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dardhal's diary

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People are _too_ lazy, more willing to complain that to contribute

Posted by dardhal on 12 June 2011 in English (English)

Well, three full months since last update to my diary, my contribution rate to OSM has dropped sharply to almost zero (I don't have that much well known areas with below than average mapping left), and my attempts to make more people in the Spain MTB and outdoor/GPS afficionado groups be involved and contribute to OSM have gone...as expected, that is not saying a lot. At least, I haven't received much feedback from the people I have been addressing, and this usually means very little involvement and contributions took place.

The first wave of "join OSM propaganda" (just a joke ;-) ) I put on the Internet got some people interested in the project, but don't know so far the amount of direct contributions it caused in the first place. Anyways, OSM as a whole and the means of contributing back (as well as the "what can OSM do for me if I spent my time contributing" usual questions) should be well answered, and no one reading my messages in forums should have any problem getting involved. The biggest problem so far has been the availabity of an up to date, extreme quality and perfect coverage Garmin IMG vector map of Spain (TopoHispania 2.0x), free of cost, including contourlines, and made from official and high quality survey data, that makes a lot of people go along the easy route, and use pre-made maps, instead of contributing to OSM thinking long-term. But this was announced, and to be expected.

As a means of filling some gaps that could make people ignore OSM based Garmin maps for Spain (and, so the involvement in the project), I decided to create a transparent high quality contourline map of Spain, 99.9% identical to the one included in TopoHispania 2.0x, that in combination with any other Garmin IMG map (but specially with the fantastic ones from http://openmtbmap.org), to have a better and more precise alternative to the usual NASA SRTM 3" data. This contourline map for Spain is pending release, and will be available shortly for download from http://openmtbmap.org. So people will have one less reason to disregard OSM based maps, and hopefully start contributing.

I have also been collaborating with people behind QLandkarteGT development, a cross platform desktop application to manage both raster and Garmin vector maps, as well as routes, waypoints and tracks (much like Mapsource, BaseCamp, OziExplorer and CompeGPS). The software is great as it is now, but there is some work being done to take the software to the next step of features and usefulness. Currently you can already load local and remote (WMS or TMS servers) raster maps, any number of local Garmin vector maps (overlaid on top of any raster map), create and manage waypoints, routes, track (create new, modify existing), calculate routes, search for places, interface to older Garmin GPS (newer ones use USB storage), etc.

I'm by no means a programmer, and little code can be contributed by me, but hopefully the time I've spent trying some "hidden" features (and making them better known), as well as investigating support for Garmin NT maps (which, for example, TopoHispania 2.0x is using) was worth the effort, and can ease the way for real developers to the point of improving the application. And, at the same time, I'm trying to make people know QLandkarteGT exists, that it's already very useable, and that it's the only desktop application so far (to my knowledge) that understands the Garmin JNX (BirdsEye) format supported by newer Garmin GPS receivers (a JNX map can be configured to show different map or aerial images at different zoom levels, so when you zoom out you see a nice and clear topo map, but when you zoom in more, you see an aerial image).

This support for JNX maps can seem nothing worth trying the program, but a team of people from the MTB community in Spain has managed to create JNX maps covering all of Spain, in record time, from available free (as in beer) official maps an aerial imaginery.

So, it's been three months since my last update, and my direct contributions to OSM are down to almost zero, but I hope the effort in the projects mentioned above can have a multipliying effect, and drive more people to OSM and contributing lots of information. Maybe that won't happen after all, but I feel that I should be doing something, and well, I'm doing quite a few things.

After three months of hard work, mission #1 complete!

Posted by dardhal on 13 March 2011 in English (English)

It has taken me three full months to review all my old GPS traces from the last years, and improve OSM data from them. In this time amount of data and its quality in the places where I have personal GPS traces and local knowledge of has improved a lot, for example, a big part of Madrid side of "Sierra de Guadarrama" is now in quite a good shape, there are few tracks/paths missing, and the ones that are already mapped are very precise (thank to GPS traces and legally useable aerial imaginery available in Spain).

