Recent diary entries
Until now, I did not find the time to report on some of the Birds of a Feather sessions in which I participated during the State of the Map in Brussels last month. A Birds of a Feather (BoF) is an informal session which can be filled in by the presenters as they wish. I visited two BoF sessions on Sunday, one about PT-assistent and one about Kartotherian.
PT-assistent is a JOSM-plugin for the validation and correction of public transport routes. It was developed during a Google Summer of Code project, mentored by Polyglot and implemented by Darya. Hence, it was not surprising that they lead the session. Polyglot is a long time member of the Belgian community and is responsible for a lot of public transport mapping in our country. He started by introducing some of the problems he has with maintaining public transport (bus and tram) routes and the repetitive correction work for routes running over the same OSM ways.
Since someone in the audience was an avid public transport mapper in the Dortmund area, Darya started the demonstration of the plugin in that area. And low and behold, several problems where detected. We tried to find solutions for the problems, but for some one needs to do a local survey. Others were easily fixed, either manually or by the plugin.
The main power of the plugin is that a fix (done manually or automatically) can be repeated for all other routes that have the same problem in the same spot. One comment was that some of the automated fixes was too much "magic", but even without it, the plugin is great for locating problems.
The plugin only works for public transport routes of version 2. The people interested in the plugin know what this means.
Great tool to put in your belt ! And great presentation as well, thanks Polyglot and Darya.
The session was lead by Yuri Astrakhan, the lead developer for Kartotherian. This is the framework that is used to deploy all the components needed to make maps for Wikimedia. The session started very technical by describing the software architecture behind their server. I found this very interesting, probably because of my software developer background :-)
There was a lot of interaction with the audience, which included some people that wanted to setup a similar cluster of processes and computers themselves. But it seems that the documentation of the framework is not ready yet for primetime.
At the end of the session many interesting examples where shown using this technology, or better the technology that is configured by Kartotherian. It is great to see what can be accomplished in combination with SPARQL from the Wikidata Query Service. (A nice video tutorial about SPARQL in the Wikidata context by Ewan McAndrew and some examples).
What can we, OpenStreetMappers do in the meantime ? Add wikidata tags to objects, because that is the glue between all those components.
Maybe one day, we will be able to combine OverPass and Wikidata SPARQL queries. Imagine what we can do with all that information...
You felt the passion of Yuri for this project in his presentation. And he knows his stuff. It was a pleasure to follow this session.
I do hope others will be inspired by this little write-up and provide some insight in what was presented during the other Birds of a Feather sessions.
Bob Dylan’s World
In 2016, Dylan received the Nobel Prize in Literature for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition".
A map of every street, town, and city Dylan has ever sung about. http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/map_of_the_week/2013/05/bob_dylan_map_every_place_mentioned_in_a_bob_dylan_song.html
Well, unfortunately, it finally happened. While mapping a small residential street, I saw a truck zoom down the street and make a sudden stop next to me, where I was walking on the sidewalk. Two older guys kept asking whether they "could help me", but they looked like they were ready to start trouble. This redneck patrol was making it clear that they did not like strangers in their suburban neighborhood. I am not sure what they thought about the road being a public right of way, but they drove off saying that I should watch out. Kind of put a downer on my day.
Should you envision a dirty drifter typing this, know that I was just heading into work with a jacket and tie, and had a haircut the day prior. Sadly, the people around here buy property on a road with a cul-de-sac, with hopes of never seeing anyone other than their five other neighbors and the post man. I have always sensed people being unhappy to see me walking to the end of their road, but this is the first time someone went out of their way to say something. Maybe this isolationism says something about the politics of the day.
Hurricane Matthew relief efforts, Polygon editing
Following the positive outcome of the last map-a-thon organized from members of our hackerspace in Tirana, we are already planning the next event where the growing community in Albania will focus on editing OpenStreetMap in Tirana. In addition we will work on the organization of our presence at Software Freedom Kosova Conference in Prishtina in a couple of weeks, where the community will be present with an info booth. By the way if you are at SFK feel free to join my presentation about Wiki Loves Maps, a project very close to my heart. Before starting the map-a-thon we will also talk about Mapillary and its ambassador program.
There is also a Facebook event available here. Join us if you are a new or old contributor. See you at the hackerspace.
Working on the challenge laid out by @Zverik to add subscriptions to diary comments was fun! Now I want to suggest another -- an overview of all notifications across OSM.org. This would include diary entries, comments, and notes.
Ideally this page would list subscriptions, in order of most recently commented.
One complexity, Notes have a different subscription workflow than diary entries and comments. With Notes, the original poster and any commenter are notified of comments. There's no way to subscribe otherwise, or unsubscribe. We may want to, in the future, modify that to follow the same workflow.
