apm-wa's diary

Recent diary entries

Washington Post story on subterranean map exhibit

Posted by apm-wa on 27 November 2017 in English (English)


Posted by apm-wa on 26 October 2017 in English (English)


Posted by apm-wa on 23 October 2017 in English (English)

A trip to the Dinosaur Plateau northeast of Koytendag in Lebap velayat allowed me to do some geotagging of the 160-million-year-old dinosaur tracks plus the Kyrk Gyz cave a couple of kilometers west of them. Take a look!

Location: Hojaýpil, Lebap Region, Turkmenistan

Marking Monuments and Statues, Tagging New Construction

Posted by apm-wa on 1 October 2017 in English (English)

The Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games are over so traffic is going back to normal.

Today we (my wife, daughter and I) visited Vatutin Cemetery to collect locations of more grave monuments commemorating prominent people. The Mapillary upload is underway so I should get that done fairly soon. A number of them have streets named after them here in Ashgabat.

I have added a number of historic names of streets in downtown Ashgabat to the OSM database so that folks who use an old historical name will potentially find the entire list of names, wherever I have been able to find them. Not done yet--there are still a few mysteries!

Also, signs are now up on the 11 new retail buildings in the former Gazha neighborhood, though not one of them is open yet. I have tagged the buildings with the names as shown on the outside of the buildings, and added a few driveways and parking lots that serve them. I shot Mapillary imagery at night, capturing all the neon.

Neon-lit shop on Mollanepes köçesi in Ashgabat

Location: 37.972, 58.354

Quality Control, Part II, and Preserving History

Posted by apm-wa on 5 September 2017 in English (English)

Thanks to Kurban Bayram, I had a four-day weekend. Thanks to the preparations for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, central Ashgabat was closed to most traffic for all intents and purposes. So I stayed home and used the nascent gazetteer project to check for typographical errors and other misspellings in the OSM database for Ashgabat. I think I have caught all major typos and other errors.

I also began research into the historical names for the streets in this city, which in some cases have changed several times. To give you an idea of what's involved, here is the entry for Magtymguly, a major thoroughfare, which is now on its fifth name:

Magtymguly (2033) şaýoly
Mervskiy prospekt, Kuropatkinskiy prospekt, prospekt Svobody, prospekt Stalina.

Magtymguly Pyragy (1724-1807) was a Turkmen spiritual leader and philosophical poet who made significant efforts to secure independence and autonomy for his people in the 18th century. He is considered the greatest Turkmen poet, though he wrote in Arabic, Persian, and Chagatai, not in Turkmen. The original name of this street was Mervskiy prospekt as the street led eastward to the city of Merv (modern Mary). It was subsequently changed to Kuropatkinskiy prospekt to honor Russian General Aleksey Kuropatkin (1848-1925), who is credited with the victory over the Teke armies at the Battle of Gökdepe and from 1890 to 1898 was governor of the Transcaspian governate, effectively viceroy of Turkestan. He was Russia’s minister of war from 1898 to 1904, and was blamed for major Russian defeats in the Russo-Japanese War. During the Soviet period the street was named prospekt Svobody (Freedom Prospect) except for a period between 1953 and 1961 when it was renamed in honor of Iosif Stalin.

Location: 37.944, 58.384

Fresh Imagery for Ashgabat Metropolitan Area, Turkmenistan

Posted by apm-wa on 1 September 2017 in English (English)

Please use this URL in the custom imagery field:{zoom}/{x}/{y}.png

Through MapGive, the Humanitarian Information Unit (HIU) of the U.S. Department of State is providing the OpenStreetMap community access to updated satellite imagery services to help assist with mapping for humanitarian and development programs.

Imagery Details This imagery is from Digital Globe’s WordView-3 satellite, and is made up imagery taken on August 8 and August 14, 2017. The imagery has been orthorectified for terrain corrected geographic precision. Additionally, the imagery has been contrast stretched using a custom stretch and processed into a Tiled Map Service (TMS) for performance.

Overpass Turbo for Quality Control and a Gazetteer

Posted by apm-wa on 30 August 2017 in English (English)

One of my ambitions is to produce a gazetteer of Ashgabat street names so that staff of my embassy (and other foreigners) know for whom or what the streets are named. That would provide insights into local culture as well as merely be interesting for those of us with well honed sense of curiosity. Overpass Turbo provides the tool for generating a list of Ashgabat street names, with the following script:

[out:csv("name:tk";false)]; area[name~"Aşgabat"]; way(area)[highway][name]; out;

I imported the generated list into Excel and applied the filter for removing duplicates (easy to do in a spreadsheet), and discovered that this is an excellent tool for identifying misspellings of street names and other anomalies! I've spent a little time cleaning up the street names in Ashgabat, as a result, and am now prepared to start work on a gazetteer.

