Diary Entries in English

Recent diary entries

New York Long Path

Posted by ke9tv on 2 May 2016 in English (English)

I noticed that there were New York Long Path blazes when I went out a week ago (2016-04-24) to map the Wolf Creek Falls Preserve. (Actually, I knew in advance that they were there...) That made me remember that mapping the northern part of the Long Path ought to be a project. There are essentially no really good trail maps available of this trail from Huntersfield Mountain in the northern Catskills through the Schoharie Valley to its terminus (Thacher Park or Northville, according to whether you want to take it all the way to the Adirondacks). OSM has the opportunity to fix that.

I've started adding roadwalk and overlaid trails to the route relation, and posting notes for the missing sections. If nobody else does it, I'll get out and GPS the missing sections at some point, but no real promise when that will happen.

Current Mission

Posted by schachtelman on 1 May 2016 in English (English)

My current mission is to add all the food and drink POIs in Weiz. My data source is this website:

Location: Radmannsdorf, Weiz, Styria, 8160, Austria

Nottingham Suburban Railway

Posted by alexkemp on 30 April 2016 in English (English)

The trek ‘n’ trace that I did Friday 29 April 2016 included a section of the (long dismantled) Nottingham Suburban Railway (NSR), including the sole tunnel still available to view. I love steam trains, tunnels & hidden places, so this diary entry will be about the NSR in St Anns.

I use Mapillary to store photos taken whilst tracking. At first, the only way that I could display them in this diary was via my personal site. However, Mapillary support (support at pointed out the Download sub-menu, and that allows a photo to be shown here.

On Carlton Road, a little east of the junction with Porchester Road, on the south side of the road, is a blue-brick wall that is actually the top of the NSR Bridge which previously carried Carlton Road over the NSR Railway line between the station at the north side & the track to Sneinton tunnel at the south side.

NSR Bridge

You may notice that this is a Blue Brick bridge. Those are highest quality Engineering brick (made in Staffordshire from Etruria marl) and the reason that so many of the NSR houses, walls & bridges continue to exist & function since they were originally built in 1889. It also means that the NSR was phenomenally expensive to create. (A personal story:- when I was living in Hull I obtained some Yellow brick – Engineering brick which is one step down from the Blue – to line the inside of a chimney; it was almost impossible to drill or cut, and impervious to water).

At the right-hand side of the Carlton Road Bridge/wall is a gate, and on the right-hand side of that gate is entry for folks on foot.

NSR Bridge + gate

The path beyond leads down the cutting (20 foot, which is 7 or 8 metres high)...

NSR rail cutting

...and has the Sneinton tunnel entrance at the end. There is a locked gate that leads into the tunnel. I haven't been inside, but I understand that a Rifle Club uses the tunnel (entry by application).

NSR Sneinton tunnel entrance

The path continues beyond the tunnel entrance with a grassed-area above the tunnel.

grassed play area

One interesting oddity lies just beyond that grassed area: a 9m high railway tunnel chimney (another chimney for a different tunnel in Mapperley has been filled solid by vandals with waste, so a 9m high metal pipe makes good sense).

tunnel chimney

My Friday tracking began with that huge metal pipe. Let's now skip to Porchester Road (formerly known as Thorneywood Lane) and the Thorneywood Station. 1 Porchester Road – the former Station House – is the sole remnant of that station except for the retaining wall of the Goods Yard, though lots & lots of remnants & tunnels are hidden behind earth walls.

NSR Station House

The Station House housed the StationMaster in 1889 and was positioned above the station. Today Parry Court occupies what used to be the site of the station (on the north side of Carlton-Road bridge, although the current ground-level is at least 10' (3m) above the 1889 ground-level), then Len Maynard Court. The next set of houses to the north is Porters Walk / Paddington Mews. That is positioned above the site of a very busy Goods Yard.

The Station House is also made of Blue Brick, and another Blue-Brick wall runs down from the far side of the former Pub (Coopers Arms, 3 Porchester Road)...

Coopers Arms Sign

...running north to what was a 30 foot/9m tall retaining wall for the Goods Yard.

Thorneywood Station retaining wall

Another tunnel ran from between the Station House & Coopers Arms under Porchester Road then (as best as I can tell) the track ran up Burgass Road to the Brickyard at it's end. The tunnel on the west side has been effectively hidden by part-filling in the cutting that contained the station; I haven't yet surveyed the east side.

All that remains of the 30 foot retaining wall is a 6 foot high wall.

Goods Yard retaining wall

However, if you compare the photos at it quickly becomes obvious that the rest of the wall is still there, but below the ground. Indeed, if you snoop around it also becomes clear that the end of the goods yard exists within it's cutting, north of the end houses in Paddington Mews, with the entrance to the Thorneywood Tunnel at it's end. However, on the occasions that I scouted it out it was raining, with a 10 foot (3m) sheer drop to the floor and, most likely, with the tunnel entrance hidden below the soil floor. I declined to explore that section further.

Thorneywood Tunnel travels below (would you believe it) Thorneywood & emerges just beyond Permain Park.

Permain Park

The park is built directly above the tunnel but, in this case, sadly, only a wall of earth & trees is for show where the tunnel entrance should be.

Thorneywood tunnel entrance

The track of the tracks is still there to walk but, frankly, not worth the effort.

St Anns rail cutting

Beyond the modern Mickleborough Avenue the tracks travelled across a high-level bridge to a station in St Anns. One of the bridge pillars was built next to, and directly responsible for the final destruction of, the remains of the medieval St Anns Well (an actual well and holy site visited by Kings in medieval times, the waters of which still travel in a culvert under The Wells Road & St Anns Well Road), and which ended up being in the car-park of The Gardeners Public House (English drinking establishment) which latter has now itself also been erased. Honestly, the amount of interesting history that Nottingham has just thrown away is beyond belief.

I haven't yet surveyed beyond the north end of the Thorneywood Tunnel, so will end this over-extended diary entry at this point.

Location: Thorneywood, Sneinton, Nottingham, East Midlands, England, United Kingdom

Editing US National Parks

Posted by Alan Bragg on 29 April 2016 in English (English)

I've been tinkering with western section of Acadia National Park in Maine where I've often visited.

