes include

  • better rendering for highway=path/footway/cycleway - this is the next iteration of improving how footways and cycleways are displayed. Unpaved footways are now visible on natural=bare_rock and there are now three classes: paved, unpaved and unknown surface #1788
  • man_made=bridge is now rendered #1633, #1791
  • new rendering for landuse=quarry #1696
  • amenity=veterinary is now rendered #1656
  • amenity=community_centre is now rendered #1744
  • amenity=prison and landuse=military rendering takes in account area size #1739
  • consistent color for boundaries #1773
  • tweaked zoom level for amenity=car_sharing #1762 and amenity=car_rental #1761
  • Mapnik 3 preperations are now finished. The style now supports Mapnik 3. Most of the work was done on the Mapnik side. #1792

A full list of changes can be found on Github.

Style for footways and cycleways is not ideal and there are some known problems (see #1793 and #1748). Pull requests that would solve this issues are welcomed.

It is a good idea to check whatever bridges in your region are tagged for renderer - mistagging bridges as buildings is quite popular (only rare constructions fit definition of building=bridge - building=bridge is brown and man_made=bridge is gray).

For people interested in adding surface tags in their area - here is a helpful overpass query (zoom in before using "Run" button): This query return ways without surface tags and ones tagged with tags not documented as valid surface values. Only ways with highway=footway/path/cycleway are displayed. In nearly fully mapped regions one may modify query to search for missing surface also for other highway types.

As always, we welcome bug reports at where they will be tracked.

Previous release announcement:

Location: Wilanów, Giżycko, powiat giżycki, Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, Poland

Support Green Mapping (Classification), Volunteers for Grass&Green Needed

Posted by grass_and_green on 29 August 2015 in English (English)

Dear OSM users,

Grass&Green is a research project aims to improve the classification of grass-related entities. Actually, the main aim are to 1) develop an appropriate classification of entities to support more use;2) guide the participants towards better understanding of the class;3) enrich the OSM data; 4) correct the miss classified data.

The research is done at Bremen University by Ahmed Loai Ali. The research argues that the appropriate classification of entities comes from the inherent characteristics of the entities and its geographical context. For example, when an area covered by grass and contains amusements and leisure properties then it is recommended to be classified as park, garden, recreation,..etc. Whereas when an identical entity contains nothing and full will woody plants, then it would be better to classify it as forest. While in other situation when a grass entity located between roundabouts and besides highways and aims to decoration purpose it could be classified as grass. When the entity used for agriculture then its field, farm, ..etc. For further details you could read our research publications.

The tool that we develop focus currently on German data only, and we still analysis the classification within the city boundaries. So, It represents a way to improve our research and our research plan still have more items.

The tool is online under We need to understand how participants see the classification of grass-related entities. We need to check if participants could really able to classify these type of entities correctly from only satellite images and local knowledge. To which extent is our generated recommendations matches with participants' opinion.

Hence, It is a kindly call for participants. Let's improve our data sets, Let's understand various conceptual perspectives. I would appreciate your participation. Your comments and feedback and more than welcome.


Ahmed Loai Ali

Too Much Vacations, Little Time Left

Posted by roadgeek99 on 29 August 2015 in English (English)

It's the nearly the end of summer break for me. Since my dad is not working this week, our family has been taking vacations. And while I'm away from home on vacation, I do surveys for OSM. With school starting soon (next Wednesday), I can't check OSM frequently anymore. I feel I'm putting myself in a time crunch. Locally, there is stuff that I want to survey. On top of that, there is stuff from vacations that I want to enter on the map.

This past Monday and Tuesday, I was at Government Camp, Oregon for a trip to the Mt Hood area. Along the way on US 26, I was recording the speed limits on it. Then, there are the POIs. I managed get more info for some of them (Summit Chevron was probably my best). Since the Bing imagery was pretty bad over there, I barely got to add building footprints to the map.

Tomorrow, I'll have a trip to the Seattle metro area. I know that I'm going to Bellevue and Seattle, and staying at Everett for the night. I don't know what I'll run in to at my time there. I'll be planning to add exit signage for I-5.

