SOTM-US Synopsis

Posted by Gregory Arenius on 19 August 2010 in English (English)

Since I would like to hear more about what goes on at some of the conferences I can't make I thought I would post some of what stuck out the most for me at this one. This is just what stuck out to me. If I miss something or am wrong about something I apologize in advance.

Nama Budhathoki gave a good presentation (over Skype!) on who the contributors to OSM are and why they do what they do. It had breakdowns of how much people contributed verse what their reasons for contributing were. It also had a bit on the backgrounds of OSMers such as age, gender, and traditional GIS experience.

Randal Hale and Leah Keith gave a talk about using OSM as a teaching tool with high school students. Her students seemed to really take to it. It was also very good because it doesn't cost the school any money if they already have computers. The FREE component was really important. They can just make accounts and get started. They used Mapzen because they found it to be the most user friendly. Even after the class project some of the students have continued to contribute useful data to the map.

Jon Nystrom gave a talk about ArcGIS being able to work directly with OSM files. Many attendees were excited about this because many people in attendance came from a GIS background and 'grew up on' ArcGIS. People like to use the tools they know. It will probably help more professionals contribute to OSM because they won't have to learn a new tool set.

David Cole gave a talk about Mapquest starting to use and examine OSM data. The next day David Nesbitt gave a talk on how Mapquest routing can work with OSM data in their testbed. Basically Mapquest is looking at using OSM data instead of proprietary data sources. They plan on contributing back to OSM in kind and with financial support. The routing data talked some about shortcomings in the OSM data set especially in the US. Some problems were missing turn restrictions, bad topology (missing connections or connections that don't actually exist), handling of roads to ferry terminals, and driveways tagged as residential roads. Oh, and addressability. One mentioned strength was good road classifications as their routing algorithm relies on that pretty heavily. They're using a mostly open stack except for their routing algorithm. They've released their stylesheets under an open licence but they're still a work in progress. They have a big tile server that is for open use that can handle pretty much anything we can throw at it; if I recall correctly something like 4000 requests a second. You can check out their work at Really awesome stuff. I'm excited by the possibility that the maps I help make could touch that many people. Wicked cool.

Lars Ahlzen gave a talk on TopOSM, an OSM based topographic map of the US. Its a really cool map optimized for looks and not speed.

Learon Dalby gave a talk about getting government data into OSM from the government side. He is part of (head of???) the Arkansas (AR!) GIS team. They've collected a lot of good data and have released it for free for anyone to use and he would really like to see it in OSM. The main problem is how to get it into OSM. There was a general consensus (don't quote me on that!) that there isn't really a set of well defined best practices or a good tool chain to make this happen and go smoothly at that large of a scale. Also, OSMers usually only work on areas that interest them and there aren't many OSMers in AR. Another problem was how to flag changes we make to the data set and send those flags back upstream. They wouldn't be able to take our edits directly but just knowing where changes needed to be made would be a huge help to them. I think it rocks that the whole open data movement has made it to the point where there are people in government who are not merely willing to make data available but that actually want us to use it and are willing to expend time and effort to make that happen.

Carl Anderson had a similar talk the next day about using government data. He suggested that using GIS conflation and road matching tools might help ease imports some even if we have to translate to a GIS format and back. OpenJump in particular was mentioned as being a good open source tool for that purpose. He also mentioned how checking the merged data with different renderers and stylesheets was helpful because they all have different strengths and weaknesses.

Ian Dees talked about using shp-2-osm to import data into OSM.

We had the OSM-US annual meeting. OSM-US is incorporated, is trying to become a certified non-profit, and has approximately $250 in its vast coffers. Voting for the new board kicked off and will be open to OSM-US members for the next two weeks. Voting will be run on a survey monkey platform by outside observers from two different open source projects. You can vote even if you haven't joined yet. You just have to join before you vote.

Thea Clay talked about building community and running mapping parties, mappy hours and mapathons. Steve mentioned that all of the successful European mapping communities have monthly mappy hour like events.

Again, this is just what stuck out the most to me and how I remember things going (I didn't take notes.) If I got something wrong, misspelled a name or missed talking about your talk I apologize.


Comment from freyfogle on 21 August 2010 at 14:51

Thanks for the summary, very interesting. At last night's OSM anniversary meetup here in the UK we were just asking ourselves what had happened at SOTM-US

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