scruss's diary

Recent diary entries

Crowdsourcing oops

Posted by scruss on 17 October 2016 in English (English)

Statistics Canada launched their Crowdsourcing pilot today — based on imports that don't have community approval. The editor page doesn't even work on my browser, so I can report no further. Not a great way to start.

(Update: included link to talk-ca discussion and action)

The Great Canadian Mailbox Heist

Posted by scruss on 7 October 2016 in English (English)

Dropping off a letter in the mailbox at the end of the street, I noticed this sticker was attached: Mailbox, aka node 551077710 So that means by the middle of the month my leisurely 400 metre round trip to post letters is going to be over a kilometre, either to Mailbox: Node 705233932 or to the suggested Mailbox: Node 4433576259.

I looked around on the map for more amenity=post_box nodes around me, and found coverage was patchy. Local mapper andrewpmk has done some sterling work adding mailboxes, but there are some neighbourhoods even he can't find time to go into. But there has to be a definitive list of mailbox locations in Canada, somewhere, right?

Wrong: Canada Post does not publish mailbox locations. There's no way of finding a list or map on their website, and Canada Post confirmed to me that “we do not have a map for street letter boxes”. So it looks like we're the only people mapping them, unless there's a list I can get via a Freedom of Information request.

Location: Kennedy Park, Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, M1P3J3, Canada

Mapped the new Lee Lifeson art park

Posted by scruss on 20 September 2016 in English (English)

The Lee Lifeson Art Park — dedicated to Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of the band Rush — opened on the weekend. I was in the area yesterday evening, so mapped out a rough version with my phone. I may go back to add in more detail today.

Location: Willowdale, North York, Toronto, Ontario, M2N1N1, Canada

I wish I'd known about …

Posted by scruss on 7 June 2016 in English (English)

YoHours earlier. I might actually enjoy (or at worst, understand) entering opening hours now.

Volunteered Geographic Information … why, that's us!

Posted by scruss on 24 February 2016 in English (English)

The Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) has an interesting piece on the legal risks of contributing to and using Volunteered Geographic Information … in other words, OSM: Volunteered Geographic Information FAQ.

The document makes a few observations (from a Canadian legal perspective) that mappers might find useful. In summary:

  • As a mapper, you're unlikely to be sued if you add incorrect data to OSM. But you wouldn't (knowingly) do that, would you?

  • OSM (or OSMF, most likely) would unlikely be liable if map data were relied upon in an emergency and found to be incorrect. There are many nuances to this, so it's better if you read the When would a VGI website be liable in negligence for inaccurate information? section yourself.

  • In order to limit its liability, OSM should “… also make sure that their software is running smoothly, and that the visual designs of the sites are clear and informative.” Hmm.

(Incidentally, CIPPIC is also responsible for the excellent-though-depressing CIPPIC Licensing Information Project for Open Licences, CLIPol. If you want to see how not to do open data, take a look at some of the really bad licences they've found. I wonder why so many of the terrible “open” government licences are near me?)

Map Maker Canada schadenfreude

Posted by scruss on 6 February 2016 in English (English)

Aww — looks like Google Map Maker is editable again in Canada. It's got some restrictions now, including one that The Great Unwashed can't edit polygons any more (which, in my 'hood at least, means no more polygons nicked wholesale from OSM). But the main new feature is: “Top mappers in your country are now empowered to moderate your edits”. These Regional Leads bless your edits … once they get around to it.

Seems that most of the comments on the Canada forum are of the form “I added my business X months ago, why hasn't it shown up?”

Now, if only there were a thoughtfully moderated alternative to Map Maker out there … ☺

West Street Blues

Posted by scruss on 21 December 2015 in English (English)

Back in the UK and navigating by OSM on my old 60 CSX, I tried to find a restaurant on West Street. No dice. Seems that the extract assumes that all directions should be modifiers of street names, so poor old West Street becomes W Street, if anything at all.

