The Pragmatic Mapper (part deaux)

My pragmatic mapper post brought some interesting responses so I thought I’d outline it a bit more.

First, the title is a riff on The Pragmatic Programmer, a neat book.

It’s also an explicit riff on Linus Torvalds explicit pragmatism and differences of opinion with the more political FSF. The FSF is freedom for freedoms sake, Linus is freedom because it’s just better. I like the latter.

On the points of does the OS matter, generally, for some value of matter. Of course they do. They’re much like Microsoft. They’re a monopoly, they have lots of money and giggly lawyers and everyone hates them. They also have maps of the whole country. But do they matter to me, personally, or many OSMers? No. The political side and bringing down The Man doesn’t really motivate me. We make OSM because it’s better and cooler.

I do find it interesting that the responders think that a national mapping monopoly is somehow a good thing. I fail to see how this is different from a national monopoly on tea bags or cars. It seems that the argument is that the OS is relevant because it has lots of data and we could use this (pulls rabbit out of hat) in a flood emergency. Bit of a poor use of a lot of money just for that. Anyway, to respond to points in turn;

…I want someone to organise data cross the entire country. I want to operate a business dependent upon that consistency.

Thats fine, but you don’t need a NMA to do that. You could have regional agencies with individual contracts where an overseer body puts it together. You could, god forbid, use OSM when we’re there. On an economic note, even if you want all that, and you want an NMA that’s fine, just please don’t force me and the 65 million other citizens to pay for it as we might not want it.

…I want to know that environmental policies in the north and south are based on similar data, its analysis and methodology and applied fairly.

Cool, but still don’t need an NMA for it. We have policies in the north and south are based on similar data, its analysis and methodology and applied fairly in schools, hospitals, roads, universities, water, gas, electricity…. most of these just need an overseer not an NMA.

…In the case of an emergency, I want to know someone can put together a river network and all its tributaries and work on solving a hydrological problem effectively, if there is a need.

Still don’t need an NMA for that. Being a bit hardcore, the emotive issues of ‘think of the children!’ or ‘what if we get flooded’… well the insurance market is very clear about that. Don’t live in a flood plain. If you want amazing disaster recovery maps of your area, then pay for it but please don’t force us all to. We might want to, of course, just don’t force us. And Katrina is not a good example, the federal government distorts the market by forcing flood insurance through FEMA. It’s the same argument as keeping rural post offices. If people in the countryside want them, then pay for them. There’s no god-given right to maps and post offices.

…I want someone to survey and record the entire country in case I want to visit other parts, know what is there and understand where I can go.

What do you do when you go to the united states then? The country isn’t falling apart because they have different mapping providers in different parts of the country. I can find my way around Orlando and San Francisco just fine, despite them being thousands of miles apart and one with a map from Hertz and the other from the county sheriff.

…I want an agency who supports governmental operations in a neutral manner with spatial information.

So do I. It need not be a country-wide monopoly. And the OS are far from neutral. By definition they stifle competition and progress, without even waving around OFT reports.

…I want someone responsible for ensuring the education system produces infrastruture and knowledge to people so the geography of the land is know, recorded and stimulated.

University Geography departments would not be impotent without the OS. 11 year olds can still learn about geography without a free map.

I wonder if Openstreetmap honestly feel that they are ready to provide disaster response mapping, or have the resources in place to ensure that their coverage of the entire country is current to within one year or less.

Not yet, but we or someone like us will. And anyway, you don’t need an NMA for disaster response mapping.

It’s perfectly fair for OpenGeoData to think that Openstreetmap suits his mapping needs, but to call it superior, and to say that the Ordnance Survey is irrelevant is a little short-sighted.

Navteq are letting you submit errors and so are teleatlas with map insight. Our way of making maps is most definitely superior and it’s the future.

If you can, listen to this podcast which excellently summarises The Wealth of Networks.

To come back to the original post for a second, really the pragmatic point was to say should we spend our time campaigning against the OS, or just building our own systems and maps? Campaigning for open data from the OS, or change to government policy is just sticky tar. Would we have got anywhere in the past two and a half years by just campaigning? It’s very doubtful. We’d have publicity no doubt and a few more high-placed friends and enemies… but this way we have that and a mapping system, and a community of 5,700 people, and maps of Baghdad, and vast sections of the UK mapped.

I have some idea of what I’m talking about here, as I’ve been involved to varying degree with fipr, no2id and stuff.