As laid out by Zverik :"The offer is not indefinite: the PR must be submitted until the 15th of November and merged before the 15th of December. And yes, there might be a competition, in that case OWG will decide the winner by merging a pull request."
new arabic font on the map is awesome ...
Today, v2.44.1 of the openstreetmap-carto stylesheet (the default stylesheet on openstreetmap.org) has been released. Also, v2.44.0 was released last month without an email, so this email includes changes in both.
v2.44.0 has been rolled out to the openstreetmap.org servers, but v2.44.1 has not yet.
Major changes are
- Rendering of restricted access roads and paths significantly changed
- Changed to use Noto fonts for all languages
Other changes in both versions include
- A code of conduct adopted, based on the Go code of conduct
- Adjustments to city wall rendering
- Revised low zoom place rendering
- Render both house name and number if address has both
For a full list of commits from both releases, see https://github.com/gravitystorm/openstreetmap-carto/compare/v2.43.0...v2.44.1
As always, we welcome any bug reports at https://github.com/gravitystorm/openstreetmap-carto/issues
Many mappers agree that simple and accessible editors are hazardous: the simpler editor is, the easier it is for a horde of newbies to submit wrong data. This was a main argument against Potlatch, and then iD. Now MAPS.ME built-in editor allows for changing tags and adding nodes with just a few clicks for any of our tens of millions of users. Which of course has led to a number of questionable edits.
The first field in any place card is name. When we released the editor in April, it was a single field for editing the "name" tag. You changed a name — the new tag value was uploaded to the map.
Complaints started coming almost immediately. Turns out, some tourists were renaming attractions to their language for easier navigation. If you look at the Questionable Edits wiki page at the time, you'll see that names in wrong languages are the most worrying kind of edits.
How do we fix that? Well, finding the language of the name from its characters could work for some languages (like Chinese vs. English), but not for most. Adding a warning that users should type only what's written on a plate is better, but it was there from the start, and nobody reads instructions. Removing the field completely, like some suggested (along with the rest of the editor) could solve the issue, at expense of the better map.
In August, we prepared a list of native languages for each country. For example, in Finland it's "fi" and "sv", in Estonia it's a single "et". India has 11 languages, though its regions have less. We took this from the Wikidata, which may be incomplete and sometimes wrong. If you have a minute, check this list for errors. Languages should be ordered from most-used to least-used.
And with that, we completely disabled editing of the "name" tag in the 6.3 release. Mappers were asking, and we delivered. Now users were presented with one or two native language name fields, plus an English name and a name in a user's language. For example, if you are a russian in Helsinki, you'd see editors for "name:fi", "name:sv", "name:en" and "name:ru". This way it was less likely Chinese names would be entered into e.g. name:en. And since the default style on osm.org uses only the default name, changes from maps.me wouldn't be shown there.
Except for new objects: when a user creates a POI and fills any of the native language fields, that name gets copied into the "name" tag. But not when editing. Which started causing another kind of error: when a shop had changed its name, we would get old name in the "name" tag and a new name in "name:lng". It displays properly in maps.me, since we favour localized names, but not on other maps. And some mappers started complaining about equal values for "name" and "name:lng".
With the 6.4 release, we adjusted the workflow again. Keep in mind that our goal is to prevent accidental mistakes by users, not by experienced mappers who know how the application works. For the latter, we added a special language: "Native for each country" at the very bottom of the languages list. That's right: it is a way to edit the "name" tag directly.
When creating a POI and filling a name in a local language, that name will be not copied, but moved into the "name" tag, so you won't see duplicated values in tags. In my opinion, that's a drawback, but still, that's what mappers requested.
Now the complicated part: when there is only one local language for a region, like in Estonia or US, a user has a chance to change the default name. First, all empty name fields for local languages and English are pre-filled from the "name" tag. If a user have edited names in both languages, this would mean the user knows what they are doing, and the app will put the local/English/any other (whichever is not empty) name into the "name" tag.
This still means you will get discrepancies between "name" and "name:lng" values for countries with more than one local language, or with users who don't have time to edit all the fields. Know how to make name editing more safe and effective? Please share it here in the comments: maybe we could make it more transparent or even more smarter.
Population numbers turn out to be pretty important for rendering places at the correct zoom level. Since 'town' or 'city' is the highest possible qualification for any large urban centre (whether a sleepy 100 000 population suburb or a 10 million population metropolis) there may be many of these places very near each other. On lower zoom level, the renderer has to make a choice on which cities to show. Without any population numbers, no decision can be made, thus no names are rendered.
The default Carto layer does take population into account, and it can be seen that it is a major factor in deciding which place is shown at lower zoom levels.
