Diary Entries in English

Recent diary entries

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Posted by PlaneMad on 18 November 2016 in English (English)

Special shoutout to Undearius and LogicalViolinist for their efforts in improving Wikidata coverage in Africa and for bringing a smile to the face of the Sahara.

Some trivia, the Sahara is not all endless sand dunes, one can chance upon some oases and also some potential mappers. Something to lookout for on your next trip there.

CC-by-sa TASSINE Ilyas

Sahara Race CC-by-sa Jon Doe

Global heatmap of HOT contributions, Sept 2016 (with high-res download)

Posted by dekstop on 18 November 2016 in English (English)

The visualisation below shows the regions of the world where the HOT community has contributed edits to OSM, which is one way in which we can show the impact of our community. The chart visualises contributions before 23rd Sept 2016. By this date, 32,000 people had contributed at least one edit, accounting for a total of 182,000,000 edits. This took an estimated 240,000 labour hours.

As mentioned before, I've been showing the visualisation in talks for a while now, and I regularly receive messages by people who would like to use it for their own slides, for mapathons and training sessions, and other uses.

A global map of HOT contributions

There is also a PDF version (11MB), a high-resolution PNG (1.3MB), and a folder with older versions if you want to do a visual comparison of map growth. Send me an email if you would prefer a version without annotations -- I simply ask that you provide credit when you're using it.

(Despite my best efforts I've not yet managed to make to switch to the Robinson projection, as recommended by BushmanK... the QGIS renderer acts up every time I try changing the projection string. I'm probably simply doing something wrong.)

A Tale of 2 Houses

Posted by alexkemp on 18 November 2016 in English (English)

86 + 92 Plains Road, Mapperley NG3, UK

  • Q: What's almost as good as a Green Field to a Housing Developer?
  • A: A single house on a large green site at the edge of town close to shops & schools

Here is the view between two houses positioned 100 yards up the road from these two properties to try to underline why developers want to build there (the view is of Mapperley Golf Course, shot on Wednesday 16 Nov on a classic sunshine-&-showers English day):

enjoy it whilst you can

Finally, my mapping gets me (almost) to the Ultima Thule (the lands beyond the suburbs of Mapperley & Gedling) (‘Ultima Thule’ was a bookshop in my University town of Newcastle Upon Tyne, and the name was explained to me as meaning “the unknown, unmapped, dangerous realms beyond the civilised world”) (or, Gateshead). Finally, my photos can begin to show not just bricks & tarmac but trees & mud. Excellent.

One of the tales that has repetitively turned up during the mapping has been of naked greed, initiated in the 19th Century whilst satisfying Nottingham folks’ need for housing as the people exploded out from the ¼-mile square (0.032 km²) of the old town into what were then entirely green fields (more surrounding info within Nottingham Suburban Railway, Part 2).

The two houses referred to in this Diary entry are a contrast in outcomes: the first (number 86) is a classic of thwarted desire (with many similarities to the tale in Resistance is Futile 2), whilst the second’s site (number 92) was last Wednesday full of houses halfway to completion.

Both houses are shown on the current Google & Bing satellite imagery (Bing is 10/1/2011-3/26/2012), but in fact each house has been demolished. Local intel is that num86 was bought (24 Oct 2008, £250,000 GBP) & planning permission sought for development. The buildings were demolished & that turned out to be a big mistake as permission was denied (pdf) (2013) — some neighbours, including reportedly Gedling Cricket Club — were against the development. The plot is situated down a long private road, and the traffic could have become intolerable (although reading the PDFs traffic is never mentioned).

Such an outcome would have been hard to take for the owner of num86, but try to imagine the gall of seeing the nearby development of 92 become successful (pdf).

This corner of land bordered by Plains Road & Arnold Road is a recent hive of activity (and very much more is planned - see the Coda at the bottom). The front of plot of 96 Plains Road has been converted into 4 x 3-storey apartment blocks and permission to redevelop (pdf) the rest of the plot, including demolishing the farmhouse, has recently been given, whilst the green field originally at the corner has been developed into a parking lot (sorry, I mean 3 streets of highly desirable apartments + houses suitable for young families).

Reading through the Gedling Planning Department PDFs (as linked above) is mighty puzzling, and I can well believe that developers must find themselves banging their heads against the nearest wall at some of the decisions. Number 92 originally wanted 10 retirement bungalows on the site (2004) but it was turned down. So, they re-applied for 2 x 3-storey apartments giving 20 flats, and were turned down (pdf) (2004). They finally got lucky with 5 detached houses (pdf) (2015). Number 86 applied for a single, 3-storey 8 bedroom house (on a similar-sized plot) was told that it would be “unduly bulky & out of keeping with the character of the area” (2013), then (completely destroying the neat end to this story) in 2016 was accepted for “2 detached dwellings”. A hundred yards or so from these new houses are six or seven recently-built 3-storey apartment blocks. What makes those ‘in character’ is difficult to know. (Just to be clear, I have zero personal connection with any of these developments).

So, we have a picturesque corner of Nottinghamshire hills, with folks desperate for homes with views of those hills. Developers eagerly pocket the cash to satisfy those demands, and the new homeowners find that all they can now see is their neighbours’ brick walls. An old story, of course.

