Harry Wood's diary

Recent diary entries

Adding vector tiles to the components diagram

Posted by Harry Wood on 25 July 2017 in English (English)

A few weeks back I gave a talk in London which was a sneak preview of my "Diagrams Of OpenStreetMap" SoTM talk Yes! I'm heading to Japan for the conference soon! I'm the only one from the London crowd going, so this wasn't a spoiler for anyone in the audience, but this diary entry is a small spoiler. I thought I'd give some details of just one diagram from the talk. This one:


You may recognise it although I think its "Component Overview" home on the wiki is a bit hidden away these days. But anyway you wouldn't recognise the right hand side because this is newly redrawn as of last night! In fact I've done a few iterations which I am unveiling as part of the talk. The left hand side editors were given an update, but last night I was tackling the more tricky right hand side where we try to show different rendering stacks and map display approaches available and used in the wider ecosystem.


Up until last night this simply described one possible "TileMill" set-up. That technology is a bit obsoleted by Mapbox Studio these days, but more importantly it's only one of a range of new tools. So to iterate on this, redrawing a little bit, I've aimed for a more high level summary of tech concepts on the right.

A key new technology concept which is very much part of this landscape now is "vector tiles". Been around for a long time of course, but these days lots of folks are making very practical use of OSM vector tiles within commoditised rendering stacks and other tools. Time to bring it into the diagram. Hopefully I've connected things up reasonably correctly. Vector tiles can be used as a data source fed into good old raster tile rendering, but they can also be fed direct to the browser to be displayed there instead of raster tiles. That happens usually still with the use of LeafletJS via tools which I've collectively called "Vector plugins"

That's my understanding. But I'm a little unsure of the details. The level of abstract summarisation here is avoiding the details, but I would like to see a diagram which shows more specific technologies. Probably a different diagram, rather than trying to add it all on here. Something with boxes for: Mapbox studio, Mapbox GL, Tangram, Tangram Play, ThunderForest's stack, OpenMapTiles stack, and the different vector tile formats, schema formats, style sheet formats, etc, etc. A layered diagram summarising all things vector tiles. That's a difficult diagram for me to draw, because I am shaky on the details and generally finding some of the linkages unclear, but maybe that's a clue that this will be a useful diagram!

Maybe I'll create something myself in time for the conference, but maybe not. Do let me know if you know of any existing diagrammatic efforts in this area. In fact let me know if there's any diagrams you think deserve a mention, whether on similar tech topics or something completely different. I'm ruling out auto-generated "visualisations" from my definition of "diagrams", but other than that it's wide open to all sorts, and I'm hoping to give a bit of a tour of a wide variety of "diagrams of OpenStreetMap".

Mapping Grenfell Tower

Posted by Harry Wood on 12 July 2017 in English (English)

A month ago the Grenfell Tower fire happened, killing >80 people. Back in 2009 we did an OpenStreetMap mapping party near Latimer Road, and I remember mapping the area around Grenfell Tower.

wikimediaGrenfell Tower as it was in 2009 - cc by-sa, R Sones

We were quite adventurous with our mapping parties back then, often travelling to corners of zone 2/3, meaning somewhat outside of central London, where the landscape is various flavours of urban, not quite suburban. This particular area always stuck in my memory as one of the most starkly mixed wealthy and deprived, or as I put it at the time "concrete estates and super-posh georgian terraced houses strangely existing side-by-side".

Well ok so if you read exactly what I wrote at the time, I may have described them as a "horrible bunch of dodgy concrete jungle housing estates", which seems harsh and insensitive in retrospect, but I did form an impression of the area which included some sort of admiration/pride, thinking it's cool that we live in a city where rich and poor communities live side-by-side.

It was strange and tragic then to recognise the area on the evening news, and to see reporters remarking on what a mixed area it is. The fire was a huge screw up from several more pragmatic angles, but thinking philosophically, it feels like a failure of London to bridge the wealth divide.

But never mind wider society, what about OpenStreetMap?! I think it's great that my OpenStreetMap adventures have lead me to explore this kind of neighbourhood, although in truth I don't think I actually surveyed Grenfell Tower up close. I think I remember deciding to stick to the more pleasant mews to the south and didn't venture round the back to the base of Grenfell Tower. While I appear to have notched up the first version of the building in the editing history, I think it was just pre-sketching from Yahoo imagery, and viewing it from a distance.

As has long been pointed out by Muki Haklay in his academic research (e.g.), OpenStreetMap doesn't always succeed in "democratising" to the extent we'd like. After all we'd really like the people living in these estates to map them for themselves. Even so, an OpenStreetMap mapping party got me out exploring these areas of London I wouldn't otherwise have visited and wouldn't otherwise have paid any attention to.

Location: Lancaster West Estate, North Kensington, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, Greater London, England, W10, United Kingdom

Wenlock Arms January (+ Blue posts tonight!)

Posted by Harry Wood on 21 February 2017 in English (English)

We've got an OpenStreetMap London pub meet-up tonight!

We're managing them approximately monthly these days, so last month we had a pub meet-up to kick off 2017. We went to the Wenlock Arms. It's a nice little pub which almost got demolished but was saved after a campaign. Now with all the big new buildings around it reminds me of the very last scene of Batteries Not Included. But they have modernised a little. I remember their rather sparse pub website used to link to OpenStreetMap, but sadly their website was since rebuilt by some boring web designers with boring google maps.

I remember it used to be good for real_ale=yes, and that was certainly there still. Crazy strong stuff. Luckily I'd stuffed myself with fish n chips before arriving because food=no! But it does have real_fire=yes!

on the wiki

(Another photo for the real_fire=yes tag)

So with strong beers and a glowing fire we quickly got chatting about all things OpenStreetMap. I've lost my notes, but I remember meeting Scott Davies and talking about Australia and Walthamstow. And meeting two guys from Geolytix who I keep hearing about via Open Data Institute connections. They provide data on ratail outlet locations using OpenStreetMap among other sources.

Good to have some new folks along. If you fancy joining us for the next OpenStreetMap London pub meet-up... it's TONIGHT at the Blue Posts. All the details on the London wiki page. You can also sign up on if you fancy it. If you're not sure how to recognise us, the above photo will give you some idea, but it's a good idea to turn up a bit late (like 7:30 onwards) By then we should've assembled in our maptastic huddle. I've got my hi vis jacket with me to today, and I'm sporting my navy blue SOTM 2016 T-shirt in celebration of the fact that I've got my flights booked for SOTM 2017!

Location: Mildmay Park, Islington, London Borough of Islington, London, Greater London, England, N1, United Kingdom

The OpenStreetMap awards, and writing about people in pubs

Posted by Harry Wood on 22 September 2016 in English (English)

I was meaning to say (and left it a bit late) it is a great honour to be nominated for the OpenStreetMap awards.

I have realised recently, with some embarrassment, that despite trying to contribute in many different areas, my greatest contribution to OpenStreetMap has almost certainly been my diary entries about people sitting around in pubs! :-)


I think my pub diaries date back to 2008 some time. I started writing them as a way to promote our London meet-ups and also to try to inspire others to run similar events worldwide. Hopefully it succeeded in that aim to some extent. But it also developed into a sort of newsletter with a mixture of sometimes current, sometimes just random, topics in and around OpenStreetMap, mixed with some of my own half-baked opinions and opinions of others around the pub table ...if I agreed with them ;-)

It turned into quite a habit, which I felt I should keep going. I even became quite organised, by actually writing notes in the pub. I adopted a sort of stream-of-conciousness writing style. Nothing too polished. I think this helped make it a bit less effort, but even so, it added up to quite a lot of effort over the years. It's nice to have this recognition of my primary OpenStreetMap talent: writing about people in pubs!

I think that Zverik has done a great job putting together these awards. It's an idea I've pondered in the past, but never got off my ass to do. I hope they're considered successful, and become a regular annual fixture to recognise more people within our community. Hopefully it will motivate people. Hopefully it won't make people feel resentment. Probably it won't do either of those things all that much, but...

I think it feeds nicely into another positive effect. Thinking about OpenStreetMap "storytelling", things like this create a "human interest story" where previously we may have missed it. Take the "core systems" category for instance. We spend a lot of time talking about technologies like Nominatim, iD, osm-carto, OverpassAPI, etc, but if we can find a way to spend more time talking about Sarah Hoffman, Bryan Housel, Mateusz Konieczny, Roland Olbricht, Grant Slater and Tom Hughes, this not only gives them some much-deserved kudos, but it makes the story more interesting somehow. In our open community we miss out a bit on this by being so egalitarian, altruistic, and just plain over-modest all the time!