This led me to the discover the NP Mapping page which explains how their database and OSM interface. I now add the hash tag #parktiles to my changesets.

I read that it was ok for me to adjust the border of the park which are sloppy. I started by aligning a segment of the shore line with Bing and used that segment to replace the segment from the border relation

I set up routes for the trails so they now appear in Waymarked Trails!44.3162!-68.3053.

There's still lot of work to do; in just this one section of the park there are 16 serious errors and 2,246 warnings according to the JOSM Validator. Many are due to old and duplicated imported data. Anyone want to help?

I also found Chimani, a free app based on OSM that works off-line and has the content of a good sized guide book.

Alan Bragg

HOT mapping initiatives over time

Posted by dekstop on 29 April 2016 in English (English)

Today I took some time to update my list of HOT mapping initiatives -- a bit of a messy process because there's no official listing. These days I simply review new projects in the OSM edit history that have a minimum number of contributors, and label them with a simple term. The intention is to identify groups of projects that have a common theme. Typically these are disaster events, larger mapping campaigns like Missing Maps, or organisations that organise projects for their members. Of course the boundaries between them are blurry, e.g. Missing Maps is really a meta-initiative across many discrete projects.

Here's a timeline of the initiatives I've identified so far -- let me know if I missed any! There's also a PDF version, in case you want to include this in presentation slides.

#HOTOSM mapping initiatives over time

Adding sport= tags to leisure=pitch.

Posted by Warin61 on 28 April 2016 in English (English)

I am presently targeting Australian 'leisure=pitch' that don't have a 'sport=' tag and trying to identify the sport and add the tag. Why? Well I added the osmwiki page for 'sport=netball' having found these to be missing or incorrectly tagged while some 1,300 were in the data base. I then went around adding them, or correcting incorrect entries where found. In doing this I noticed that in these areas sports grounds were poorly represented or tagged. Using the web to look for netball courts resulted in a doubling of the number of netball courts in the OSM data base! So how to find these areas where sport is not represented as good as it could be? I chose to use taginfo and search for leisure=pitch and sport!= (tags with leisure-pitch and no sport) while this works .. there are a lot of them ... meaning the work spreads over several days and I was repeatably looking at the same things! So i chose to add the tag 'fixme=sport=?' to the places where I could not identify what sport was played there. The search can now be 'leisure=pitch and sport!=* and fixme!=*' and that removes the places I have looked at.

I have now done NSW! I am targeting Melbourne, then country Vic. Then ... S.A./Qld.

This has increase the quantity of sports ... netball is now around 3,800! Increases for AFL, touch_football (I have yet to add a osmwiki page for this), cricket, basketball, softball (yep .. needs a osmwiki page too) and discus, hammer throws and long and triple jumps (again .. needs a osmwiki pages! ).

Start mapping Carei

Posted by kokeinyesdi on 28 April 2016 in English (English)

I start mapping Carei town

Location: Strada 1 Decembrie 1918, Carei, Satu Mare, 445100, Romania

Cluj Napoca Someseni

Posted by kokeinyesdi on 28 April 2016 in English (English)

I just finished to mapping buildings Someseni in Cluj Napoca

Location: Someșeni, Cluj-Napoca, Cluj, Romania

OpenStreetMap & the Ordinance Survey

Posted by alexkemp on 28 April 2016 in English (English)

A patch local to me (now called Stonebridge Park) proved to be a white triangle on the map (Stonebridge Road at the base, Beacon Hill Rise on the town side & Saint Matthias Road on the 3rd side). It was part of the St Anns-wide redevelopment at the end of the 1960s. 50 years later poor, lost souls were still being discovered in the shrubbery. Like English versions of WW2 Japanese soldiers they had wandered into the new estates & promptly got lost. Most were quickly discovered & gently led out to be rehabilitated in one of the local insane asylums, but some went feral & survived only by being fed by children from the estate (I know this is true as I'm sure I saw a film about it).

Something had to be done. The council renamed the whole triangle of land & gave a contract to Keepmoat to re-redevelop the whole area. That post-dates our Bing imagery. I've tried to contact Keepmoat, but they have not returned my calls nor emails. I've had better success with the GIS department at the local council.

SK53 (Jerry) gave me a contact to a councillor who is Executive Assistant for Housing and Regeneration, and he passed my email on to the council GIS Team. I got an email back from Laura, saying that my request “sounds very interesting”. Nottingham Council have their own OpenData initiative, but the Ordinance Survey stranglehold on British GIS Data causes Laura to believe that they cannot release anything to OSM.

I spoke to Laura today, and she will approach the OS to discuss releasing info to OSM. I spent most of yesterday collecting info + links which I put in an email to her. I thought that others may find that info useful, so here is the content:

I hope to speak to you on Thursday 28 April 2016. Here is some background info + links on OSM relevant to the topic of your recent email to me, but first the section of that email possibly most relevant to this discussion:-

On 26/04/16 16:48, (GIS Team) wrote:

We also publish individual developments as open data with address information but no lat / long / easting / northing as requested by yourself. We are currently restricted on this. We are happy to investigate this further and look to include additional spatial information into the information we already publish but we will need to have discussions with Ordnance Survey about this information as it will be derived from their products and so need permission to publish.

Looking at the building outline / development boundary information data that you have requested as Open Data there are likely to be restrictions to publishing with unrestricted re-use as the data is derived from Ordnance Survey Mastermap products where Ordnance Survey would own the intellectual property rights for this. On many datasets we are starting to publish spatial information even if it is derived from Ordnance Survey data through a legal gateway called ‘presumption to publish’. However we think that the information requested is likely to fall outside of this due to the volumes of data that would be released within a small area, which would not be permitted by Ordnance Survey as this would basically be providing people with a copy of their product. We would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about this, and with further details may be able to assist further so below are my contact details.

