seav's Diary

Recent diary entries

Cover image of the statement

Last September 1, Amazon Web Services (AWS) released an episode of their documentary series Now Go Build which highlighted the work done by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team in the Philippines, especially in mapping the town of Guagua, Pampanga.

Several members of the OSM-PH community however have observed that there are missing and problematic narratives in the video related to the story it tells of geospatial and humanitarian workers in the country.

Therefore, some of us have prepared and released the following statement:

Wikidata+OSM at State of the Map 2019 and WikidataCon 2019

Posted by seav on 15 December 2019 in English (English). Last updated on 16 December 2019.

I’ve been a Wikimedian since 2002 and an OSM mapper since 2007. While there are certainly a lot of differences between the two projects, I believe that there is much more in common between Wikimedia and OSM especially since OSM was directly inspired by Wikipedia (people usually introduce OSM as the “Wikipedia of maps”) and because they both came out of the free knowledge and open data movement (Wikipedia is licensed under Creative Commons and OSM was originally licensed under CC too before switching to ODbL). I therefore support and contribute to efforts for the two communities to understand each other and collaborate with each other. And I am not alone: there are a lot of Wikimedian/OSM contributors like me.

Over the past decade, I’ve given a lot of presentations, talks, trainings, and workshops on how to contribute to and make use of Wikimedia projects (like Wikipedia) and OSM but it was during Wikimania 2014 that I was first able to give a half-hour presentation about both projects and showing how the Wikimedia and OSM communities benefit from and collaborate with each other. (See the session page and my presentation slides.) Since then, I’ve given several talks about essentially the same topic in various Wikimedia and OSM events and you can see an overview of them on the Wikimedia Meta site.

State of the Map 2019 and WikidataCon 2019

Edward and I discussing OSM with an audience member after our presentation at WikidataCon 2019. (Photo by Mohammad Hijjawi / CC BY-SA 4.0)

2019, however, was the first time that I gave such a talk together with another passionate OSM mapper and Wikipedian. State of the Map 2019 was held in Heidelberg back in September and WikidataCon 2019 was held in Berlin in October and I submitted proposals to talk about Wikidata+OSM at both conferences. Fortunately, both of my proposals were accepted. However, the WikidataCon conference program organizer contacted me and Edward Betts to suggest that we combine both of our talks because we essentially submitted the same topic! Edward and I readily agreed with the suggestion and when I learned that he was also going to SotM, I offered to let him be a co-presenter at my accepted Wikidata workshop.

So Edward and I discussed and worked on our sessions together. This needed some more preparation and adjustment on my part because I usually tend to cram finishing my presentations right before the event. 😝 Edward had created this super excellent OSM tool that generates a list of candidate matches between OSM objects and Wikidata items within a specified a place or region, which are then reviewed by the mapper and saved to OSM as wikidata=* tags on those OSM objects. Edward has presented his tool a few times before, most recently at Wikimania 2019 in Stockholm. We then both decided that in both conferences, I would give a quick introduction of Wikidata (at SotM) or OSM (at WikidataCon) and talk about the benefits of linking both projects then Edward will introduce and demonstrate his tool and touch on the problems of and limitations on linking OSM with Wikidata (including the fact that there can never be a one-to-one correspondence between OSM objects and Wikidata items).

If you are interested to learn more about our sessions, here are the details:

"OpenStreetMap and Wikidata: Awesome Together" title slide

“OpenStreetMap and Wikidata: Awesome Together”
(55-minute workshop at State of the Map 2019)
session page, slides (part 1), slides (part 2)

"OpenStreetMap and Wikidata" title slide

“OpenStreetMap and Wikidata”
(25-minute talk at WikidataCon 2019)
session page, slides, video recording

Why link OSM and Wikidata together?

Within the Wikidata community, linking databases with each other is a no-brainer—Wikidata has thousands of properties (which are basically like OSM’s keys) that one can use to specify the ID of a record in a third-party database that corresponds to a Wikidata item. And Wikidata encourages linking back in return. For instance, earlier this year, the U.S. Library of Congress started linking back to Wikidata. (See the LOC’s Name Authority File page for OpenStreetMap where there is a link to the Wikidata item for OSM.) This linking practice is all part of Tim Berners-Lee’s (you know, the guy that invented the World Wide Web) grand concept of Linked Data.