Other fantastic efforts which create a human interest story include the Belgian community's "Mapper of the month interviews", and the OpenCageData interviews. I'm a huge fan of those. Again, it's a thing I pondered about doing but never got off my ass and did it. I think we need to weave a bit of this good stuff into the somehow.

In fact thinking about doing things on (and generally not doing them) has put me in a state of analysis paralysis lately. My stream-of-conciousness diary entries dried up, and so I'm also rather embarrassed to be nominated for an award for a thing which I've stopped doing!

Of course I also have a new and exciting time sink these days, but I am allowed a few days off from nappy changing to head to State Of The Map Brussels (arriving tonight). I'm looking forward to this immensely. Maybe I'll get into some interesting conversations with belgian beer! If you like my diary entries, maybe I'll write up some of these conversations. There we go... it's motivating people already!

Long Names of OpenStreetMap

Posted by Harry Wood on 31 August 2016 in English (English)

Check out this thing which I just got working again:

>>> Long Names of OpenStreetMap <<<

So that's elements with a name tag, where the name seems to be very long. It's a full list of the longest names in the planet (>150 chars)

I just found this old code and dusted it off. I made it originally back in May 2010 when Richard Weait ran a "Project of the week" looking at long names. I called it "namecheck" at the time, but I'm renaming it "longnames".

A crazy long name is probably a data bug to be fixed. It certainly looks like a bug when we try to render it.


But... well taking that example. Here we have a few university buildings, each with a name, which list several departments. Can we class this as wrong? I think so, yes, but I'll have to make a hand-wavy non-scientific judgement: I'd say it ceases to be a name of the building and becomes more of a "description" when it gets that long.... in this case. And maybe that's a problem for a lot of them.

But in general this is not going to be a clear case of "these are all bugs. Here's how to fix them". Because of that I think I would stop short of saying this could be a MapRoulette challenge, or a new class of bugs for KeepRight or Osmose. For the moment I'm just going to put this list out there, and suggest some careful interpretation (but feel free to suggest other actions / tagging policies in the comments)

On the other hand some of these definitely are bugs with clear fixes. I saw somebody adding a load of space characters and then repeating the name again within the name tag, presumably in attempt to control label placement on a road (Yeah no we don't do that)

The other caveat, in case it wasn't clear, the username listed there is 'last editing user'. It's not necessarily the person who added the very long name, but it is a person who didn't fix it :-) That and the last edit timestamp are really just to see if there's any interesting patterns in the list.

My planet crunching script to find long names is here along with SQLite, CSV, and mangled OSM XML output files. I will re-run it again in a week, but the display also has a (slightly odd) feature to let you "rescan" an element after you've made a fix.

[Update: I mentioned "feel free to suggest other actions / tagging policies in the comments". But also this discussion on the wiki might be a good place to discuss debate what the policies should be]

Tree named pubs of London

Posted by Harry Wood on 30 May 2016 in English (English)

It's London Tree Week. I saw someone tweeting at OSMLondon asking "Can you help identify tree named pubs In London?". Why yes I believe we can! We've always specialised in pubs. We even used to have a tree named pub "The Mulberry Bush" as one of our OSMLondon regulars.

This seemed like fun, so I went ahead and did it. Here's the tree-named pubs of London on a map.


My method was maybe a bit old these days. See this bash script which fetches the London metro extract, uses osmosis to get pub nodes, then pub ways, then merge pub ways and nodes, then uses osmconvert to get centroids on the ways, then convert to CSV. Then grep to filter 'Bush', 'bush', 'Tree' and tree' (but not 'Street') [Update: I'm now also finding tree type names. See comments below], to result in treepubs.csv. After that I fiddled with the CSV to make it a javascript array, and loaded that into my leaflet marker array example, and loaded in the treepubs as markers. Job done.

I found that to be the easiest way to do it, having done similar things before (This old blog post describes similar osmosis/osmconvert steps for example) ...but there's probably many different much easier ways of pulling up a map of tree-named pubs in London (or at least getting as far as the csv output). So that's an exercise for the reader.

I'm quite sure we should be able to do a single Overpass API query to get the pubs of London (as centroids for ways).

I once saw a talk by people from Tableau (GIS software) Visualising the Great British Pub with OpenStreetMap data and Tableau which was all about mapping pub names. They could get it done that way for sure.

Pub names are always fun, but we should probably look to do something more directly related to London Tree Week. We have a lot of trees mapped in London. Maybe we should visualise this. Make a dedicated tree mapping app or something. No doubt London's tree data is still skewed towards Southwark where we've got them all imported. Tree mapping party anyone?

Mapillarising Brazil

Posted by Harry Wood on 15 May 2016 in English (English)

For years I've been meaning to try out Mapillary properly, but my phone is broken and can't connect to wifi, so no upload.

But this was another thing I got to do while on holiday in Brazil. I persuaded my wife to install mapillary on her phone, and we mapillarised while we were driving around her home city of Guarulhos. She's pretty bored of all this mapping stuff, but likes to keep me entertained while we're in Brazil, and maybe she likes the idea of mapping her home town too. So we got lots of photos around these colourful Brazilian streets.


Also while going on a trip to the seaside, but sadly I don't think I got much of a seaside view in any mapillary photos. Some are quite nice and jungly though


And on the way there my wife wasn't amused when we got massively detoured in a drive around the city of Mogi das Cruzes. It was only semi-deliberate :-)

On the site you can see what proportion of streets have coverage (green) on a map display like this. I guess Mapillary coverage is expanding, but there's a long way to go. Hopelessly incomplete... but maybe if enough people join in, we'll have street-level photos of every street in the world. It feels like exploration. Conquering the territory, or laying the first tracks to form a skeleton that others will build upon. It feels like the early days of OpenStreetMap.

I was impressed by the ease of photo data gathering with the app. It's a very passive process but the app gives satisfying flashing counter as it gets photos. It detects when you stop moving and stops taking photos. The messages makes it nice and clear what's going on.

We were driving. I'm not sure how well it works with pedestrian tracing. By fortuitous coincidence, I was gathering up freebies at SmarterTravel Live conference, a few days before heading to Brazil, and one of the freebies (courtesy of dat mobility. Thanks!) was this simple windscreen mounting sucker thing. Perfect for mapillary tracing!


I was also impressed by the ease of upload. (Given a wifi connection) it's very simple to upload this quite hefty amount of data to the mapillary servers. There's then a delay while mapillary crunches the data before you see your green line on the map. I notice there's then a further delay before the images get stitched together with the animated zoomey effect. Understandably because it's a huge amount of processing, which no doubt gets queued up along with everyone else's collections of hundreds of photos.

But what about using Mapillary for contributing to OpenStreetMap? When pondering OpenStreetMap workflows, I see a sliding scale of more or less passive data collection. Mapillary is hugely passive, which is great news when it comes to quick effortless surveying, but the flip-side of that is, you leave a lot of work to do later on when you're back at the computer. I did a bit of this last night. Looking through the places we'd been driving around Guarulhos, clicking around with the mapillary JOSM plugin. Click next photo -> next photo -> next photo, which is essentially like driving along the road all over again, but this time I'm scrutinising the photos for anything I can add to the map. Probably a lot slower than the drive itself (depending on how much stuff you see which needs adding). In other words, after all that very simple passive surveying, I've left a lot of work to do later. A hopeless amount really

Being in Brazil my photos are all super-sharp in the harsh sunshine, however I found it pretty hard to identify Brazilian highstreet shops. In the more shabby areas the shops are not clearly branded or labelled (akin to the shabby north London shops all around me), and I often looked at translating a shop sign which turned out to be a billboard/product advert. Slow going, and I probably won't get around to examining all my Brazil mapillary traces for data to add to OSM.

But being shared with everybody, a mapillary trace is a resource which has the potential to be super-useful for other OpenStreetMappers. I've already used other people's mapillary traces in London on a few occasions e.g. puzzling over particular data problems from notes or other QA tools. But mostly I've found myself wishing there was more mapillary coverage. When we get to the point where we can back-up all of our data fixing with both aerial imagery and street-level photos, Mapillary will be quite something! ...might have to borrow my wife's phone!

School Edit Tracker

Posted by Harry Wood on 28 April 2016 in English (English)

The "UK quarterly project" for the start of this year, was about schools. It was pretty popular and quite a few mappers got involved in editing and fixing up schools data in the UK. How many? Well...

I fired up my old "edit tracker" code to track School edits during the first quarter, and now it's frozen as a record. So we can see 362 people did a total of 15548 edits to UK schools data during the quarter.

And here's the rankings, showing that Robert Whittaker takes first prize with 1339 edits. The rankings also show a classic long tail curve. Not too uneven, but still with almost half of our 362 people only making a single school edit. But that's OK. Getting lots of people chipping in a little bit is a good thing.