You will find detailed licence info on the OSM website:

The relevant extract for using OSM data (which includes the maps) is as follows:-

You are free to copy, distribute, transmit and adapt our data, as long as you credit OpenStreetMap and its contributors. If you alter or build upon our data, you may distribute the result only under the same licence ... The cartography in our map tiles, and our documentation, are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 licence (CC BY-SA).

It should not be necessary to say this, but there is zero (that is £0.00) cost in making use of that data. You will not, therefore, be surprised to hear that OSM maps are increasingly being used by a vast range of bodies worldwide.

In order to be able to maintain the CC BY-SA licence, it is essential that any data imported/entered into the OSM map comes from a non-copyright source. In America all government map data is copyright-free, but in the UK, of course, the OS have maintained a tight grip on the crown-jewels of the financial/copyright map-body. Thus, almost all maps in the UK could NOT be used to derive data for OSM entry. OSM polices this requirement most carefully & has a take-down procedure in place; and yes, it has been used, deleting all data entered by the infringers.

In spite of the paragraph above, Ordnance Survey data has been made available to OSM (see the Licence page, url above). In short, this has been brought about by a change on April 1, 2010 (and following) in the license that the OS apply. Here are relevant URLs then relevant extracts of that info:-

OSM started in the first place because of the difficulty that one cyclist in London had with the very high cost of using OS data (see the 'History' url as at top). OSM considers that it is (at least in part) responsible for causing the OS to seriously adopt the Open Government License. Here is the brief history:

  • Dec 2009 to March 2010: Government consultation:
  • April 1st 2010: 1st release; under Open Database License 1.0 (but not Postcode data) (explicitly clarified with OS that this meant that OS data could be used in OSM)
  • 2010: Postcode data now released under open licence
  • February 2015: OS OpenData license replaced with Open Government Licence (OGL) v3 (no change to OSM usage, as v3 explicitly allows such use)
  • 24th March 2015: OS OpenMap, OpenRivers, OpenRoads, OpenNames, StreetView

From all of the above, it should be that there is zero problem in releasing this info for use in OSM.

Location: Thorneywood, Sneinton, Nottingham, East Midlands, England, United Kingdom

School Edit Tracker

Posted by Harry Wood on 28 April 2016 in English (English)

The "UK quarterly project" for the start of this year, was about schools. It was pretty popular and quite a few mappers got involved in editing and fixing up schools data in the UK. How many? Well...

I fired up my old "edit tracker" code to track School edits during the first quarter, and now it's frozen as a record. So we can see 362 people did a total of 15548 edits to UK schools data during the quarter.

And here's the rankings, showing that Robert Whittaker takes first prize with 1339 edits. The rankings also show a classic long tail curve. Not too uneven, but still with almost half of our 362 people only making a single school edit. But that's OK. Getting lots of people chipping in a little bit is a good thing.

That's why I created a new display called "New Starters". I hoped this might get people interested in the challenge of how to spread the word and get more people joining in.

Linked from there, and from the rankings, I made another new display for each user. So here's the school edits for the 'Harry Wood' user for example. We can see edits over time, so we can see my rather meagre contribution. We can also see that Robert Whitaker had a spurt of activity towards the end, while Yorvik Prestigitator seemed to take a break at the end, (and actually this allowed Robert to sneak ahead and take the top spot!)


This involved a bit of drawing of bar charts in javascript. Last time I did something like this, I generated static images using google charts API, but this time I wanted the interactive mouse-over effect which we see with so many web charting libraries these days. I just had to find a free open source one... which presented quite a big sorting the wheat from the chaff challenge. I chose c3.js, which was quite easy to get working for this. Sometimes the width of my bars goes a bit wrong. Look at the way they overlap on the this chart for example. Maybe someone can spot what I've done wrong. The source code for all this display logic is on github.

Behind the scenes, there's my "diffreader" logic. As the name suggests, it reads the diffs (OpenStreetMap minutely diffs) Some ruby, a bash script, and sticky-tape, doing all the fuddling around with diff files, sequence files, parsing XML badly (really badly Naughty Harry), and eventually writing a nice SQLite DB file full of school edits meta-data. That's all unchanged from back in the days of wimbledon edit tracking, and the Big Baseball project, but one big thing I had to add was the ability to isolate UK edits. Easier said than done because the diff XML will sometimes contain nodes, which have latitude and longitude... sometimes not. I think if you edit a school by only changing its tags, then it doesn't. So I had to make some other calls in some circumstances, hold onto some data which was read in from earlier in the file, and generally apply more sticky-tape to my code. ...Quite a lot of hassle just to decide if an edit is in the UK.

It all works pretty well though. I was hoping to point people at it a bit more (tweet about it etc) to whip up some competitive excitement in the closing few days of Q1 ...but then I was busy on a beach in Brazil :-) Actually I don't have a way to stop it automatically, so I had to remember to shut down the cron job at midnight UK time on March 31st, but as it happened I was also busy online getting an april fools blog post put together at the time!

The "UK Quarterly Project" is a thing the mappa-mercia guys have been running for quite a while now on their blog. I think Brian Prangle has been the main man behind them. There's been quite a few. I rejiggled the 'UK quarterly project' wiki page to list them all. But I think after all the excitement of editing schools, we've not announced a topic for Q2 yet (unless I missed it). I'm keen to see if it will be something I should unleash this edit tracker tool on again.

Trees (again)

Posted by SomeoneElse on 26 April 2016 in English (English)

A while back I described how I was showing tree types in woodland. The "unfinished business" there was "what about forest areas where the trees have been cleared?". Mapping of that is a bit hit and miss. "Forestry" has been suggested, but doesn't have many takers, and "forest" is actually often used for "the entire forestry area" (at least where I'm interested in rendering tiles for - I suspect it varies considerably worldwide). The wiki page and the standard style rendering discussion don't distinguish, but I thought it was worth trying to separate out "natural=wood" and "landuse=forest" where the latter is used for "the entire forestry area, including where there are currently no trees".