On the other hand in OSM, there is a vocal segment of the community that expresses skepticism against adding wikidata=* tags (and similar secondary tags like brand:wikidata=*, artist:wikidata=*, and architect:wikidata=*) to OSM objects, preferring to stick to human-readable wikipedia=* tags instead. While that is a valid concern (after all, the tag wikipedia=en:New York City is obviously more comprehensible than the equivalent but opaque-looking wikidata=Q60 tag), this is really more a matter of tooling, and iD already has features that makes adding Wikidata tags easier. Ultimately—and if you already believe that linking OSM to Wikipedia/Wikidata is a good thing—linking to Wikidata, instead of or in addition to Wikipedia, is better in the long run because Wikidata has a more relaxed “notability” policy compared to Wikipedia. This means that there will be a lot more geographical items in Wikidata that do not have corresponding Wikipedia articles.

For example, one of the things I do in Wikidata is to add items on official historical markers (i.e., commemorative plaques) that are installed by my country’s historical government agency. (Example: the “Molino Dam” historical marker has this Wikidata item and that OSM node tagged with historic=memorial + memorial=plaque.) These markers will never have their own Wikipedia articles but I can tag their OSM nodes with wikidata=* and the corresponding Wikidata items contain a lot of information, including images stored on Wikimedia Commons, the marker’s inscription (which are often longer than 255 characters and therefore cannot be added as inscription=* tags in OSM), and links to one or more relevant Wikipedia articles about the subject that the marker commemorates.

So how does the OSM ecosystem benefit from linking to Wikidata? I discussed this extensively during our workshop at State of the Map (see slides above) but I will highlight a couple of examples. First, Wikidata often provides more multilingual labels (aka names) than OSM. For example, the Japanese city of Kobe only has 19 and 8 multilingual name:*=* tags for its OSM place node and administrative boundary relation respectively. In Wikidata, the corresponding item has much more: 108 labels. This wealth of labels in Wikidata is used by third-party map service providers such as Mapbox and MapTiler to provide better coverage for their multilingual maps. While OSM can of course add more name:*=* tags so that OSM data users do not have to rely on Wikidata, there is a strong opinion against adding pure transliterations or unattested/rarely-used translations of toponyms into OSM.

Second, Wikidata tags are now being used by Nominatim to provide better search results, thanks to a Google Summer of Code project by tchaddad. Before this project, Nominatim already uses Wikipedia tags as one of its inputs for its ranking/relevance algorithm. Now with the integration of Wikidata support, the geocoder now has easy access to even more data that it can use.

Typhoon Haiyan, five years after

Posted by seav on 8 November 2018 in English (English).

Today, November 8, is the fifth anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Typhoon Yolanda, making landfall in the Philippines. This devastating typhoon, which broke the record for being the strongest landfalling tropical cyclone in history, had a lasting impact on the country and its effects are still affecting Filipinos to this day.

For the OSM Philippines community in particular, Typhoon Haiyan radically transformed what it meant to volunteer our time, effort, and resources to map and provide freely accessible geographic data for the country.

Before, the local OSM community was a pretty small group of hobbyist mappers who enjoyed going outside to map and share information about the places we live, work, and play in. But Haiyan showed us that the work we do in mapping the Philippines can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Past typhoons and storms like Ketsana (Ondoy), Washi (Sendong), Bopha (Pablo), and the 2013 Bohol earthquake had shown the potential of OSM in applications related to humanitarian efforts and disaster resilience, but Haiyan has thrown that into a painfully clear perspective.

A visualization of the mapping activity from thousands of mappers all over the world before, during, and after Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines. (Source)

In the five years since Haiyan, OSM Philippines had fully embraced mapping in the context of disaster resilience. Project NOAH (now UP NOAH and under the UP Resilience Institute) initiated several tasks to map several provinces in the country to provide exposure data. Various international aid agencies and organizations such as the American Red Cross, USAID, the United States Department of State, the Asian Development Bank, together with local groups such as the Philippine Red Cross and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, have organized mapathons and workshops to teach Filipinos how to map and use OSM. At the same time, smaller initiatives like MapAmore, Map the Philippines, and the two PH YouthMappers chapters (FEU Tech and UP Diliman) have also pitched in with resources and events of their own.

Haiyan has transformed OSM in the Philippines. Who knows what the next five years can bring us?