In green are cities I've recently added population number to (number is brackets is the urban population). These are all rendered as long as the labels fit nicely without overlapping. It is not strange that the desert town of Hami is labeled at this zoom level. It should be, because it is a major stop along this transport corridor.
However, Hangzhou and Xuzhou are not labeled in this case. For Hangzhou it can be argued that the label would overlap with Shanghai, but for Xuzhou this argument cannot hold.
Between 兰州 (Lanzhou) and 天水 (Tianshui) lies 定西 (Dingxi). As you can see here I've also added this city's population number. And although the label would fit, it is not rendered. I have not looked into the code of the Carto renderer, but my guess would be that either it's population of under 500 000 would not make it important enough, or that the other cities are too close by (Hami is a lot more isolated). For completeness, Lanzhou and Tianshui have a population of a few million.
Also good to note, if you zoom in to level 6, you get a little dizzy from all the city names. Apparently here the renderer shows anything that is a town, and because almost all lack population numbers, all are shown.
It seems that in India for example, most cities do have a population number included, so if you zoom through the levels there, the map looks much more usable.
Update: Thanks Operations for blazing quick response, new FreeType is on the server and rendering should back to normal after cache invalidated.
After the Noto CJK finally landed in the Standard layer, Boldness issue became a major problem for them.
vholten proved it was caused by the old FreeType version (2.6.1) in the rendering server, but it seems there is no easy or safe way to fix the issue.
- Converting to (Cubic) OTF to (Quadratic) TTF will take very long time and the result may not be loseless.
- Upgrade newer FreeType via third-party PPA, or patch and build old FreeType from
apt-get sourcewill work, but dangerous and will become a maintenance hell.
Maybe we should give up on fixing it until we can get newer Linux distro?
My father loved a good natter and I was born & grew up in Hull (a major sea-port in the East of England); these are two of my excuses for being able to talk the hind legs off a donkey. I do find it, however, to be a major asset whilst mapping as long as it is married with active listening (as we shall see shortly).
It was perfectly normal in my youth to strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger at a bus-stop. Or rather, normal for Hull. Indeed, on one of my first visits to London as a teenager (late 1960s) I was blanked by someone when I asked for directions, and was so upset by their ignorance that I chased after them & said in a loud voice “EXCUSE ME ..!”. I quickly learnt that such stand-offish behaviour was normal for London.
Nottingham is halfway between Hull & London and is capable of displaying either kind of reaction (warm or cold, with Hull as a warm place & London as most cold) (which makes Nottingham a bit tepid, of course). Nottingham folks have proven to respond very readily to my questions about their neighbourhood and have indulged my nosiness (another vital personal asset) without a qualm once they have settled themselves to my reasons. Intelligence supplied from householders is the very best asset for every mapper.
Today's small snippet of such intelligence concerns a rockery protected by CC&R (a small bet: that this is the only one like this on the UK map).
Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) ... the rules of your neighbourhood (as found within House Deeds)
I was paying a second visit to a service road at the bottom of Anne's Close, Porchester Gardens. The householder from the end-of-terrace house was busy with a couple of others hauling wheelbarrows along a footpath that I'd mapped on my first visit. The state of that walk at the back of the houses had to be seen to be believed:
It was therefore natural for me to ask him “Oh! Are you clearing out the walk?”. He gave me a hard stare for a few moments, then said that no, he was emptying stuff from his back garden. I explained my purpose & previous experience. He explained that for a time the walk had had gates fitted at either end & thus ended up in the state it was now in (because no-one ever walked it). I took the opportunity to ask him about the front garden.
The three end-of-terrace houses extend beyond the service road. There is a walk-up in front of those houses (the terrace ascends a slope; the hill falls away steeply below Anne's Close). On the other side of the walk-up are concrete steps that climb steeply up to... something, presumably their garden. The top & sides of the steps were covered in so much brushwood that access was impossible. My spider senses were tingling.
The chap explained that there was a rockery on top of the steps. It was part of his & his neighbour's land but was subject to a CC&R in the Deeds which said that it could be kept clear, but could not be removed nor built on; it was part of the house. Most odd. I knew in that moment that I was going to add it to the map. Most excellent.
Why on earth was that codicil added to the house Deeds? What was so special about that rockery?
I live in Tarrant, Alabama, not Birmingham. Fix your errors or be sued!!!
Since I do a bit of university mapping, I thought I might note a few reasons why you should map your local university, especially since universities provide their own maps.
Support disabled students.
OSM includes tags that help blind and wheelchair bound students get around. Most proprietary maps ignore these users. Institutions that ignore OSM disabled tags or fail to help disabled users through another mapping solution are effectively discriminating against their disabled students through inaction.