Here's the result:

Trees east of Bolsover

That corresponds to here in OSM's standard style. The dark green bit corresponds to "trees" (natural=wood; if there's a surveyed leaftype then obviously that is shown too). The lighter green bit means "forest, but no trees" (landuse=forest - the lighter green is only visible if there's no natural=wood also there). The forest and wood colours are defined here; here is the leaf_type handling in the stylesheet and here is where the natural and landuse tags are checked to see whether the current object should be treated as "trees with a known leaf type", "trees without a known leaf type" or "forest, but not necessarily trees".

Maps for children

Posted by bubix on 26 April 2016 in English (English)

The Barbara Petchenik Competition is a biennial map drawing competition for children. It was created by the International Cartographic Association (ICA) in 1993 as a memorial to Barbara Petchenik, a past Vice president of the ICA and a cartographer, who had a lifelong interest in maps for children. The aim of the contest is to promote the creative representation of the world in graphic form by children.

The competition is run first at the national level. The national winners then compete in the international round, which takes place the following year during the International Cartographic Conference. The maps are exhibited during the conference, and the international winners are selected.

All the beautiful designs are available in the address

Mapping Thorneywood Mount

Posted by alexkemp on 25 April 2016 in English (English)


Watch Out for the Middle-Class

I've been mapping regularly since 21 March 2016, but this is my first Diary entry since then. I'll attempt to blog as often as I can from now on. Meanwhile, my most recent trace was uploaded a few minutes back. The longest vertical trace is Thorneywood Mount, starting & finishing at the bottom, at the junction of Donkey Hill†, Thorneywood Mount & Thorneywood Rise, and covering it's entire length up to it's junction with Porchester Road. The trace was made this afternoon as I gathered house number info, etc. from Thorneywood Mount & all streets between it & Porchester Road.

Most of the OSM street info for my neck of the woods (NG3:- St. Anns, Nottingham, England) seems complete, but not the houses nor the house number/names. Across the last month or so I've filled in most of that information for a section of St Anns bounded by Donkey Hill, Thorneywood Rise, Carlton Road, Saint Matthias Road, Southampton Street & Saint Ann's Well Road. After the April 2016 Pub Meetup I reviewed the whole thing & decided to continue – it seems that I like having to deal with the middle-class chewing at my neck – and began to extend the mapping to the north-east of Donkey Hill‡.

A good deal of the houses covered by myself so far have been terraces; classic working class housing stock, although since Maggie Thatcher increasingly colonised by the middle-class. Some of it has been much more hoity-toity than that (what in my days at Newcastle University the locals called “all fur coats & nae knickers”); a typical example was the upper part of Bluebell Hill Road. However, today's patch was entirely of the latter variety. I could tell that by the number of folks that called me out with “What do you think you are doing?”. A classic example occurred on Thorneywood Mount near the top at Porchester Road. These are institutions operated by an NHS Trust that I provided Network Support for 10 years ago. Prior to Maggie Thatcher nurses were almost entirely working class. Today they are all middle-class (witness their degrees) and it shows.

There is a GPS tracker available called OSMTracker; I use the Android version. Mostly, I take voice notes (20 secs seems best for me) + take photos whilst tracking. The latter are particularly useful for building-/house-names as belt'n'braces for if the voice-note fails. I did that for 145, 106 & 114 Thorneywood Mount. Prominent on the pictures is a notice saying that there is “24-Hour CCTV”. 5 minutes later I realised that I'd forgotten to record the traffic chokes & back-tracked towards them; whilst doing so I passed 5 nurses talking on the street outside those institutions. They were talking about me! They collared me, and I spent 20 minutes explaining my actions & displaying the photos to reassure them that I had their best interests at heart.

Here are examples of things to have upfront in your mind to avoid problems + demonstrate your probity whilst taking photos as you track for OSM:-

  • Public notices are public property; keep private matters out of your photos
  • Limit the scope of your photo
    (eg if you photograph a housename, keep the front window out of it)
  • Pictures of people are a no-no
  • The same goes for car licence plates
  • Where you are standing when taking the photo is one of the biggest issues
    (no issue if that is public property - thanks LivingWithDragons)
  • Next is why you are taking the photos (thanks LivingWithDragons)
  • Next what you are photographing
    (my endless photos of 20 mph signs tends to disarm criticism – thanks LivingWithDragons)

One thing that keeps becoming clear is that I need Cards to id myself & give to others, plus, perhaps some literature to give to save myself 5 or 10 minutes explaining each time what the hell OSM is.

The ‘official’ name for Donkey Hill is “Saint Bartholomews Road”, but no-one locally calls it that, and particularly as the church that it was named after was pulled down in the 1970s. The local legend is that the name comes from an entrepreneur who lived in Victorian times & stood with a donkey at the foot of the road at it's juncture with Saint Ann's Well Road. That fact makes more sense when you know that:-

  1. Donkey Hill is the steepest road in Nottingham.
  2. Saint Ann's Well Road used to be the busiest shopping road in Nottingham (killed as such by the council via clearances in the 1970s as to protect the new city-centre Victoria Centre shopping arcade).
  3. Roads near the top of Donkey Hill housed a large number of wealthy widows.

In my recent comment-to-changesets I put “Additions east of Donkey Hill...”. The area I was working in each time was actually north-east of Donkey Hill.


28 April 2016: I just came across a July 2011 diary entry from Eriks Zelenka (based in Wokingham, in SE England). He got collared whilst tracking by a middle-class ‘paranoid guy’ who called the police. 6 police turned up in 3 cars & Eriks ended up arrested because he could not prove that his bike was his property; they took his fingerprints & DNA + searched his flat.

One of the comments contained a very useful link to a Citizen's Advice page setting out the scope of police powers of arrest, etc. in England (there are differing variations on this in Scotland, Northern Ireland & Wales).

Location: Thorneywood, Sneinton, Nottingham, East Midlands, England, United Kingdom

Mapping while travelling

Posted by Sam Wilson on 25 April 2016 in English (English)

I'm on the move at the moment, currently in Spain visiting Menorca and Mallorca, and have been using OsmAnd on my phone a lot. It's a great program! Especially the bus stops and routes. I just want to say thank you to everyone who's mapped these things; it really is worth it! And using OSM data in this way has given me more enthusiasm for contributing more transport data in my home town.