A line graph showing the extreme spike in the growth of OSM data for the Philippines as a result of mapping for Typhoon Haiyan.

P.S. I am aware that there are many mappers who are less than enthusiastic with the involvement of humanitarian people and organizations (like the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and Missing Maps) in OpenStreetMap, but as a mapper from a country that is the the third most vulnerable to natural disasters according to the World Risk Index, I am most definitely not one of them.

SotM Asia 2016 group photo SotM Asia 2016 group photo

The second and final day of State of the Map Asia 2016 is almost done and it has been great to hear and learn from OpenStreetMap colleagues from India, Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Russia, Sweden, the United States, the Philippines, and many other countries.

Location: UP Campus, Diliman, 4th District, Quezon City, Eastern Manila District, Metro Manila, 1101, Philippines

Maps and Ale at OpenStreetMap’s 10th Anniversary Celebration in London

Posted by seav on 31 August 2014 in English (English). Last updated on 8 November 2018.

The OSM 10th Anniversary blackboard greeting

The London OSM community is quite active having their regular pub meetups, so it was exciting for me to attend their 10th anniversary celebration, which was held at The Artillery Arms. Intentionally held near the Barbican Centre, where Wikimania 2014 was held, the party had a pretty good mix of people from the OpenStreetMap and Wikimedia communities. It was really great meeting people and talking about OSM over pints of ale and beer.

Read more at my blog.

Location: Saint Luke's, Finsbury, London Borough of Islington, London, Greater London, England, EC1V 3RQ, United Kingdom

Presenting about Wikimedia and OpenStreetMap at Wikimania 2014

Posted by seav on 25 August 2014 in English (English). Last updated on 8 November 2018.

Eugene Villar giving his presentation

Photo Ⓒ Harry Wood, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Over two weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Wikimania 2014 in London. Wikimania is the annual conference for the Wikimedia movement, which includes the Wikipedia project. Coincidentally, the conference occurred on the same weekend as the 10th anniversary of OpenStreetMap. As my way of celebrating the anniversary, I gave a presentation about the collaborations between OpenStreetMap and the Wikimedia projects at the conference.

Read more at my blog.

Presentation slides.

Location: Barbican, Cripplegate, City of London, Greater London, England, EC2Y 8DT, United Kingdom

Using OpenStreetMap for Disaster Risk Reduction

Posted by seav on 20 January 2014 in English (English). Last updated on 8 November 2018.

Several people are taking down notes beside a small street-side historical marker bearing the title "Death March, KM 93".

Last November 5 to 7, I and a few other volunteer mappers from the OpenStreetMap Philippines community joined the Environmental Science for Social Change (ESSC) in training the local government of Guagua, Pampanga in contributing to and using OpenStreetMap with an eye for disaster risk reduction.

Read the rest of this piece on my blog.

Location: Santo Niño, San Pablo, Guagua, Pampanga, Central Luzon, 2003, Philippines

Node density in the Philippines

Posted by seav on 25 February 2012 in English (English).

I created a visualization showing the node density of OSM data in the Philippines taken from the 2012-01-02 Geofabrik extract. Each pixel (in the full-sized image) represents a 0.01°×0.01° degree square or approximately 1 square kilometer. Brighter pixels represent areas with higher node counts.

Node density map

The edges of available satellite imagery at that time is quite visible in some areas like Pangasinan, Cebu, Bukidnon, and Davao del Sur. As expected, brighter areas are places where there is a large amount of editing and with a large population.

Imagery coverage map for OSM Philippines

Posted by seav on 22 February 2012 in English (English). Last updated on 25 February 2012.

Screenshot of the Imagery Coverage Map

I mentioned in my previous diary entry that I discovered that Bing has added/updated tons of satellite imagery for the Philippines (and apparently also for the rest of the world). This now makes maintaining the catalog of imagery coverage in the Wiki very unwieldy.

So, what I did was to create a simple slippy map to visualize the areas in the Philippines that are covered by Bing and other available imagery.

It's my first time to use CloudMade's Leaflet and I have to say that it's a joy to use. :)

More satellite imagery in Bing!

Posted by seav on 7 February 2012 in English (English).