Synergize with the community.
Often Universities and the town or cities that surround them have completely different cultures. By improving OSM on campus, outsiders not using a university's official app can still navigate effectively.
Encourage Student Creativity
Unlike proprietary maps, OpenStreetMap is free for anyone to use. Students may use OpenStreetMap data legally in their projects through the ODbL. Encouraging the use of proprietary maps on campus locks students out of that data, stunting their creativity.
Commitment to Transparency
Any university that wants to commit to open technologies should at least have a well mapped campus on OSM. Having a well mapped campus in Openstreetmap is like having a well written Wikipedia article. An easily accessible and honest source of information for the community can boost a university's reputation in the free and open source software communities, and elsewhere.
At Open Labs Hackerspace ( https://openlabs.cc/ ) we want to have a more active community for OSM so we will have an activity ( https://openlabs.cc/map-thon-nr-5-permiresojme-te-dhenat-e-openstreetmap/ ) and event in facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/event/183834142053445/ ). Join us.
My job requires me to travel a lot in villages around my place of posting. I have added many GPS traces of tertiary roads that are unmapped on OSM. I have some internet access issues and time restraints. If there are any good people wanting to contribute, please check my traces around the location given below and map the roads.
(The traces are almost always travelled by a car).
Dropping off a letter in the mailbox at the end of the street, I noticed this sticker was attached: So that means by the middle of the month my leisurely 400 metre round trip to post letters is going to be over a kilometre, either to Mailbox: Node 705233932 or to the suggested Mailbox: Node 4433576259.
I looked around on the map for more amenity=post_box nodes around me, and found coverage was patchy. Local mapper andrewpmk has done some sterling work adding mailboxes, but there are some neighbourhoods even he can't find time to go into. But there has to be a definitive list of mailbox locations in Canada, somewhere, right?
Wrong: Canada Post does not publish mailbox locations. There's no way of finding a list or map on their website, and Canada Post confirmed to me that “we do not have a map for street letter boxes”. So it looks like we're the only people mapping them, unless there's a list I can get via a Freedom of Information request.
Most spam gets quickly dealt with, but these three got through:
(later spam added Saturday + Sunday 8,9 Oct):
- spammy-link from Italian Wine Online (now gone)
- Inflatable bag Lamzac from "Junkstore" (Russian spam; please remove)
- Papier by yourfoto (now gone)
Recently the OpenStreetMap Foundation issued the OpenStreetMap Awards.
The whole thing was primarily organized by Ilya Zverev who deserves thanks for doing this and for the courage to try something new.
When this was first suggested it seemed like a good idea to me but during the process i already had some critical thoughts on the way it turned out. I did not want to speak up while the votes were still running not to influence the procedure but now i think it is time to bring this up.
First of all the whole process was quite biased towards English language activities. There were non-native English speakers among nominees and winners but almost everyone on the list was nominated for activities in English language. Since the whole process was done in English only it was not possible for someone who does not understand English to competently participate in nomination and voting and assessing someone nominated for activities in a language you don't understand is not really possible either - the few suggestions in the first nomination round that were formulated in languages other than English never stood a chance. This is a hard problem. But still i think this can be done better with not too much additional effort.
The three stage process - open nomination, preselection by committee and final open vote again - does not really work in reality. It gives an impression of manipulation since it appears the preselection is used to eliminate undesirable nominees and the final vote therefore appears staged. In the future i would probably either skip the committee selection (making it a fully open process) or eliminate the final open vote making the final choice by the committee - which would of course require this committee to be selected in an open process somehow.
Somewhat related to this the award categories do not really work either. The initial nomination round showed that people often simply wanted to nominate someone and put them into a category that seemed to fit best. As a result in many categories nominees were not really comparable because they were nominated for very different things which kind of defeats the purpose of having categories. The categories should either be more strictly defined or nomination should be across categories and votes decide on which category they are awarded for.
All of this of course does not mean the winners do not deserve their awards - all winners and nominees should be commended for their work. I have slight misgivings only about Frederik - who specifically said before he did not want the award and about Manuel Roth and Lukas Martinelli who certainly deserve an award although IMO not in the category 'Innovation'. The technology they thankfully make more accessible to a broad range of users is for the largest part the innovative work of others. Now i don't say that Mapbox employees should have been awarded here instead because awards like this should primarily be given to those who volunteer their free time and not to professionals who get paid for their work. However if you strictly evaluate the innovative merit of the nominees' work this seems a somewhat odd choice to me. But of course voters will usually consider who of the candidates they think deserves an award most and don't care what particular award this is.
I hope these comments will help improving future award processes and maybe start some further discussion on how the OSM community wants to reward and acknowledge contributions.