That's why I created a new display called "New Starters". I hoped this might get people interested in the challenge of how to spread the word and get more people joining in.

Linked from there, and from the rankings, I made another new display for each user. So here's the school edits for the 'Harry Wood' user for example. We can see edits over time, so we can see my rather meagre contribution. We can also see that Robert Whitaker had a spurt of activity towards the end, while Yorvik Prestigitator seemed to take a break at the end, (and actually this allowed Robert to sneak ahead and take the top spot!)


This involved a bit of drawing of bar charts in javascript. Last time I did something like this, I generated static images using google charts API, but this time I wanted the interactive mouse-over effect which we see with so many web charting libraries these days. I just had to find a free open source one... which presented quite a big sorting the wheat from the chaff challenge. I chose c3.js, which was quite easy to get working for this. Sometimes the width of my bars goes a bit wrong. Look at the way they overlap on the this chart for example. Maybe someone can spot what I've done wrong. The source code for all this display logic is on github.

Behind the scenes, there's my "diffreader" logic. As the name suggests, it reads the diffs (OpenStreetMap minutely diffs) Some ruby, a bash script, and sticky-tape, doing all the fuddling around with diff files, sequence files, parsing XML badly (really badly Naughty Harry), and eventually writing a nice SQLite DB file full of school edits meta-data. That's all unchanged from back in the days of wimbledon edit tracking, and the Big Baseball project, but one big thing I had to add was the ability to isolate UK edits. Easier said than done because the diff XML will sometimes contain nodes, which have latitude and longitude... sometimes not. I think if you edit a school by only changing its tags, then it doesn't. So I had to make some other calls in some circumstances, hold onto some data which was read in from earlier in the file, and generally apply more sticky-tape to my code. ...Quite a lot of hassle just to decide if an edit is in the UK.

It all works pretty well though. I was hoping to point people at it a bit more (tweet about it etc) to whip up some competitive excitement in the closing few days of Q1 ...but then I was busy on a beach in Brazil :-) Actually I don't have a way to stop it automatically, so I had to remember to shut down the cron job at midnight UK time on March 31st, but as it happened I was also busy online getting an april fools blog post put together at the time!

The "UK Quarterly Project" is a thing the mappa-mercia guys have been running for quite a while now on their blog. I think Brian Prangle has been the main man behind them. There's been quite a few. I rejiggled the 'UK quarterly project' wiki page to list them all. But I think after all the excitement of editing schools, we've not announced a topic for Q2 yet (unless I missed it). I'm keen to see if it will be something I should unleash this edit tracker tool on again.

A missing zoo!

Posted by Harry Wood on 11 April 2016 in English (English)

I just got back from a holiday in Brazil. We were over there with the new baby, so we hadn't planned anything too ambitious travel wise. Just visiting the family in São Paulo. I should say in Guaruhlos, which is a smaller big city inside of, or outside of the massive city of São Paulo, depending on who you ask (It's really all part of the same sprawling concrete jungle)

So I didn't manage to organise an OpenStreetMap meet-up this time, but while changing nappies and bumming around on the internet I took at a look at the attractions of Guaruhlos according to various internet listings. There aren't many, but there is... a zoo! My wife didn't even know about it and neither did wikivoyage... neither did OpenStreetMap :-O

Of course I insisted we go there, and so now, to my surprise, I have had the opportunity to bag a missing zoo in OpenStreetMap! Naturally I also had to map out all the different animal cages. That's the standard OpenStreetMap zoo treatment which the Berlin Zoo mappers started I think. I haven't mapped the details quite down to Edinburgh Zoo levels, and some of my positioning of things under the trees may need a bit of tweaking, but... behold Zoológico Municipal Guarulhos!

Zoológico Municipal Guarulhos

The tag for the different zoo animals seems to be tourism=attraction + attraction=animal. and the name tag for the name of the animal of course. Which would be weird if you just plotted a map of where all tourism=attractions are :-) I put Portuguese names in (from the zoo signs) but also name:en tags so you can have an english map of the zoo if you want.

I also added the zoo to WikiVoyage's 'Guarulhos' page. WikiVoyage has some quite nice OpenStreetMap integration these days. You can easily set coordinates on all the listings, and they appear on a marker map. Not sure how long that wikimedia base-map takes to re-render, but... tourists don't visit Guarulhos very often. When they do, we'll be ready!

I'm back in London now without my wife and baby for two weeks. I'll miss them terribly of course but... I'M FREE! Time for some London pub meet-ups!

Location: Jardim Moreira, Picanço, Guarulhos, Microrregião de Guarulhos, RMSP, Mesorregião Metropolitana de São Paulo, São Paulo, Southeast Region, 07080111, Brazil

OpenStreetMap and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Together

Posted by Harry Wood on 30 November 2015 in English (English)

Amazing what some professional video editing can achieve. I had a fairly long waffling chat with Jonathan Cronin, and he's sliced out the good bits, overlaid some photos, etc, to turn it into this video:


In the background behind me is the Future Cities Catapult offices where I work some of the time. Some of the cutaways are to itoworld's animated edits globe videos

Of course, he's also interviewed Ivan Gayton from MSF. (Incidentally I recently posted my own video of Ivan as he described the Kunduz hospital bombing at a missing maps meet-up. Zero attempt at editing that one)

The video title "OpenStreetMap: The map that saves lives" suggests that this is all about humanitarian stuff, but if you watch the video, you'll see we're describing OpenStreetMap in general. OpenStreetMap and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Together. Jonathan asked lots good general questions and seemed to understand some of the deeper issues and motivations of OpenStreetMap, and included this in the final cut. This makes a nice change. Over the years I've seen spikes of media interest (TV appearances and everything!) always about humanitarian OpenStreetMap, never so much about the bigger idea of making a free and open map of the world.

I'm also pleased that the video clearly shows how these stories flow into each-other nicely. It even ends with Ivan, a senior aid organisation figure, talking about the business impact of OpenStreetMap! And why not? It's all the same story. It's a brilliant story which we should all share in and be proud of together. OpenStreetMap old-timers should enjoy their part in the story of how we built a community and mapping platform which was capable of responding the way we did for Haiti, almost by accident. A spontaneous thing which later gave rise to HOT. We should also celebrate the fact that we are creating the very first maps of the developing world, and we are doing it as open data, starting these people's maps off with a strong free & open footing, where otherwise the big G would probably conquer the territory first.

So this video popped up last week. And around about the same time recently, I published my talk, given at the Missing Maps meet-ups, about mapping your own neighbourhood.

Mapping Your Own Neighbourhood slide1

That's a coincidence, but very much part of the same idea of stitching together the humanitarian mapping story with the overall OpenStreetMap story. Humanitarian mappers should look back at the history of OpenStreetMap and consider themselves part of this great endeavour to create a free map of the world (and make efforts to be a part of it more, by mapping your own neighbourhood)

But the timing of these is a fortunate too, because I see various folks recently creating/highlighting divisions between OpenStreetMap and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. Discussions around the orientation of OSMGeoWeek event listings, and the use of changeset comments coming from the OSM Tasking Manager, seemed to quickly illustrate that these communities have divided far more than necessary, and we really just need to talk to each-other more. Speaking as somebody who has always had a firm foot in both places, I find it frustrating that it's not just a simple friendly collaboration. (This is before I even mention my despair at recent OSMF mailing list discussions)

But its OK because...

"Since giving this talk, everyone in the OpenStreetMap community is following my advice, and a new spirit of harmonious cooperation has settled over the project..." (echo from a 2009 blog post. Pigs might still fly). But seriously though. I know there's real issues in these discussions. Issues we should work through. But they can get blown out of proportion. I hope this video and my talk are useful illustrations that OpenStreetMap and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team are a friendly cooperative parts of the same whole. Let's not be imagining otherwise. They are all part of the same brilliant story. I, for one, will continue to enjoy telling this story, every chance I get!

Hoxton, Brixton, and lots of data entry + Holborn tonight!

Posted by Harry Wood on 4 September 2014 in English (English)

Last weekend I decided to ignore all my most pressing todo list items, chill out, and catch up on some mapping (Putting in map data based on all the photos I've collected) I've been getting behind on this, which gives me a familiar "really need to get around to doing that" feeling. That goes for everything on the todo list, but I allow mapping to jump to the top sometimes because the truth is, it's nice and relaxing. I was in the mood for some long JOSM sessions last weekend so...

In went the data from the 14th May Baker Street mapping evening. Boom!. This was an event which I have actually already managed to write a diary entry about at least, but apologies to Marco, who may have been wondering why we didn't seem to improve the map at all. Now we have (3 months later!)

