Category Archives: postcodes

Open Data from Toronto

Mark Kuznicki hosted the Toronto Open Data Lab at the Toronto Innovations Showcase this week.  This was the official launch of, and the release of several open data sets.

I was pleased to meet so many folks working at the city of Toronto and at the province of Ontario who showed so much interest in Open Data.  There were many great conversations going on, from the exhibition floor at the city hall rotunda to the mixer at a local pub later.  All of these are great signs of a new open-awareness at the city and I see it as overwhelmingly positive.

Being new to the world of Open, the city wanted some feedback regarding for what applications people would use this newly available data.  As Toronto Transit Commission data, addressing data and road centrelines were all released I thought immediately of the travel planner for London from mySociety.

I had that chance to talk to many folks about OpenStreetMap through the course of the day and I was pleased to share my enthusiasm for a travel planner like this using the Toronto data.

Travel planner using Toronto Open Data

The data we have now is imperfect but rather than critiquing the quality of the dance steps of this bear, let’s marvel that Toronto released open data at all.  Most of the data sets grew up in separate silos in Toronto departments.  The folks at the city are as new to these data sets from other departments as we are.  They’ll get used to working with each other in an open environment and that will move them to more of the open tools, standards and practices that we take for granted.  I’m sure we’ll see a bug tracker soon.  We’ll see increased use of open formats rather than proprietary lowest-common-denominators.

Bravo, Mayor Miller, for recognizing the benefits of Open.  Bravo, Mark Surman for challenging Toronto to become a city that thinks like the web,  This is an important step along that way.

Toronto City Hall Photo is licensed cc-by-nc-sa by Vlastula on Flickr

London Travel time map is licensed cc-by-sa by Tom Carden.

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.

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…


Mikel notes that have combined a bunch of free data to make an aggregated geocoder for cities and postcodes. I’m not confident their UK postcode data is free, but it’s a fantastic idea and one worth charging for.

freethepostcode updates

Lots of people seem to want updates to freethepostcode like different countries supported, different coordinate systems. I’ve created a pledge which reads

“I will upgrade to allow postcodes from other countries, allow other coordinate systems (like National Grid) and write a europe-wide geocoder based on this Free data but only if 15 other people will enter 40 postcodes over the next year OR do the translations OR give 10 pounds.”

— Steve Coast, agitator

This is basically to ensure I’m not wasting my time doing the work.