First update on mapping OpenStreetMap (long overdue)

Posted by BlueMM on 13 October 2008 in English (English)

Australia » Victoria » Melbourne
I signed up for OpenStreetMap about a year ago, and there were plenty of warnings that it's very addictive, but little did I know!!!
I do mapping in spits & spurts (like a lot of other people I'd imagine).

Turns out I have done a fair bit since I signed up:
Melbourne contributors
Looks like I'm the biggest contributor in greater Melbourne, scary stuff.

I've traced streets, added a lot of names and added some POI's like parks, foot/bike paths, pubs, schools etc.

Rough order of Suburbs I've done:

  • Essendon
  • Moonee Ponds
  • Aberfeldie
  • Strathmore
  • Ascot Vale
  • Flemington
  • Travancore
  • Kensington
  • West Melbourne (industrial area)
  • Strathmore Heights
  • Gowanbrae
  • Airport West
  • Keilor East
  • Avondale Heights
  • Maribyrnong
  • Maidstone
  • West Footscray
  • Footscray
  • Braybrook
  • North Sunshine
  • Sunshine
  • Keilor Park
  • Tullamarine

Since I don't have a GPS, I trace from Yahoo! imagery and fill in as many details as possible.

My usual steps:

  1. Trace streets, parks, foot/bike paths from Yahoo! imagery
    • Add as many tags as is obvious, leave alone if in doubt
      • eg. highway=residential, source=yahoo

  2. Ride along "main" roads to pick up all the side street names, scribbling on my Palm T3 Notepad application (exports to PNG)
    • Tag as name=blah, source:name=survey
    • Later on use Maplint or NoName layers to spot missing street names
      • Plan another ride that swings past all remaining streets

  3. Walk or ride down *every* street, after printing off a Mapnik layer map of the area
    • Note down:
      • All street names/references/lanes/bike lanes/speed limits
      • Schools, park, shopping centre names and shapes (to refine the rough tracing from Yahoo!
    • This takes a long time, and I've only done a little bit so far, but it does make the area almost 100% complete


  1. Either Yahoo! updates their Melbourne satellite photo's (~5 years old) and provide higher zoom levels (currently level 16) or Google provides their photo's to OSM

  2. Potlatch is my editor of choice, and it has improved a lot since I started using it
    • Zoom further in by scaling the Yahoo! tiles when hitting the highest zoom Y! provides
      • Potlatch used to do this, which made it much faster to trace, but a Flash bug that occurs when the auto-maximise feature was added means this had to be turned off :(
    • More tag "autocomplete" entries (especially source:name=survey/photo etc.)
    • When crossing a way with another (either as a T-intersection or cross), I think the snapping feature of Potlatch means the created node is not where the two ways mathematically cross, but the nearest snapped point
      • So the angles of ways change a bit, needing zooming in to fine tune
        • But snapping is very obvious at z18, which becomes dodgy when ways are close to (but not) orthogonal
      • I usually layout a grid of streets with a little overlap, then come through and join all crossing ways, crop T-intersections overhang and fine tune

  3. Get a GPS and:
    • Circumnavigate local parks etc. which are hard to see the boundry from Yahoo! imagery because of trees
    • Enter POI points like postboxes, speedhumps, changes of speedlimits
    • Take photos as I go of all the street signs, amenity names etc. which, with a GPS, can be geotagged (and upgrade name's to name:source=photo)


I've noticed that there is a fair amount of pride/possessiveness around the contribution that OSM users have made, and I'm no different.

I get annoyed when other users come through and add inappropriate tags (not what was on the ground, "for the renderer", not "best-practise" etc.), move carefully smoothed ways around/offset. I guess the "pride" of one's contribution is a double edged sword.

Good tools for letting me know when someone has editing "my areas" would be fantastic, and I've just signed up for Itoworld's osmmapper (RSS feeds of changes to specific areas). But I think it's hard to communicate what has changed, how do you convey changes in a concise/meaningful way?

  • eg. Mary St is now oneway & nodes moved; Frank Rd deleted; Railway Hotel pub added+tagged opening hours; etc.

(original crossposted at

Location: Essendon, City of Moonee Valley, Victoria, Australia

Comment from petdr on 13 October 2008 at 11:22

You've done a great job Blue.

I did notice when you first started. I went down and traced some roads with my GPS at the end of Arden St, and when I got home and went to add them to the map, I saw that you had already done them.

Also would love to know how you generated the graphic, very interesting!

It was that that inspired me to learn how to use josm with the yahoo imagery.


Comment from gaffa on 13 October 2008 at 12:05

That's some fine work, BlueMM

Pete, that grphic comes from itoworld (
That's how I keep track of the changing bits as well. Very cool.

