The reason I’m writing this post is that my first MapComplete theme got merged into the official version. Yay! But first, an introduction.
Having been freed from most OSMF duties, I got a bit of an OSM reboot as of late. I became more active in Belgium, where OSM seems to be booming. More people want to be involved, many more people care about what is on the map.
One of the projects that have made this a fun time, is MapComplete. I was always very enthused by projects like MapContrib - because they make it easy to create detailed thematic maps, while also being an editor for that specific theme.
I really believe thematic editors are the way forward for OpenStreetMap. Most of us here are people who care about “the map in general” (or at least a wide range of mappy topics). But most “normal” people don’t care enough about OSM data to invest in learning to use a fully fledged editor. Yet they might care more about data they really need - like whether they can store their bicycle safely, or if the power outlet is right to charge their car. Or they might be passionate about certain topics, like accessibility of paths in their neighborhood, public fruit trees, handicapped parking spots.
MapComplete is built to bring those people to OSM, instead of the plethora of POI databases that exist today. If you want to introduce MapComplete to non-OSM people, have a look at the project page on OSM.be (en, nl, fr). The project was started by PieterVDVN for a project to map the accessibility of neighborhood nature. During Open Summer of Code we expanded on it for the Brussels Region. Flemish municipalities are interested in it as well.
There’s a few OSM POI viewers around, some of them having editing functionality. Most of them thematic editors are build from scratch, I guess because they think MapContrib is too limited. MapComplete tries to offer more features, so that specialized editors can still share a platform. Some of the main features that make it stand out: - add an image to an object in just a few clicks - add reviews to any named object through an integration with Mangrove - all tags are translated to simple questions - it’s a progressive web-app, so you can install it on your smartphone home screen - it helps you become a mapper, by showing you more details and given you more rights as you start having more edits - easy interface for opening hours and orientation of objects - users can combine layers from all the themes - the theme can be stripped down to a simple webmap to use as a viewer on your website (example in the wild)
My own little theme: campersites!
It’s about one of my passions: travelling with a camper van. Put me in one, and within days I’ll start making plans to never having to return home. As a traveler in a camper, there are two things we often need: places to sleep, and places to dump waste and get provisions. There are several apps that collect info about these places, but none of them has an open data model. It always hurts to contribute to them - but it hurts just as much NOT to contribute to them either! So that’s where I started.
Because traveling isn’t the same if you haven’t got anything to contribute :)
Official places where you can spend the night with your camper are tagged with
tourism=caravan_site. Places where you can dump chemical toilet waste and grey water (from washing the dishes, taking a shower) are tagged
amenity=sanitary_dump_station. So those were the two layers I started with. I’ve been mapping these places for a while, so I know the data model pretty well. Of course, I had to make some choices, as some aspects of the data model are still under discussion. The code is readable enough for anyone to make suggestions for alternatives.
It’s been quite a learning curve to learn how to use the custom theme generator - Pieter’s patience with me has been impressive. The theme generator is only sufficient to create a rough draft. You have to clean the code it generates a bit before getting close to production. There’s no “real” coding involved. At some point, being able to host a JSON file somewhere is really useful though.
One of my favorite spots
Give it a spin, have a look at the other themes, add the app to your home screen, post an issue to suggest a theme, help with translations, or start building a theme from scratch. Both Pieter and me are on the new MapComplete Telegram channel, eager to help out!
Building the theme is of course only step one. I posted it to OverlandSphere, a Facebook community of overland travellers - with a pretty decent reception. If you know of other places where possible users hang out, do let me know.