Taxi Companies and the Ashgabat 2017 App Are Using the OSM Map of Ashgabat

Posted by apm-wa on 27 August 2017 in English (English)

It turns out two taxi companies here, TM! Taksi and Tiz Taxi, are using the OSM database for both the client apps used to summon taxicabs, and for the driver's apps. The Tiz Taxi website notes in its FAQ for potential drivers, "Приложение водителя интегрировано с Яндекс.Навигатор или Waze. Используйте для определения маршрута. Мы также добавили поддержку навигатора MAPS.ME" (The driver's app is integrated with Yandex Navigator or Waze. Use for determining the route. We also added support for the MAPS.ME navigator) The Yandex and Waze maps of Ashgabat are out of date, but the MAPS.ME app uses OSM and is thus pretty much current. Interesting that OSM is finding more uses here.

The app for the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games also uses the OSM map of Ashgabat as its base map. I downloaded the app just now. The games start on September 17.

Yesterday we cruised the northeast corner of Gypjak to collect a few more street names. Am hoping to have most of the suburbs mapped to the degree possible before the Asian Games start.

When the Hunting is Poor, Change Your Hunting Ground

Posted by apm-wa on 15 August 2017 in English (English)

Weekend before last I spent several hours roaming Abadan and Gypjak, far western suburbs of Ashgabat, collecting street names, points of interest, and adding streets that didn't appear on the map (unplugging the SD card from the Garmin navigator forces it to collect tracks where you actually are, rather than trying to align them to the nearest street). Those towns, while not yet complete, are in much better shape in OSM now.

The research continued on names of monuments in traffic circles within the Ashgabat city limits. I count 22 monuments inside traffic circles and believe we now have names for all of them. If you are curious, enter "binasy, Ashgabat" or "monument, Ashgabat" in the OSM search box (without the quotation marks) and see what pops up.

Construction in Ashgabat is winding down as the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games approach. They start September 17 and the city is preparing.

Location: Agzybirlik köçesi, Abadan, Ahal Region, Turkmenistan

Monuments and Streets

Posted by apm-wa on 5 August 2017 in English (English)

Came across a brochure today naming some previously names-not-known monuments in Ashgabat, so did a little ground truth to verify them and entered their names (no, the brochure does not bear a copyright!) Also added a kindergarten, updated some streets, added one (1) street name discovered while exploring a neighborhood to discern changed traffic patterns. There are still street names to be discovered but these days instead of collecting a dozen or two dozen on a trip, I'm lucky to find one new street name.

A friend sent this article about CalTopo: "Your Navigation Is Outdated. Here's How to Fix It."

Posted by apm-wa on 30 July 2017 in English (English)

Interesting article came to my attention thanks to a friend--a discussion of tools and a product called CalTopo that seems rather intriguing--multilayer topographical maps of backwoods areas (I am a hiker when I can get back to the States). I'm wondering who out there in the OSM realm has experience with it, and what you think of it:

The article URL is

CalTopo is here:

Collecting bus stops on foot

Posted by apm-wa on 30 July 2017 in English (English)

Motor vehicle traffic was banned in Ashgabat on Saturday, July 29, in an effort to promote use of bicycles. Since I have no bicycle, I walked up the median strip between the new extension of Mollanepes kocesi and Seydi kocesi in Ashgabat, and used Mapillary to geolocate the bus stops. It was a toasty 42 degrees Celsius (107 Fahrenheit) so I wore a hat and rehydrated on return. I also collected the names of all the buildings using Pocket Earth. No building numbers have appeared yet, however.

Location: 37.941, 58.352

Ashgabat's 4th Microdistrict (4 Etrap)

Posted by apm-wa on 28 July 2017 in English (English)

A local resident of Ashgabat's 4th Microdistrict was kind enough to take a FieldPapers printout and mark it up to indicate with which street the buildings with numbers are associated, so that we can assign routable street addresses to the buildings. Just finished the first session of adding these data to the Ashgabat map. This resident also provided corrected boundaries for the microdistrict, so I moved them.

Location: 37.923, 58.400

Mapping new developments

Posted by apm-wa on 22 July 2017 in English (English)

Today I spent about 4 hours cruising the Täze Köşi, Parahat 7, and Gaža neighborhoods of Ashgabat to collect GPS traces of new streets and to identify new schools, kindergartens, and other public buildings. As the onset of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games looms (due to begin September 17) a final big push is underway to commission new construction, so there are large numbers of changes in the city every week. In addition to GPS traces on my Garmin Nuvi, I collected imagery using Mapillary and am presently uploading it. There is also a new headquarters building for Rysgal Bank, plus two buildings flanking that building that include a shopping center and supermarket. I mapped them, too, along with the alleys and parking lot serving them.