Comment from Rhubarb on 13 October 2008 at 13:15

Nicely done there blue,
I've been a bit shy using potlatch, mainly because I haven't used it that much.
I prefer cycling with my GPS unit, and a digital camera, then using JOSM to do the rest.
I do like entering lots of detail in, recently drinking fountains, toilets, post boxes and speed humps.

And yeah, OSM is quite addictive :D
Hopefully sometime soon all the melb suburbs will be completed, and all the nice details ... then I guess we'll move out to the more regional areas and map them too!

Comment from ianaf4you on 14 October 2008 at 02:35

Nice work. I used the streets BlueMM entered along with my garmin to work out the best way home from East Keilor tennis club last Friday. There is quite a lot of work happening already in the "regions" particularly in the Latrobe valley. However you do need a GPS when working outside of the high res Yahoo coverage areas.

Comment from RRover on 14 October 2008 at 06:33

Hi BlueMM,
Well Done, keep up the good work.
I am doing the same in the Coffs Harbour region but don't have any decent Yahoo Imagery to work with.
I was under the impression that using a resource such as Yahoo was sailing a bit close to the wind as far as copywrite is concerned. I have been using my GPS as the primary tool. If it doesn't come off the GPS it doesn't go onto OSM. The only time I have gone outside that was to trace a couple of inlets from Oziexplorer to show shorelines.

I was warned it is addictive and now I am suffering from the addiction. I do fire permits for the Rural Fire Service and use this to get some of the really out of the way places logged such as private access roads.

Comment from BlueMM on 15 October 2008 at 04:19

Yahoo & OSM made an agreement that OSM could use Yahoo images to create copyright-free traces, the normal derivative clause in copyright work is waived. So using Yahoo! sat images is ok (OSM is only allowed to use it through Yahoo's API), but using something like Google is not (because, by default, everything is copyright unless granted a derivative license, and in the OSM case, needs to match their CC-by-SA or public domain license). Lots of headaches for the folks on the talk-legal mailing list.

BTW, not sure what Oziexplorer is (though I've heard of it), but I imagine it's copyrighted, therefore tainting OSM's database. I would replace the shoreline by tracing using the Landsat aerial photos & use source=landsat instead of source=yahoo (the Yahoo! background in Potlatch shows public domain Landsat at low zoom levels, which won't make it highly detailed, but it will need to be GPS surveyed eventually anyway).

The fire permit travel is gonna help a lot, I've always thought that stuff will be the last "unknown" in OSM. Imagine the day when everything in the Alpine National Park is OSM mapped!!!

Comment from RRover on 15 October 2008 at 05:40

Hi BlueMM,
Have a look at Oziexplorer here. It is a software package and I use Shonky's free maps which are available thru the . Using this setup on my laptop I can connect my Explorist 500 and have a moving map display in my vehicle and can record my tracks onto the laptop. Shonkys free maps are based on the free GA maps
Doing it this way doesn't taint the OSM project.

Comment from smsm1 on 15 October 2008 at 15:28

With changesets in the upcoming 0.6 API, there will be changesets, where users can put a comment in of what they have done.

Comment from BlueMM on 30 October 2008 at 03:54

I did some research, and I'm pretty certain it's tainted. GA maps are free as in beer but not free as in speech, they do have copyright restrictions. This has been discussed before:
Geoscience Australia Administrative Boundary data
Geoscience Australia 1:250K data
Geoscience Data
Deleting some GNB names..
and finally
[OSM-talk] OSDM data source
A few people respond "yeah, I think it's ok", but in that last listed thread, Andy Allan suggests the specific copyright license GA has for the data should be discussed on the legal-talk mailing list (it doesn't seem to have been brought up there). Then Ian Sergeant suggests the "requirement for tracking derivatives and changes to the terms and conditions of the agreement" is incompatible with OSM & it's CC-SA. Ironically, even other CC-SA data maybe incompatible with OSM (depends on what the attribution requirements are).

Shonky's copyright notice looks bad for OSM
Remember, all data is copyrighted by default (and therefore unusable for OSM), unless it's "proven" to be ok.

Hopefully all data added to OSM has source/source:name=Geoscience Australia or GA or Shonky so people can fix.
I'd recommend deleting the added data, or bringing it up on the legal-talk mailing list, so people who deal with this stuff can provide an answer.

Comment from RRover on 31 October 2008 at 00:01

Hi BlueMM,

Thanks for the info. I have aerial photos of the area that I took whilst on a helicopter joy flight. I will scale them to get the correct perspective and do a trace off them to get the inlets. This way I can remove the original trace and remove any suspicion of tainted work. It certainly a minefield for the un-initiated.
But is an addictive pastime in a healthy way, gets you out of doors and the mind and legs into gear.

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