But one thing I think would be cool to do is make a map of map charges. The idea is that the OS basically don’t respond to awkward questions through the Freedom of Information Act as they’re commercially sensitive… but if we all write to our councils and ask them then they have to give us at least some idea. My council just sent me a letter with the new council tax bill breaking it down by police, schools and so on.. but not maps. So, we can figure out who’s paying the OS too much or little. It’ll be interesting. What you need to do is find your council website and information freedom officer and write them a letter asking for this stuff. There’s a wiki page with a sample letter to help you get started.

As far as I know this data doesn’t exist anywhere.

29 thoughts on “The Pragmatic Mapper (part deaux)

  1. Archaeogeek

    Why do we need a national mapping agency? To provide standards. So that as you cross a county boundary, the names you give features, or the accuracy at which you measure them, or whether you bother to map them at all, don’t change. You might not care about that, but I do, as an archaeologist, not for flood response or anything like that, but just because I need to be able to rely on the data.

    I still think you’re being short-sighted- I quote: “On an economic note, even if you want all that, and you want an NMA that’s fine, just please don’t force me and the 65 million other citizens to pay for it as we might not want it.”

    “well the insurance market is very clear about that. Don’t live in a flood plain. If you want amazing disaster recovery maps of your area, then pay for it but please don’t force us all to”

    Well I don’t want the Olympics to come to London. I don’t want to pay for the NHS to deal with smokers. I have to though.

  2. SteveC Post author

    You don’t need a full NMA for standards, even if you want them.

    I don’t understand why you think I’m being short sighted, you appear to agree with me. I think the number of people who don’t want to pay for your two examples are far smaller than the number of people who don’t want to pay for a national mapping monopoly.

  3. Archaeogeek

    I think it’s short-sighted not to see that other people might have reasons to support something (anything) when you (rhetorically speaking) don’t.

    I think also that you do need a national authority of some kind to oversee standards, and not just in mapping, but how else would can you ensure consistency of terminology, survey accuracy, terminology, currency across the whole country? Or doesn’t that matter? It does to a lot of people. So back to my original point.

    Maybe we have slightly different ideas about what constitutes a national mapping agency, rather than a particular one like the Ordnance Survey. I don’t agree with their policies in particular, but I do think we need something in place with a national remit.

  4. Charles

    Why is it more sensible to have a lot of separate organisations all struggling to do their own little bit well or badly, instead of a single one doing it consistently? I really don’t follow the logic, if there is any.

    OS is monolithic. But that’s an advantage because it’s dealing with a monolithic object – the UK. Privatisation, which you’re heading towards with these suggestions, is a non-starter because it leads to unmapped, or poorly-mapped areas.

    I don’t agree with their funding system, because it distorts the market, but I’ve often been very happy for their products – the maps are essential for walkers and climbers. OSM faces the same problems as a disjointed OS (or mapping agencies) would: how do you make sure everyone really does follow the same standards? OS does it with that most basic of carrots – money.

  5. Charles

    Markets are more efficient than monopolies.

    Only at doing things that the markets are set up to do. That is why the phrase “market failure” abounds. Market failure is behind global warming, because until we can re-rig capitalism so that it doesn’t reward output that increases global warming, it will continue to contribute to it. (That means putting costs for carbon output into the equations for calculating costs of production.)

    Furthermore, “efficiency” is meaningless in a situation where what is needed is completeness. Markets that are based on present value cannot make good estimates about the future cost of, say, not having good maps of Lockerbie or outlying Scottish islands. But planes and helicopters do crash in those remote places. To estimate the Net Present Value of doing that mapping, you have to make guesses about future inflation and technology costs. That’s not feasible, or reasonable. It is simpler – that is, uses fewer resources unnecessarily – to go with a monolithic method. Really, it is. We have lots of companies competing to offer maps of London and other major cities. We have hardly any competing to map Skye or Rheinn in detail. But it’s a certainty that we will need them.

    Look at it this way: if markets are so efficient, they should be acting to protect themselves against asteroid strike. Yet I’ve seen no company set up to do that. It’s all being done – where it is – with public money. Why is that? Because markets cannot generate outputs they’re not set up to generate.

  6. Administrator

    Charles,

    First, you have failed to demonstrate where the market failure does, or would, exist in the current, or posited, scheme under your definition of market failure. Surely you don’t think the United States are falling apart for lack of a Master Map?