Locally, I still have stuff to do. Much of the speed limit data over here is wrong or missing, and I'd like to change that. I just want to start improving a small section of C-TRAN route 30's bus stops that are not part of other routes.

When my vacation workflow takes over my local workflow, I feel like I'm working too much in this time crunch. Due to school, I'll be reducing my capacity at OSM dramatically. I'll be checking and surveying by bike on weekends though.

My maping are directly to the finding of Crown Lands for the purpose of Wild-Camping.

Posted by ParanormalTech on 28 August 2015 in English (English)

Here are my suggestions/demands if you're camping on crown land:

Clean up after yourself; if you can carry it in, you can carry it out! Just because there isn't a ranger looming around to fine you/clean up after you, doesn't mean you have the right to leave trash lying around. Not only does it make the site look like crap, it also attracts more animals and pests. To add, the fire pit is not a trash can.

There aren't any outhouses/treasure chests, so dig a hole! Mark a path well away from the site and go at least 100m from the water source. You'd think "don't shit where you eat" would be universally known, but I have come across a big steaming mess with a wad of paper only feet from the site more than once. To add to this (and I'm looking at you ladies), collect and burn your toilet paper. Every time you need to wipe, collect the used paper in a paper bag, and burn it. If this isn't possible, at very least bury it like your poop.

Please just bring a water purifier of some kind; the risk of getting parasites might be small in pristine water, but purifiers are so convenient nowadays that it's not worth going without. I have a Sawyer Mini filter, it weighs nearly nothing and I just fill a bag with water and hang it on a branch to drip (which takes a couple minutes). Chlorine or UV purification is even easier.

One of the best things about crown land is being able to camp where you like! Sometimes you just come across a very ideal spot, but sometimes you underestimated your plans and have to make do with what you can. If this happens, and you end up on a spot you don't intend to return to in the future, don't make unnecessary "improvements" to that site. Clear a spot for your tent, don't cut anything down you don't have to, and only build a fire if you need to - put that stove to use. If you had to build a fire, remove the fire pit and clean out the contents before leaving.

As for established campsites, do what you can to improve it. Clean up, clear brush, whatever little bit you do helps. These sites are user maintained, treat them as such.

Firewood! Great, you don't have to pay the park office for wood! The forest will provide. Only burn dead wood. I have camped for years without bringing a hatchet or axe, you don't need to cut down trees to get wood. There is plenty of dead fall and branches lying around to keep that fire going day and night. Collect the smaller stuff, it's easier the carry, and you can break it by hand - less chance of getting hurt. If anything I would bring a breakdown buck saw, it's safer and faster.

To me, the biggest benefit of camping on crown land is the seclusion. I don't need to check in, I'm not restricted to a site reservation, I can go where I please, and in a lot of cases I won't see another person for days. It's important to be more prepared since you won't have the luxury of park staff, rangers, established routes/directions, or any other resources a park might offer.

There are still plenty of places in Ontario without cell service, so tell others where you're going and when you'll be back. If you're accessing on an old back road/logging road and are parked way out in the woods, hide your keys somewhere on the outside of the vehicle (under the bumper or something). Unless there is a lot of traffic where you park, there is no reason to risk losing your keys.

Lastly, Enjoy and have a safe good time, and please add more findings!

Location: Nicholson Lake Road, Ontario, Canada

Celebrating Open Data Maps in Taiwan -- By Tracing it Hard

Posted by Littlebtc on 28 August 2015 in English (English)

The Open Data movement in Taiwan is growing fast. In July, after half year of discussions between authorities and communities, the platform released a new, permissive, CC-BY convertible open data license. It is a game changer for the open data community, and now for the OpenStreetMap Taiwan mappers.

In this week, the National Land Surveying and Mapping Center, or the NLSC, announced open data edition of Taiwan e-Map under new open data license. The zoom level of the open data edition is limited to 1/18000 or z15, but it already contains a lot of data that is not available in any other sources.

Great quality of NLSC maps

And most importantly, the accuracy of NLSC maps is superior. Take a look at it with Strava Heatmap. It is accurate not only for the downtown: Downtown Taipei, NLSC + Strava

But also for mountain area where accurate orthophoto is hard to achieve: Taroko, NLSC + Strava

I beilieve it has < 3m accuracy for most highways in Taiwan. For now, it should be available for tracing.

