Category Archives: Uncategorized

New query feature

A couple of weeks ago we mentioned a brand new feature on the homepage. On the right hand side we have a new “?” button which lets you query the map.

  • On, zoom in somewhere
  • Click the “?” button to enter query mode
  • Click the map on something you are interested in
  • Hover over the results, and choose one to find out more


When you query a spot on the map, this new tool will retrieve nearby points of interest from the OpenStreetMap database, and let you quickly drill down to all of the detailed tagging information we have in that database.

More than a map

This new tool helps highlight a crucial point about OpenStreetMap. It’s so much more than just a visual map. OpenStreetMap is a rich database of geo-located information, only some of which is visible on the “standard” view of the map. Other information is visible via different layers (such as cycle routes presented on the cycling layer) and all of the data can be viewed by enabling the “map data” layer (also on the layer picker panel) but this query tool offers a new window into the OpenStreetMap data, and a new way to discover all the details our contributors are adding to the database.

For developers this data opens up a world of possibilities. All the data is available to download for free.

Introducing Changeset Discussions

Community and communication are key to the success of OpenStreetMap project, yet discussions about individual edits have always been clumsy and awkward. In this post, I’ll describe Changeset Discussions, a new feature of the OSM website which allows people to have public discussions around changesets.

Before Changeset Discussions

Before the introduction of Changeset Discussions, the only way to communicate about a changeset was either to use an out-of-band communication medium, such as mailing lists or forums, or to communicate directly with the author of the changeset by OSM message. Both of these methods are clumsy.

The result is that it was often difficult to discuss changesets. New users rarely received any positive feedback or helpful instructions, and controversial edits were often handed off to the DWG instead of being able to have an public discussion about them.

Introducing Changeset Discussions

Changeset Discussions address this problem by letting users have a discussion about a changeset directly on osm associated with that changeset. This discussion is public, which allows for contributor collaboration.

This feature works similarly to the comments placed on an OSM Note, where users may discuss a note publicly, for example to ask for more information from the note submitter.

Leaving a Comment on a Changetset

Changeset discussions now part of the OSM website. To use them, on the changeset page, on the left hand side, you can enter a comment:

Adding changeset comment

Then click submit, and the comment appears:

Changeset Comment Committed

Once Harry replies, as he’s done here:

Harry replies to my comment

…I receive an email notification.

Subscribing/Unsubscribing from a discussion

Once you have made a comment to a changeset, you will receive notifcations about new comments placed on the changeset, keeping you in the loop and part of the discussion. You may also choose to watch a changeset discussion without participating in it, by using the
Subscribe button.

Subscribing to a changeset

If you don’t want to continue to watch the changeset, just press the Unsubscribe and you will no longer receive alerts of new comments.

 Use Cases for Changeset Discussions

  • Welcoming New Users

It’s been pointed out before that OSM has a problem in communicating with our new users. Changeset discussions can be a perfect place to congratulate on their first edit.It can also be an opportunity to help new users by giving them specific feedback where they might not have been as strong, giving them specific feedback on tagging, for example.

  • Leaving Positive Feedback

As a community, we don’t reciveve much positive feedback on our edits. With changeset discussions, you can leave a positive comment on a changeset expressing your thanks.

  • Asking Questions About Controversial Edits

If you have a question about an edit, such as why a name was changed, or a road was reclassified, you might want to ask the user why they made the change. Putting that question directly on the changeset gives the original author to receive feeback from you, but to respond to that feedback in a public forum. This should result in more open, public discussions and hopefully fewer conflicts.

There’s an API

Changeset Discussions also have an API component, which will be documented on the wiki, which will allow this feature to be integrated into OSM editing software directly, further connecting the editing process with the communication/community process.

Special Thanks

Changeset Discussions came into OSM by way of Google Summer of Code, specifically by our student Lukasz Gurdek, who I had the pleasure of mentoring. His work was of absolutely Grade A calibre and it was a pleasure working with him.

Also, a huge debt of gratitude to Tom Hughes, who worked with myself and Luksaz to get this code merged into the codebase. Without his hard work, this feature branch might have never made it into the website.

And of course I want to thank Google for their Google Summer of Code project, which made this possible

Server maintenance – 26th October

Some OpenStreetMap services will be off-line on 26th October 2014 for a planned maintenance period.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation, Operations Working Group have scheduled a short maintenance period which will occur from approximately 11:00 to 12:30 UTC, during which time the database will be offline.

This will mean you cannot use OpenStreetMap editors to load or save map data. The “standard” view of the map will remain available, but various other services will be impacted during this 1½ hour stretch. More specific information on services impacted. Actual outage times may vary within the service windows described above.

Thank you, in advance, for your patience and understanding during the maintenance window.

Thank you, as always, to the Operations Working Group, for their tireless efforts that keep OpenStreetMap services working smoothly.

