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.

Comment from RobJN on 28 April 2016 at 17:29

Hi Harry. Great site and we should try to use it again.

The Q2 project is medical themed. There’s open data of hospital and GP locations but I think everyone’s taking it easy after the schools project. There seems to be a bit on defibrillators if you check out talk-gb.

p.s. It wasn’t a competition! (getting in there before I get more complaints)

Comment from Harry Wood on 29 April 2016 at 09:59

Yeah. A tool like this definitely creates an impression that is a competition, which can be a problem. I think that’s something to bear in mind when choosing when to deploy it. There was something about the school project which was almost competition-like. We had a lot of isolated school cases to look through and edit in a fairly clear way which lots of people could get involved in.

Of course there’s always lots of ways of gaming the system to score more points in a way which might not be all that helpful, and sometimes in ways which are helpful. For instance with these schools, I noticed somebody could go on a rampage just adding the isced:level tag based on the name of the school. A helpful contribution I suppose, but also an easy way to touch a lot of school objects and win the competition!

My previous uses of the tracker tool were more basic aerial imagery armchair mapping ideas. The wimbledon tennis courts project of the week and my Big Baseball Project. The baseball project had the advantage of being naturally US-focused and so we were only messing up crappy US data (and in 2011 it was mostly crappy data).

For UK projects, armchair mapping concerns are more of a problem. In fact I personally didn’t get stuck into editing lots of schools, because whenever I looked at one I ended up thinking “you know I can’t actually be sure where the outline of this school is. It really needs to be mapped by somebody who knows it”

What I’d really like is some way of making a competition out of recruiting more mappers. Maybe we could do something like “affiliate tracking links” where if somebody signs up to OpenStreetMap using a link you sent them, then you win! Of course that might encourage people to launch over-zealous spamming campaigns :-/

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