In went my data from the 23rd June Hoxton Square mapping evening. Boom!. Actually other people had already got most of that data in, so I was just following up with A few additions and refinements around the square, and the block to the West of it.

This was the mapping evening featuring a radio reporter who followed us around and shoved a big microphone in our faces while we explained what we were doing.

The result of that was broadcast on an american radio station, and is also available to hear here: From Pen And Paper To 3-D, Look Who's Challenging Google Maps. As often seems to be the case with these media appearances, it got very heavily edited down. I was cut completely. It just had a few phrases spoken by Robert, recorded while we were out mapping that evening. These soundbites and the commentary portray OpenStreetMap as rather a tin-pot project for crazy nutters, but... ah well... Any publicity is good publicity.

And we went to the Reliance pub in Shoreditch. This pub is an old favourite of my officemates at the Open Data Institute. That evening the world cup was on, and Brazil were still doing well (to flop out spectacularly in their next game)


In went the data from the 23rd Jun Brixton mapping evening. Boom!. This was a really nice sunny summer evening mapping session, so I got lots of photos of shops, and keying in all this data last weekend took me a long time. Quite interesting shops though, we were exploring the indoor markets and all the other dinky little afro-carribean/jamaican shops in the area. I'm sure there's lots more shop mapping to do in the area though.


I enjoyed the sunshine. Along with photoing shops, I was trying to get some mapping action photos. I enjoyed having along Taichi who is one of the main OpenStreetMap community leaders in Japan, and Richard Pope who works for GDS and I've met at lots of hackathons (hope we can get him interested in OSM dev):

flickr flickr

And I enjoyed the burritos. Most of all I enjoyed leaving some things for somebody else to organise. Thanks Robert!

That was a lot of mapping data entry, but I still need to input some data from our recent Mayfair mapping evening. Still playing catch-up. Perhaps it's a good thing then, that our next meet-up is just a nice relaxed pub meet-up. And when is this next meet-up happening? I shall tell you...


It 20 minutes the social OpenStreetMap drinking commences at the Penderel's oak in Hoborn (details). Come join us!

Location: Stockwell, London Borough of Lambeth, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom

OpenStreetMap birthday weekend (including wikimania etc)

Posted by Harry Wood on 20 August 2014 in English (English)

Tonight we're heading out mapping again! Join us for a London mapping evening in the Bond Street/Mayfair area.

I'm not doing very well at catching up with my diary entries on all the interesting things which have been happening. Since my last diary entry more things have happened, mostly all in one weekend! The weekend before last it was the OpenStreetMap 10th birthday party of course, but for me at least, that was not all:

  • Friday - Open Addresses Symposium
  • Friday night - wikimania entertainment
  • Saturday a.m. - wikimania OpenStreetMap sessions
  • Saturday midday - appearing on sky news
  • Saturday p.m. - OpenStreetMap birthday pub!
  • Sunday a.m. - breakfast with Frederik
  • Sunday - more wikiania sessions

The Open Addresses Symposium was an event put together by the Open Data Institute who have got funding to implement an Open Addresses project (dataset / software / community). In the UK we had an opportunity to make Royal Mail's Postal Address File an open dataset (Why? Because it's infrastructure. Make it free and open, and all kinds of innovation are quietly but obviously enabled) Instead our government recently sold it off as an asset along with the rest of Royal Mail, and this publicly-owned dataset was lost forever. Stupid. PAF was the topic of an open data campaign for years. It's ended badly, but on the plus side it means we can write that off and move on. So at the Open Addresses Symposium, a couple of hundred address data experts and corporate users gathered to discuss this, and the idea of creating Open Address data. Steven Feldman has a write up here. The actual plan wasn't laid out yet (discovery phase) but it will probably involve joining together various open data sets in clever ways, combined with some "crowd-sourcing" element.

Jerry and I were there representing OpenStreetMap. Being so busy lately I was grateful to not be doing a talk. Jerry did a great job of this:

on flickr

When it comes to OpenStreetMap there's two big bits of bad news: (1) In the grand scheme of things we have data on only a tiny proportion of addresses in the UK (2) Our data has share-alike restrictions which this project would be aiming to avoid. But Jerry talked up the positives, and in particular the fact that OpenStreetMap community has a lot of experience (and open source code) in the "crowd-sourcing" side of things, on-the-ground surveying, and crazy JFDI approaches in general.

There was also a talk from the legendary Bob Barr. Always with an enjoyably passionate presentation style which gets the audience excited. I remember first seeing him give the opening talk at State Of the Map 2008, in which, coincidentally, he passionately argued for liberating address data sets!

Some good conversations with people in the pub afterwards too, but then I had to head off to...

Friday night - wikimania entertainment. I wanted to start taking in the buzz of wikimania. It is a buzzy kind of conference with a lively community, much like State Of The Map, only three or four times the size! Actually the buzz on Friday evening at the Barbican was a bit subdued. I suspect the real party was in a pub somewhere. I did however bump into some OSMers, Tim Waters, Edward Betts, and Paul the Archivist. There was a screening of the movie about Aaron Swartz which was inspiring, thought-provoking, and a bit depressing (available to watch on youtube there) Mostly it made me think "oh that's what that SOPA thing was all about". Maybe I should've paid more attention at the time.

Saturday a.m. - wikimania OpenStreetMap sesssions. Back to the wikimania venue the next day (which was looking a lot more lively) to catch the sessions about OpenStreetMap.

Andy Mabbett gave an introduction to OpenStreetMap for wikipedians. I realise I've probably now given more talks introducing OpenStreetMap, than I have seen other people's talks doing so. It was interesting to see his way of explaining the project to a semi-technical audience. Very rich with examples of different map displays from Birmingham (and from the mappa mercia site), and "guess what this map is showing" audience participation. He also touched on some ways that we can look to link wikipedia articles to OpenStreetMap elements.

on flickr

Great to meet User:Seav. He's setting up OpenStreetMap Philippines, but was over at the the wikimania conference and giving a talk about various collaborations between OpenStreetMap and Wikipedia. He went into some thorny license issues around (not) cross-sharing geo-data between the projects, which prompted some questions. I thought he did a great job answering all of these. It was one of those Q&A sessions where the audience is left in no doubt that the speaker really knows their stuff.

on flickr

After that Katie Filbert was running a HOT mapping workshop, apparently this went well but with some troubles due to poor wifi. I had to duck out just at the start of this unfortunately because I had to get to...

Appearing on sky news. This has to be one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. The day before I had a few emails and was suddenly lined up to be giving an interview about H.O.T. and our ebola response mapping. It seemed to be a live TV interview, but I wasn't 100% sure until I got there. I headed over to the sky news studio at an address by the houses of parliament, which turned out to be a very grand old building entering via a cavernous wide stair-case. I saw an office full of desks and a big news studio type thing, but nobody around apart from one bloke who let me it. He was on the phone to their other studio and merrily led me past the office and into small dark cupboard. He sat me on a chair with TV camera pointing at me, and a small TV in the corner. His instructions were to "watch the monitor, then look at the camera".

After a minute an ordinary newsreader woman appeared on the TV, except that she was picking her teeth and getting ready, which was a strange thing to see. Then suddenly, at 12:30 I suppose, she was reading the news headlines, and I was watching the very ordinary looking news as I relaxed sitting in my dark cupboard. Then she said "here with me now is Harry Wood from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team" at which point I suddenly thought "ooh that's me! look at the camera! look at the camera!". I answered some questions about OpenStreetMap, and how MSF and Red Cross are using maps. Not sure if I got the key points across very well (fairly sure I didn't in fact!). It felt like less than a minute and it was all done and dusted. Left the studio. Out into the sunshine.

I should've taken a photo of the news studio to prove I was there. Since then I haven't been able to find an archive of the news online anywhere. One person on twitter said she'd seen it, but aside from that I have no evidence that my appearance on Sky News wasn't just a weird daydream!