    Second, market failure in the context you’ve given is due to the market players. Most people don’t give a crap if an asteroid hits. Therefore, they don’t demand asteroid insurance. Most people read The Sun. Most people don’t care if there is a post office in South Blah, Gloustershire and therefore they don’t want to pay for you, South Blah resident, to have one. Maybe we should pay for you to have a Tesco and heliport too?

    I’m a libertarian, so I do not necessarily think your concept of ‘market failure’ exists. It’s erected to make you feel more morally at ease with society. It’s the faceless “them” who don’t pay for asteroid insurance, who don’t know better than to read The Sun or don’t pay for maps of Skye. No, it’s me. It’s most people. Even if it (the market failure) did exist, you’ve shown no chain of reasoning that the government, and therefore I as a taxpayer, am responsible for solving it. Have you put any money to asteroid protection? If not then in a very real sense, you don’t value or care for it.

    We have hardly any competing to map Skye or Rheinn in detail. But it’s a certainty that we will need them.

    This is the central failure of your understanding and argument. I don’t need a map of Skye. The market value, the value that people living within the UK, put on a map of Skye is very low. You’re trying to create a moral framework where there should be a high value on that map because of the children, or because there might be a plane crash. If the emergency services felt that there would be value on a map of that area they would pay for it. If they don’t have the funds then in a very real sense the populace doesn’t care either.

    Disregarding the entire mapping argument, do you really see global warming as a market failure? Lets posit that you’re right and that the market, or even the free market, is wrong and flawed. What do you suggest? Communism? Socialism? Who is a better judge than the market, and therefore me? Fascism? Personally I would rather I spent my money in a market than let Lenin, Mao or Hitler spend it for me. Or you. Or my local council.

    But none of this was my central, and unassailed, argument. It was _don’t make me pay for it_. I don’t mind if the OS is amazing and the best mapping organisation in the history of the universe. Still, do not make me pay. I might choose to pay, but that’s entirely different. Surely you should try and convince us it’s best to chose with our free money rather than force it upon us as a government sponsored monopoly tax? Or are we, the proles who read The Sun reading the wrong paper and you know better?

  7. Charles

    I’m a libertarian, so I do not necessarily think your concept of ‘market failure’ exists.

    Libertarianism will always be a stranger to realpolitik.

    To skip to your last paragraph, you don’t pay for OS – by your argument, nobody does, because it takes no Treasury money. It only takes it from those who “want” to pay for its data, under the trading fund system. The “market” operates. You’re actually arguing in favour of the status quo.

    I hope you too find this ironic.

    Surely you should try and convince us it’s best to chose with our free money rather than force it upon us as a government sponsored monopoly tax?

    I (we) argue that funding the OS directly from taxes while making its output available for free for reuse would lead to enough activity (and savings) in the economy that there would be a net benefit – for instance, the economy would grow enough (or costs such as congestion would be reduced enough to increase profits, which is the same thing) that the taxes on private-sector activity would more than cover the extra taxes needed to move the OS from its trading fund status.

    And market failure is a well-established term. It crops up a lot. See the Wikipedia entry, which while a long way short of definitive, gives a good introduction – http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Market_failure&oldid=121744329

    And to deal with the global warming point: Disregarding the entire mapping argument, do you really see global warming as a market failure? Lets posit that you’re right and that the market, or even the free market, is wrong and flawed. What do you suggest? Communism? Socialism?

    I answered this in my comment: “until we can re-rig capitalism so that it doesn’t reward output that increases global warming, it will continue to contribute to it”. Perhaps you didn’t see that bit because you had a bit of a red mist over the phrase “market failure”.

  8. Administrator

    Charles

    I’ll assume you haven’t bought asteroid insurance then!

    The market isn’t operating as there is a monopoly. You’ve again failed to show where the market failure is or would be, or show where the USA is falling apart so I’ll leave it at that.

  9. Charles

    I’ll assume you haven’t bought asteroid insurance then!

    I don’t think that markets will make it work – which Is why I prefer to see it done with money from the public. How much would it cost to protect us from an asteroid? Far more than any group of investors would be able to pull together; but a government (a big enough one) would have the resources. Like space-capable rockets.

    The market isn’t operating as there is a monopoly. You’ve again failed to show where the market failure is or would be, or show where the USA is falling apart so I’ll leave it at that.

    I take it you mean the mapping market in the UK. Other companies can and do compete in the market. There’s a market failure in that OS is entrenched – rather like BT around the time of its privatisation (slightly before).

