Author Archives: Nick

This week’s round-up

The debate surrounding the use and licensing of OSM’s data that was reported in last week’s round-up has continued in earnest this week, resulting in an explosion of traffic on the OSM legal mailing list:

There are several components to the problem. First, there is the issue of copyright. Currently each individual contributor retains the copyright to their contributions. This situation is unlikely to change, as in many countries, such as Germany, it is simply not possible to transfer copyright held by an individual to another body. Next is the issue of the OSM license. All the data held by OSM is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 2.0 license (CC-by-SA). CC-by-SA means that anyone can use OSM data for anything they like, provided they give attribution to the creator(s) of the data (the guys with the GPS units and bicycles) and providing that they apply the same license to any derivative works that they make and distribute. I think I speak for the whole OSM community when I say that we all want the best free map of the world we can get; how we define freedom and how we get there is another matter. Richard Fairhurst gives his opinion on some of the problems with the current OSM license:

No webmapping company or cartographer will contribute any data back to OSM except through the goodness of their own heart. That’s because CC-SA doesn’t require you to publish the source code, just the final product.

So if a cartographer produces a beautifully illustrated map using OSM data and then redistributes the map, they are required to redistribute it under the CC-by-SA license. This would make selling the derived work very difficult and Richard and others have suggested that this factor will stop cartographers from using OSM’s data in the future. Instead, they will go to organisations from whom they can buy data under licenses that allow them to create works that they can use commercially, effectively bolstering the position of organisations who sell proprietary data. Frederick Ramm and Robert “Jamie” Munro also point out that this scenario contradicts OSM’s stated aim, to produce maps that are free of the “legal and technical restricions” that most geo-data is subject to.

Take another scenario, one in which a big provider of geo-data gets hold of OSM’s data-set, cleans it, augments it and then uses it to produce map tiles. The current CC-by-SA license does not require this organisation to release the augmented data back into theOSM data set , they would only release their finished product. Those who see this as a problem have suggested making a distinction between the source data (a planet dump for example) and a “rendered” work. It is suggested that the source data could be licensed so that any improvements have to be given back to OSM, whilst derived works would not need to be licensed under such a license, allowing more widespread use of OSM data.

This is a very brief round-up of a pretty complex problem that many people have strong opinions about. Whatever the final outcome of the debate is, it is going to play an important part in shaping the future of OSM. We’ll be meeting with some Creative Commons people in the next couple of weeks, so if you have any ideas about licensing, send a mail to the legal list, or take a look at this wiki page, and make sure your opinion is counted.

Almien published a list of interesting tags, based on the most recent Planet dump. One of my personal favourites is “wrong=oh yes!”, with “description=Official home of the President of The Philippines”, coming a close second. After seeing “blackadder:service=cobler” I know where I will be going to get my shoes fixed in the future, after which I can visit “blackadder:cuisine=fish” for a nice bit of seafood.

OSM@home is a project that uses distributed computing power to render SVG images of places from OSM data. You can browse through the different places here. Through the work of Barry Crabtree, J.D. “Dutch” Schmidt and others, the latest OSM@home client post-processes Osmarender data to produce images with beizer curves, like these:

There’s more information about the curve smoothing algorithm here and you can download the OSM@home client from here.

Free-Map – the countryside oriented open mapping project – now have a similar client that allows people to render Free-Map tiles (with really nice looking SRTM contours) at home. If you want to help out, you can get it from here.

The OSM Cartography meet-up on Saturday saw Artem, SteveC, Steve Chilton and Richard Fairhurst spend a few hours going through the Mapnik config file with the aim of improving the cartography produced by Mapnik. About 10 people met up in Oxford afterwards and there was some interesting discussion about cartography in OSM. Steve Chilton and Richard Fairhurst made the point that a lot of the discussions about rendering OSM data focus on getting as much data as possible onto the maps. They pointed out that the secret of cartography is to represent the information that is needed for a particular use case, and had some convincing examples of traditional cartographic products, like maps oriented towards cyclists, that don’t include many features at all, but succeed in conveying the information needed by the cyclist by choosing the most useful features. This is definitely something for OSM’s renderers to think about. As the database gets larger and more diverse, and the demand for cartographic outputs of OSM data gets greater its going to be increasingly important to carefully select the features that are represented on our maps.