The only drama I've had with OsmAnd is the GPX-recording, and really that was my fault. For some reason I thought I'd hit 'stop recording' before 'save'... and lost my whole day's travels. Still, at the least the photos I was taking were safely geocoded (and now on Flickr). From now on I'm going to stick to my trusty old Garmin Vista HCx and proper camera.

I've made some small edits to the map, and will try to do more. There's one bit that I'm not sure about, that I shall leave to mappers more au fait with the area than me; I've left a note for that.

I did add my grandparent's old house, Ca'n Ding Ding (nice name eh?)—

Cassa Ding Ding

Location: Cala de Sant Vicenç, Pollença, Serra de Tramuntana, Balearic Islands, Spain

HOT Board membership application

Posted by Katja Ulbert on 24 April 2016 in English (English)

My motivation to apply for a board membership of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team is based on my firm belief that our work, be it disaster mapping, community development or technical innovation can truly make a difference.

Since I joined HOT, I have been an active member of the Fundraising, Communication and recently HOT Summit Working Groups, helped with the development of a new website design and participated in my first two fieldmapping missions. These activities gave me the chance to work closely with other committed community members and to gain insight in various aspects of HOTs work. For me the true strength of HOT lies in the community itself, which allows people with all kind of skillsets and interests to participate and get active. This is a crucial resource that has to be fostered and supported.

As a HOT board member my work will be focussed on the following aspects: strengthen the community life within HOT, initiating a positive dynamic, respectful communication and transfer of knowledge and skills; outreach, support and solidarity with local mapping communities; push our professionalization to gain more independency.

It is my wish to see HOT grow and prosper and my work as a HOT board member will be dedicated to this cause.

OpenStreetMap past(s), OpenStreetMap future(s)

Posted by Alan on 24 April 2016 in English (English)

[Crossposted from and Slides at]

I gave a talk at AAG earlier this month, as part of a session about OpenStreetMap data analysis. I followed three presentations by some of my favorite OSM researchers, Sterling Quinn (@SterlingGIS), Indy Hurt (@IndyMapper), and Jennings Anderson (@JenningsatCU), all of them using OSM history data to see what it tells us about OSM’s past and its present. You can read more about their presentations in Diana Stinton’s article for Directions Magazine: “The simple map that became a global movement.”

My own dissertation research also looks at OSM’s history data, but for this presentation I wanted to try speculating about OpenStreetMap’s future. Specifically, what if you take a chart that looks like this, and extrapolate what happens if the number of nodes keeps going up up up:

Like all of my co-presenters, we’re really not that interested in counting nodes, but we’re more interested in what those nodes tell us about the people who make up OpenStreetMap. You may have heard recently that OSM passed 2 million registered users, but the reality is that most of those people have never even edited OSM. A more meaningful statistic is the count of users who have been active editors each month. Right now the number is around 25,000 people. Smaller than 2 million, but still steadily increasing:

In my research I make a lot of comparisons with Wikipedia, which is a much bigger and older project than OSM, but similar in many ways. Wikipedia is also still growing in size, but if you look closely you’ll see that the rate of new articles has been slowing down for a long time, since 2007 approximately.

The same thing is true about Wikipedia’s users. Their monthly count of active editors has been dropping since 2007. A smaller number of people is doing more and more of the work.

If you talk to Wikipedia researchers, they’ve been freaking out about this statistic for a long time. Nobody knows exactly why it’s happening. It’s probably caused by a variety of factors, and one possibility (to simplify things greatly) is that the Wikipedia community has become increasingly unwelcoming and difficult to become a part of. Or at least that there are enough difficult people to deal with that it drives away new contributors. (Those who have been active in the OSM community might notice some parallels here.)

Another possible reason is Wikipedia’s Notability Guideline. Basically, Wikipedia has come to a consensus that there are only some topics that are notable enough to be in an encyclopedia. Any new articles that aren’t considered notable are candidates for speedy deletion. Of course, there are many Wikipedians who argue that Wikipedia shouldn’t be held to the standards of a traditional encyclopedia: there are no space constraints because it’s not printed on paper, so why not have an article about basically everything, notable or not?

These two factions became known as Inclusionists and Deletionists, and pretty much everyone agrees that the Deletionists won. However, this is one of the key places where OSM differs from Wikipedia. OpenStreetMap has no notability rule! An arbitrary amount of detail is theoretically possible. When you’re done mapping roads, you can start mapping sidewalks. When you’re done with sidewalks, you can map mailboxes, trees, and benches. Nobody knows where the level of detail will end.

But if OSM allows this much detail, somebody has to maintain it! This question of maintenance is the key focus of my dissertation research. Who maintains OSM? Are they the same people who mapped the roads to begin with, or do different people come along to do maintenance? Is there enough maintenance happening to keep OSM up-to-date?

In my research I call this “map gardening”, borrowing the concept of “wiki gardening” from the community of wikis (Wikipedia being only one of these). A wiki gardener is someone who doesn’t necessarily write new articles, but instead enjoys fixing typos and grammar in existing articles, fixing up formatting and broken links, basically doing all the thankless and unsexy tasks that are necessary to keep a wiki functioning. Presumably a similar “map gardening” must exist in OSM, so what does it look like? And what does it look like going into the future? Here I’d like to step back, way back, and borrow an analogy from cosmology, the study of the life and death of the universe. Following the Big Bang, the universe expanded rapidly. After a while, the expansion slowed down, but recent studies have found that it’s actually speeding back up again. Cosmologists think there is something called dark energy that is causing this acceleration, but nobody knows how much dark energy is out there. If it’s a lot, then the universe will keep expanding and eventually even molecules and atoms will be torn apart. This is called the Big Rip. If there’s not much dark energy out there, then eventually gravity will overcome it and the universe will collapse into the Big Crunch.

So what are the “cosmological” futures for OSM? The number of new features (points, lines, polygons) could keep increasing, or maybe that pace will slow down or stop entirely. Similarly, the amount of maintenance edits (those “map gardening” tasks) could keep growing, or they could slow down to a trickle. The balance between those two activities could lead to the OSM equivalent of a Big Rip, a Big Crunch, or something else entirely.