Location: Cranston Hill, Finnieston, Glasgow, Scotland, G41, United Kingdom

Slides and notes from my GTALUG OSM talk last week

Posted by scruss on 16 May 2015 in English (English)

OpenStreetMap: Building a great map while everyone tells you you’re doing it wrong


  1. ‘The Map’ — . It supports routing now, too.
  2. QGIS, an open GIS manager. It's rather good —
  3. The OSM Wiki; ridiculously complete documentation:
  4. OSM Help Stack Exchange-style question/answer:
  5. All of the OSM stats! —
  6. Toronto map growth animation —
  7. Crowdsourced geocoding (+ lawsuit from Canada Post) —
  8. Open Data Commons Open Database License (ODbL) —
  9. Canada’s new Open Government portal — related: Toronto Open Data —
  10. CIPPIC Open Licensing Project (CLIP) —
  11. Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team [HOT] —
  12. OpenCycleMap —
  13. The rather wonderful /uMap/

spam users ☹

Posted by scruss on 20 April 2015 in English (English)

I dunno what it is about a certain kind of solar power sales person, but they're all about the spam. In trying to find details for tagging solar hot water heaters, I found a couple of no-edit accounts with word-number-word algorithmically-generated names: push36queen and cry3dime

There are probably more.

If you do happen to be looking at how to tag solar hot water, this looks about right: Node: 2671563575

Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway) place names in OSM

Posted by scruss on 13 April 2015 in English (English)

I read about the Ogimaa Mikana project in The Globe and Mail last week (“How my neighbourhood looks and sounds in Ojibway”). Given that we have the name:* tagging scheme, OSM already supports indigenous language naming.

ISO 639-[1,2,3] has many ways of tagging in Ojibway. The two letter code is oj. The three letter codes are more complex; the macro language is oji with seven individual languages related to it.

I don't know if I did this even remotely correctly, but — welcome to Gichi Kiiwenging!

Location: Discovery District, Financial District, Toronto, Ontario, M5G1P7, Canada

Power Generation tagging, and a rather neat way of tagging wind farms

Posted by scruss on 2 February 2015 in English (English)

The Power tagging scheme went through quite a bit of thought in 2013. Unfortunately, living on only a couple of OSM mailing lists, I didn't get to see any of the discussion. While most of the suggestions are pretty reasonable (if occasionally requiring improbably levels of system knowledge likely only known to employees) one part confuses me: generator:source vs generator:method.

For wind power, there's only one source: generator:source=wind; but then, what new information does generator:method=wind_turbine add? It seems to be wholly redundant.

The Wind Farm Tagging Thing

Anyway, while adding a small wind farm near where I grew up, I noticed a rather neat convention for grouping turbines into a wind farm: using a relation, as in:

  <relation id='4515485'>
    <member type='node' ref='3308390472' role='generator' />
    <member type='node' ref='3308390473' role='generator' />
    <member type='node' ref='3308390474' role='generator' />
      <!-- … more member nodes, one for each turbine -->
    <tag k='name' v='Middleton Wind Farm' />
    <tag k='site' v='wind_farm' />
    <tag k='type' v='site' />

(real link: Middleton Wind Farm)

This is a tidy way of grouping turbines, as many wind farms aren't clearly enclosed. You could have all sorts of roles for transmission lines, control rooms, visitor centres, …

I'm pleased to see that the tagging scheme seems to be informally named after Carland Cross wind farm. Carland Cross was the first wind farm I worked on. Here's a view over to Newquay, as it looked to me in the summer of 1993: We thought 400 kW turbines were huge in those days ...

Location: Old Glasgow Road, Kingsford, East Ayrshire, Scotland, United Kingdom

Descendants of former colleagues meet via OpenStreetMap a century later…

Posted by scruss on 22 June 2013 in English (English)

I go to the Toronto OpenStreetMap Enthusiasts group. So does mmather.

It turns out that mmather's grandfather, and my great-grandfather, were colleagues at the Royal Technical College in Glasgow (now The University of Strathclyde), Scotland. Just recently, my brother found our great-grandfather's hand-written application to become a member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers from 1913. There on the page was my great-grandfather's signature — with mmather's grandfather's signature next to it as witness.

Small world indeed.

Location: Pinkston, St Rollox, Glasgow, Scotland, G21, United Kingdom

Bike *all* the streets of St Louis ...

Posted by scruss on 13 June 2013 in English (English)

MetaFilter user jjjjjjjijjjjjjj would like some help to finish a project to bike down every street in St Louis. Some of the routing logistics seem a little out of reach for jjjjjjjijjjjjjj, and the city's streets could always use a little more love from the OSM community.