Celebrate by Tracing!

The community is very happy with that, and now we are working hard on tracing things that is not available before. Take Da-Yeh University for example, both Bing and Mapbox are not working, but now we can trace the place with NLSC data:

Da-Yeh University, Changhua

And a lot of village streets in Changhua. (In fact, in Changhua, you can only find the ref in maps!)

Changhua, Cloudy Mapbox + NLSC + OSM

Go out and map more!

I know that OpenStreetMap is all about "local knowledge", but the openness of more map sources should give us more opportunity to get a better result in less time.

The cloudy imagery in Changhua made the map progress there slower. It is now finally resolved with Strava Heatmap and NLSC Open Data. Now people can add more POIs without wondering why no roads present here.

Now it is time to go out and map more!

Location: Dongpan Rd., Yongjing Town, Changhua County, Taiwan Province, 51247, Republic of China

Maldives Update

Posted by MapMakinMeyers on 28 August 2015 in English (English)

looking around the maldives, it has some pretty rough coastlines or islands missing altogether. I am assuming most of the coastline data was from the prototype global shoreline data from the NGA (which is junk). get out and map some islands people!!!

have a good weekend!

HOT contributions by Missing Maps volunteers

Posted by dekstop on 28 August 2015 in English (English)

A few weeks ago pedrito1414 asked me to determine the share of HOT contributions that are attributable to Missing Maps. It took me a while to get around to it... but I finally did. If you follow me on Twitter you may already have seen a couple of these, but here's the full set.

Number of active contributors

Number of contributed edits

(Interesting to see the post-Nepal uptake in MM activity. I didn't actually check where this activity is going, but I expect the main driver are the mapping efforts for South Kivu, a new Missing Maps initiative launched in June with a very ambitious geographic scale.)

Average number of edits per user

(Note that averages are misleading, it's unlikely that many MM volunteers actually contribute that much. These contributor stats are typically long-tail distributed, with a small subset of highly prolific users that raise the overall average, and a large number of people who contribute little. In fact a good mantra for any community research is "there is no average user", partially because of the prevalence of long-tail distributions. Investigating the actual distribution of MM contributions is a task for another day...)

Number of active projects

admin boundaries: TIGER vs OSM...

Posted by rayKiddy on 27 August 2015 in English (English)

Wow. There are some interesting challenges in trying to figure this out.

I have figured some things out about how to find TIGER info in OSM. I can do things like look for "tiger:reviewed"="no".

I have downloaded a bunch of the TIGER data. I am going from the directories under One challenge I am having is finding the longitude and latitude data. I know it is there somewhere. Is it in the files under EGDES? No. Under ROADS or ADDR? No. Only 40 or so more to check.... But I am looking at only the dbf files in those zipped files, using the dbf2mysql utility for Ubuntu. Is the lat/long data only in SHP files? That would be obnoxious.

But the TIGER data does have TLID fields. So this should help me. Because OSM features have a "tiger:tlid"=num value. So, I should be able to pick a TLID from the TIGER data and see it in OSM, or see and id on OSM and find it in the TIGER data, right? Maybe not so much.

I have over 12,000,000 edges. I have all of OSM. Can I find one place where an id appears in both? No. How should I search? Randomly? I have done a bunch of random checks and so far I hit nothing. Which kinds of id values appear in both? Does OSM only include polygon objects? Or any of the other 20 or so types in TIGER? There are so many ways to slice this. I am sure when I figure this out, it will be sooooooo obvious..... :-)

We will see.

Field Trip

Posted by SoundVision Studios on 27 August 2015 in English (English)

Another successful field trip for Childtime Studios!

CheckAutopista2 is here

Posted by k1wi on 27 August 2015 in English (English)

If you just want to try it out right away here it is:

Interstate 15 in California on CheckAutopista

I have been working on this for months now. The new version of CheckAutopista is faster, easier to use on mobile devices and has been completely redesigned from the ground up.

What is CheckAutopista?

CheckAutopista is a quality assurance tool for motorways. This tool allows you to select a motorway in OSM (if it is tagged in a relation with type=route and route=road) and check a lot of features in it.