Coda 1: Planning & Development (CIL EX12)

Students of Local Government, residents that live north of Papplewick Lane & anyone mapping in the vicinity of Arnold Lane (that's just me, then) will be transfixed by 6 March 2015 CIL EX12 (pdf). There are lots & lots of interesting things in it if you live local (the Tesco that I use was going to double it's floorspace, but has changed it's mind) but for everyone section 3 (“Residential Viability Appraisal”) should be an eye-opener, as it shows the spreadsheet that Local Government uses when appraising development costs, including the balance of Market & Affordable Housing, and actual fee percentages used (with VIABILITY MARGIN as the bottom line). Absolutely fascinating. And particularly when you realise that it is talking about a plan to develop the (currently green hills on the) other side of Arnold Lane.

Coda 2: More Reasons for Developers to Build

The houses either side of the view at top are reported to have sold (pdf) from the builder for £400,000 GBP each ($494,000 USD, €467,000 Euro).

Location: Arnold and Carlton, Gedling, Nottinghamshire, East Midlands, England, United Kingdom

Weekly roundup - common errors and unexplained edits observed

Posted by nammala on 18 November 2016 in English (English)

Here are the few observations from the OpenStreetMap edits between 24 October - 11 November.


  • Bad imports: changeset 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Deleted roads: changeset
  • Deleted natural=wood: changeset
  • Deleted existing buildings: changeset 1, 2, 3, 4
  • Adding fictional data: changeset 1, 2
  • Adding buildings overlapping with highways: changeset
  • Changeset comment mentioning google: changeset
  • Deleted river: changeset
  • Added improper data: changeset
  • Deleted relevant information in neighborhood: changeset 1, 2

Community members commented on the following changesets:

These were some of the inconstant data for this week. Do keep an eye of the bad edits and comment on those changesets, which will make us maintain the quality of data in OpenStreetMap.

Look forward for another roundup next week.

Map development

Posted by Skippern on 17 November 2016 in English (English)

Data sources are becoming so detailed, and the community are still growing, this results in even more spectacular data on the map.

Just take a look, Mapillary coverage allows for a lot of details to be added, such as several shops, bars, banks, restaurants, fast-food places, are easily identified and added. Combining Bing, MapBox and other sources of vertical images allows us to draw buildings, and combining these buildings with Mapillary, we can add information allowing for spectacular 3D rendering (see here and here for 3D examples).

Also, the renewal of the public transport license resulted in data about bus routes being released, unfortunately, the data set was not complete, so some surveying will still be needed to complete the datas, but for now, something is available here.

The surrounding land have been covered with woods, meadows, farmlands, marches, mangrove, and more.

All in all, the map is developing quickly, just 8 years ago, this was a clean sheet.

Location: Parque Areia Preta, Centro, Guarapari, Microrregião Guarapari, Greater Vitória, Mesorregião Central Espírito-Santense, Espírito Santo, Southeast Region, 29200260, Brazil


Posted by Alex Myczko on 17 November 2016 in English (English)

Although I haven't mapped a lot of airfield (airport) data, I am using OSM (with Leaflet and Stamen) in a web app trying to show all ICAO airports. Feel free to try,

Buildings vs. man-made structures

Posted by BushmanK on 16 November 2016 in English (English)

Reading a pretty long discussion of tagging the Holocaust memorial in Berlin, it surprises me, how unclear our Wiki documentation still is. The main controversy there is about (not) using building=* tags for individual parts of the memorial installation. For those, who are not familiar with this memorial, it mainly consists of rectangular monoliths (stelae) of different height, arranged in rows.

It has been mentioned in that discussion, that current convention about a qualifying feature for using building=* is a presence of room inside the structure (I'd add, that it also applies to "parent structure", since we still have building=entrance in use), so people can come in and stay inside it, and it's the purpose of this structure.

Sometimes, it could be an extreme case, like building=roof, where we usually have an open space under the roof instead of an isolated space, forming a room. But unfortunately, both Buildings article and Key:building have almost zero information on this particular topic.

I mean, come on, guys, building=* is among the top tags by usage and it is often misused, but there is no more or less clear definition of it in English documentation. In Russian documentation, due to widespread legal nihilism, we have the first paragraph of the RU:Здания (Russian version of Buildings article) that gives a definition of the term "building" for awhile. German article has a bit shorter explanation as well. English version says something about a couple of special cases (houseboats, for example), but gives no general picture, like if it were obvious. No, it is not, especially in OSM, where terms quite often have own special meaning and definition.

Personally, I don't see any issue with adding something like that to the English article by myself, except I'm obviously not a native English speaker and my English is American (I had an experience of complaints from a couple of Britons regarding of that).

I think, it is important to tell about the qualifying features and about the fact that building=* does not really create a contradiction with man_made=* because, for example, large TV transmission towers or lighthouses often have pretty much space inside, and it is intended to be a workspace for people.

Getting back to the Holocaust memorial, obviously, those stelae are neither buildings nor man-made structures in terms of current tagging schemes. These are historic=memorial memorial=stele or, better, historic=memorial memorial:type=stele objects, while there is still no definite way to tag complex memorial installations in details. Personally, I'd propose something like using historic=memorial for the whole boundary of memorial and corresponding memorial:type=* for the outlines of each particular part of it, since there are memorial complices consisting of multiple stelae, statues, plaques and obelisks within a certain boundary.

# Adding Banks and ATM in OSM

Posted by Saikat Maiti on 16 November 2016 in English (English)

Sudden ban in Indian currency of Rs.500 and Rs.1000 note creates little disturbance in daily life. I am trying to help to adding these location at Panvel area.