  10. Administrator

    Charles

    If you, or the populace, don’t want to pay for asteroid insurance it means that you don’t want it. It really is that simple. If you feel that there is an opportunity there then you should start an asteroid insurance company, not appeal to the government to get me to pay for it.

    I take it you mean the mapping market in the UK. Other companies can and do compete in the market.

    So you don’t acknowledge that the OS is a monopoly or that monopolies are inefficient or what? It seems like the latter?

  11. Charles

    I do want asteroid insurance – but who has the resources to provide it? People will give a very big crap, perhaps literally, when an asteroid is found on definite collision course with Earth. Who has resources for it? Only governments. You need rocket launchers, perhaps nuclear warheads, and above all the organisational muscle that governments have (think: armies) and private citizens generally don’t.

    The OS a monopoly? Hmm, sort of depends what you mean. What do you mean by it? What do you define as its monopoly powers?

    Plus, monopolies aren’t necessarily inefficient. But that’s a different branch of economics.

  12. nick

    Charles:

    I suspect you want asteroid insurance in the same way that I want a moon walk – it would be nice to have and I’d write an amazing blog post about it. ‘Want’ is the wrong word here – ‘Value’ is what we should be talking about. You place enough value on asteroid insurance to talk about it, but not enough to acquire it – that is why you don’t have it. If I placed enough value on a moon walk, I would be dedicating my life to the Space Program, rather than making maps and commenting on blog posts. If I never walk on the moon will it be due to market failure?

    You equate ‘hard to achieve tasks’, like getting asteroid insurance, with activities that must be carried out by governments. How so? Getting back to the less fanciful world of mapping, the analogy breaks down. Everyone with access to a computer and some basic knowledge of its operation can now participate in mapping the world. Its as if everyone clubbed together and paid for asteroid insurance. And it all happened without the government organising or financing it. Asteroid insurance of everyone!

    The OS a monopoly? Hmm, sort of depends what you mean. What do you mean by it? What do you define as its monopoly powers?

    Monopoly:In economics, a monopoly … is defined as a persistent market situation where there is only one provider of a product or service … characterized by a lack of economic competition for the good or service that they provide and a lack of viable substitute goods.

    How many OS products or services have alternative suppliers? Do you suggest that there is currently a meaningful level of economic competition within the UK geodata market?

  13. Charles

    @Steve – sure, if you can’t refute the argument, just give up. That always works. *rolls eyes*

    @Nick I suspect you want asteroid insurance in the same way that I want a moon walk – it would be nice to have and I’d write an amazing blog post about it.

    Completely misunderstood my point. I *don’t* want asteroid insurance. I think it would be an unnecessary, inefficient use of resources, because the resources to avert their risk are already out there. I think governments ought to do it. I wrote that in the earlier comments, You read those, yes?

    Everyone with access to a computer and some basic knowledge of its operation can now participate in mapping the world.

    Uh-huh. You tell me how you’re going to create something comparable with the OS’s MasterMap, which requires lots of expert knowledge and things like regular aircrat overflights around the country. That is a hard-to-achieve task. It makes writing Linux look a bit easy, because with mapping, the target keeps moving.

    How many OS products or services have alternative suppliers? Do you suggest that there is currently a meaningful level of economic competition within the UK geodata market?

    Now that’s an interesting question, to which I don’t know the answer. Do you? I think that would actually be a useful thing to know.

  14. Administrator

    Charles Says:
    April 16th, 2007 at 10:14 pm e

    I do want asteroid insurance

    [...]

    Charles Says:
    April 20th, 2007 at 8:41 pm e

    [...] Completely misunderstood my point. I *don’t* want asteroid insurance.

    What a waste of time.

  15. nick

    Uh-huh. You tell me how you’re going to create something comparable with the OS’s MasterMap, which requires lots of expert knowledge and things like regular aircrat overflights around the country

    If people want to, yes. The aggregate skills of the OSM community vastly outnumber the aggregate skills of the Ordance Surey, TeleAtlas or Navteq. Because OSM is ultimately efficient and has a potentially enourmous contributor base, we will acheive what we set out to. This harks back to the original theme of the ‘Pragmatic Mapper’ post.

    You should come and join in with some OSM events rather than commenting from the sideline. Talk to the guys who are figuring out how to map tunnels using consumer grade motion sensors and then say Uh-huh. (We are in Southampton next Thursday evening and over the weekend).