Car navigation is clearly one of the most popular use cases of OpenStreetMap data. Assuring that data is of high quality is a hard task, and even harder if we don't have any tools that help us detect missing, incorrect or old data. That is how visualization tools can help us.

CheckAutopista allows you to visualize a motorway in a simple interface using colors to detect missing information such as maxspeed, lanes, destination, exit_to, name, ref and to visualize exits, toll booths, service and rest areas.

What is new on CheckAutopista2 ?

  • CheckAutopista now comes with a custom designed background map which emphasizes motorways.

  • CheckAutopista has been totally remade externally trying to make it more beautiful and easier to use.

  • CheckAutopista can be used easily on small mobile devices. You can change the size of the circles on the settings.

  • CheckAutopista now supports destination:ref and destination:int_ref tags on the exit panels.

  • I am trying to contribute to the usage of destination tags instead of exit_to tags, so CheckAutopista now uses the green color only for destination and yellow for exit_to.

  • CheckAutopista is now much more efficient on the Overpass API requests making it much faster.

  • CheckAutopista has also been totally remade internally to make it faster and improve on the readability of the code.


Here are some examples of some motorways of the world on CheckAutopista:

That is all. I hope you like it. If you have any suggestions please leave them in the comments below and if you would like to see the code, report any bug, contribute or fork it:

If you just want to try it out right away here it is:

Trvelling and explore places connented with World War II

Posted by colekane7745 on 26 August 2015 in English (English)

World War II was vary cruel time in national history. This time show what people can do to be on the high of the authority. This time show us how much cruelty people have inside. This time should be warning for new generation to do all what we can to not allow to happen such a big conflicts, and especially racial conflict. Nowadays people are more tolerant for any kind differences. People want to integrate, we want to integrate and piece to live comfortable. Our mind should feel comfortable. It's very important to educate new generation, and not only young people, but also this who lived a lie, who couldn't find out what really happened. we should spread knowledge about history of this time. I am going to plane my route in the footsteps of the World War II to create program which will be attractive for people and simultaneously will be educate. If someone is willing to help me or could give me some tips please write comment.
I'll be glad.

Location: Mistrzejowice, Cracow, Krakow, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland

Expanding the OSM Community

Posted by FTA on 26 August 2015 in English (English)

One common theme weaved into the State of the Map US conference was the difficulty of community onboarding...once people are finally drawn into OpenStreetMap, how can we retain them and help them feel like a part of the community? I think we should have some sort of OSM Ambassador program. A welcoming committee, or mentoring program, that reaches out to greet new users as they join the community and serve as a contact point for questions about OSM, correct tagging, using the data, or just why this community is so great. This group can also be the connection from individual mappers to local OSM chapters, Maptimes, and other organizations.

The program should be somewhat local, focused on the country, province, or even city to provide a “local” touch to the communication--not just a generic response. The ambassador/mentor/welcomer doesn’t necessarily have to live there, but it would be great for them to have some knowledge of the location to provide advice tailored towards that region. This initial contact would perhaps help the new mapper realize they aren’t the only person in a TIGER desert of nodes. It would also give them a direct contact point if they don’t want to approach the mountain of mailing lists or try their hand at IRC and other help mediums.

A similar mechanism has likely been informally happening already by many of us in the community. I have personally sent messages to people as I’ve randomly seen a new editor show up in the history, usually when they are in my area. Minh Nguyễn, had a great talk at the SOTM US, where he touched on how he has also reached out to new mappers in the bigger picture of inspiring local mappers. It makes sense that we already do this, because we truly care about the OSM community. But we should organize our efforts so that we can ensure all of the areas are covered.

This project is, I think, the biggest step forward for springboarding an ambassador program. We should look to organize this worldwide and rally around welcoming people into our community to provide a group of fellowship for mapping and open data!

Location: North Lake Mendota, Madison, Dane County, Wisconsin, United States of America

admin boundaries: school districts in CA, US

Posted by rayKiddy on 25 August 2015 in English (English)

My continuing effort to learn, before I start adding a bunch of data, the proper way to get relations for the school districts in CA into OSM is making me aware of some interesting issues.