Location: New Panvel, Panvel, Greater Bombay, Maharashtra, 410206, India

No Greater Love Hath Grandkids for their Grandad...

Posted by alexkemp on 15 November 2016 in English (English)

...than to go out mapping with him in the face of an English soak-to-the-skin drizzle.

I'd gotten an invite to a “Shakespeare Schools Festival” for Friday 11 November at Gordon Craig Theatre (4 schools, with Micky's Presdales School on first with an astonishingly good extract from The Tempest).

Friday was dry, but the following day was a classic English day (which is to say, it was wet). Just as the Inuit are said to have 32 words for ‘snow’, we English have 32 words for ‘rain’, and this one was “drizzle”, which is a light rain that looks ever so innocent, but will be running in small streams down the inside of your trouser legs in 30 minutes if you do not have the correct clothing.

I was fine. I'd bought a Mountain Warehouse Extreme ISODRY 10 000 fully-waterproof jacket (Mountain Warehouse have a store in Nottingham centre, so I could try it on before buying; it is not only fully waterproof but also breathable). After an hour I was perfectly dry, but their jackets were soaked through, poor little sots. We did both sides of one little road then quickly scooted back home.

I did take a photo of them & Buddy the dog, but their mum did not want them plastered across an international Diary page. So, instead, I present to you (ta-da-da-daa-da-daaa! (fanfare)) more Ware Khazis photographed on Queens Road, Ware:–

Ware Khazis

For those of you that haven't kept up ([1] [2] [3]):–

English houses were built with outside toilets (‘Khazis’) from Victorian times right up through the 1920s & 1930s. That only began to change following WWII and finally stopped following the widespread housing renewal of the 1960s & 1970s, during which many properties in Britain got indoor bathrooms for the first time. Although my father had been brought up in a Victorian-era house with an outside-only toilet & no bathroom, I had not realised that such a situation was normal all the way up to WW2. It was due to constantly seeing Khazis whilst mapping the extensive 1920s housing in Carlton, then seeing the identical buildings whilst mapping in Ware, that I realised that Khazis were a normal feature rather than being an aberration. Indeed, a nearby neighbour & friend has read my first Diary on this & commented to me that the evidence at the rear of his (Victorian) house is also for a Khazi that has subsequently been demolished.

Finally, the area of Ware where my grandchildren live is called King Georges Fields & is named after one of England's best-loved Kings (King George V, 1910-36), of whom it is said that he was king for one third of all the people then alive.


Whilst putting the houses up on the map I discovered a shot of Micky & Buddy which illustrates perfectly how wet & dispiriting the day was & yet should also be acceptable to her mum:

Micky + Buddy

Location: Ware CP, East Hertfordshire, Hertfordshire, East of England, England, United Kingdom

Over 2000 Schools mapped

Posted by Christian Ledermann on 15 November 2016 in English (English)

Since the beginning of August 2016 I mapped more than 2000 Schools in the UK. This was made possible with the help of which combines Ordnance Survey Open Data with the data of EduBase and the Scottish Government. So far the Application has not gained much traction, only 4 Mappers actually added something to the map with a median number of 17 edits. So I am wondering if there really is a usecase for this kind of application or if I am just wasting my time and money to make this publically available. Also it raises the question if I should proceed this route with other specialized applications e.g. to add the hospital grounds.

OSM Toronto addresses (sometimes/often[?]) better than Google Maps

Posted by scruss on 14 November 2016 in English (English)

For years, I knew there was an address hole in OSM along Eglinton Avenue East. Querying Nominatim for an address would often return a location ≥ 5 km away from the real result.

Then came Metrolinx's clean up and import of address ranges. Folks might turn their noses up at address ranges, but at least ranges give you a location within a few metres without adding millions of nodes. This is good enough for Metrolinx's commuters, and improves the map.

A couple of days ago, I had to look up an address while mobile on Eglinton East. All I had was my phone with Google Maps. I put in the address, and Google suggested somewhere really far from where I'd expected it to be. Oddly enough, Google was suggesting a location in the general area that OSM always used to return. How nice to know our addresses can be more useful than those provided by a corporate entity!

Location: Victoria Village, North York, Toronto, Ontario, M1R4B9, Canada

Creating tasks to review highway routes for exit and destination information

Posted by nammala on 14 November 2016 in English (English)

One of the most important uses of the map during car navigation is to find the correct exit off a motorway to get to a destination. Missing an exit can be quite costly in terms of the time and fuel wasted in a much longer route than desired. In OSM, the tags that help to map this information are highway=motorway_junction(exit number) and destination(destination sign).

The Mapbox data team has updated over 247 motorway exits and 1285 destination sign information in United States & Canada in the last year. Here's the workflow we followed to create tasks on the Mapbox Tasking manager if you would like to create a community project for your own area. This workflow creates convenient tasks that can be distributed to review the data on individual highway routes on checkautopista2 for a particular area of interest.

screenshot 2016-11-14 13 12 21

1. Defining the area of interest:

Draw a boundary for the area of interest you want to cover in JOSM tagging as area=yes and save it as .osm file.

2. Converting .osm to .json:

Using osmtogeojson we can convert .osm file to geojson.

3. Now we should get the city boundary polybox coordinates:

Use polybox to convert the geojson of the area of interest into a polybox format.