Here are (at least) four scenarios that might occur:

But before we look at those scenarios, here’s a chart (not with real data, yet) that illustrates the possibilities. Note that this chart is different from the cosmological chart that I just showed. Instead of time along the bottom axis, this is a cumulative chart where time moves somewhere up and to the right.

As people create new nodes in OSM, the dot moves to the right. Every time someone edits an existing node, the dot moves upward on the chart. Because it’s cumulative, the line will never curve downward, or bend backward to the left. Each year’s worth of edits moves the dot some amount right, up, or both. (Also note, for simplicity’s sake I’m ignoring all the lines and areas in OSM, and only looking at the raw points, which OSM calls “nodes”).

Now let’s look at the four scenarios.

#1. Ghost town

Our first scenario is the “Ghost town”, where new nodes slow down, and so do the modifications. Basically, this is what happens if everyone gets bored of OSM (or if community disfunction causes everyone to leave).

It wouldn’t necessarily look like this: (although this is the first result when you search for “ghost town” in OpenStreetMap).

In fact, the Ghost Town scenario might look like a fully complete street map. But it would be slowly getting out of date, and no one would be increasing the amount of detail. It would become a snapshot in time.

#2: Garden

The second scenario is what happens if people stop adding new features to OSM, but they continue to edit them and keep them up to date. Maybe this would happen if OSM institutes something like Wikipedia’s Notability Rule. Perhaps OSM decides that streets and addresses are good to have, but trees and mailboxes are too much detail.

But this scenario requires a large community of OSM editors who enjoy maintenance. There will always be new buildings built and old ones torn down, roads that are widened or redirected, river banks that change their course. All of these things need to be updated in OSM if it’s going to stay useful.

For example, here’s a nice garden in OSM, next to some well-mapped riverbanks that will be shifting and changing year after year.

Here’s another lovely garden. (Of course, I’m talking about all kinds of OSM features, not just literal gardens… but if you do find any nice examples of gardens in OSM, please send me a tweet!)

#3: Borgesian map

The third scenario is what happens if people keep adding more and more detail to OSM, but nobody can keep up maintaining it.

In this scenario, eventually everyone has mapped all the streets and sidewalks, and they start mapping every tree and shrub, maybe even every blade of grass (to borrow Harry Wood’s “most insane” example from his 2011 talk at State of the Map about OSM as a garden).

Eventually, OSM would approach the 1:1 scale map described by Lewis Carroll, and later in a short story by Jorge Luis Borges. In Borges’s story, cartographers succeeded in creating a 1:1 map, only to find it impossible to use. Eventually they abandon the map, parts of which can still be found scattered about in the desert.

In OSM, a 1:1 map without enough maintenance would be equally useless. It might not be fully abandoned, as people keep adding more and more data, but everything they did add would become out-of-date and impossible to verify. The OSM database would be cluttered with useless information.

But we’re probably not yet at the limit of detail that is both useful and (potentially) maintainable. OSM already has some proposals underway about mapping roads as areas instead of lines. Here’s an example of some municipal data (not from OSM) visualized by Lou Huang at Mapzen, showing curblines maintained by the city of Philadelphia. I won’t be surprised is OSM volunteers start adding data at this resolution.

But then where do we stop? As another example of municipal micromapping, here are the outlines of all the street markings painted by the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Surely some amateur mapper in Germany with too much time on his/her hands is thinking about how to tag features like these in OSM…

#4: Singularity:

But what if Borges’s 1:1 map doesn’t get abandoned to crumble apart in the desert? What if, somehow, OSM keeps adding features, but the community keeps maintaining those features too? What if OSM didn’t just have 25,000 monthly editors, but actually did have 2 million or 25 million editors checking OSM and fixing data every day?

I’m calling this scenario The Singularity, but you’ll have to excuse me for mixing my metaphors. I’m not talking about a cosmological singularity like a black hole, or the Big Bang. Instead I’m borrowing from Ray Kurzweil’s idea of rapidly accelerating computational power and information growth. Partly I like this concept because the singularity is the point past which we can’t predict or imagine what would happen, and I can’t really imagine what OSM would look like if it were a constantly-maintained 1:1 map. But Kurzweil’s singularity is also relevant because OSM probably couldn’t achieve a perfectly up-to-date 1:1 map without the help of algorithms and machine intelligence. But that’s a topic for another presentation.

Who knows what that would look like? The gardens of Versailles in OpenStreetMap are the most detailed gardens I could find, but this level of detail might only be the beginning.


So we’ve spent a lot of time speculating about what these different scenarios might look like, and I’ve shown charts that illustrate how we might see those scenarios manifest themselves in the data. But what does the real data look like?

Here’s the chart showing the OpenStreetMap planet file, from the earliest OSM nodes around 2005, up to January 1st 2016. The line shows the cumulative count of nodes created and nodes edited for each month, with dots every January.

There are a few surprising things about this chart that I didn’t expect to see. In the first few years, we see mostly new nodes added, and not a whole lot of modified nodes; that’s to be expected. You can see there were more new nodes in 2007 than there were in 2008, mostly due to the TIGER data import that happened in late 2007. Then in 2008 and especially 2009, we see a significant number of modifications. I’m not sure what was happening during this time to explain this burst of gardening. It doesn’t correlate exactly with changes in the OSM data structure (which might require fixing features that were incorrectly translated from one datatype to another), and it doesn’t match up with the availability of new higher-resolution satellite imagery (which might have triggered spurts of gardening where people would improve the geometry of poorly-traced roads). That early spike of gardening certainly merits more research.

The other striking aspect of this chart is the steady, smooth line from 2010 to the present day. It’s shocking to think that when you sum up all the editing activity all over the world in OSM, it always adds up to the exact same ratio of new features to modified features. From 2010 onward, every month in OSM, there were roughly three new features for every one modification of a feature. Did OSM stumble upon some perfect, magic balance that will be maintained forever? What is special about that ratio?

