State Of The Map 2009

Posted by Harry Wood on 16 July 2009 in English (English). Last updated on 24 July 2009.

I remember feeling after the 2008 OpenStreetMap conference in Limerick, that I'd just been bombarded with more exciting ideas and met more interesting people than I could possibly hope to keep track of. This year it's the same feeling x2 + canals + houseboats + bicycles = State Of The Map 2009! Utterly awesome.

For me the conference got off to a slightly over-the-top-partying start on Thursday, as I arrived on the train and went straight to the bar, drank all evening forgetting to eat any food, spent an hour and half wandering around canals looking for my house-boat, and finally managed to accidentally fall and dunk one foot in the canal as I was boarding the house-boat. I woke the next morning feeling very rough, and headed to the Friday "pro user" day with one wet foot!

It was great to see Aaron Cope talking (vimeo, slideshare) about flickr and the story behind their selective use of OSM maps in some places like Tehran.

James Rutter talked about Surrey Heath council. I previously had the impression that they had just run a very small experiment, but it turns out they're still working on the idea of gradually introducing OpenStreetMap into the council, and even actively putting data into OSM using their superior aerial imagery, because this is a dataset they can work with unencumbered. Having worked in a glacial-paced local council IT department myself, I have an idea of what an acheivement it is, to have progressed this far. Hopefully they will continue to take the idea further, and other councils will start to follow their example. In the bar later I had chance to have a long chat with him about it.

That was before heading back to the house-boat, where Cragg had a surprisingly raucous party in full swing. He'd cunningly lured people there with the promise of booze, and paying for the taxi. More drunken chats with the guys from flickr among others. We ran out of booze, which seemed like a real shame at the time. But it was probably a good thing, if next morning's hangover was anything to go by. Matt had set off from the party to try to buy more beer, but never came back. Apparently he fell in the canal somewhere! I've heard.

Saturday the community presentations kicked off in style, with Steve's keynote (slides+audio) featuring a comedy very large ITO logo. Muki Haklay presented the findings of his in depth analysis and comparison with commercial datasets (slides+audio). I thought his grid showing number of different users editing, was an interesting idea.

After lunch there was the Big License Panel Debate which somewhat disappointingly didn't provoke much debate or controversy. Shortly afterwards however, the seemingly more innocuous idea of "crowdsourced street-level imagery" started a ruckus when someone mentioned privacy.

I really liked the little talk by the old Pakistani dude, Asif Rasul (vimeo, slides+audio) An expression of the delight of discovering what a GPS unit was and going out mapping with it. My colleague Igor Shubovych did "The State of Ukraine" (vimeo) Shortly after that it was time to hear about Mikel's adventures promoting mapping in developing countries. Always a highlight of the conference. Last year it was India. This year Palestine! (vimeo, slideshare) His photos and the stories he tells are truly amazing and inspiring.

On saturday night we managed to cram about 200 OSMers into a Chinese restaurant. After a big meal Henk Hoff led the poetry proceedings. Spectacular! We similarly swamped a big pub after that. The sophisticated continental habit of having a waiter charging a bill at the end... didn't work too well. later our crowd-sourced pub decision making process didn't work too well either. After a long walk, we just settled on somewhere random. In fact I was on a bike. We had bicycles included with our houseboat. Definitely the way to get around Amsterdam, but at this point in the evening I was a little wobbly.

On Sunday Peter Miller argued that we should allow subjective judgements in our tags. Dunno about that, but I wont get started on that topic. In Frederik Ramm's talk he highlighted the potential for small consulting firms work with OSM. Next up I watched some talks from fellow CloudMade people. Cragg presented the data market. Shaun explained API0.6 in general and rails testing in particular (slides+audio). Oleg Shaniuk presented his work on an editing app for the iPhone. Dirk Munson talked about the U.S. with typical American understatedness. Andy Allan capped off the talks with some Advanced OSM Cartography (vimeo). In addition to those, Sarah Manley did a talk on OSM in Schools, and Russ Nelson organised a workshop of bulk imports. Didn't catch either of those unfortunately, but all in all CloudMade put on a good show (or many little shows) reflecting our broad spectrum of involvement in OSM in general.

Henk Hoff finished off with some auctioning shenanigans which was pretty hilarious actually, mainly due to his sheer exuberance. That night we all went out for a meal and pub again, and Henk not surprisingly looked exhausted. He wasn't the only one. I've only just caught up lost sleep and chilled out for long enough to reflect on what an amazing conference it was.

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Location: Weesperbuurt, Centrum, Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands

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