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Using Google to improve OSM

Posted by watmildon on 12 March 2023 in English. Last updated on 19 March 2023.

The header from an incoming email from Google Alerts

Google alerts

In the fall of 2002, there was a notice issued renaming many (~600) natural features in the United States. There was very likely to initiate a cascade of renames for various map features. For example, the name for the road up the mountain peak will likely change to match the new name.

At the tail end of our renaming work, I set up a few Google Alerts related to the theme of the order and promptly forgot about them.

Map updates!

Starting a few months ago the alerts began firing! Each week I would get an email or two about town councils or other agencies planning to rename some feature or another.

Another one came into my inbox this morning announcing that a resort near a renamed waterway was updating it’s name. A bit of checking the resort website to confirm the new name, a few clicks in iD, et voila!

It will certainly be interesting to see whether the roadway, golf course etc get similar updates and I’ve made a note to myself the check back in a few months.

Try it out

Even something as simple as “road rename " should flag local news stories about things needing updates in OSM. I encourage you to try it out and let me know what changes/updates/notices it turns up in your area.

A list of changes from these alerts

United States -

Canada -


Comment from RicoElectrico on 14 March 2023 at 12:34

At OSM Poland we use Google Alerts to track new installations of Automated External Defibrillators. The RSS is connected to a dedicated Discord channel on our server. The signal to noise ratio is variable, sometimes Google picks up the phrase “defibrylator AED” on another link in the sidebar of some news site, but overall it helped us add many AED we would’ve otherwise missed.

Comment from watmildon on 14 March 2023 at 17:26

That is wonderful! What a great use case. I’ll have to set it up for my area and see if anything pops up.

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