After a short break I put in another couple of hours driving. I buzzed up to Choganly to collect house numbers in the new development that was commissioned last week, plus finished off the search for street names in Gämi, at least for now--there are a few streets with no signs at all on them, so they will have to wait. I also checked out the new apartment buildings in Anew and added the alleys behind them, now that they have been occupied. I finished with a run down Kulyyew to collect GPS traces on the newly opened frontage roads between Bitarap and Baba Annanow. All in all it was a productive Saturday. The Mapillary upload will take a while.

The mystery building in the middle of Täze Köşi now has a sign, Saglyk Öýi, which identifies it as a clinic (what in Russian is called a поликлиника or in English an outpatient clinic). One more puzzle solved!

Progress on Gazha redevelopment

Posted by apm-wa on 15 July 2017 in English (English)

The streets of the redeveloped Gazha neighborhood of Ashgabat are paved and have started to open. I drove around the periphery of the development today on one of the main roads, and had to dodge a lot of construction equipment. In a few weeks when the last of heavy construction is done, perhaps I'll be able to cover all streets in the new neighborhood and upload accurate GPS traces of all streets to tweak the preliminary mapping already in place. At the moment the images have not yet appeared on the Mapillary map but when processing of them is complete, they should appear here:

Location: 37.937, 58.363

Day trip to Dashoguz

Posted by apm-wa on 14 July 2017 in English (English)

Flew up to Dashoguz on the 6:30 a.m. flight, spent most of the day on official business, and at the end of the day, took a half hour to collect street names in an unfamiliar section of town. Used Pocket Earth as it is the easiest smartphone tool for rapid collection of house numbers, street names, and POIs. Just finished uploading the fresh data and am ready to end a long day.

Sunday drive

Posted by apm-wa on 2 July 2017 in English (English)

Ann and I explored the neighborhood around Duşanbe köçesi this afternoon as the new satellite imagery and map as drawn did not correlate. Collected some good ground-level imagery with Mapillary and good GPS traces with the Garmin navigator, and updated the map in that neighborhood. Also located (and added) the Border Service Institute and the mineral water sanitorium in Berzengi, location of both of which had been minor mysteries!

We keep adding bus stops, thanks to Mapillary, and at some point I hope somebody will help with including data on bus routes.

We finished with a visit to the Watutin (Vatutin) Cemetery, where we geolocated two significant monuments, to the composer Nury Halmamedow and the physician cum Sanskrit scholar Boris Smirnov, who translated the Mahabharata into Russian.

I am increasingly more impressed with Mapillary than with OpenStreetCam. It works with with ID, its base map is kept updated (OpenStreetCam's is woefully out of date), and it does not try to force traces to align with existing highways in OSM, leading to greater accuracy.

Mystery Monuments

Posted by apm-wa on 4 June 2017 in English (English)

Am seeking names for three monuments in Ashgabat traffic circles that do not appear to have name plaques. The traffic circles at the intersections of Atamyrat Nyyazow and Gorogly, Ataturk and 10 yyl Abadancylyk, and Galkynys and Beyik Saparmyrat Turkmenbasy are unidentified...but they must have names! I think I've identified all other monuments located in traffic circles in this city.

busy Saturday afternoon

Posted by apm-wa on 3 June 2017 in English (English)

After the usual Saturday grocery shopping (at the newly reopened supermarket in the Bagtyyarlyk shopping center, which was closed for months for unknown reasons), I collected the names of the last monuments in traffic circles along Dowletmamed Andalyb kocesi for which no names had yet been collected. All the monuments are now named in OSM! They are (the occasional descriptions below come from the local newspaper):

Andalyb and ... Hoja Ahmet Ýasawy: Šahyr binasy (Poet's Monument) // 18 meters tall, depicts a blossom inside of which are an ink well and giant quill pen, symbols of poetic inspiration ... Aga Berdiýew: Döredjilik binasy (Creativity Monument) // 20 meters tall, symbolic tongues of flame, 30 meters in diameter. ... Magtymguly: Erkanalyk binasy (Open Spaces Monument) ... Görogly: Alaw binasy (Flame Monument) // three steel columns reaching upwards in the shape of flames, representing a communal hearth, prosperity and sufficiency, evincing the Turkmen people's deep respect for "dastarhan", the tablecloth of abundance ... Galkynyş: Öşüş binasy (Development Monument) ... Atamyrat Nyýazow: Jebeslik binasy (Solidarity Monument) ... Oguzhan: Dowamat binasy (Constance Monument) // Spherical construction of six columns in the shape of the moon, symbolizing the six sons of Oguz Han. ... Ýunus Emre: Ebedilik binasy (Eternity Monument) ... 10 ýyl Abadançylyk: Zemin binasy (Earth Monument)

lazy Saturday morning

Posted by apm-wa on 3 June 2017 in English (English)

Spent part of a lazy Saturday morning checking out map notes left by other mappers in Ashgabat, editing corrections into the map based on a) their suggestions, b) my verifications from ground truth.