Saturday’s “You know you got OCOSMD (Obsessive Compulsive Open Street Mapping Disorder) when….” thread, started by J.D. “Dutch” Schmidt has thrown up some funny suggestions, along the lines of “…when you read other peoples gpx files as blogs” or “… You forget to pick the girlfriend up from work, but remember the GPS”. It would be so much funnier if it wasnt so painfully true. There’s definitely a fair amount of obsessiveness in the OSM community. I’ve always found that you appreciate things a lot more when you start trying to do or make them for yourself – thats certainly the way its been for me with mapping. Thomas Walraet reported on a French project that’s taking the do-it-yourself ethos to the extreme, making their own GPS circuit boards:

The boards retail for around รขโ€šยฌ100, with the board’s manurfacturers making no profit. More information is available in French, here.

Thats all for this week, keep tuned to OpenGeoData for all latest news from the world of Open Mapping.

A week on Open Street Map Mailing lists.

Mailing lists are great. Don’t you just love it when an innocently titled OSM layer into Adobe Illustrator post breaks out into a storm? Phil Barnett, who wanted to use OpenStreetMap data along with imagery from Google Earth in an ITN news cast asked, “…and I presume there’s no problem with broadcasting this composite…”. There followed plenty of IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer) prefixed comments, but the crux of the problem is this (from Mike Collinson) – OSM needs to make it crystal clear what constitutes a derivative work from OSM data, otherwise all this fantastic content is not going to be used to anywhere near its full potential. The debate continues on the Legal Mailing list.

If you are thinking of getting involved and wondering what type of gps unit to get (Tom-tom? Garmin? ….) take a look at the disucssion promped by David Stevenson on which sat-navs log, which specifically discusses Tom-toms, or look at the advice on the freshly updated wiki. That should give you a good round up of the pros and cons of the different devices that are around and set you off in the right direction (groan!).

The open tagging system that OpenStreetMap adopts always causes a lot of debate. This week, David Earl tried to finalise a new set of tags that the community have almost agreed on, which soon became a village-green discussion and a plea from Ben Robbins to be less flame-war-ish – its about critical discussion – don’t take it personally. It turns out that, village greens are not commons. OK, true enough but do you really care? Get off the fence and join the great OSM tagging debte. How exactly do you tag a fence?

A great subway-station vs. subway entrance discussion kicked of – do you put a node where the subway is, or mark each of the entrances? The weight of opinion was that you mark all the entrances, with the view that the routing/rendering engines will do the right thing and produce a detailed map. This does the discussion so much injustice – as with most of these kind of things, the devil is in the detail. Check here for the details.

There was a good talk about presenting the splippy map starting from other locations than Europe – country/IP based mapping was discussed, as was a view of the whole world (you know, sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ๐Ÿ™‚ ).

Don’t you just hate it when…. opened up a vein by Nick Whitelegg to vent all those frustrating things that can happen once you start that addictive thing called mapping. If you do nothing else today just read the thread. Did you really spend a few hours mapping and forget to check that your gps was logging? Wasn’t it really frustrating when your train took a detour down all these new unmapped tracks and the coating on the windows interfered with GPS reception. I was on the floor by the time I read Ivan Sanchez’s comment! You need to go there… I’m waiting for an OSM-dev version to appear….

Osmarender4 has been up and running for a week or so now – (beautiful bridges) and should be running on all tiles@home clients now. There are a whole new set of icons as well. Looks like there will be some occasional confusion with the tiles on the slippy map util they are all osmrender4’d.

Looks like an Amsterdam Mapping Weekend is on the cards for the 17th/18th March. Who’d want to go to Amsterdam eh? ๐Ÿ™‚ The things we’ll do for our art!

Oh, and we made it to the UK East Anglia Evening News, or David Earl did with an article on his and other OSM contributor’s great efforts to cycle and map the whole of Cambridge. There’s a brief item here.

By Barry Crabtree

This week on the OSM lists…

So we are back again with another round up of the fabulous OSM mailing lists. First up, the redesign of the OSM front page, was kicked of by OJW with this entry. Top marks for including one of the only photos of a girl taking part in OSM data collection. Richard Fairhurst’s design included some sleek rounded borders – a challenge to replicate using only CSS. You can follow, or better yet, participate in improving the interface design of OSM here.