But if the study of geography teaches us anything, it’s that you can’t look at the whole world as a homogenous system. We need to zoom in on the local dynamics of the OSM community, not just look at the planet file as a whole. How has OSM evolved on smaller scales?

Here’s London, the place where OSM got started. It follows a similar path as the planet does overall. But if you look closely the spacing between years, it starting to slow down (even while the ratio between node creation and node modification is staying steady). Is London pulling back from a course towards the singularity? If it slows down too much, will it become a ghost town? Maybe the map of London is getting close to being “finished”?

However, if we look at Berlin, another extremely well-mapped city with a strong OSM community, we see something different. In the last two years, when London slowed down, Berlin sped up! Here they are still finding new things to map.

Tokyo is also still adding new features, although it might be slowing down a bit, like London. But one key difference between Tokyo and the first two is that the number of modified nodes is significantly lower compared to created nodes (the chart is further down toward the right). Tokyo is more on track to become a Borgesian map.

In a place like Port-au-Prince, Haiti, we can see the signature of an intense burst of humanitarian mapping after the 2010 earthquake. We also see sporadic bursts of subsequent activity: in some years there is almost no activity, but in other years there is a lively pace of new features with a bit of maintenance. This is an example of a place where a community is struggling to take root and avoid becoming a ghost town.

In San Francisco we can see the early influence of the TIGER import (the first year which is flat against the X axis: all new imported nodes, no maintenance). But in later years we see a strong and growing rate of activity: in relative terms, the TIGER data is just a blip, far in the past. More worrisome is the trend of the line, bending more towards the right instead of upwards. If San Francisco doesn’t increase the amount of gardening edits, all this rich data will become out of date and obsolete.

Finally, Moscow. Another well-mapped city with a strong community, similar to London or Berlin. But of all the cities we’ve looked at, the slope of the line is the steepest: Moscow has its own blend of node creators and node maintainers, with significantly higher rate of maintenance than anywhere else! Is this a cultural difference within the OSM community? Does it mean Moscow’s map is more up-to-date and better maintained? It will be fascinating to find out! Finally, these charts can’t really tell us anything about how much maintenance is necessary to keep OSM at some minimum level of quality. But we can start thinking about what that equation would look like. We know there are at least two reasons why we need maintenance: to fix human error in the node creation process, and to keep OSM up-to-date to reflect changes out in the real world. The human error rate is a function of the number of new nodes (and also errors during the process of maintenance, we can ignore those for now), while the rate of real-world change is a function of the number of features in OSM that reflect features in the real world. If OSM decides to include features for blade of grass, that’s a lot of maintenance edits that will be required whenever someone mows the lawn.

Here’s what a first stab at that equation looks like. All the values are unknowns at this point, but one thing is clear: “map gardening” shouldn’t be and can’t be just an afterthought. In the long run, without maintenance OSM won’t add up to much.

I would love to hear what you think about this research. Please get in touch!

UPDATE: Bill Morris was quick to give an opinion: “I’m definitely voting ‘Borgesian map’ as the likely outcome here.” …which made me think, I should do a twitter poll. So let me know what you think will happen with OpenStreetMap. Remember that it might be years or decades before we know for sure: [twitter link]

Location: West SoMa, San Francisco, San Francisco City and County, California, 1087, United States of America

Why local assumptions are wrong for an international project

Posted by BushmanK on 24 April 2016 in English (English)

This is a follow-up entry to certain comments I'm getting on my other entries, related to tagging scheme inconsistency. I just want to explain this in a separate entry to be able to link to it every time certain argument is used.

Every country, nation and culture has own natural language definition (or, I'd say, "vision") of certain terms, used in everyday life. However, OSM is an international project and OSM data is used regardless of borders. Therefore, having different definitions based on local vision makes OSM data inconsistent. In certain cases it could even make it really hard to interpret. Let me give some examples:

In Russian language, word "ангар", derived from "hangar" is widely used for quick-assembly hemicylindrical buildings made of metal and used as warehouses in industry. If you will ask anyone in Russia, what is a "hangar", they will say, that it's obvious and will give you that description. For person from Britain it will unlikely make any sense, since in English "hangar" means "building for keeping an aircraft in it". So, if the same British person will see thousands of building=hangar in Russia, located quite far from any airstrip, it will confuse him. Obviously, this is completely wrong usage of building=hangar and it should be actually mapped as building=warehouse, building:material=metal, roof:shape=round, roof:material=metal, building:levels=1or something. But if you'll try to tell Russian mappers about that, many of them will complain, that it's "too complicated", and will continue using building=hangar just "because it's obvious, everybody knows, that it's called a hangar". I know, because I tried. Finally, I just had to re-tag all these warehouses in area I'm watching.

Same thing with American understanding of "pharmacy". In many other countries, "pharmacy" is a shop, where medications and medical supplies are sold. But in the United States it's just another supermarket with everything from medications to food, toys and even electronics. Americans know perfectly what they call "pharmacy". But if you'll show some photos taken in Walgreens or Rite Aid to any person from country, where pharmacies are not a synonym of supermarket (whatever it is), they will never understand, why this business should be tagged shop=pharmacy, while Safeway (called "grocery store" in the United States) is not a "pharmacy", even having a prescription medications department and selling basically the same range of products.

In OpenStreetMap, some people think, that it's okay to rely on their local understanding of words used for tags instead of following documented definitions, because they think inside their own national context. I can't do anything about it, since these people usually opposing the concept of OSM as semantic spatial database in favor of OSM as map (in form of pictures or something else). But I hope, those who can use logic instead of prejudices, understand this problem as well as I do.

To Holmsund and back with my bike

Posted by MMN-o on 24 April 2016 in English (English)

A couple of days ago, April 22nd, I went on a bicycle ride from Umeå to Holmsund and back, passing through the nature reserve Umeälvens Delta. The whole ride, without stops, was probably about 30km but I of course took the opportunity along the way to map some stuff.

First of all I noticed that my mobile phone, using OsmAnd~, routed me through a closed gate at the Alvik airport so I fixed that and added a node with barrier=gate linking the highway and the fence. All the other gates along that fence that I rode past were properly mapped though, so that made me happy.