No time to ponder that though. I had to get back. I snapped this photo then got the tube back round to the barbican just in time to miss the end of the HOT mapping session! Worth getting back to appear in the wikimania group photo though. Also the OSMers at wikimania group photo:

on flickr

OpenStreetMap birthday pub! This was the main action of the weekend of course, although for me I was looking forward to chilling out with a beer after all the excitement. In the run up to this weekend I'd been bombarded with all sorts of the OpenStreetMappiness. I haven't even had chance to mention how I was sent to Washington for H.O.T. the weekend before. Craziness! All of which meant I hadn't had chance to do any spectacular preparation for the 10th OpenStreetMap birthday. Dan had a few ideas, and worked on putting out a press release (thanks!). When I sat down in the pub, I needed to finish writing a blog post!

on flickr

I was imagining I'd get time to do this before many other people arrived, but actually (despite me largely failing to promote the event properly) we had a lot of people coming along, and from quite early after the 3 o'clock drinking kick-off. Good show everybody! Also I was sad to have failed to organise any cake, but who needs to organise when we have a surprise distributed doacracy in action. Matt showed up with cake to make things OSMbirthdaytastic!

on flickr

Let's just take a closer look at that.

on flickr

He was attempting to bake an OpenStreetMap logo through the middle of the cake! Looks a bit squashed, but it kind of worked. Good effort! Robert also got cake-creative. He was also worried we might not have a cake and so rapidly baked a parkin style cake with the Thames river icing sugar design sprinkled based on OSM map data of course.

on flickr

The choice of venue worked pretty well in the end. The Artillery Arms pub is pretty tiny, but as I had hoped, it was mostly empty at 3 on a Saturday, so we were able to rearrange tables and essentially take over half the pub. The take-over was complete when Dan wrote a birthday message on the blackboard behind us! And our numbers were swollen in the evening as people finished at wikimania nearby and popped over to join us.

on flickr on flickr

I should've got a better photo of the whole crowd, but I reckon we probably had 25 or 30 people there.

Of course... I was very drunk at time. Luckily Frederik was staying with me, so he could carry me home.

Frederik was also treated to some glorious english summer weather as we headed back to wikimania the next day. Despite having umbrellas, we got absolutely soaked on our lower legs. So yeah Sunday I was sat watching some wikimania talks with soggy trainers, feeling hungover. It reminded me of that time when I fell in the canal at SOTM Amsterdam... but that's another story.

So yes. That was one hell of a weekend! But things are back to normal now. No cake at tonight's pub (unless someone surprises me again!) but we do have a cake diagram! Edit that page to grab a slice of cake, if you want to help nail those Mayfair building outlines once and for all (is it ever going to happen?) Or just come to the pub from 8pm. All the details on the wiki for tonight's event

Location: Saint Luke's, London Borough of Islington, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom

Many London events + Artillery Arms

Posted by Harry Wood on 22 July 2014 in English (English)

There's going to be a good old London OpenStreetMap pub meet-up TONIGHT at the Monkey Puzzle in Paddington.

When was the last time I wrote a diary entry about London event happenings? A couple of months ago! The Baker Street mapping party. And I still haven't input the data from that one! What can I say? Things have been busy. I've been busy at work. Lots of transportAPI shenanigans, including moving office to Euston. And busy at home. It turns out getting a new carpet involves moving... everything. But I've been busy with quite a bit of OpenStreetMap stuff too:

  • Pub meet-up Artillery Arms Bunhill fields
  • Introduced HOT project ideas to UCL students
  • Gave HOT talk at Start Network
  • Mapping party around Hoxton Square
  • Gave talk about UAVs & HOT's OpenAerialMap project
  • Mapping party in Brixton
  • HOT meet-up at the ODI
  • Gave a talk to people at Exprodat
  • Geomob last week

In amongst all of that I've been trying to keep up with some Communication Working Group things and trying to organise meetings to get some new people to help. Pheweeee. Lots going on. The biggest thing on the OpenStreetMap calendar recently, SOTM EU, I missed because it clashed with my wife's birthday, but... well I have not been feeling deprived of OpenStreetMap events!

The other day at geomob I was reminded of my last diary entry by the guy behind what3words... I don't think he was too annoyed with me.

Shall I try to catch up on diary entries? Well I have notes for all these things, so I feel like I should really, but it's a lot to catch up on. Let's make a start.

So way back at the Artillery Arms pub meet-up (end of May!) I've just found my notes. Dan was scribbling on them as he showed us how to find the most remote branch of Starbucks in the UK using delaunay triangulation (and OpenStreetMap data)


Intially we were having some beers while looking out onto the bunhill fields cemetery (or is it a graveyard) and wondered whether all the famous people's gravestones had been mapped. Turns out not! Maybe we should've mapped them, but this was a lazy pub meet-up.

We had an appearance from Ed Freyfogle with his baby! We also had an appearance from a radio journalist who was scoping things out for an interview/recording, which he did later at the Hoxton Square meet-up... but more on that later.


We talked about Notes. Someone suggested a routing system which brings you to your destination via some nearby notes! Quite a fun idea. I think there's more "low hanging fruit" ideas around a more basic (highly specialised and simple) notes app, for viewing/adding notes on the move. In fact that's on my list of hacks I would do if I could only get around to them.

In fact me and Matt solved a note on the way home. Solving notes is so easy you can do it while under the influence of alcohol!

Maybe we'll do a bit of that again tonight, as we head to the pub again. If you'd like to join in with such activities (and pub conversations) we'll be in the Monkey Puzzle, Paddington from 7pm. All the details on the London page

Location: Saint Luke's, London Borough of Islington, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom

Baker St Mapping evening + Artillery Arms Tonight

Posted by Harry Wood on 29 May 2014 in English (English)

We've got a London OpenStreetMap pub meet-up tonight! Join us in the Artillery Arms from 7pm. It's just a social pub meet-up. We're alternating, so last time was a "mapping evening".

A couple of weeks back we did a bit of mapping around Baker Street. When I say "we" I mean me and Marco. He turned up at the designated meeting place, which was a surprise. But then we failed to find someone else who was supposed to be joining us for a walking talking mapping demonstration. Turns out she was actually there, but somehow didn't find us. I was loitering outside a bank, wearing an OpenStreetMap Polo shirt and clutching a leaflet, but next time I need to make sure everyone has my mobile number.

But luckily Marco was there, so we were "go" for a mapping session. A couple of weeks back it felt like the height of summer, and so it was very pleasant to be wandering some quiet backstreets in the evening. I demonstrated taking lots of photos of shops and buildings, and then I took some photos of Marco taking photos of shops and buildings.


We took a snaking route which took in a few roads full of shops, and lots of higgledy piggledy buildings with funny shapes backing onto quiet cobbled backstreets.


Then we went to the pub! The metropolitan bar. It was quite a quiet meet-up. Just five or six of us. Actually there was one more new person who tried to find us at this stage, and again failed to find us for whatever reason. She was someone who works for what3words, so it was probably a good job she wasn't there, because we weren't being all that complimentary about it.

We were discussing it because it was presented at geomob the night before. what3words is yet another idea for a scheme to locate things, kind of as an alternative to the postcode. There are many such ideas to choose from, so whenever anyone comes with a new one, put on your skeptical hat. It had better be good, otherwise why not use one of the many other schemes? So the nice unique selling point of what3words is the readability and memorability of describing a location with three words. Good idea, but sadly what3words scores some pretty big fails. There's some subtle points, like maybe it should be hierarchical with similar word combinations representing nearby locations. Some not so subtle points, like it requires access to a database of word location mappings. They could have designed it to be algorithmically reproducible for compact offline use, but the word location mappings are arranged within a database instead. This makes for some advantages, e.g. city locations use easier shorter words, while longer words are used for offshore locations. But of course the main advantage is for them. The old API lock-in chestnut. And no, the database is not open data. I'm afraid that's a massive FAIL. There's no way I would ever recommend using a system like that over and above a free and open scheme (of which there are many to choose from). Sadly they go beyond this fail, and also have patented the what3words idea, so now nobody else can do it better which is a shame.

Better alternative? OpenStreetMap shortlinks is one which has been around for a while. e.g. A simple geohashing algorithm resulting in nice simple short links. It's pretty awesome, and not really celebrated enough. Matt was at the pub to join in this discussion. He was keen to stress that he designed shortlinks to solve a different problem (making map links short!) but OpenStreetMap shortlinks are an awesome way of sharing a location in lots of ways. Chief among the advantages: it requires an algorithm not a database. I often joke (half seriously) that we should push for adoption of shortlinks to replace postcodes. We got onto discussing how Ireland doesn't have postcodes (??!). Probably the main reason for this is that there are too many proposed schemes to choose from. OpenStreetMap shortlinks are the best though. I think I'm going to start sending all mail with shortlinks written under the address :-)

We talked about 3D buildings complications. How to map a thing on the 2nd floor of a building spanning over the top of a row of shops? That sort of thing. Personally my answer is to not really worry about it too much. If it's getting too complicated, just map things as nodes within a building, with a level tag. But maybe that's just me being sloppy.

We talked about searching for "Kings X"

We talked about android routing.

We talked about and we classified the pub we were in, but this immediately threw up the usual problem I have, of deciding just how wheelchair accessible a place is or isn't. But anyway we all agreed that wheelmap is awesome, and is perhaps the best example of an topic-focused data collection application using OpenStreetMap as the back-end. We need more of these!