Question: Is there a tool that takes a relation id (or presumably a node or way id) that allows you to add or edit a key-value setting? In the relational db, this would be a simple update statement. Is OSM, you download the entire relation, add the value and upload all (I think) the data. This to change or add one key-value pair. It seems a command-line tool for doing this would be an obviously useful thing.

I recently spoke with someone at the Santa Clara County Registrar and found out how they use GIS data. Or rather, how they do not use it. They have to run elections, such as school board elections, and also state or country races. The state gives them district boundary information as TIGER data. The county gives them something else. And school districts provide them, basically, with textual lists, like narrative maps. Apparently they list streets and which side, or both sides, in a completely non-standard ways. So, the Registrar has to manually sync this up with their data. Could these government entities be using OSM data? I think they could....

That being said, TIGER says this:

 ELSDLEA: 38460
 GEOID: 0638460
 NAME: Sunnyvale Elementary School District
 MTFCC: G5400
 ALAND: 35549740
 AWATER: 9341
 INTPTLAT: +37.3897355
 INTPTLON: -122.0247588

Obviously there is TIGER meta-data in the OSM map. But locating the ways defined via TIGER for "GEOID" = "0638460"? I am still trying to figure out how this works. Maybe the Overpass syntax for this will one day be obvious. (sigh). I hope so. For now, I can re-use and extend queries that people are handing me, but I do not grok enough to actually write any query that works as I expect.

It would be good to be able to go to government entities and say: "If you verify your geographic boundaries in OSM, you will be able to use this set of lines defined by this tag and track/verify/ignore changes to them so that your internal systems can use OSM." I can't say that yet. We will see.

From JOSM search & replace to processing Openstreetmap with your favorite text edition tools

Posted by Jean-Marc Liotier on 25 August 2015 in English (English)

There you are, in some Openstreemap editor, correcting the same typo for the 16th time, cursing contributors who neglect correct capitalization and thinking about how tedious this necessary data gardening is. While JOSM is endowed with unfathomable depths of cartographic potentiality, you long for a way to simply whip out your favourite text editor and apply its familiar power to the pedestrian problem of repeatedly editing text. Or the problem requires editing multiple mutually dependent tags and some XML-aware logic is therefore required – all the same: you just want to perform Openstreetmap editing as text processing. [..]

Daily MAPS.ME data updates

Posted by Zverik on 25 August 2015 in English (English)

If you are not yet using MAPS.ME, you are missing out :) The most frequent complaint from the mappers was that official maps in that application get updated only once a month, along with new releases. I usually map stuff the day before I'm going out, so this update cycle does not suit me. And since I work for them now, I can fix this.

Since this month, there are daily updated map files for MAPS.ME. To install downloaded files on Android, find MapsWithMe directory on your device (you can check "Settings → Map storage" in the app), and put new files there. You should delete old maps and directories with same names (the latter is to clear caches). And probably restart the app. On iPhone and iPad, just use iTunes: find and open MAPS.ME application, delete old maps, upload new.

Maps are published every day at around 5am UTC. Mwm files are maps, routing files are needed for car routing (pedestrian routing doesn't need them). In a couple of days a new version would be released, and it will be required for daily maps to function.

These files are not official. The application may behave strangely (there will be notifications about outdated maps), data may be broken (it's OSM, it is always broken), and your application may crash. If you encounter anything strange, you can clean the MapsWithMe directory and/or move the app from SD to the device memory, which must fix most bugs. Daily maps are my initiative, and MAPS.ME company is in no way responsible for these. Of course, I'm ready to answer any questions.

Hello, from me here

Posted by GiannaB on 24 August 2015 in English (English)

Hi, I'm new here. Just bored so I thought I would give this kewl mapping whatchamacallit a try. I hope I can contribute, and not become way 2 lost in the process. GB in BFE,WV

Diary spam?

Posted by marczoutendijk on 24 August 2015 in English (English)

What do we do when a diary entry is obvious pure spam? Is there a way to block such a user?

post-vacations map editing

Posted by comzeradd on 24 August 2015 in English (English)

Amorgos view

Greek islands are a great place for summer vacations. This year I visited Amorgos, part of the Cyclades island group, and had a short visit at Pano Koufonisi.

