Author Archives: Steve Coast

15-second delay

I spoke to a ticket guy on a southern train as we pulled in to Victoria today after he announced ‘there will be a 15 second delay before the doors open after we arrive at the station’. I asked why this was.

Get this, the train knows how many doors to open (because it might be a 12 car train at an 8 car-long station platform) based on GPS. It knows it’s at such and such a station and opens the doors accordingly, no need to trust the driver.

So why the delay at Victoria? Becuase IT CANT SEE THE GPS SATELLITES! At Victoria you can’t see the sky. So they have to trust the driver at Victoria after all, and he takes 15 seconds to shut the train off and override the GPS system the guard said.


Multimap sponsors OSM work

have started to sponsor me to work on openstreetmap.

This was very much inspired by the month of OSM (and is not a replacement) which has seen a soft launch over the last three days. I hadn’t intended to spend all this week on OSM, I wanted to launch with a camera so you could see me working and stuff but hey. I’ll count it as one day, and if you’ve been following the slippy map progress then you know it’s making an impact. More on the month of OSM in later posts, back to multimap.

I and others have been looking for sponsors which didn’t compromise the soul of openstreetmap for a while. The great Nestoria sponsorship of the related mapstraction was a great start but wasn’t going to go on forever. I met the founders of multimap and others at their offices to talk about openstreetmap and they immediately ‘got it’, to the extent of sponsorship. This makes them pretty far ahead of the pack and, I think, visionary.

What’s in it for them? Well, that’s not entirely clear right now. Obviously there is publicity. It’s early days and there are things to be explored but I think 80n has something on his user page when he says ‘My dream is of the day that Google Maps starts to use OSM data (under our license terms).’. Because multimap, google and a lot of others arn’t really in the geodata creation business, they have to license it for lots of money whether its maps, postcodes or whatever. If that is cheaper then great. If the technology behind OSM can be used on existing proprietary data then that’s good too, there’s many uses that can come as OSM matures. This might all be disturbing to some people, so I need to state some things plainly:

  • Will the OSM license change? NO!
  • Will OSM close off the data? NO!
  • Will OSM be re-branded as ‘multimap OSM’? NO! But, given that they sponsor us along with UCL and bytemark who host us I think it’s entirely fair that we acknowledge that like we do for the others already on the front page
  • Are there any strings attached to the money? NO!

Those are real ‘NOs’. What’s telling is multimap haven’t even asked me for these things. They ‘get it’. If they did, then sponsorship simply wouldn’t happen as OSM will and must remain Open. OSM is really you and the data and code you’re putting in – there won’t be an CDDB-like debacle.

So what do you get out of it? Well, thanks to you the month of OSM is getting started and now further, deeper work can occur thanks to multimap. This means more bugs fixed, more hours spent rendering places, more coding and ultimately a better OSM.

So, a big thank you to multimap and to all of you for continuing to build OSMs data and code.

Feel free to discuss all this on the mailing list and I’ll try to answer any questions that arise. Hopefully we should have some more good announcements soon.

State of the Map

The United States has the State of the Union and perl has the State of the Onion. We will have the State of the Map.

In 2007, OpenStreetMap will have its first user and hacker conference. You’re invited.

Before we get on to that, what is the state of the map? Let’s have a look at London.

RandomJunk has been producing some awesome images like this animation. The slippy map is getting lots of improvements and in the not too distant future should be showing Europe and then the whole world.

Most people have paid up for the month of OSM (where OSM users clubbed together to pay my wage so I can work on OSM for a month) and it will start as soon as a I have a webcam to show I’m at my desk. (How do you define OSMonth anyway? I’ve spent most of today on OSM already :-))

I’m acutely aware that our friends in Europe and elsewhere don’t always see the best of OSM. The UK being the starting point of OSM, it has a lot of the focus. EU language mailing lists are helping, and what I think was the first EU mapping party got Munich mapped:

Talking of mapping weekends, 2006 has seen a bunch of them

  • Isle of Wight
  • Manchester
  • Bath
  • New Forest (* two)
  • Reading
  • Brighton
  • Rutland
  • Munich
  • Surrey Hills

Have I missed any? There have been 30-40 talks on OSM given all over Europe and the US by myself and others. There have been more and more local pub/social meetups like the one coming up in Oxford. It’s one of the more surprising things about OSM to me, the social nature is very much at its core both at mapping parties and on the ever increasing mailing list message counts.

FreeThePostcode continues to grow and spawned to some extent the excellent NPE maps with postcode derivation. Non-UK postcodes will be coming soon.

The OSM Foundation has been set up and whilst a little dormant at present does get funds through Etienne’s excellent work in getting commissons on things like GPS units. More will happen as we ramp up the membership side of things… which brings us back to the conference.

A number of people like Andy and Etienne have brought up the idea of a conference and it seems like mid 2007 would be an excellent idea, probably somewhere in central England that’s cheap and easy to fly in to. We’ll try and make it a 2 or 3 day affair and get some mapping in too. There’s a wiki page to discuss and firm ideas up – it’s very much down to you to help make it happen.

I would however like to put down a theme. A grand challenge. Something to focus on in discussions and presentations at the conference.

People have stopped asking me if OSM will ever work. They’ve stopped telling me that it will only work in this or that circumstance. What I’m being asked now is when will OSM map the UK. I’ve been semi-flippantly retorting with ‘mid-2008’. Its not that far away (30 months or so?) so it’s a little daunting but it’s also achievable by looking at what’s happened in the last 2 years. Whether or not it’s realistic or not, I propose it as a challenge. A grand challenge for OSMers in the UK and a general focus for the conference – how are we going to map the planet in a reasonable timeframe?

Maximise value, not protection

My response to a post on eds blog about the worth of GeoDRM:

Here’s a quote I find better every day:

“We think the natural tendency is for producers to worry too much about protecting their intellectual property. The important thing is to maximise the value of your intellectual property, not to protect it for the sake of protection. If you lose a little of your property when you sell it or rent it, that’s just a cost of doing business, along with depreciation, inventory losses, and obsolescence.”

– Information Rules, Carl Shaprio and Hal Varian, page 97.

Put another way, maximise the value not the protection. The value will of course merit some protection.

Complete UK Maps from 1950s online

npemap is a nuke-from-orbit-quality browser of out of copyright UK maps. They’ve bootstrapped postcode data from freethepostcode and you can submit postcode data using whizzy ajax click-on-map goodness. Map data comes from scans of Richards New Popular collection and the code (so far as I know) comes from the Charlbury based code ninjas – the UKs highest concentration of mappers. It’s very pretty, try finding the forest your house was built on top of.