We talked about the curious situation which is developing, as a number of "sister" organisations (H.O.T. and OSM France, and maybe OSM U.S.) are starting to move money around on a much larger scale than the core OpenStreetMap Foundation. This is weird and maybe a bit annoying for the people who are worrying about the core OpenStreetMap servers. We have a lean small organisation which raises a bit of money in donations, and makes income from running an annual conference, and then spends a bit of money on server hardware. Mostly though, in the grand scheme things, OSMF doesn't move much money around. [Edit. I originally used the word "satellite" organisation, but that has a confusing double-meaning in OSM context]

I'm not sure of the details of OpenStreetMap France, but I know they attracted some large number of euros of funding, and one result we see is spending on OpenStreetMap France servers which run various things, particularly various services set up by Christian Quest. Not sure if Christian draws any salary on that. It would be interesting to know more about their financial situation. I do know more about H.O.T.'s finances. There's a full time employee Kate Chapman, and a few others in Indonesia. So that immediately makes it seem as though H.O.T. is flush with cash, but actually the majority of HOT's income is from projects, and the majority of employees time is spent working on these projects. A lot of income is "grant" funding. I guess the OSM France money was the same. Important point about this is that it's money with lots of strings attached. Money for doing various specific projects which have gone through detailed proposal phases. This kind of thing tends to require paid employees (a mysterious concept!) That's partly because somebody has to put quite a lot of effort in to drawing up proposals, also partly because in the proposal itself you'll tend to be committing man-hours to work on a thing (difficult to make such commitments if you're just hoping to find a volunteer to do it), but perhaps mainly because sadly people simply don't give out grant money to organisations unless they can see a traditional organisational structure. With H.O.T. we also get charitable donations. People like the fact that we're a 501c registered charity, for tax reasons, but again charity law forces us towards a very traditional organisation structure.

In recent times I've become aware of more opportunities for grant money here in the U.K. both for UK-based humanitarian projects and also tech funding of UK-based open data projects. In both cases I'm hobbled in my ability to chase down the opportunities, because I don't have much time to spend on speccing out a project proposal, and when it comes to proposing who will be doing the work, I definitely do not have the time to be putting myself forward for it. With this in mind, it feels like we need a HOT UK, and an OSM UK organisation. I think it would be good to do. If I was at a loose end, I'd totally do it.

But of course we'd be moving into a situation where, yes lots of money is moving, but mostly with strings attached. OSMUK for example, would be another sister organisation not really helping with core OpenStreetMap funding. But maybe it could help after growing a bit. In fact I will stick my neck out and make a controversial suggestion here. I think we need to keep an eye on sister organisations, and their finances, and eventually move to a situation where (if it seems reasonable/sustainable) they would contribute a bit towards the core OSMF. I believe wikimedia chapters are organised this way. Most local chapters have fund-raising as key activity, and some proportion funds go towards the global foundation. I think a "reasonable/sustainable" test would be quite tricky. For example I know H.O.T. has good quarters and bad quarters with the eb and flow of project money, but we're unlikely to be swimming in "spare" cash any time soon. Maybe the bigger problem is, on whose authority we are demanding this funding arrangement? I suspect OpenStreetMap France would kick up an almighty "zut alors!" at the very suggestion of it. After all I have been told in no uncertain terms that OpenStreetMap France does not consider themselves a local chapter of the foundation. Bit of a tricky discussion to be had there methinks :-/

Matt and I were chatting about these things, but no solution was forthcoming. More beers needed perhaps!

In fact having written all that, it seems to be beer o'clock RIGHT NOW.

In London? Come join us at the Artillery Arms

Location: Marylebone, Westminster, London, Greater London, England, United Kingdom

Mapping Baker St TONIGHT, and other summer events

Posted by Harry Wood on 14 May 2014 in English (English)

My #geomob hangover has barely cleared up, and already it's time for a London Mapping evening. Should be a lovely sunny evening too!

We're not really settling into a routine yet this summer, which is not necessarily a bad thing. My first summer mapping session was organised by somebody else (which makes a very pleasant change!) I already described the Olympic park mapping session in my last post. Check out my fast-farward JOSM video if you didn't already. The last event was a humanitarian thing. I won't go into details because you can read my HOT blog post all about it. Suffice to say it was definately a bit different, and pretty awesome. I also did an ODI blog post which talks about Open Data in Africa in general. Thanks to the ODI for... PIZZA!

It's become apparent that a big bunch of OSMLondon people are booking places to be at SOTM-EU in Karlsruhe. So that's going to be an awesome event. Sadly I won't make it myself.

But speaking of big conferences, Wikimania is coming to London this year. I'm quite excited about that, but it's making the August schedule look a bit hectic. The OpenStreetMap birthday party is listed as "fringe" event of the conference. And I'm currently pencilling in the week before that for my birthday BBQ in my back garden.

wikimania SOTM EU


But TONIGHT is a relatively normal OpenStreetMap Mapping evening, by which I mean it's one of the alternating pub meet-ups / mapping evenings. I've done the thing of suggesting a mapping demonstration for anyone who is interested. This will go ahead, since I have one person expressing an interest. That's all it takes! But obviously having a few more people walk around with us would be good. So if you're in London and wanting to learn about OpenStreetMap, or know somebody who fits that description...

Get on board with tonight's mapping action!

HOT congo event tomorrow + Olympic Park Mapping + Blue posts

Posted by Harry Wood on 2 May 2014 in English (English)

Tomorrow we've got a big thing happening in London. The London HOT congo mapathon is attracting a lot of sign-ups.

HOT logo

I've been meaning to organise a H.O.T. event in London for a while now. I had in mind something to bring together the increasing number of people who are interested in HOT, because I feel like there's lots of potential and opportunities here in the UK. Often they are opportunities which are being missed, and I feel like it's my fault. But really I need some help with these things. H.O.T. could forge better, more permanent relationships with London-based organisations such as MSF and the Red Cross, and nearby-london-based MapAction. We could go after UK funding for development projects, applying for grants, or proposing projects. Some of these opportunities involve quite interesting sums of money! But it will involve some organisation. Maybe forming an organisation. "HOT UK branch" or something. Is everyone looking at me to make this kind of thing happen? eek! I hope not. I'm not sure I'm very good at that sort of thing...

But I can organise a meet-up! However this meet-up is also due to some prodding from MSF, who wanted to run a "mapathon" style event (get lots of people involved in an armchair mapping activity) in order to round off a particular mapping project. To me it's quite exciting that an aid organisation would prompt me to run an event, in order to supply them with better maps. So that's why the event is described the way it is, and it's worked! We have lots of people signed up. I'm guessing a lot of them are not experienced OpenStreetMappers, so this is going to be a great chance to teach newbies how to edit, and get them hooked. You know... that thing we're basically trying to do at every OSMLondon event. And normally failing because we don't attract any newbies. I suspect at this event I may have a problem of too many newbies, not enough people teaching the editing process. OSMers wanted!

Not persuaded yet? Here are some additional selling points. Secret. Only for you diary readers:

  • There will be pizza! Just got the ODI to pay for them today. Thanks!
  • There will be a QuadCopter flying around! Don't tell the ODI people about this :-)
  • There will be BBC click journalists! or so I'm told at least. Not sure if they'll be filming.

I guess it's possible the event, or perhaps the post-event pub, will serve as a convening of folks who might be interested in building "HOT UK branch", but I'm not sure. Maybe I'll have to organise another more sedate event for that.

Back from the future... what about the past?

Green man & Fitzrovia mapping party ...was an OSMLondon even that took place without me. Thanks to Matt for keeping things rolling while I was away getting married. In fact he kicked off the London Summer events series with a little mapping. At least I assume he did. Photos or it didn't happen!

Olympic park mapping

Thanks to Ollie for organising this one, just in time for my return from honeymoon. It was fun, and very different from our usual central London events. We went to see the re-opened Olympic park (and to investigate exactly how much of the park was re-opened) For me it started off with a bit of a trudge some very big modern (soulless?) housing developments, but later on I had a look at the velodrome and I think I was the first OSMer to walk around these wastewater treatment bog-lands. Such an honour.

on flickr

Anyway I recorded my JOSM editing session, and made a fastwardy-JOSM-editing with-photos-video, so you can follow along my walk.

video iconWatch the video - Mapping the Olympic Park

...culminating in pub photos of course! (More pub photos here) Sitting by the canal drinking some interesting beers. Very enjoyable. And we talked about...

  • Mapnik 2.2. supporting composites, allowing you to do photoshop-style raster filtering on layers of your output. Is that what enabled this sketchy effect? I'm not sure.
  • Kuona micro-tasking tool , and the hidden back-end admin feature to see a matrix of counts of positive/negative responses.
  • Hackathon mentality - Came up in conversation again, because this time we had with us one of the organisers of the original RewiredState hackathons. Why do hackathon hacks so often use google maps, and why are developers not ashamed of themselves?
  • Pie charts with leaflet. I didn't talk about that, but I wrote it down for some reason.