    …I *don’t* want asteroid insurance. I think it would be an unnecessary, inefficient use of resources… I think governments ought to do it

    Then you agree that the market is functioning, as no one wants $INSURANCE no-one is buying it and no-one is offering it. What you want is for the government to look after you and hold your hand – cradle to the grave sytle. You want them to buy asteroid insurance, and map blah-ville because you dont want to think about it, right?

    Now that’s an interesting question, to which I don’t know the answer. Do you?

    There are no alternatives to Mastermap, Landline, the ITN, the contour datasets, the boundary datasets or Landranger. In areas where the OS do have competition – like online mapping or city mapping – their products are inferior to those offered by private enterprise.

    You read those, [pervious posts] yes?

    Yes. You do not beleive that the OS is a monopoly. You think that the government should be responsible for things that you find difficuilt. You don’t believe that a society can collectively solve their own problems without the guidance of a governmental body. You seem to be guided by some form of ideology that is shaping you opionions.

    Are you a Socialist?

  16. Charles

    To clarify for Steve, who I have to hope is being wilfully obtuse, the asteroid ‘insurance’ I want is coordinated action by those with the resources to do something about a large rock headed at Earth. Only governments have those resources in the form of big rocket launchers and atomic missiles. I do not think that the private sector can do that. At all. And certainly not within the timescale that would be needed.

    For Nick: The aggregate skills of the OSM community vastly outnumber the aggregate skills of the Ordance Surey, TeleAtlas or Navteq. Because OSM is ultimately efficient and has a potentially enourmous contributor base, we will acheive what we set out to.

    Aggregate skills are one thing, but focus is another. OS has incredibly intense focus: it’s a mistake to underestimate it.

    I’d really like to know what your expected timetable is to achieve something comparable with, well, anything. A Landranger map of somewhere – any Landranger map. Does OSM have any timetables? (I should look but this is my portal to it at present.)

    Nick says In areas where the OS do have competition – like online mapping or city mapping – their products are inferior to those offered by private enterprise.

    Which online mapping products? I thought that pretty much any online mapping product that maps the British Isles used OS at some scale. Some use Teleatlas, but at particular scales it goes to OS.

    Hmm, OS has a de facto monopoly on certain products – because of its history. Where, wait, we paid for it with our taxes. So it belongs to all of us, in effect.

    You think that the government should be responsible for things that you find difficuilt. You don’t believe that a society can collectively solve their own problems without the guidance of a governmental body. You seem to be guided by some form of ideology that is shaping you opionions.

    Was this one of your sixth-form questions for David Cameron?

    Are you a Socialist?

    Ah, the libertarian’s favourite term of abuse. Since you ask, I’m a secular pragmatist.

    Let me know about the timetables. Despite the abuse you’re trying to heap, I’m still interested in facts around this project.

  17. nick

    Nick says In areas where the OS do have competition – like online mapping or city mapping – their products are inferior to those offered by private enterprise.

    Which online mapping products? I thought that pretty much any online mapping product that maps the British Isles used OS at some scale. Some use Teleatlas, but at particular scales it goes to OS.

    Most mapping in the UK is derived from the OS because in most cases it is the most efficient way to acquire base data. The value of OS products is artificially inflated by their monopoly position, which you admit they hold on certain products. In areas where there is competition, the private sector perform more efficiently than the OS. Why would Microsoft buy its aerial imagery from Getmapping, and Goolge buy theirs from Bluesky, if the OS had a product that better suited their need?

    The geo-data market with the most intense competition is probably web-based mapping, where Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Multimap and others, fight it out. The OS does not feature in this list. Do you think that if any of G-Y-M-M had access to the geodata resources that the OS did, they too would be incapable of producing a usable web-mapping product? They would be streets ahead of their rivals. If private enterprise is so clearly able to produce better online mapping products, why would they not be able to compete at any other level of the stack? return again to Steve’s original point:

    What do you do when you go to the united states then? The country isn’t falling apart because they have different mapping providers in different parts of the country.

    Charles writes:

    So it [OS Geodata] belongs to all of us, in effect.