Being in a new place means you need some kind of map to guide you through the endless number of beaches, paths and villages. I've been using OpenStreetMap as a map source for a long time and occasionally I contribute back. OpenStreetMap is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world. Many people call it the Wikipedia of maps, and it is in some extent. In contrary with all the major industry map services, which utilize free labor from volunteer contributors and give nothing back, OpenStreetMap data are freely distributed to be used by anyone for any purpose.

You can find many places where OpenStreetMap has more rich data than other sources or read stories on how targeted mapping on specific incidents saved thousand of lives. But there are also many places where it lacks reliable data. Amorgos (and unfortunately many other Greek islands) is one of these cases.

During my vacations there I used the only equipment available (my phone) to keep notes that would help me later to enrich OpenStreetMap. I extensivly use Osmand as my main navigation tool so this was my first option of keeping notes. You can either add favorites to mark any POIs or use the notes plugin to take photos or record audio notes. Osmand has also an editing plugin that can help you edit data on the fly, but I prefer to do this later. If you are searching for a more simple app OSMtracker is a better choice, for tracking routes and keeping notes. If you don't have a smartphone during your vacations you can just use paper and pen. Field Papers will help you print the map area you are interested in and you can keep notes with a pen.

Getting back home I had many notes and plenty of work to do. OpenStretMap has a great in-browser editor and the Map Features (really long) wiki page can guide you through the supported map elements. I added/changed around 90 map elements (beaches, paths, roads, buildings, etc) and it took me about an hour. Less than a day later the changes were rendered to the live website and I could feel proud about my contributions :)

So did you enjoyed your vacations? Now start contributing to OpenStreetMap so more people can enjoy the travel to all the places you visited. Happy mapping :)

OSM Editing

Location: ΕΠ1, Katapola, Δήμος Αμοργού, Περιφερειακή Ενότητα Νάξου, South Aegean Region, Aegean Sea Administration, 84008, Greece

How many HOT contributors never complete their first task?

Posted by dekstop on 24 August 2015 in English (English)

I only recently realised that HOT contributors need to mark at least one task as "done" to be listed as project contributor in the tasking manager. This made me wonder: how many people start contributing to a HOT project but never finish their first task? What proportion of all HOT edits are contributed in this manner?

Summary: about half of all HOT contributors never complete their first task on a project, although they do contribute to the map. These "partial" contributions account for 10-20% of all HOT edits.

Here's a timeline of the number of monthly HOT contributors, compared with the number of those who completed at least one task:

HOT contributors with completed tasks

And here the corresponding timeline of the number of edits contributed by both groups of people:

HOT contributions and completed tasks

Expressed as percentages:

Share of completed work

We don’t know why these contributors never completed the task, we can speculate but really we would need to ask them. Some may have forgotten to close it after they were done, some may not have had the confidence to mark it as "complete" and wanted someone else to have a second look, some may have gotten distracted, or lost motivation, etc.

It's also worth bearing in mind that we can always expect some proportion of tasks to be abandoned early: not everyone is interested in contributing to HOT in the long term. Many people are likely simply curious and try it out for a bit. Many may have come across HOT because a friend sent them a link, or because it was in the news, and we can't expect all of them to stick around.

However we should also be mindful of these early experiences. On one hand we can improve our understanding of what makes people stop early. On the other hand we should also consider the impact these contributions have on our map, and on validation and QA efforts. Where should we send absolute newcomers the next time we're in the news?

Some background info on the analysis...

I’m identifying HOT contributions in the OSM edit history as follows:

  • The contribution needs to fall within the geographic boundaries of a HOT project
  • The contribution needs to happen within the activity period of the HOT project
  • And then...
    • EITHER the user is a listed project contributor (they marked at least one task as done),
    • OR the changeset is tagged with a valid HOT project ID (the contributor never marked a task as done, but likely did start a task in the tasking manager before contributing edits.)