4. Extracting the highway routes in the area of interest:

For the exit numbers and destinations task, we wanted the highway routes inside the area of interest along with the relations. So, we use overpass query giving the polybox coordinates for getting the data and exporting it into geojson.

5. Filter out highway=motorway along with relations:

Using this repository we can filter out features with highway=motorway, flattens relations, merges ways with the same relation and adds a buffer around them (so that they show up in tasking manager). Bus route (route=bus) are ignored.

Example of highway with relation:

6. Merging multiple geojson to single geojson:

Incase if we want to do it for various areas of interest, we need to combine multiple AOI's geojson's to single geojson using geojson-stream-merge.

7. Importing the final single geojson into tasking manager and providing checkautopista2 link:

The final single geojson is then imported into tasking manager. In the tasking manager instructions give a link to checkautopista2 and use the format{rel} because it takes the rel property in the geojson and displays the ways in the tasking manager.

Hope my workflow will help you in creating the tasks effectively. Let me know if there is any other simpler way of doing this procedure.

Happy Mapping!

100 € for multiple social accounts in OSM

Posted by Zverik on 14 November 2016 in English (English)

Last time it went pretty well, so let's try another long-standing issue. Namely, #1274.

You can register or log in to the OpenStreetMap website using a social account: Facebook, GitHub, Google. The thing is, most of us have many social accounts, but you can only link one to your OSM profile. If you click a wrong button, you will have to either go back or register a new account. You cannot log in to your account using different social buttons.

For me, that is a problem. I would like to not remember which of the buttons I clicked when I tested the social login, and which of these is linked to my main OSM account. For that I would like a social accounts management in the settings page. Alas, I don't have time and skills to add that, but I have a hope that somebody has. And for that I'm willing to pay a small grant: a hundred euro, like the last time.

The offer stands for two months: the pull request to openstreetmap-website should be submitted until 15th of January and merged until 15th of February. Right after merging I will transfer 100 € to any given credit card or bank account.

#Climate Change Threats: Ghoramara Island

Posted by Saikat Maiti on 14 November 2016 in English (English)

I choose this place to map buildings. This place is in danger because of natural calamity. People are in vulnerable stage because of rapid climate change and changing nature of island morphology. Previously it is recorded that this island has 130 Sq. Km. of land but now it's only 25 sq. km. This island is mainly famous for good quality of Rice and 'Pan'.

Location: Twenty-four Parganas, West Bengal, India

Mapping Baltimore Buildings in 3D

Posted by ElliottPlack on 13 November 2016 in English (English)

There is an interest in modeling 3D buildings on OpenStreetMap and in the community. Updates from map providers like Mapbox and Mapzen now support complex 3D building rendering. This diary gives an overview of the process used to add 3D buildings in Baltimore.

subject buildings


I am always looking for ways to improve the map of my hometown. I looked to Baltimore for some buildings to add in 3D. I found two to start.

The buildings, the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor and One East Pratt Street, are prominent on Baltimore’s Skyline. Their representative shapes in OSM were blocky and missing parts. Having never understood the “simple” 3D mapping technique, I set out to learn how to improve them.

Learning Simple 3D Buildings

Before I could map, I had to learn the best practices. Looking around on the OSM Wiki, most sources point to the Simple 3D buildings article for instructions on how to do this. I read the wiki page a few times, but it didn’t make sense. The article was disjointed and lacked clarity. Before I could learn, I would have to improve the wiki.


Wiki Cleanup

I am currently taking an excellent course on Technical Writing. One recurring exercise is simplifying and improving blocks of text that are technical in nature. The Simple 3D buildings article is a perfect candidate for simplification. It appears to have been translated from German and then updated in a piecemeal fashion.

While my cleanup is still a work in progress, I have improved the Building Outline and Building Parts sections. I rewrote these sections objectively, using the Hemingway App and Grammarly to get the paragraphs down to primary school reading level. I added info-boxes and warnings where appropriate, and sliced the bulleted lists into heading separated sections (headings improve readability and searchability). I gave each section a name based on its general method, and added some descriptive text.

wiki after

The Method

Rewriting the article helped me comprehend the process. There are three different ways to map a 3D building in this simple schema, but which is the simplest? The article listed three options but did not recommend one. I reviewed a few 3D buildings in New York City (namely the Consolidated Edison Company Building at 14th and 3rd) and noticed that the flat method seemed to be the most common. Though I like using relations, they can be cumbersome. After looking at buildings with 50 or more faces, I decided against the relation method in my own editing. Lastly, the slice method, though logical seemed unworkable in OSM editors, as overlapping shapes are hard to work with.

The flat method (my name) includes a building outline with legacy 2D tags, and interior building parts, with 3D tags. According to other wiki authors, 3D modelers ignore height information on the outline if there are any parts within, so this method requires covering every part of the outline with a part.

Getting the data together

Now that understood the process, I’d need good data to make it happen. I needed data:

  • Street level imagery
  • Aerial imagery
  • Freely licensed photos
  • My own photos
  • LiDAR data

mapillary hyatt

Street level imagery was easy to come by with great Mapillary coverage in Downtown Baltimore by users like mdroads. I used both Bing and Maryland’s orthophotos for aerial sources. There are freely licensed photos on Wikimedia Commons that are useful for getting a better view of key facades, and I used some of my own photos over the years (indexed by Google Photos) of these buildings for more detail. Finally, I just needed LiDAR.


