apm-wa has commented on the following diary entries

Post When Comment
500K Mapillary Images 13 days ago

No, had not heard of it, thanks! Will take a look.

Three-Day Road Trip = 8 New Gas Stations, 1 Deleted Gas Station, and 2 Numbered Stations 20 days ago

It’s an ad hoc “team”. My security officer insists that I travel with a security detail and chauffeurs, and another embassy officer has to come along as my “control officer”. With that many people riding along, there are lots of eyes to identify POIs, find street signs, city/town/village names, and so on. I punch the data into MAPS.ME while they point out things I miss. It’s a team effort. So no, there is not a permanent “team” for OSM, but the mapping is often a “team effort”. :-)

Three Days on the Road = About 30K Images about 1 month ago

Thanks for the kind words. This is a target-rich environment–so much data that needs to be collected, and as long as I’m making a trip as part of the job, I may as well collect information useful not only to me but to other mappers.

Highway Atlas of Turkmenistan 2 months ago

@alexkemp, thanks very much for the tips! I’ll give the SVG-> PDF option a try. My intended end product is a wall map roughly a meter high.

@Warin61, yes, no joke!

400,000 Mapillary Images 3 months ago

@eneerhut, you will have a head start as I am presently on vacation in the United States and won’t be back in Turkmenistan until late January. Good luck!

Creating a National Highway Wall Map for Turkmenistan 3 months ago

@althio Thanks for catching that.

@SunCobalt Thanks for the tip. I have tried figuring out overpass turbo and osmosis (but not osmfilter, will have to take a look); however, the time required to master them is more than I can spare given the demands of my day job. When I retire I’ll have more time to devote to acquiring new tools :-)

400,000 Mapillary Images 3 months ago

@kucai, I use a 16Gb RAM Samsung Galaxy smartphone with large (minimum 32Gb) SD card to store the images. The main reliability issue is that it has a tendency to log out of Mapillary periodically for no apparent reason, and if I am in an internet dead zone (there are many in Turkmenistan) it refuses to collect images until I can log back in. In summer I have to position the phone close to the windshield defroster vent on the dashboard and crank up the air conditioning so it blows directly on the camera, or it will overheat (direct sunlight+camera+charging battery+GPS generates lots of heat). When it overheats, it simply shuts down.

I have another Samsung with less RAM (8 Gb) and have found when it has collected a few thousand images, it takes forever to boot Mapillary up and sometimes simply locks up. 16Gb seems to work much better.

Main tip is to plug it into the cigarette lighter to keep it charged, and monitor the battery. I also carry a backup smartphone for when this one fails for some reason.

First Editing Attempt 3 months ago

Good for you!

Insomnia, and Cleaning Up Gas Stations 5 months ago

Many thanks! It counts 152 gas stations. I think we had about a dozen when we started mapping in 2015. Nice to know we’ve made some progress! :-)

New York Times Op-Ed, "Where the Streets Have No Names, the People Have No Vote" 5 months ago

Or to be able to deliver the tax bills more efficiently.

Another Day Trip, to Sarahs, and the smoothness tag 6 months ago


Thanks, I looked at that, too. As I see it, there are two problems with using tracktype on this road.

First, it is not a track. This wretched road is part of the national highway network, believe it or not, and thus is supposedly a trunk road (highway=trunk) and not a track.

Second, with regard to the tracktype tag, none of the values fits this road. The tracktype grades go from paved (grade1) to unpaved variants. This road was paved once upon a time and still has asphalt on from 20- to 80-percent of its surface, but is so rough that using tracktype=grade1 would be horribly misleading. I don’t want to be responsible for misleading somebody into a broken axle!

The smoothness tag isn’t perfect but the criteria in the wiki were something I could work with–“very bad” seemed the closest, and I added a maxspeed:practical=36 tag since that was the average speed we enjoyed over that stretch of road.

Southern Balkan Province 6 months ago

@Verdy_p, To help you understand what my job entails, what U.S. goals are here, and what difficulties are involved in doing anything with civil society in Turkmenistan, I suggest you read my embassy’s Integrated Country Strategy, which you can find at It is a public document, and I am sure you will find it interesting.

As for having my “project…budget cancelled” there is no need to worry about that. My mapping is purely voluntary and data collection in the course of official travel incurs no additional cost to the U.S. Government. There is no budget to cancel.

Regarding NGOs, my embassy is the only embassy in this country issuing grants to independent NGOs. Promotion of civil society is a major focus of my embassy. Of course I interact with government officials here; I also interact with private citizens and groups. Your fears are unfounded and may be put to rest. Please read the Integrated Country Strategy.

As far as your complaint that I have not shared my prior publication history on the wiki, I am unaware of any such requirement. I have no intention of spending the time necessary to compile such a list, or even an abstract, not least because virtually nobody in the OSM community would find any of it interesting and most would find it dreadfully boring.

Southern Balkan Province 6 months ago

@Verdy_p wrote above, “We know also that he also does not fairly understand the effective administrative structure of that country, and is unable to organize his own collected ideas into something really understandable.”

Now, that is in insult. Telling a professional political scientist whose job includes understanding the political structures of the countries to which he is assigned, who has spent over three decades in diplomacy, has risen to an ambassadorship, who holds an honors baccalaureate in political science, and who has researched deeper than any other foreigner the political structure of Turkmenistan based on Turkmen law and regulation that he “does not fairly understand the effective administrative structure of that country” is telling that professional political scientist that he is incompetent. In addition, I have written well over 2,000 reports over my career on the political, economic, and sociological situations in my countries of assignment, and have never been accused by anyone else of being “unable to organize [my] collected ideas into something really understandable.” This is a second insult. I believe my contributions to the wiki have been both substantive and well organized, and are as clear as they can be made. Let the reader judge whether Verdy_p’s behavior is in keeping with OSM community norms.