Blue posts pub

On Monday this week we had an little pub meet-up at the blue posts. As it turned out to be a tube strike day, as well as a Monday, it was incredibly quiet in the pub. Rather pleasant actually!

We had a right good rant about the state of the OpenStreetMap Foundation. We were talking about server financing, and complaining that finances are mysterious and opaque. I think we could do with more organisers in the organisation. Then we were talking about working groups, and there are many more ideas for working groups than there are people willing to be in them, a conversation leading up to Matt's insightful comment: "For work to get done, somebody has to do it".

So mostly old boy ranting, but we had along a new guy who hasn't done much editing yet. He asked whether to use JOSM or iD. As you can imagine that set us off on another big conversation. Andy Allan said he likes iD compared to the old Potlatch, and compared to JOSM because they've stripped out keyboard shortcuts and made everything easy to do with just the click of a mouse using one hand. As he put it "You can drive it like a gangster".

We had Ollie there, so... ollie-topics:

  • de-brief from the Olympic Park mapping. He's keeping a keen eye on it still because they're opening new entrances over time.
  • de-brief from running the marathon... oh and is there an OpenStreetMap showing the London marathon route anywhere? (some people have started putting the route into OpenStreetMap. Not a good idea really. It belongs as an overlay... but who's done the overlay?)
  • boris bike map - Ollie was readying himself for reporting on the tube-strike effect.

We also had an interesting conversation about checklists. Check lists are well known tools used by pilots as they run through their pre-flight tests, and by surgeons as they check they didn't leave tools inside the body before sewing it up. How can we use checklists for Imports? and also for HOT Activations? ...I'll leave you with that discussion point.

on flickr

Oh and I'll leave you with a final plug for the big event tomorrow, and for ...quite a lot of other events over the summer actually! See them all listed in the usual place

Thailand Mapping + London Mapping TONIGHT

Posted by Harry Wood on 3 April 2014 in English (English)

Away on my honeymoon in Thailand, am I doing any mapping? Not much no! Firstly because my wife wouldn't consider it a very honeymoony thing to do, but secondly everywhere we've been to has been pretty well mapped! The resort I stayed in Krabi is mapped despite being under a cloud in bing imagery.

Now we're up in the north of Thailand in the historical city of Chaing Mai. Amazingly well mapped! All the temples and every other POI I could ever need within this distinctive square old town area, mapped in great detail.

Of course Chiang Mai is also a popular holiday hotspot, so this probably doesn't mean the whole of Thailand is well mapped. I remember Matt commenting on this thing when he went on holiday to Mexico a five years ago. OpenStreetMap develops its coverage on an "interest first" basis. Interesting places get mapped, and this means holiday hotspots get mapped a lot quicker and more thoroughly, sometimes while massive cities nearby remain unmapped. Places which aren't mapped are maybe rather uninteresting (and if you live in an unmapped place, and find this insulting... time to make it mapped place!)

Looks like the mappers in Chiang Mai are other holiday-makers rather than locals, judging by the not-very-Thai-sounding user names in this top mappers display.


(ITO OSM Mapper view ranking top mappers in Chiang Mai based on last touched objects)

Whoever it was, they've done a great job. I'm using the MapsWithMe app to view all of this without roaming charges. I can watch where the tuk tuk is driving in great detail.

I was also watching where speedboats were taking us on snorkelling trips to various islands in Krabi. This seemed to reveal a few missing islands actually. On investigation I see a bunch of islands which have ended up without a natural=coastline way. Instead they have natural=wood turning them green on the map. e.g. look at this bunch. I added a missing little one here. Harry's island. I've put the coastline tag on it so that one will show up on MapsWithMe. So seems like there's some tag fiddling fix-up reconciliation needed on lots of islands. I reconciled things on Ko Ma Phai ("Bamboo Island") by removing the wood tag, since the whole island is not covered in wood. For starters it has a BIG beach with coral on it.

bamboo island beach on flickr

mmmmm beach.

It's pretty tough having to survey these things. While I work my ass off on these troubling issues, my mapping friends back in London are busy...

Kicking off the London mapping season TONIGHT! Matt's organising a walking talking mapping tour. Great for new people who want to learn more about how OpenStreetMap works, so if that appeals to you, or if you know anyone, please let them know.

There's also an Olympics Park Mapping party (Yes! Two scheduled mapping parties!) happening next Wednesday evening.

All the details:

The Mucky Pup

Posted by Harry Wood on 4 March 2014 in English (English)

We've got a London pub meet-up TONIGHT at the Penderel's Oak.

Our last London meet-up was an interesting one. Matt suggested meeting at a pub in Angel. Not an area we've been to in a while because it's in the Blumpsy mapping zone of awesomeness. But it's also nicely near my journey home, so I wasn't going to complain.

The Mucky Pup pub is in a residential area I've never explored before, so although it's quite close to my office, I decided I needed a route map printout. And for that there's this awesome new site by Richard Fairhurst. Awesome particularly because after planning a route on the site you can download a PDF, and not just any PDF. A vector PDF! This is exciting. Ever since I started OpenStreetMap I've had a feeling that there's massive untapped potential for using it to create high quality map printouts. There's various tools (see 'OSM on Paper'). is a nice addition to those.

It's designed only for printing cycle routes, not for general purpose printing, but on this occasion a cycle route is what I needed! Before I sent to print I fiddled around for rather too long to scale up the map to A4 size (I thought I could do this in the printer settings, but eventually found it was surprisingly easy to 'crop' using 'preview' on a mac). The result... awesome printout!


but... and I knew this would happen... Andy, Matt, and others also had great fun scrutinising the printout to find all the Mapnik glitches and make various other cartographic criticisms.


With a vector PDF the glitches are laid bare a little more than web maps we're used to (Some would normally be lost in sub-pixel fluff) especially as I had scaled it up to fill the whole A4 sheet. Certainly printout made for some fun pub conversations.

We talked a bit about vector manipulation in inkscape, and how Mapnik generated text is a bit of a pain.

We talked about border disputes. These crop up sometimes in OSM, but we were actually talking about real world disputes, and how technically even the UK has disputed borders. Technically we shouldn't qualify to be part of the EU, because there's a lock gate somewhere in Ireland where it wasn't decided who owns it. I'm glad I live in a time and place where such things are just a curiosity.

We talked a lot about promoting OpenStreetMap to developers, starting from the thing which winds me up a bit, that if you go to a hackathon in London (There's one every day of the week if you look out for them) or any other event where fresh young talented developers go along to strut their stuff... It's still not regarded as uncool to use google maps. We need to get to that point, because really it is uncool from a philosophical point of view. I want developers to feel ashamed of themselves to be presenting a hack on google maps, in the same way that it's shamefully uncool to be doing anything using internet explorer (or windows for that matter)

Things are moving in that direction, but we have a way to go to make things easy enough for rapid hit & run hackathon developers. We talked about where the "hackathon problem" sits on a developer long tail curve. There's a very large number of people who've figured out how to build websites with map on a "contact" page for a business site. Trivial to swap in OpenStreetMap, but that needs to be dead easy, and even then they're unlikely to bother. At the other end of the scale we could try to make things easier for developers who want to install their own tile server, shunt OSM data around with diff-syncing, and do custom cartography. It's a tiny minority of developers who will ever get that advanced. "hackathon" developers are somewhere in between. Things need to be dead easy for them, because even though they're smart enough to throw a bit of data around, they have frustratingly short attention span when it comes to learning something which isn't google maps. They're somewhere half way up the long-tail curve, but it's worth trying win developers over at every point on this curve because elite power-developers are "thought leaders" who will show the way for others, right down to the people who make the little "contact" pages all over the web.

That was the last London pub meet-up. More photos here. Since then I've been up to a few other OpenStreetMappy things.

At the weekend I actually put on my OpenStreetMap Polo shirt and went to our favourite pub, the Monkey Puzzle, without any of the usual OSMLondon guys. Felt very strange. I did this to meet with Mike Newton who is going to be helping us make a tutorial video series, including some edited documentary-style footage. Interviews with people and locations of significance (such as the monkey puzzle!) for OpenStreetMap. I think it could be awesome, but we'll see how it goes. Also we made some plans to put a general call out for some video clips to include in this, preferably from OSM enthusiasts around the world. So an opportunity for everyone to help with this. More details on that coming soon.

We've just had the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team board elections. HOT members have re-elected me onto the board for another year. I don't feel like celebrating just yet. It's difficult to express what a hard week of politics and sleepless nights I've just had. Clearly I'm not cut out for politics! ...Maybe I just need a beer.