LiDAR data is challenging to work with due to the data density, actually finding it, and the tools needed to view it.

In the US, NOAA hosts and provides LiDAR Data freely. Using their Data Access Viewer, I found a 2008 dataset for Baltimore that NOAA published in 2012. While there are sources for rendered LiDAR Digital Elevation Models, this data is useless in 3D building modeling as the buildings are removed. DEMs only show the “natural” surface elevation (see archaeosphere).


I used ArcMap to visualize and gather height information from the LiDAR data. The data is clipped into grid squares and compressed in LAZ format. I looked for the tiles that I’d need on the grid map and downloaded them. LAZ files are compressed and not usable directly in ArcMap in that format. I used the free LASzip tool to decompress the files into LAS format. In ArcMap, I created a new LAS dataset and added the extracted LAS files. The default symbology used for LAS data is a point field, and is not useful for visual review. I opted to use an elevation surface instead, and turned on the option to display the elevation as a Map Tip. The surface made it easy to get the height of a building part by just hovering over it. Images


With all of the data in place, it was time to map.

Getting Started

There are two useful tools for mapping 3D buildings in JOSM

  1. The 3D Simple Buildings preset, which makes tagging easier.
  2. The Kendzi3D JOSM plugin, which adds a 3D world viewer to JOSM for checking the results of 3D tagging on the fly.

Add the Outline

I happened to have worked on a project to import Baltimore’s buildings and addresses a few years ago. We didn’t know of a good height dataset at the time, and didn’t include height data in the import. I did keep the original data in OSM XML format, which included the buildings that were not imported due to intersects with existing data. Since the target buildings geometry as poor, I started by replacing the geometry in OSM with the outlines from the import dataset (preserving tags of course).

Though I rewrote and comprehend the tagging schema, it wasn’t clear if the outline should have the overall height tag. The Kendzi3D plugin suggested that this should be avoided, so I didn’t add the overall height to the outline.

Add the Parts

Adding the parts is crux of the 3D building effort. Using the aerial imagery sources, I traced each part of the buildings and added the height information using the tagging preset.

To determine the height for a part I used ArcMap. I’d hover the cursor over a few places on the building part, note the values, and average them. Jotting this average down, I’d switch back to JOSM and add the result to the building height value (generally rounding to one decimal place). See the wiki for more information about the height tags and when to use them.

The street level (Mapillary) imagery was useful for two reasons. First, I used it to get a sense of how each part fit with the whole, which isn’t always clear in an overhead view. Secondly, I used it for filling in the details for each part, such as the floor count, wall color and wall surface.

parts in josm

4D Roofs

A proposal for a fourth dimension is underway in the community. The 4D Roof Table proposal adds temporal data as a fourth dimension and is not for the faint at heart. I did attempt to attempt to use it for the skillion shaped glass roof that covers the lobby at the Hyatt hotel. Mapping to that level of detail involves adding time information to the points on a roof, so that the rendering software can determine the direction of the roof pitch.

Checking the result

The Kendzi3D plugin is an excellent resource for checking how 3D buildings will look on the map. It shows a 3D world view of the currently active OSM layer in a separate window, and even has a few simple editing functions right in the viewer to make adjustments to height and roof pitch.


Uploading and viewing on OSM

After reviewing the parts and outline, I uploaded the data to the map. The default Mapnik viewer does not currently show 3D buildings, but there are a few that do.

  • OSM Buildings renders buildings based on the Simple 3D schema, including colors and surfaces. OSM Buildings processes the data and periodically updates the map, so the data is not available immediately.
  • Mapbox GL JS recently launched extruded building support, supporting the simple 3D schema. Mapbox GL JS is updated minutely, which means that new changesets are available for 3D viewing almost instantly. Mapbox’s AJ Ashton wrote an illustrated guide on mapping 3D buildings using the slice method, and it includes an embedded Mapbox GL JS viewer which you can use to pan around and view your city in 3D.
  • Updated 14 Nov F4map renders 3D OSM data in near real time and supports all of the detailed Simple 3D tagging like wall color and roof color. It also adds some nice visual embellishments to the map.

mapbox viewer Mapbox GL JS

f4 viewer F4map (link to location)

Next Steps

Though rich in detail, tagging for 3D is time consuming. I’d like to look for ways to improve existing buildings in Baltimore by intersecting them with the LAS surface and programmatically assigning maximum heights. This would provide a baseline to work with, and would allow mappers to focus in on the most important structures for 3D mapping.

I will also work to understand the methods better. Perhaps I can make a better recommendation after discussing this with peers. Looking at the Simple 3D article editing history, there are some disagreements over what is recommended, be it overlapping parts, slices or a relation.

I will continue to watch and improve the wiki. It needs better flow between sections and more information about the tags, such as the roof height.

Finally, I’ll continue to add 3D buildings as I can. I added a few more around Harbor East, and the Baltimore National Aquarium would be a fun project to try.

Questions & Comments

Please leave a comment if you know of any useful tips for 3D modeling, have a concern, or if you have any questions!


Location: Inner Harbor, Baltimore, Maryland, 21202, United States of America

Building local mapping communities

Posted by joost schouppe on 12 November 2016 in English (English)

Community power

While building the program for State of the Map, the program committee had to say no to several people who wanted to talk about their local community – their successes and their challenges. As a kind of compensation, we added a local communities panel (video) and a local chapters congress to the program.