At least in my country (Philippines) it seems that Bing Maps has added a whole lot of new/updated satellite imagery sometime within the last two days. The scale of the update is mind-boggling. It’s as if Microsoft went on a satellite image shopping spree! The added imagery seems to have more than tripled the area that is available for tracing. 2012 will certainly be a very busy year for OpenStreetMap in my country, and that’s not just because of the license change. ;-)

Can people in other countries confirm this development?

OpenStreetMap Philippines: 2011 Year in Review

Posted by seav on 23 January 2012 in English (English). Last updated on 8 November 2018.

A wrote about my personal view of how 2011 went for the OpenStreetMap project in the Philippines.

2011 was a pretty good year for the OpenStreetMap project in the Philippines. Aside from the usual Mapping Parties, the community has organized or participated in several other events, some of them outside the Philippines. 2011 also saw the release of a more improved and usable OSM Philippine Garmin map, and OSM contributors made 2011 the best year in terms of increase of data in the Philippines (thanks to Bing).

Continue reading at my blog.


Posted by seav on 4 August 2011 in English (English).

Duplicated submission. Please delete. :p

Location: Merkaz HaCarmel, Carmel District, Haifa, Haifa Subdistrict, Haifa District, 3463626, Israel

Wikimania 2011, the annual conference of people in the Wikimedia/Wikipedia movement, is currently happening here in Haifa, Israel. There will be two OpenStreetMap-related items in the conference schedule, both on Friday afternoon, August 5:

1. A workshop introducing OpenStreetMap

2. A Mapping Party right after the workshop on the streets of Haifa

If you happen to be in Haifa, why not drop by and join the mapping party? :-)

Location: Merkaz HaCarmel, Carmel District, Haifa, Haifa Subdistrict, Haifa District, 3463626, Israel

A new phase of OCOSMD

Posted by seav on 1 May 2011 in English (English).

I wrote over 2 years ago that OSM is far too addicting. And while I still don't think that I'll score high in the OSM purity self-test, my OCOSMD (obsessive-compulsive OSM disorder) has reached a new level.

I've noticed that during the past few weeks, I've been paying extra attention to POIs during my daily commute to and from work and other trips outside the house. I either mentally note them or key them in my cellphone. Consequently, majority of my recent edits have been to "add/update POIs" (an example).

This practice has gotten so distracting that I have to actually force myself to ignore my surroundings so that my mental buffer would not overflow! Sometimes, I pass by POIs too fast for me to remember or note them. Other times, it gets dangerous because it's my turn driving and I have to concentrate on the road. So lately, I've been practicing the art of letting go—letting go of noting down a POIs, that is. :-)

The Manila-Cavite Expressway, which goes by many other names (such as Aguinaldo Boulevard and Coastal Road), is a major tollway in Metro Manila and is designated as part of the Radial Road 1 route (R-1). This road used to go from Zapote, Bacoor to Tambo, Parañaque and functions as a major transit corridor for people who live in western Cavite in going to and from their offices in Metro Manila.

There has been an ongoing project to extend this expressway to Binakayan, Kawit and just last week, the southbound side of the extension was opened to the public. Of course, this was an opportunity for mapping! So yesterday, Good Friday, I went out and took a GPS trace of the extension.

GPS trace containing the R-1 Road Extension

I thought that there would be no traffic since it was the holidays but I didn't expect to encounter so many religious processions on the roads! What would've been a possibly 30-minute trip became an hour and three quarters. At one point, we even had to double back near the Bacoor Church since the procession there had occupied the whole road! (You can easily spot this in the GPS trace. Actually, you can even guess where the traffic was based on the GPS animation.) It was still a net positive since I was able to note down many POIs which I wouldn't if I were going at cruising speeds. :-)

Location: Pulvorista, Kawit, Cavite, Calabarzon, 4104, Philippines

I came home earlier today from a house-warming party hosted by my godmother (my mother's cousin) in Metrogate Tagaytay Estates, a gated community in Tagaytay City. The subdivision is quite nice and they apparently have several celebrities owning properties there such as Piolo Pascual, Luz Valdez, Mel Tiangco, Rio Locsin, and Aga Muhlach. In fact, Nova Villa, another celebrity property-owner, was at the party herself!

Anyway, I saw that OpenStreetMap didn't have any data for this gated community save for a now-deleted node, so I couldn't resist going around the subdivision to map everything I can. My siblings accompanied me on my impromptu mapping party (they wanted to look at the architecture of the houses) and we took a GPS track of the road network and got the existing street names (save for one, which I found out later to my chagrin).