TONIGHT there will be beers. This is a little pub event we've sneaked in before the big hack weekend this coming weekend (including pub this Friday). That's going to be massive. Tonight's pub is looking like it might be a fairly small gathering. I'll be calling in late after my Portuguese class, and I won't be hanging around too long. I have a wedding to plan. In fact I will probably need to be skipping a few of these upcoming events (gasp!). I've scheduled the next few events on the page there and it'll be up to some other people to organise it.

Location: Mildmay Park, Islington, London Borough of Islington, London, Greater London, England, N1, United Kingdom

Floodhack, OKFN maker night, Ye Olde Mitre

Posted by Harry Wood on 20 February 2014 in English (English)

There's a London OpenStreetMap pub meet-up TONIGHT!

I've changed that wiki page around a little bit. Before we had a separate events list for winter/summer event series of pubs/mapping marathons. This works OK for resulting in an archive table, and I've kept that page arrangement, but I've now "transcluded" the details onto the main London page. Saves me maintaing two different event lists, and now it's all always at , which seems like a good fixed location which new folks are more likely stumble upon. Feel free to edit, especially if you want to organise an event!

I've always tried to list various events which are not organised by OSMers and not focussed entirely on OpenStreetMap, but quite strongly related (geo or open data themes). Often OpenStreetMap can benefit from being represented at these events, or to look at it another way, we can piggy-back on these events and use them as hosting for our OpenStreetMap activities. Lately there's been lots of them.

There was a big "Floodhack" event happening last weekend. Lots of hackers coming together to help(?) with UK floods. I was asked by two different people to come along, and to help present H.O.T. style disaster response ideas there. I couldn't make it. I have too much wedding nonsense going on. So instead I wrote out some ideas on a UK Floods wiki page the night before. I tried to think of some specific hack ideas, but only a couple of things came to me, and not really anything helping with UK floods. In fact I sort of agree with Tom Morris that the problems are political and the hack event was some kind of dubious stunt, however hacking which informs political debate (points the finger) may be possible, or just hacks to help everyone understand floods. Here's an OpenStreetMap-based flood heatmap [UPDATE: SK53 points to another nice example. The copernicus emergency management service maps of the foods use OSM data]. As usual for every cool OpenStreetMap hack there's a handful of uncool google maps hacks. The slow death of the Google maps API is a little too slow for my liking. I would say another positive from the event is this: The environment agency, who released some data for the Floodhack event, has come under fire for not releasing enough data openly enough. There's a good write up of the ins and outs of that by Owen Boswarva

Earlier I gave a talk at a private conference event at Arup. That went well, and I got to reuse my slides shortly afterwards as I was asked to run, or help run, one of the Open Knowledge Foundation Open Data Maker nights. This landed on tube strike day, and wasn't massively well attended, but then again, ten or so people is a good sized group, making for more one-on-one idea sharing. I talked them through my OpenStreetMap developer ecosystem slides (newly updated). As open data wranglers they were keen see simple tools for building a map using CSV datasources. This is something google really caters well for with google fusion tables. They were impressed by the simplicity of UMap, but there were a few other tools and tricks I wasn't aware of. OKFN timemapper is powered by google spreadsheets containing timeline data. And this schoolofdata article shows how to use an ImportXML function in a google spreadsheet, to do nominatim geocoding. Cunning! So I learnt a few things myself. I was asked to do a repeat session again some time. Even when it's not an OpenStreetMap theme, Open Data Maker nights are a thing we could piggy-back on to do OSM hacking. In the meantime though, the "Open Data Day" event is an all-day hackathon at the same venue this coming Saturday. Can't make it myself. Too much wedding nonsense going on, but it seemed quite fun last year, and again we can piggy-back on the event and use it to our own advantage ...if people fancy going along.

But people just want to go to the pub right? :-) Last time we had a pub meet-up was at Ye Olde Mitre. Nice old pub which Matt suggested. Very small, and at first it looked like it would be hopelessly crowded. Lots of people standing outside, and the upstairs was booked for an function. But inside downstairs we got a table fairly easily. Maybe by fluke.

Grant took a "photo sphere" of the scene in the pub. Is that online somewhere? Well for now you'll have to make do with this photo of grant making the photo sphere.


We were talking about Grant's mission to go meet the guy who made the 20millionth edit. It made for a great little blog post I thought. Pretty cool that changeset number 20 million turned out to be a genuine new contributor doing something interesting in London, and not some bot spewing changesets.

We also had a fairly long conversation about fairly long street names, and their abbreviated forms. When it comes to abbreviations, as mappers we don't do it, but the reason for that, is that as data users we can do it. And perhaps OSM cartography should do a bit more abbreviating a bit more often. Old paper street atlases will tend to do a lot of abbreviations. See here for example. This cartography was originally designed for paper not the web. With web cartography I think people expect a bit more spacing, and will instinctively zoom in if they can't see the name of the street they're wanting, so we get away with being less clever about it, but on a few occasions when working on printable maps I've noticed that Mapnik renderings will drop an awful lot of street names which could (and for a printout, should) have been included. Font size is another variable which amounts to the same thing. Bigger fonts written on wider roads is better for printing, but means using less space for more information so we need abbreviations.

We talked about various other things. There was mention of a map called the "Uncles Guide To London", a map showing where to take your nieces/nephews on an exciting day out in London. So sort of like a tourist map, but with an interesting niche focus. Looks like interesting cartography there too. Naturally the question is, can we generate an uncles map from OpenStreetMap?

If you have a pro-active do-ocratic answer this question and others like it, then make plans to be at the London OpenStreetMap hack weekend in a couple of weeks (8th/9th March), where such ideas will be do-acratically pro-actively done. But for now perhaps you'd like to just chat about such crazy ideas over a beer or two. That's what the pub is all about!

Come along TONIGHT to the Mucky Pup near Angel from 7pm. All the details on the wiki

Location: Holborn, St Giles, London Borough of Camden, London, Greater London, England, WC1B, United Kingdom


Posted by Harry Wood on 22 January 2014 in English (English)

January is supposed to be the season where we recover from new years hangovers and calmly settle down to the depressing drudgery of the year ahead. Not so with OpenStreetMap!

Derick kicked things off with another stunning video - Year of Edits 2013 I need to post this to actually. All that editing activity is a thing of beauty, although... it also makes it look like a big globe we're trying to map!

Following on from that we had a storm of press coverage when emacsen wrote a blog post Why The World Needs OpenStreetMap.

I've tried and failed to fathom what piques the interest of the press. It's quite mysterious, but in this case clearly the blog post has a punchy headline. Rather over the top. The sort of headline which online press like to use to gain click traffic these days. But it would be unfair to suggest that was all there is to it. emacsen has followed up with a good explanation of the commercial battle for location dominance, and OpenStreetMap's role as the antidote to that. A good read.

And lots of other people thought so too. It hit the top of reddit and hackernews, got picked up by various U.S. press, and then by the guardian. I wonder whether re-posting of CC licensed article texts is something the press are starting to do more of. Anyway we saw a massive increase of U.S. and U.K. sign ups as a result of all of that. We even overtook Germany for a time (back to normal now). The U.K. ones came mostly after the Guardian re-posted. In the #osm-gb IRC channel we have a chat bot which tells us when a new user starts editing, and this went ballistic on the day of the guardian coverage. Awesome!

I did a presentation on Typhoon crisis mapping with OpenStreetMap. slides, transcript and audio record on my blog. If you're bored of seeing my "intro to OSM" slides, I've posted the most interesting slides to the HOT blog: Some editing stats from the Typhoon Haiyan response . Anyway, that kept me occupied for a while beforehand, and I continue to be swamped by opportunities to follow-up with people. There's a fair amount of interest in humanitarian mapping here in London, and some good support from London-based humanitarian organisations. Enough interest to do a dedicated H.O.T. event of some kind probably.

On Friday the ODI has organised for me to be giving a talk about OpenStreetMap to some GIS people at a private conference. Better start work on some slides for that.

If you saw the talk my colleague did at geomob about TransportAPI, you'll have seen that we're getting pretty busy with more and more API users and customers. For a small start-up this means a lot of work. I'm also deep into the organising of my wedding. Oh and I'm looking at getting a mortgage to buy my house. ARRGH!

So if it looks like I have been neglecting something, I probably have...

Including but not limited to OSMLondon meet-ups!

OSMLondon on the wiki

I think Matt was getting impatient. He organised a spontaneous on-the-day-announced mini pub meet-up a few weeks ago, and he suggested a pub to go to this time around.

Join us TONIGHT! At the Ye Olde Mitre. It's a dinky little pub hidden down an alleyway. All the details on the wiki!

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