But during the preparation, I also got a lot of feedback from people who couldn’t make it to State of the Map: money, accidents, visa. I got feedback from Brian Pangle (UK), Felix Delattre (Nicarague), Clifford Snow (US/Seattle), Marco Antonio Frias (Bolivia), Redon Skikuli (Albania), Mohamet Lamine Ndiaye (Senegal), Yantisa Akhadi (Indonesia) and Michal Palenik (Slovakia). Most of them didn’t have a chance to be on the panel, or even make it all.

Some of their ideas did make it to the Local Chapters Congress, and helped put things in motion. For example, finally we have the option to follow comments on Diary posts! And there’s talk of putting some money into website development for things like massive local messaging, which was a recurring theme there. That might involve helping Gravitystorm’s project to simplify the codebase, as that would make contributing code that much easier. Also the idea to allow OSMF membership without payment was mentioned, which was an obvious frustration during the Local Chapters Congress.

What is important to me, is that it goes to show that focused community action can shift the focus of our dev team to issues that would otherwise be lower on their priorities list. I hope we can repeat efforts like this at the next SotM, hopefully even stronger.

This post does two things. First, it will give you, the local community builder, a lot of ideas about things you could do to work on a tighter and larger community. Second, it tries to set an agenda. It offers you several ideas which you could adapt, promote or realize.


There are three subjects:

  • What are our main dilemmas when organizing our communities

  • What kind of tools do we need to build community

  • What stuff are we doing now, that actually works

It was entirely built around the answers from the people mentioned above, plus our own experience here in Belgium.

Community builders' dilemmas

Relatively little feedback on this, looks like we’re a confident bunch. But their are some interesting points.

  • The challenge of mobilizing mappers: too soft vs too hard. We’re all volunteers, and if you push too hard, you’ll push people away. But if you don’t take action and keep it up, you’ll never get beyond three people at your activities.

  • Building a local community means making decisions. Is it acceptable to offer financial rewards? Do we focus on finding the "mapping nerds" who create huge amounts of data? Or do we need to adapt to less obvious groups - people who often can’t even read a map, but have excellent local knowledge?

  • Being local means embracing local culture. But we also want OSM to have a unified voice and a unified data model. And what do we do with well-intentioned outside help, who bring their own funding but also their own ideas and priorities?

Where the global community can help

In the answers, local communication needs were a top priority. The mailing lists, forums and IRC are good for reaching hard core mappers. But the large majority of contributors aren't there. So how do you reach the local mapper who isn’t active anywhere on these channels?

We need an easy way to contact local mappers

When you want to organize a local activity, you need external tools like Pascal’s mappers around me. Or you could query Overpass and make a little list of who has been working on that area. Just collecting the info takes a long time, and then you have to send messages one by one. It is impossible to send a message to all your OSM contacts if you just have their username. Allowing otherwise is obviously not without risk, so some anti-spam measures have to be implemented from the start.

who's around me

We need to connect the new mappers

It is very labour intensive to connect new mappers to their local communities. Several people running a program to send a message to every new mapper in their region have given up, even as this cool little website makes the work a bit easier. In Belgium, we use . It is a simple user interface which takes the New Mappers feed from Pascal Neis and makes it easy to send people a standard welcome message. One is defined as "Belgian" based on the location of their first changeset, which is good enough as a proxy for home region.

The message itself focuses on our communication channels, apart from giving some basic mapping tips. The advantage of using a tool is that you can share the workload, and can see who has been welcomed already. Of course, looking at changesets and giving some pointers is very useful – but a lot of work. It also thanks you for your contribution, and gives you someone to contact in case of doubt. It gives a human face to the map. This is something that could be entirely automated within the ecosystem – a centralized system with the content provided by the local communities. This would not be an alternative to the Welcome Message you get on subscription, but a complementary message on first edit. Otherwise, it wouldn't be possible to guess everyone's location.

We need a lively community diary stream

Several of us commented on the impossibility of subscribing to comments on Diary posts, which leads to discussion rapidly dying down. This has now been implemented! Over a year ago, after some rather discouraging help, I opened a ticket on github to request this feature. Markus Heidelberg did make a Chrome/Firefox plugin to fix the same problem. It confused me a bit that someone would make an external tool, rather than fix the problem itself. Markus was kind enough to explain that it’s much more simple to write a separate bit of code than to integrate something into our website. Another argument for everyone to help modernize that codebase. But that won’t fix everything, because people do speak many different programming languages.

Anyway, the ticket remained open for almost a year, and it was only when the idea got wider support during SotM that we got the attention of our programmers. The pull request shows that even a “simple” feature like this is absolutely not straightforward to integrate. It looks like it took quite a bit of effort from Mikel, Ilya, Andy and Tom to do this. Thank you guys!

Still, we could do more to make communications easier. For example, you still need to be a bit of a nerd to find a way to follow the official blog. A subscribe button, anyone? But even to find this blog is a challenge. I find it strange that there are no direct links from the landing page to subdomains like help, forum., irc. and .

We need to help new mappers gain experience

Becoming a mapper is not easy. When you often explain OSM to new mappers, you start to realize how many little things you’ve learned over the years. The more developed the map, the harder it will become. Attention for documentation, and making help easier to find will become ever more important. But a human touch might help too.