Next up, a question was raised about how you can find out about edits that are happening in your area. Because of OSM’s privacy policy, its not possible to query the API to find out who inserted or edited a node/segment etc. The ever wise and helpful Andy Robinson, pointed out that it is possible to subscribe to an RSS feed centred on a speceific location or of a specific user – more details here.

One of the longest threads recently has discussed entering street name details into OSM. It turns out that the situation is not as simple as tagging a node or way with a postcode or address, several issues complicate the situation. First off, as Andy R points out, tagging map data with address details will lead to a large increase in file size complexity. So TM and others suggest using address nodes that are tagged with a post code and address. The main problem with this approach is that it doesn’t take into account streets that have an irregular numbering system (what will we do when OSM expands to Japan where buildings are numbered based on the date they were built?). Postcodes largely remove the need for a geo-database to even bother with house numbers – but then a lot of countries either don’t have postcodes or have systems that are not as accurate as the UK system. Tom Chance hits the nail on the head when he points out that recording every single address as a tagged POI is totally impractical. What this all boils down to is the very worthy goal of using OSM for navigation – the defining factor must be whether people think that having addresses coded to house number level is worth it?

Tireless database warrior Nick Hill has been running tests on the DB, as well as upgrading to MySQL 5.1. As a result of Nick’s tests, the DB now stores lat and lon and integer values, sacrificing millimetre accuracy, but leading to substantially improved query times. The main bottleneck now exists within the rendering system – perhaps time to consider client side SVG rendering, Nick suggests.

Finally, there has been some discussion about representing areas. Chris Morley’s Chester map uses areas to colour parks – this is achieved by creating a way that is a closed loop and tagging it leisure=park, giving a green area. Or alternatively, tag natural=water to get – you guessed it – a blue area.

That’s all from the list this week. Keep on mapping and hacking…


FOSS4G – First Report

The FOSS4G conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, is almost over. There has been a lot of talk about Free, Open, geo-data and quite a lot of interest in OpenStreetMap. Much of the interest is generated from the restrictive geo-data licensing that we are all too familiar with – it seems that people across the world share the same problems with accessing data. There is also an interesting case of “grass is always greener” that exists between people in the USA (where the government provide basic geo-data for free) and most of the rest of the world where we pay for the map data. The US representatives point out how crude their geo-data is, and also that private geo-data vendors supply data under licenses that are equally as restrictive as those of the Ordnance Survey or other European mapping agencies.

So there is a lot of discontent within the Geo and wider community, which catalyses projects like OpenStreetMap and is also drawing the attention of larger organisations. OSGeo have had a massive presence at the conference. They are an organisation that have been recently set up to support open source geospatial software – products like GRASS, Mapserver and GDAL are all benifitting from their assiciation with OSGeo. In a discussion session about open geodata, OSGeo expressed a lot of itnerest in helping grass roots projects, possibly by providing legal advice or by providing contact with a wider community and also by providing representation Governments and administrators who pull the strings. They are definitely worth taking a look at.

OSGeo themselves are partially supported by Autodesk, who have just made the move into Open Source with their Map Guide Open Source product. For a proprietery software house like Autodesk to release an open source project may have been unimaginable a few years ago and demonstrates the turning of the open source software tide. How long will it be until the open geo-data tide turns the same way?


This week on the OpenStreetMap list…

OpenStreetMap is growing. There are now around 2,800 users, with a Wiki, a forum, four English speaking mailing lists, a German list and as of today, a French list. With such a quickly growing community we thought it would be cool to sift through the map talk, flames and legal debates and put together a highlight of the best bits from the week on the list. So here we go.

There has been lots of talk about the new phenomena of “Mapping Parties” that is sweeping through the OSM community. Last weekend OSM people were mapping Bath, and there are planned events comming up in Reading, Brighton, Rutland and the New Forest. If you live in the North and feel left out, then don’t. Chorley doesn’t have a map, and it seems that OSM are the perfect people to make them one.

Free The Postcode, OSM’s sister project which is all about making a free database of UK postcodes, hit it’s 1000th postcode recently. With a Geocoder and now with each postcode linked to an editable discription (eg SW1A 0AA, you can leave feedback about bad postcodes, or start a thread about your favourite one.

FreeThePostcode’s not the only thing that has been updated in OSM world. OJW has written a nice web-based app that lets you upload and edit waypoints before uploading them to the OSM database. Check it out here.

Thats all from the list for this week…