    This is an ideological argument, which is why I asked whether you are a Socialist (I wasn’t aware that it was a term of abuse). Is there any legal precedent for this? Why did the , if they could have argued that the data belonged to the taxpayer anyway? They obviously thought that if such an argument was viable, it would cost them more than £20m. If people want to challenge the position of the OS on ideological grounds, then that is fantastic. In the meantime, I’m going to go write some code and make some maps for OpenStreetMap. This was the enitre point of the ‘Pragmatic Mapper’ anyway:

    Steve wrote: Me, I just don’t care about the Ordnance Survey. It’s not “evil” or “immoral,” it just doesn’t matter. I think that Open Maps can do better, and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is by working on Open Maps, but it’s not a crusade — it’s just a superior way of working together and generating maps.

    I’ll send you a schedule for OSM’s plan to create free geodata as soon as you send me a schedule for yours.

  18. Charles

    Nick says The value of OS products is artificially inflated by their monopoly position, which you admit they hold on certain products.

    I think it would be more accurate to say that the value of OS products is high compared to their price. Yes, contrary, isn’t it? Except that the OS starts each day from the position of having decades – centuries even – of getting the map of the UK right. Everyone else, OSM included, if they want to compete without stepping on Crown Copyright, has to create their own new map. It would be like writing an OS while being wary to avoid patents.

    G-Y-M easily have 100m pounds to spare if they felt like redoing the maps of the UK (which is the cost of redrawing them, roughly, each year, as a rough guess); but they prefer the path of least resistance, which is to license OS data. This however doesn’t benefit smaller companies who can’t afford to but have great ideas.

    The AA case you’re referring to (http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/media/news/2001/march/centrica.html) – well, they couldn’t argue the legal point because it doesn’t exist; OS data belongs to the “Crown” and you can’t copy it freely as in beer or speech.

    The Free Our Data argument is, as you say, ideological – which is why we are taking it to ministers. We had an hour-long meeting Baroness Ashton, who is notionally in charge of public sector information policy; we’ll have an on-the-record meeting after the local elections. Government is at least listening to the arguments over re-use of PSI; Tom Steinberg of MySociety is leading a Cabinet Office review into use of PSI. We’re finding the right levers to pull.

    So yes, we are challenging the OS’s licensing system on ideological grounds, on the basis that it uses public resources ineffectively, and that government-owned data belongs to citizens. It’s a bit like Freedom of Information.

    Schedule for FOD? We’ve been going for a year, and things are moving. Tectonically.
    I don’t have a timetable; I just think the arguments are irresistible. Let’s hope that in a few years OSM will have access to all the OS data and will be able to improve on it. Sounds like a win-win to me.

  19. nick

    I think it would be more accurate to say that the value of OS products is high compared to their price

    I really don’t know what to say. I don’t understand how value could be higher than a price.

    You say least resistance, I say most efficient. How is your ‘path of least resistance’ any different from the most efficient choice?

    I am confident that I will never live to see OS datasets like Mastermap be released into the public domain. Other datasets will become PD because Commons data will exist, which will largely destroy their value.

  20. Administrator

    Nick

    You and I would see (market) price as equal to (market) value. Charles subscribes to things having an innate ‘value’, a property of it which is different to the market price. For example he might say that the value of paying for care of an elderly relative is more than the price paid per week to a care home. Or the value of asteroid insurance being much higher than the price the market would ascribe to it.

    It’s common in classical economics but to many its a bit like hidden variable theory in physics which attempts to describe particle interactions by assigning arbitrary summing internal numbers to particles that have no base in fact. It’s subjective and it makes you feel better when your personal value differs from the price.

    Case in point would be post offices. The ‘think of the children’ argument is that there is some mystical high value on rural post offices and that government should support them (i.e. tax people living in cities). The plain free market view is that the price willing to be paid for the post offices doesn’t reflect the prices on land, stamps, wages so they should be allowed to close down. Assigning a value of ‘community cohesion’ or other highly subjective unquantifiables allows you to sidestep the rational taxation and price arguments.

    This is exactly what Charles is doing with the value vs. price of an OS map, and I don’t think we’re going to agree with him.

  21. Charles

    @Nick: I don’t understand how value could be higher than a price.

    Remind me – how much do you pay for each Google search? That’s the price. And how useful is the outcome of a Google search to you? That’s its value.

    If Ordnance Survey was obliged to capitalise the National Geographic Database, then its capital value would be a lot higher, which would mean it would have to charge more to meet its trading fund requirements, which are to make a Treasury-set return on capital employed. The OS has never put a value on the NGD or included it in its accounts (which the National Audit Office has disagreed with since the OS accounts began). The value and the price aren’t the same.