There are lots of things left to do, though. Once you go outside of big cities data quality has to be improved (a lot), and even places with high population densities and aerial imaginery available are missing some basic road, features or lack adequate precision (coarsely drawn roads, roads shifted some meters away, data imports in the desperate need of manual improvents, rivers that go uphill and off course, etc.).

So it's now time to try and gather more people, and make them join the project. I know it's going to be very hard to do so, but will try some easy approaches to it. First, the "target market" is clear, people in the roadbike and mountain bike worlds. Specially for the MTB guys, GPS devices and personal trainers including GPS receivers are commonplace now, and the amount of GPS traces that get recorded every week is very important...but most of them end up on the user's local hard drive, erased, or at most, uploaded to Wikiloc or the like, where little use can be made of them. But people need some incentive to make an extra effort and deal with the tracks to, at least, upload them raw to OSM.

So the approach to get more and better data added to OSM from people in the MTB world is clear. Introduce OSM to them and show that current GPS maps (mostly Garmin ones) are already good enough for most purposes. Make them realize that improving these maps is orders of magnitude easier that editing raw Garmin maps (.imp, .mp, mkgmap, and all others), and the hard work is automated, and your edits can show in the downloadable .img maps in one day to one week time, depending on the map origin itself.

For most people, taking the time to open an OSM account, learn how to use Potlatch or JOSM, or even uploading raw GPS traces to the server is going to be more than they are willing to do, so for those people, or at least during the learning period, I'll try to proxy newcomers' request or data uploads myself, and to the (nasty) work of "drawing" the missing tracks / paths, from the GPS logs and the available imaginery.

I think this is worth trying, even though the availability of very good quality (lets call them) "non-official versions of commercial Garmin maps" for Spain that are widespread can make difficult to enroll people on the project, as they can see the effort as worthless, provided they already have the non-official high quality maps.

Well keep you posted :-)

After two months contributing to OSM... I'm still here, for good

Posted by dardhal on 5 February 2011 in English (English)

It's been more than a month since I last made an entry to my diary. I have been contributing during all this time, but somewhat less than in December, when Christmas season gave some additional free time to use for mapping. I continue uploading changes and modifications to areas where I have both personal GPS tracks and personal field experience with, and I can always find tracks or paths that are either missing of in the need of huge precision (and accuracy) improvements. Hopefully all this effort will pay in the future, in the end, tracks and paths don't change that often (although the hideous housing bubble in Spain has destroyed some of the countryside near to towns and villages all over the place).

What I have also noted in the last few weeks is the usual problem we all have with respect to licensing, fair (and authorized) use of public data, license infringements (third party use of OSM data without even giving credit, etc.). All of us would want a full coverage and full precision OSM database for our country, but we shouldn't try to speed things up importing data into OSM for which we don't have explicit and very clear authorization. We could end up resorting to third party data imported into OSM, that would move people to map other regions, just to later (months, years) realize those data have to be removed, and be in a worse situation than before the import.

We can argue to death and complain about data created from taxpayers having outrageous or non-free licenses, that prevent importing data into OSM, or even free (as in beer) usage from citizens. We can (and we should) ask the public administrations to release most of those information as free, as they are not sensitive or related to national security. We should fight reluctant administrations and keep on trying to get the most free usage licences for that information. We must be polite but demanding, we should comply with current licensing, but at the same time fight for changes. But what we SHOULDN'T do it try to rush things, because in the end it could cause more harm than good.

By the way, although the active OSM community mapping in Spain seems not to be huge, some people are working hard, and improving mapping a lot. There are still lots of work to do, both in mapping coverage as well as in the precision and accuracy fronts, but the situation seems to be improving. Experience and know how is a plus for this project, and productivity can only improve with time. Currently we have been quite busy fixing lots of errors from Aktion 13 (http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Aktionen/Aktion_13), and it looks like little is missing at this moment. Some of the missing fixes come from places where there is no very updated (last year or later) imaginery, as said above, the housing bubble and some crazy public expending has greatly changed some areas of the country, and new real estate areas, roads and other things like that have popped all over the place, and there is no good way to map those, or at least, to be sure if the current features mapped are somewhat usable, or errors make those better be ignored that trusted on.

