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, Clerkenwell, London Borough of Islington, London, Greater London, England, EC1V 3RQ, United Kingdom

Comment from LollyMay on 26 August 2014 at 08:48

I can confirm that it was real, Harry, I too saw you on Sky News, while running on the treadmill at the gym, staring randomly at the big screens. Suddenly I noticed the OSM polo shirt, and thought, I’ve seen that somewhere before…

Comment from seav on 31 August 2014 at 16:31

Hey, Harry! I was really great to finally meet you in person. I really enjoyed my time in London and I hope I can visit again in the future. I didn’t realize there was cake! I guess these were all already in people’s stomachs by the time we arrived from Wikimania? :P

Comment from Harry Wood on 31 August 2014 at 21:44

@LollyMay Aha! Two people have seen it. Definitely not a dream then @seav You missed the cake! Two cakes in fact! I suppose it was a bit earlier in the evening we had those (hazy recollection) . Great to meet you!

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