Godfather program A recurrent idea to help new mappers is to start a kind of “godfather” program. It might be as simple as sending a welcome message to new mappers, personalized with some tips about better mapping of what they added. But you could go further, and coach people as they grow. You would need some reward for that, because it would reduce your own mapping time. So imagine a HDYC not of your own mapping, but of the people you helped.

#reviewmychange OSM is easy for very confident people: you have to believe that little old me is capable of improving this big map made by so many people. At humanitarian mapathons, it is often a relief to people that their work will be reviewed. But why not add a simple feature to the iD editor to mark your own work as “please review”. It could be as simple as adding a hashtag #pleasereview to the changeset comment, and making a little tool that collects and geocodes these changesets into a simple website for follow-up.

A toolbox for local communities

This is a broad concept, but here are some examples of what that could mean:

  • A little money can go a long way. In the US, it can help you set up a a local Meetup group. In Africa or Latin America, a microgrant would be enough to pay for internet access, a mapping device and transport costs. If we’re capable of getting free pizza for our mapathons, we should be able to do this too.

  • A local web presence is something several people commented to as being very useful. Could we have a local community website starterkit, similar in ease to set up to a Maptime chapter?

  • Could we build communication and tracking tools (new mappers, QA, stats) built on admin boundaries instead of bounding boxes?

Things that work

A central theme on the answers about things that work, is that none of them are easy. It takes time, it takes effort, and the impact can often be quite disappointing.

Some long-time mappers even believe that we’ve reached our potential: everyone who is interested in OpenStreetMap knows the project by now, so there is little to be won by reaching out. This is typical for a swarm organisation: it’s only those who are at the edges of the swarm that see the growth. It is the networks of the newer people that will help you grow – not your own.

All the more reason to learn about things that have worked for others. This chapter talks about how to grow your community, but also about community consolidation. You might have a lot of people working on the map, but who have never done anything but add info to the map. Minimal community engagement is necessary: how else will they keep their mapping habits in line with the wider community? And of course, they are the first place to look when you want to do stuff to grow your community.

The basics

When it comes to engaging existing mappers, there is no alternative for real life meetings. Even though we’re an online community, it is personal contacts that build ties. And these are the ties you need to turn mappers into organisers.

A good place to start, is by watching changesets and commenting on them. It’s one of the few ways of getting to know the people who add data but aren’t active anywhere else.

Adapting to different communication styles is essential. If you’re only using mailing lists, don’t be surprised that the level of engagement stays flat. Take the Bolivian talk e-mail list that had about two active members for years. Then Bolivia started a Telegram supergroup and suddenly there’s 40 members, of which at least a dozen are quite active. Here in Belgium we adopted Slack during the State of the Map, and it’s still quite active for more informal communication and quick questions.

But of course, having many channels makes things complicated. Especially if what works in one country doesn’t in the next. it will be a lot of work to find the right channel and to get people in the channel that's best for them. An adapted welcome message makes it easier to integrate new mappers.

Where the local map is already relatively complete, there is little enthusiasm for mapping parties. The quaint model of going out collecting data and then mapping over a beer attracts much less people than other activities. But in places where the map is still quite basic, it can be very successful in building engagement and getting attention.

Doing exiting stuff, as Felix Delattre puts it, is effective to find new people. By doing something completely new and unheard of, you can create a lot of excitement about OpenStreetMap. In Nicaragua, being the first to create an online and paper map with all the bus routes in the capital can do that for you. The exposure this gives you, has an effect beyond the original mapping community that made the project possible in the first place.


Lacking big projects like this, showing real life use cases is an obvious way to connect to your audience once you get their attention. If you know your public, focus on what you know they could use. If you don't, show the diversity of cool stuff you can do with OSM.

You need a way out of your inner circle. Engage outside organisations. You are basically tapping into existing networks, rather than building one from scratch. For example, connecting with “data science” people, but also local government, entrepreneurs, IT people. Working together with Trage Wegen has introduced many new mappers to OSM over the last two years in Belgium. This is an organisation focused on the threatened little paths and tracks that connects our messy towns and villages to the sparse open space. The people who support them are passionate about this subject, and it’s not that hard to take their passion for “slow roads” and turn it into a mapping passion, since a mapped path is harder to disappear.


Especially in developed countries, Meetup seems to be a useful tool for creating events. Clifford Snow did an entire session on the subject (video). These events can be as small as a bar hangout, but it can also be used for much larger events. It is quite easy to start a group. As an organizer you have an idea how many people to expect, and Meetup does all the hard communication work for you (maintaining contact list, sending out reminders, thanking for showing up).

Meetup is very local: it will suggest groups to hang out with based on both your location and your other Meetup groups. So you will get a lot of subscriptions from people already active on Meetup, but not yet very interested in OSM. And you will almost automatically find meetup groups which have similar interests, where you might go and talk about OSM.

There are some challenges though. Meetup realizes the value of their network, and so you need to pay to be an organization on their website. Prices depend on the country (3 €/month in Belgium, 15 $ in the US). In practice, this is paid by the very motivated organizers themselves. As there is no free alternative, it might be an idea for central OSM organisations to provide this money instead. The impact is clear, and the investment is minimal. I would dare say that without Meetup, there would probably not have been a State of the Map in Belgium this year.