It is not my fault that Turkmenistan has chosen an administrative structure that is by Western standards overly complex and to Westerners confusing. It is my job as a diplomat to document it, and I have chosen voluntarily to share my insights with the OSM community and to put them in the public domain. I do not believe that I am incompetent (and neither does my employer), nor do I believe that I could have presented the administrative structure of Turkmenistan any more clearly.

Finally, as regards Verdy_p’s continued insistence that I asked for help, on June 4, 2018, I posted the following statement in my diary, “I have at least started OSM wiki articles on the major cities of Turkmenistan…The intent is to institutionalize all I have learned about mapping in Turkmenistan so far, before my tour of duty ends sometime this calendar year. If other mappers have suggestions for information to add to these articles, I am all ears.” On June 9 I wrote in my diary, “I’ve created stubs of articles on the five provinces of Turkmenistan…Please take a look and let me know what’s missing. These are works in progress.” In other words, I asked for suggestions on content to add to the wiki articles, presumably content only obtainable by a local mapper, not for anyone to do wholesale reorganization or editing of the articles, particularly editing that would corrupt the information provided. I reiterate these diary entries in order to set the record straight.

Not to Blow My Own Horn, But... 6 months ago

Yangy Kala is indeed gorgeous, especially with the sun setting and creating those shadows.

Southern Balkan Province 6 months ago

Mateusz Konieczny and saintam1, thank you for your encouragement. Where mapping is concerned, I continue to see as my highest calling the collection of ground truth and otherwise unobtainable data here, which I feed into both OSM and the wiki.

Paper Maps, Paper Maps! 6 months ago

Imagico and SK53,

Thank you for these insights–they are very helpful. I suspect copyright issues that affect UK maps (since the Soviet maps of the UK may well have merely been illegal copies of Ordnance Survey maps) would not pertain to former republics of the USSR, where the Soviet cartographers would have done their own mapping. I’ll see if I cannot research this a bit more, just to be on the safe side.

You are correct that these maps are fascinating. One of the maps my friend obtained is of the area of western Washington state where I was born and grew up. The unincorporated community where I went to grade school is on the map. It is not even shown on many U.S. road atlases, since it is so small. These maps are very, very detailed.

Southern Balkan Province 7 months ago

Verdy_p, I suggest you watch the YouTube video of my keynote speech at SOTM 2016 to learn inter alia about my efforts to recruit local mappers, which is part of my embassy’s outreach efforts. Recruiting mappers is difficult, in part because the cost of the Internet here is the highest in the world, internet penetration is only about 14%, computer literacy is low, and Turkmenistan is in an economic recession. Some other points:

  1. I do understand the local administrative structure, which my staff researched based on Turkmen legislation and regulation, and the result is the table in the wiki (which you correctly called confusing–it is, nobody disagrees) but that you proceeded to edit without either understanding it yourself or consulting with me before rearranging it. The table represents current political reality, not a desired end state. You appeared to be trying to force it into fitting the proposed administrative levels found elsewhere in the wiki, and that simply corrupted the table.

  2. Most local mappers use MAPS.ME, a free app that uses minimal internet bandwidth, to add POIs, but cannot draw roads or contribute to the wiki. I have recruited a few local mappers with institutional access to the internet, and taught them how to draw roads as well as add POIs.

  3. I have tried to make local government contacts, starting two years ago with the Ashgabat mayor’s office and most recently two weeks ago with the head of the State Motor Roads Concern and the minister of motor roads. Both promised to “think about” working with OSM but since this is a closed society I do not expect anything to come of it. They will almost certainly not get permission from the ministry of national security to collaborate with foreigners.

  4. I am in fact helping with providing both data and translations and have indeed proposed better imagery sources, including the State Department’s Humanitarian Information Unit. The Turkmen vocabulary in the wiki is provided in part because Turkmen is not included in Google translate and Turkmen-English and Turkmen-Russian dictionaries are scarce, especially outside Turkmenistan (even here they are hard to find).

  5. I am by far the largest contributor of ground-level imagery on Turkmenistan, of over 300,000 images at this point. My extensive official travel in this country has allowed me to do this.

  6. As to whether Turkmen will “recognize their our country,” the regular expressions of gratitude I receive from ordinary Turkmen citizens for the mapping I have done far outweigh your expression of doubt. They consider my contributions to be both useful and valuable. The minister of motor roads uses MAPS.ME, which as you know is based on OSM data! The mayor of Ashgabat requested and has a copy of my wall map hanging in his office!

  7. Finally, I am indeed a local contributor, having lived here since January 2015, after the Senate confirmed President Obama’s nomination of me to this ambassadorship.

Southern Balkan Province 7 months ago


Thank you for your kind words.

The figure of a million population is a fantasy. We estimate the population to be no more than 560,000 at the absolute most. The government had to claim a million in order to host an Olympic-affiliated event but has not released the results of the 2012 national census. From my observations this is a city of about a half million or so. After the density of New Delhi, it is quite a relief to be in a non-dense city!

In addition, Ashgabat is officially fairly extensive geographically, about 25 or 30 kilometers wide and 25 or 30 kilometers tall. There is plenty of room for grazing camels, sheep, and cows in the empty space between former villages, now neighborhoods of the municipality. The 2013 and 2015 annexations of outlying villages added a lot of real estate, and I had to redraw the city limits to reflect those annexations.


Not to Blow My Own Horn, But... 8 months ago

Not really. I was the interviewee, not the interviewer.

Not to Blow My Own Horn, But... 8 months ago

Not sure what you mean by that…