    I am confident that I will never live to see OS datasets like Mastermap be released into the public domain. Other datasets will become PD because Commons data will exist, which will largely destroy their value.

    Specify the other datasets. I’m still waiting to hear when OSM will produce something comparable with any single Landranger map.

    @Steve: the hidden variable theory diversion is a nice try, but we’re really not talking about quantum physics here.

    You bring up post offices. Again, you think that the only inputs are the ones that are directly measured at any point; my point above was that markets do only what they’re set up to do, and if you don’t allow for contingent effects, then the transactions succeed but the participants end up losing.

    So, say a post office closes. Hurrah! Now the Royal Mail has saved X pounds. But what is the outcome? People take more car journeys to get to the post office, or simply don’t send things as much as they did. They don’t buy the other services the post office offered, there’s less employment in the village, people have to take more car journeys to get to a job, there’s more pollution, less disposable income (it’s spent on petrol). Outcome: fewer postal items sent; more pollution. The Royal Mail can follow the trend of fewer items sent; who measures the disbenefit of increased CO2 in the atmosphere? How does that factor in your so-perfect market? It doesn’t because “nobody” owns the atmosphere, which means anyone can screw it up as they like, by your model.

    Why did you think local communities hate their post office closing? To fail to understand that is to show a distinct lack of empathy. If closing them was an improvement, how many people do you think would oppose them?

  22. Administrator

    It doesn’t because “nobody” owns the atmosphere, which means anyone can screw it up as they like, by your model.

    You’re treating people like children again. Only you are clever enough to not pollute. The rest of us need a helping hand.

    Again, I think I’m the best person to decide where my money goes not you.

  23. nick

    Remind me – how much do you pay for each Google search?

    Its called advertising

    Specify the other datasets. I’m still waiting to hear when OSM will produce something comparable with any single Landranger map.

    If you don’t like it, don’t use it. Pragmatic.

    Why did you think local communities hate their post office closing?

    Not the point. The point is value. If people value their post offices then thats great, they can pay for them. Why should I? If you want Landranger, great, buy it from the OS. You want a map of central london then get it for free from OSM. Its your choice.

    I believe in a market where market price equates to value, you don’t and there is no benifit to me in convincing you otherwise.

  24. Charles

    @Nick: Its called advertising

    Smart reply, but wait! There are advertisers there which you aren’t interested in and will never click on! You’re getting a free ride from them! They’re paying for your search- good grief, a terrible market inefficiency. No, you really must put a coin in the slot for your searches – the ultimate efficiency of markets demands no less. After all, by ignoring advertising for stuff you don’t want, you’re raising the price for those who do want those goods. The value of the search is still higher to you than its price.

    You avoid the other questions I raise – such as who “pays” for the climate, and where that should figure in the calculations about something as apparently trivial as a post office closure.

    If people value their post offices then thats great, they can pay for them. Why should I? Because it’s their kids who’ll come into the city and nick your car because their parents are out of work because after the post office shut the village descended into nothingness because nobody went there and property values fell and…

    I believe in a market where market price equates to value, you don’t and there is no benifit to me in convincing you otherwise.

    Google searches demonstrate that there’s a case where the former doesn’t apply, and for the latter I think you really mean you’re unable to convince me otherwise. I’ve heard all the libertarian arguments, and been back and forth over them with people who could argue better than you. They’re still not persuasive in the real world – particularly not where simple things like driving a fossil-fuelled car can have a very hard-to-measure impact on people and places far outside the immediate “market”. In fact, I find it quite interesting that one of the fiercest opponents of the reality of global warming in the US is a libertarian thinktank.

  25. Richard Fairhurst

    “I’m still waiting to hear when OSM will produce something comparable with any single Landranger map”

    Well, in city centres, OSM is generally more useful than a Landranger – and I say that as someone who admires the Landranger (or its 1in predecessors!) as the pinnacle of British cartography. Landrangers are, in effect, terrain and countryside maps. OSM hasn’t, as yet, spent more than minimal effort on terrain and countryside mapping.

    But already people are sniffing around one particular use case – cycle route mapping – which is currently principally served by Landrangers. I’d expect that, in a year’s time, OSM will have map data comparable with this single _use_ of a Landranger map. To compare “any single Landranger map” with “OSM” as if it were a printed sheet is something that I find surprising from the Free Our Data campaign.

    Richard (cartographer and liberal socialist ;) )

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