There are some caveats with this data:

  • In this analysis, one completed task by a contributor is enough to regard all their contributions to the same project to be marked as "done". The simple heuristics above do not allow me to distinguish task completion states for all individual changesets of a contributor to a project.
  • We can't distinguish contributors who never mark a task as "done" from validators, or expert contributors who manually tag changesets with a project ID. We don’t have the data to distinguish these cases, e.g. there is no published list of validators to compare against.
  • We can only reliably track this from Aug 2014 when iD started carrying over project-specific changeset tags from the tasking manager. We won't be able to identify "unsubmitted" contributions before then.

By Martin Dittus (@dekstop) in 2015.

A complete map

Posted by Minh Nguyen on 24 August 2015 in English (English)

I saved my 10,000th changeset yesterday, as part of a months-long surveying and mapping spree in San José, California, where I currently live.

I never intended to map the Bay Area. Instead, I typically spend my free time helping to map my hometown of Cincinnati and tame TIGER deserts elsewhere in Ohio from the comfort of my (armless) chair. I always assumed that the middle of Silicon Valley would be full of tech enthusiasts who occupy their time by micromapping every last bench and bush. The map sure looked complete, with lots of highway=primarys and highway=secondarys, landuse areas covering every square inch, and plenty of rail and bike infrastructure.

But then, in April, I zoomed in. I had recently joined Mapbox to work on iOS map software, and the Show My Location function went right to my unmapped doorstep. Around me was an endless parade of outdated street configurations, missing landmarks, test edits, proposed BART stations tagged as the real thing, and GNIS-imported hospitals that had been closed for years. Most of the map hadn’t been touched in six years. In terms of POIs like shops and restaurants, central San José in 2015 was as blank as Cincinnati was in 2008. (San José is the country’s tenth-largest city, with a population 3½ times that of Cincinnati.)

Zoom in all the way to the spot marked San José, and this is what you would’ve found earlier this year.

As I added in pent-up local knowledge, I couldn’t help but notice some unfortunate tagging practices. The Bay Area is (ahem) liberal in its use of highway=primary and highway=secondary. It wasn’t difficult to find quiet residential roads with speed bumps, Child at Play signs, or unsignalized crosswalks being tagged as secondary, the same tag often used for heavily-used roads in other cities or 55 mph state highways in rural areas.

Most of the giant landuse areas that blanket the city need to be redrawn. Many landuse=residential areas conflate distinct neighborhoods or include tree-lined business districts (which look like residential areas from the air). Meanwhile, many industrial areas are being converted into residential areas due to a local housing boom. As much as possible, I’m replacing these generic landuse areas with more specific ones that correspond to individually named subdivisions, office parks, and retail complexes.

A typical landuse=residential area in San José spans multiple highway=primary roads. Either these aren’t really primary roads or this isn’t really one coherent residential area.

I suspect that the highway classifications and generic landuse areas, combined with decent rail data, made the map look a lot more complete than it really was. To a newcomer, the total absence of restaurants, buildings, and non-armchair-mappable information might’ve looked like a limitation of the project rather than a blank slate waiting to be edited. And again, there should be no shortage of visitors from San José, because this is Silicon Valley, where people talk about things like OSM. I’m sure the original mappers were doing their best at the time; unfortunately, six years ago, none of us knew as much about mapping ago as we do now.

San José is looking a lot better after an intense few months of surveying. There are plenty of POIs downtown – too many to fit onto the map at z19, in fact – as well as invisible attributes like speed, weight, height, and turn restrictions. I’m having particular fun mapping the many ethnic enclaves around town, which are very poorly represented on commercial map services.

This popular ethnic strip mall is now fully mapped in OSM (seen here in iD at z20). Apple and Google make a mess of things.

The San José place=city POI incorrectly sat 12 blocks away from where it should’ve been, at the site of this church, which incidentally is missing from Apple, Google, and HERE.

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Meanwhile, OSM now includes that church, as well as its full Amharic Ethiopian name. (Deciphering the Amharic signage was a challenge in itself.)

Still, that’s only one city. We’ve always known TIGER deserts are a problem, but are other cities similarly languishing after an initial burst of detail, flying under the radar because we all think they’re being taken care of? Maybe we can prevent that from happening in the future by making the map look only as complete as it really is.

Location: Saint James Square Historic District, Japantown, San José, Santa Clara County, California, 95113, United States of America
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