And the first thing I did when I went home? I added the data into OSM, of course. :-)

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, everyone!

Location: Metrogate Tagaytay Estates Phase 2, Kaybagal North, Tagaytay, Cavite, Calabarzon, 4120, Philippines

An amusing Mapping Party anecdote

Posted by seav on 15 December 2010 in English (English).

My slice buddy, Wayne, and I had a funny encounter during last Saturday's Intramuros Mapping Party. So we were walking all over northwestern Ermita in Manila noting down various POIs on a Walking Paper when these two guys called our attention. We ignored them at first because we thought they wanted trouble, but we soon learned that they were merely asking for directions.

"Where is Solidaridad Bookshop?" asked one of the strangers.

Wayne and I laughed because we passed by that bookshop maybe around a half hour before that! If the two guys asked us before then, we would honestly say that we didn't know. But as it was, we had noted down that bookshop and so we consulted our papers and gave the two chaps the directions to the bookshop which was about a block away.

One of the guys noticed what we were carrying and laughed himself saying, "Oh, it's a good thing these guys have a map!"

OpenStreetMap saves the day!

Location: Barangay 667, Ermita, Fifth District, Manila, Capital District, Metro Manila, 1000, Philippines

I thought only congressmen had a penchant for renaming roads. (I have a hunch that half of the laws enacted by Congress are renamings of roads, schools, public buildings, and the like.) But apparently, Ayala Land Inc. has renamed the quite old streets in Ayala Center and has confusingly reused the cardinal directions (like "North") on totally different streets. For context, the renamings appear to be part of Ayala's redevelopment of the Makati Central Business District. (See this news article for context.)

Fortunately for Ayala, most people don't really use the names of these roads to determine addresses and to find locations in Ayala Center, preferring instead to refer to the more well-known buildings like Glorietta. So these recent renamings are not a hassle at all. I very much doubt that people who are not mappers (like me!) would even notice.

So here are the old and new names that I could determine. Some of the old names don't have street signs put up yet so I don't know their new names yet.

Rizal Drive -> West Street
North Drive -> Parkway Drive
Office Drive -> North Street
East Drive -> Courtyard Drive
Hotel Drive -> East Street
Highway Drive -> Station Road
South Drive -> (unknown)
Theater Drive -> (unknown)
Park Square Drive -> (no longer exists)
West Drive -> (unknown)

Of course, I have already edited the data in OSM putting the old name into old_name=* and alt_name=* tags. No other map (Google, RoadGuide.PH, etc.) has these new names yet. :-)

P.S. Zoom to level 17 on the map link below.

Location: Ayala Center Makati, Makati 1st District, Makati, Southern Manila District, Metro Manila, Philippines

Last Sunday, my family attended the baptism of my cousin's kid, but we arrived too early at the church. So what do I do? I map of course! It was a good thing I brought my bag where I keep a notebook and pen. So, while waiting for the relatives to arrive and the ceremony to begin, I walked around the gated community and noted down POIs, street names, and addresses. Good thing the weather was cool making the excursion bearable, though I still worked up a sweat.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to visit every street due to lack of time (Chronicle and Evening News being the holdouts). Moreover, a roving security guard on a bike approached me and asked if I was surveying. Since I was sure he would say that surveying was prohibited without prior permission from the homeowners association, I said that I was waiting for the baptism to start and was passing the time, which was nominally true. :-) I guess he believed me since he left me and didn't ask to see my notebook. I just continued my survey more discreetly. Hehehe.

Location to map with the correct zoom level:

Location: West Triangle Homes, 1st District, Quezon City, Eastern Manila District, Metro Manila, 1100, Philippines

Lately, I've found the OSM History Viewer (Wiki) to be a really useful tool for checking changesets created by other users. But it's quite a hassle opening a new tab to load the service then copy-pasting the changeset ID. So I created a bookmarklet such that whenever I am on a changeset page on the OSM website, I can just apply the bookmarklet and be whisked off to the History Viewer instantly.

Shown below is the bookmarklet URL if you want it too. It's just a quick-and-dirty piece of JavaScript hacked together in a span of 5 minutes. Enjoy!


To install, just create a new bookmark with the whole geeky text above in the URL/URI field. Just ignore the auto-link added by the OSM diary software.