We usually talk about data on this blog, but OpenStreetMap wouldn’t happen without code, too. Running the world’s biggest user-editable map (and, increasingly, one of the world’s biggest maps, full stop) requires thousands upon thousands of lines of code… from the low-level stuff that keeps the servers flying along, via the API and editing software that enables you to contribute, to the programs and stylesheets that turn all this raw data into pretty maps.
Much of this work happens in isolation, co-ordinated by IRC conversations or mailing lists. But we also have ‘hack weekends’, where developers – experienced and newcomers alike – come together to share knowledge and bounce ideas off each other.
Last weekend saw a major hack weekend in Toronto, attracting developers from the US, Britain, and the Netherlands as well as Canada. This weekend saw a rather smaller gathering in Charlbury, a tiny town in the Cotswolds, England, which coincidentally is home to the lead developers of both Potlatch (our online editing software) and Mapnik (the ‘renderer’ which turns OSM data into map images).
The focus for this weekend was Potlatch, with a vast list of improvements undertaken over the two days. The theme was “little things that mean a lot”, so when the new version goes live soon, you’ll notice quicker loading, neater appearance, more reliable operation, and so on. (Those of a technical bent can see the long list of code changes.)