I'm way out of town and loaded down with my own projects, but I thought some people here might be interested.

Location: Grand Stair Case, St. Louis, City of St. Louis, Missouri, 63101, United States of America

tagging a green roof?

Posted by scruss on 1 June 2013 in English (English)

I just mapped Warden Hilltop Community Centre. It has a “green roof” — part of the roof has growing turf, and a trail through it (which would explain how I managed to put a gps trail through the building ☺). How would I tag it?

Green roofs are kind of a thing (and not just 'cos I briefly worked for Green Roofs for Healthy Cities). I can think of some:

Location: Clairlea, Scarborough, Toronto, Ontario, M4L1J2, Canada

Navigating by OSM

Posted by scruss on 5 April 2013 in English (English)

Back in Scotland for a week, and couldn't be bothered to buy new maps for the Garmin. I thought I'd download TalkyToaster's FREE* British Isles Maps. So far, the roads and routing have been great. The same can't be said of my driving on the other side of the road, though ...

Location: Broom Estate, Newton Mearns, East Renfrewshire, Scotland, United Kingdom

OpenStreetMap, 1898

Posted by scruss on 30 March 2013 in English (English)

I like Carlton Reid's piece on Bartholomew's use of collaboration with CTC members to make their maps better: OpenStreetMap, 1898.

Pretty near the location I've tagged in this entry, there used to be an ancient cast-iron CTC "Good Road" plaque.

Location: Hurlet, Barrhead, East Renfrewshire, Scotland, United Kingdom

Nexus 7 for mapping?

Posted by scruss on 6 September 2012 in English (English)

Has anyone had positive results using the Nexus 7 tablet for mapping? If it has a real GPS built in, it might be a handy alternative to a clipboard and separate GPS ...

Well, that was quite a stump ...

Posted by scruss on 27 August 2012 in English (English)

109 waypoints around Elliot Lake in an afternoon teaches you one thing about mapping: it always rains heaviest when you're furthest from shelter. I got drookit.

Because the town lost its mall early in the summer, the shopping and social focus appears to have moved away from that part of town. I tried to map every shop and facility that I could downtown.

Almost all of the waypoints were captured with my trusty 60CSx, though a couple were done with iLOE. I have to say, I'm not impressed with the iPhone's GPS. Even when iLOE is reporting ±5m, I'm seeing it place points more than 50m off where my Garmin and Canvec says it should be.

Incidentally, if you ever make it up here, Topper's Pizza provides epic mapping fuel, and the Java Jolt café next(ish) door has coffee and wireless ...

Location: Ontario Avenue, Elliot Lake, Ontario, P5A, Canada

This week, I have been mostly mapping wind farms ...

Posted by scruss on 18 August 2012 in English (English)

I realised I had a tonne of wind farm survey data I'd amassed over the years, and little of it had been put into OSM. Most of it's in Ontario, but some is in the UK and elsewhere. Some was just rough locations I'd noted from air surveys and needed cleaning up. Where known, I've put in the manufacturer and power rating of each turbine.

I had to make my peace with JOSM, as Potlatch annoyingly tags wind turbines as 'power_source=wind', instead of the preferred 'generator:source=wind'. JOSM's a pain on the Mac, until you learn the trackpad gestures, and that Paste on Java is Ctrl+V and not Command+V (grr grr grr). Should really also fix the mapnik wind turbine symbol, as the green shaded tower is a registered trademark of ENERCON GmbH.

It was good to finally put projects I'd worked on (like Erie Shores Wind Farm) on the map — even if I had to resort to the dog-slow USGS WMS server and pointen-clicken to do so!

Location: Brownside, Burnley, Lancashire, North West England, England, United Kingdom

In rural southern Ontario, USGS Aerial Imagery is your friend

Posted by scruss on 6 August 2012 in English (English)

Rural southern Ontario doesn't have the best quality Bing imagery, likely due to its low population density. But the USGS does, so if you set your background to be "OSM US USGS Large Scale Aerial Imagery", you'll be more likely to map accurately from it.

Not quite sure what to use as the source tag, though. USGS? Updated: Thanks to Sanderd17, it should be source=USGS Ortho.

Note that this imagery doesn't go very far north into Canada; it's definitely not available up in Algoma.

Location: Nova Scotia Line, Malahide, Elgin County, Ontario, Canada
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