Humanitarian Mapathons

Both Belgium and Seattle talked about using Humanitarian Mapping as a recruitment tool. It helps attract people who would otherwise not be interested in OpenStreetMap, and gives you a chance to introduce them to the wider project too. It’s also a place to turn your hardcore mappers into volunteers. There are well defined tasks to do, like organizing, promoting, giving talks, making documentation, validating data or helping out individual mappers. That makes it easy to become a volunteer. The repetition of events gives them the opportunity to grow into ever more complex tasks.


This will sound controversial to a lot of people, but imports can be a recruiting tool too. Clifford and Jeff Meyer talk about how they used an import to grow their community here. Imports aren’t easy, and having an ‘import party’ is usually a bad idea. But good imports are possible, and they provide an opportunity to recruit more technically oriented people who would balk at the idea of tracing thousands of buildings.

So, what else?

What dilemmas do you want to talk about? What do you think about the proposed needed tools? What worked for you or your local community? How can we make the life of new community builders easier?

And most of all, how do we keep the momentum we seemed to have during and after SotM 2016?  

Wikidata in OpenStreetMap

Posted by LogicalViolinist on 11 November 2016 in English (English)

Seeing as ID and Mapbox are pushing to incorporate wikidata into OSM, I thought it would be a perfect little project when mappers have nothing better to do or in their downtime.

The wikidata link can help developers get vital information like the current population, current mayor, flags, coat of arms,etc. The list goes on. This is a lot of data that can't necessarily be encoded into OSM. This would help simplify the use of OSM data for small developers. Take for example mapbox's example: Mapbox Data rich map

The items in the red square have all been obtained via the wikidata api using the wikidata ID. The flag in the green box, the population in the yellow, the website in the orange box.

There is a plethora of other data available via the wikidata api for example list of movies that happened in that location: Mapbox data rich map 2

The places can be extracted via the qa-tiles with country extracts available

Using tile-reduce and osm-tag-stats. The towns can be extracted via a simple filter:

    ["in", "place", "town", "village", "locality"],
    ["==", "@type", "node"]

And run with the following command:

osm-tag-stats --geojson=towns-output.geojson --mbtiles='canada.mbtiles' --filter='towns.json'

I've started a project on the OSMCanada Tasking Manager here:

Join in for a more data rich Canada :)

Location: Aylmer, Gatineau, Quebec, Canada

Rooftop Figures

Posted by alexkemp on 10 November 2016 in English (English)

Do other parts of the world display odd and/or strange figures on their garage tops? It certainly has proved to be a popular meme in the parts of Nottingham that I've mapped (see also [1] [2] [3] [4]). Here is the latest, a stick figure in a top-hat on the top of a garage in Westdale Lane East, Gedling:–

stick figure, Gedling

Location: Arnold and Carlton, Gedling, Nottinghamshire, East Midlands, England, United Kingdom

Being part of State of the Map Asia 2016

Posted by yogi_ks on 10 November 2016 in English (English)

State of the Map is one of the biggest OpenStreetMap conference where people who know about OpenStreetMap and want to learn about OpenStreetMap come together. Being part of SOTM-Asia conference in the Philippines with the community and talking to them in person was amazing. It was a great exposure for me to learn how community together built an amazing map of their country/town/village and know the stories behind them.


This was my first State of the Map Asia conference and OpenStreetMap community from more than 10 countries, not just Asian but other parts of the world had also gathered to share their experiences and learnings with fellow community members. The conference exhibited 8 state of the country talks (Japan, India, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Nepal and Bangladesh) which presented great insights on how community is coming together to contribute in different countries and various challenges faced by them. The keynote address by Kate Chapman, Nama Budhathoki, Taichi Furuhashi and Dr. Mahar Lagmay were all very inspiring and encouraging.


Along with these, overall 25 diverse talks were presented highlighting different mapping/geospatial efforts in many countries and few hands-on workshop on various tools like Mapbox Studio, InaSAFE and Mapillary. The talks in the 2 days conference shed lights on different aspects of contributing geospatial data, building a community around keeping this data fresh and use the data in right places for various causes. Interacting with speakers during and post-session helped me in understanding these tools better. There were some great talk where people are building different portals, tools and data which will be helpful in different post-crisis and humanitarian efforts.

Running your own Taginfo instance - Slide Deck

My talk covered on how one can configure Taginfo for a country extract and few of my learnings in maintaining the Taginfo instance for India. Very less Asian counties have good coverage of OpenStreetMap. To gauge and understand the coverage of data in a country, taginfo can be a handy place to check it. As the main site covers and gives the overview of tag coverage for the entire world, the Taginfo application can be used for any specific country to get the similar tagging statistics. Interacted with the OSM Philippines community post talk and planned to set up the Philippines Taginfo instance(temporary URL).


Talking to community is a great way to share the experience, start conversations and get answers to questions. These were the best part of the conference.

Thanks to VISIONS Asia Forum and CrisisMappersJapan for supporting me to be part of this incredible State of the Map.

Essex County Open Space Conference Saturday 12 November 2016

Posted by ChrisBertoni on 10 November 2016 in English (English)

One of the workshops offered at the conference is OpenStreetMap, so I logged onto OSM this morning and hope to get really good at this mapping feature. Manchester-by-the-Sea owns a number of open space parcels outright and partners with others on the North Shore. I'd like to see efforts coordinated.

Location: Central Street, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Essex County, Massachusetts, 01944, United States of America
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