A couple of kilometers later, having passed under the relatively newly built Botniabanan I got over Bergöbron and came across a cliff along the side of the E 12 highway, just before turning off onto a parking lot where some tracks led up into the small forest. It was the area for my first waypoint, a bird watch tower and a platform. On my way up I noticed a little bench that wasn't mapped, and a path leading further into the forest ending up at a nice little bare_rock area with this view: View from geo:63.7495411,20.2932152

I met some ornithologists down on the viewpoint plateau nearby and they talked about another platform further down along the delta and curious as I was I asked for directions. Turns out [it was easy to find](geo:63.74064,20.28503) and consequently I registered it in OSM and added the path from my GPX track when I got home.

After that I kept riding along the E12 motorway and started to get pretty hungry. My idea was to treat myself to something nice when I got to Holmsund, so while I did notice some points of interest along the way that could be mapped I didn't bother stop more than to take a picture or two. I noticed however when I got home that Ume Älvdal has a really good database on historical facts, sights and paths leading me to write an email to the project about licenses, whether there is cooperation with Wikipedia and/or we can make some nice integration with OSM data etc.

There was only a single restaurant (and additionally one café) mapped in Holmsund, so I went to Kajutan to eat the daily special. Given that their menu contained a couple of lacto-ovo-vegetarian pizzas (including as an alternative for the daily special) I also made sure to tag it diet:vegetarian=yes (and also diet:vegan=no because no such alternatives were available). There was also a wireless internet connection available at the restaurant which I have tagged appropriately.

The next waypoint was the starting point for the national cycling network Sverigeleden (4) as well as verifying the new route for the E12 in Holmsund that hasn't shown up on aerial photography yet. It appeared before my trip that the route started on the actual motorway but when I got there I noticed there was a separate gravel road where the starting point was located. So I made sure the GPX tracks would show how the roads went (remember, no good aerial photography) and then started heading north along the track.

Along the route, heading back home, I noticed some roadsigns, a pizza restaurant (which I mapped), some more cycleways that were clearly separate from the highway and would be beneficial not to just be metatagged. I also found a really weird cycleway that lead across a railway track and didn't seem to lead anywhere special. The area is probably used during the winter to get out on the ice and therefore a specific crossing is available, but during spring it felt pretty useless. There were no camping sites or firepits or anything (and the ground was much too grassy and full of wet holes for it to be a good place to just chill). Anyway, it had this view:

View from geo:63.72218,20.38647

On the way back to Umeå, through Yttertavle, some rain drops started falling but there was never a real shower. So all in all a really great trip, some good mapping was done and hopefully a good project with Ume Älvdal can be started!

Location: Nyvik, Obbola, Umeå, Västerbottens län, Norrland, Sweden

Nonsense values of shop= key

Posted by BushmanK on 24 April 2016 in English (English)

There are more than two millions of shop= key entries in OSM database. Definitely, everybody knows what "shop" or "store" actually is. But in the same time, certain vales of this key do not have any practical sense. I can even take the liberty to call these values "unusable", because they tell nothing about what you actually can purchase in these stores.

I'm talking about shop=convenience (271k entries, top value), shop=supermarket(237k entries, second most used value), shop=kiosk (54k entries), shop=mall (34k entries).

These are "wildcard" values, indicating anything and nothing in the same time. If someone wants to find, where to purchase particular type of goods, it's impossible to do that in case of these tags, especially - latter two mentioned above.

Malls are not shops at all - these are commercial buildings, full of everything, from supermarkets to cinema theaters and customer service or sales offices. So, every store, amenity or facility there should be tagged individually.

Kiosks are very different from country to country - just several years ago, for example, some kiosks in Russia were selling everything including strong alcohol (currently, it's prohibited, but there still is some legal loophole, especially for countryside). But anyway, we can never tell, if particular "kiosk" in OSM database stands for something close to news agent, or it sells vegetables and tobacco products. However, building=kiosk does make sense, since concept of small standalone retail building is more or less similar in entire world.

Same thing applies to convenience stores, supermarkets and, at certain grade, to pharmacies (at least, in American meaning, since Walgreens or Rite Aid, being "pharmacies" look exactly like Safeway or Albertsons, being "grocery stores", with just a bit larger over-the-counter drugs department and without fresh produce department).

Usable scheme for stores should be based on non-exclusive keys, reflecting certain groups of goods (including ones, specific to certain countries, since "alcohol", for example, can stand for strong alcohol only or for any alcohol drinks, including beer, depending on local or national regulations). Currently, I'm not proposing any ready-to-use scheme. The main purpose of this diary entry is to draw certain attention to this large problem. I think I have to remind, that OSM is not a map, where particular wildcard term can be just converted into a single map icon and label, leaving all interpretation and guessing to end user. OSM data should be suitable for search and filtering.

Ones, who think, that "mall" or "supermarket" are obvious terms, have very limited experience, therefore, their opinion is irrelevant.

Ayuda mapear pueblos pequeños Zona Cero Terremoto Ecuador / Help to Map small towns at Ground Zero Ecuador Earthquake

Posted by jose_ecu on 22 April 2016 in English (English)

Estimados amigos:

Desafortunadamente no existe un plano detallado de la ubicación de poblados pequeños, ni de carreteras o caminos en la zona del terremoto en Ecuador.

La ayuda la estan recibiendo de personas de otras ciudades del pais y del extranjero, pero ni lo nacionales conocemos la ubicacion de los pueblos pequeños que piden ayuda.

Actualmente estoy ubicando los pueblos pequeños para ayudar a orientarse a las personas que trabajan en la zona cero.

Por favor si pueden ayudarme comunicarse conmigo. Gracias


Dear Friends:

Unfortunately, there is no detailed plan of small town locations or roads in the earthquake zone in Ecuador.

They are receiving the help of people from other cities in the country and abroad, but neither national know the location of the small towns who ask for help.

Currently I am placing small towns to help orient people working at ground zero.

Please if you can help contact me. Thank you


Location: Sauces 4, Guayaquil, Guayas, Ecuador
Older Entries | Newer Entries