Mixed emotions after some days contributing to OSM

Posted by dardhal on 27 December 2010 in English (English)

I have yet to investigate the local Spain user community in depth, buth is very disappointing to see that every user around my location has never contributed anything to the project, or did some three or so years ago, and only with minimal amounts of date. I'm not the most adequate one to tell other what to to or where to spend their (scarce) free time, but the situation unfortunately seems no better than other community-based projects out there. It seems in Spain we don't have a tradition, culture, whatever, of giving back to the community. There seems to be no sense of community at all, but, anyways, it's better to lead by example than to complain about the situation and be quiet crying.

And leading by example, a recent "OSM friend", walo, needs special credit and praise. I have only had a slight view at his (or her?) work, but seems outstanding, in volume and in quality. That's the kind of attitude that makes projects big and people willing to collaborate. Big thanks to him.

On a more personal side, I have been adding some information to OSM for the last few days: "drinking_water" and "spring" all over the place (Casa de Campo and sierra de Madrid), very useful for bikers, hikers and outdoors sports in general. Casa de Campo is much improved, more tracks and paths mapped than before, better polygon resolution and accuracy, but still some work to do here (it's a big city "park", with so many paths and tracks close to each other, that maybe and for the sake of clarity, some of the least interesting ones should not be mapped at all).

I have also added a couple of well known routes in the Sierra de Madrid, Carril del Gallo and Loma del Noruego, to name a few, that were either missing of asking for big improvements. I have lots more of GPS track logs to "transfer" to OSM, but it will be a slow process, as I want to be sure that the information I upload, won't need further improvements, only third party reviews and fixes for typos, and so on. To make sure the data is of good quality, GPS logs are compared to each other, and overlaid on top of several available mapping sources (Bing Maps, IDEE WMS), and verified with local knowledge.

I think my OSM experience isn't going that bad after only a couple of weeks contributing. Hope to keep the pace, and to feed more data to the maps, and make some more people join the effort or, at least, contribute their GPS track logs to me to be able to process and upload them to OSM myself, giving due credit, of course.

PS: second diary entry wasn't that short after all, I think I should write more often to have less things to say at a time.

This OSM thing is great!!!

Posted by dardhal on 16 December 2010 in English (English)

And has gone unnoticed to me for a long time. In the past, you had to resort to highly-priced commercial GPS maps, or resort to get them via lower priced means, but now a whole new world of amateur (but quality) GPS mapping opens to me. Back then, when you saw a missing track, path or feature on the map (talking about Garmin ones), you had to try convoluted and complex processes (most of the Windows only) to incorporate your GPS data to the map. And, at most, and after a painful process, you would have your own, improved / modified map... but no one else would get it, at least, easily and in an scalable way.

There are people around, expert MTB riders and explorers, that have literally hundreds of kilometers of yet unmapped trails, (single)tracks and features waiting for some easy way to share them with the world. Wikiloc sort of fits the bill, and for GPS track sharing, is ok, but being able to community-create a map that includes all that information, is something better than great.

And as a thankful user of the mapping data, I _have_ to contribute back, so I'm in the process of adding lots of tracks, paths and features around home (Madrid, Spain) from my own tracklog archive. Once I get comfortable enough with OSM, JOSM, better practices and the like, I'm willing to initiate a "marketing campaing" trying to make people in the local MTB world aware of OSM, and encouraging them to take part in it, contribute information, and improve the current information available for Spain.

Wow, not bad for a first post, next ones will be shorter. Promise :-)

PS: yes, you can be wondering why I am writing this in english, which is neither my native language nor one I'm that good at, instead of using good'old Spanish, in the end, most people reading this diary and making use (and criticizing) my contributions will be Spanish as well, and even some of them could have problems understanding what I write. Well, most time I'm unable to make my ideas across, so no big problem. And, after all, there is Google Translate and many others.

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