OSMF board election – Candidate nominations open

3D Team Leadership Arrow Concept CC-BY-SA2.0

The OpenStreetMap annual conference, State of the Map is coming up soon. Which means that the OpenStreetMap Foundation Election to the Board of Directors is also coming up soon! Here is what you need to know. Two of the seven board seats are up for election this year.

Who should serve on the OpenStreetMap Foundation Board?

You. You should. Do you care about OpenStreetMap? Can you work with others, to improve OpenStreetMap, in a collective, institutional way? Do you understand the basics of the most important aspects of OpenStreetMap, and bring important skills, perspectives and abilities to the board? Then present yourself as a candidate.

Candidate requirements

  • You must be a paid up member of the OpenStreetMap Foundation. Join the OpenStreetMap Foundation
  • You must be a normal member of the OpenStreetMap Foundation. Normal Members have obligations in addition to those of Associate Members

You can be a candidate and a voter without attending in person at the AGM in Buenos Aires.

Steps for candidacy

  • Accept my thanks for stepping forward as a candidate.
  • Check that your OpenStreetMap Foundation membership is current.
  • Change your membership from Associate to Normal, if not Normal already.
  • Add yourself to the candidate table on the wiki.
  • Prepare a candidate statement to present your strengths, skills, perspectives and intentions to members who may not know you. Link to that document from the candidate table. See similar information from the 2013 Election to Board
  • Follow any election-related threads on the mailing lists with questions for the candidates.

Start preparing now. The announcement, official dates and deadlines will come up before you know it.

And thanks again.

Election details

The election is usually held in conjunction with the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and State of the Map each year. Details will follow shortly, on the wiki.

Proxy voting by email has been available for voters unable to attend State of the Map in previous years. Details to follow.


It is expected that the board election this year will use STV rather than simple “highest count wins” voting from previous Board Elections. Wikipedia describes it as: The single transferable vote (STV) is a voting system designed to achieve proportional representation through ranked voting in multi-seat constituencies (voting districts) but read the article for more details.

Happy Mapping.

(cross-posted from

Buenos Aires in 3 weeks

In three weeks from today the international OpenStreetMap conference “State Of The Map” comes to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

We shall be announcing the programme very soon, it’s taking us a while to process all the fantastic session submissions we received. Rest assured we have a great line-up in the making, with our unique blend of talk topics around cartography, community, technology, and local perspectives.

Argentina, gira Caribe y Sur AméricaBuenos Aires photo cc-by-sa2.0 Ricardo Patiño

There are, of course, OpenStreetMappers throughout the globe, so it’s a shame we haven’t taken the international conference to the southern hemisphere before. In three week’s time we’ll be putting that right! A long journey for a lot of people, but (important geography fact) in the southern hemisphere November is spring/summer time! Book your flight now! (conference tickets are still available) Buenos Aires promises to be a superb destination for the annual gathering of our OpenStreetMap community.

OpenStreetMap Image of the week

Every week we pick an OpenStreetMap “Image Of The Week”. The featured image appears on the main page of the site. Here are the images from so far in 2014:

CrisisCamp DC Typhoon Haiyan.jpg Konsolidierung der PLZ-Relationen in Deutschland 2013 vorher nachher.png Nfgusedautoparts gps 1000x664.jpg Mapping in Senegal.jpeg QGIS tram lines black.png Sochi Olympics Krasnaya Polyana Mountain Cluster.png Pavia place mat.jpg Bengaluru Urban Area Map.png ManaguaMapping Feb 2014.jpg 2014 Cochabamba workshop.jpg Priozerka osm.jpeg ExampleColouredStreets.png UbimetUseOSMforF1WeatherRadar.jpg Brian prangle document freedom certificate-s.jpg HOT changesets west africa 2014-04-05.png Sotm-fr-2014.jpeg SOTM US 2014 group photo.jpg Toulouse sketchy map sample.png 2014 London HOT Congo Mapathon mappers and teachers.jpg OSM2World-Luebeck-Hauptbahnhof.jpg Dutch building and addresses import alt2.jpg Linuxwochen Wien 2014-05-08T17-41-18.jpg ID editor at Chicago Civic User Testing.jpg Telangana India.png SOTMEU 2014 montage.jpg 2014 Natori mapping event.jpg OSM PopArt 2014.png Cassini style.png Markstein.png Gorbals 3d.jpg Fukushima Japan Poster.png HOT missing maps 2014 mapping action.jpg 10JahreOSM Passau.jpg

That’s just 2014, but we’ve been doing this since way back in 2006, forming an archived collection which you can browse. It’s a fascinating and inspiring mixture of maps and map styles, websites and software, photos of mapping parties & other events, and various other types of images.

If you come across an image which you would like to put forward as image of the week (either your own image or somebody else’s), head over to “Featured image proposals” and edit that page to make your suggestion there. Anyone can join in with the process of investigating, improving and discussing the suggestions, and picking an OpenStreetMap image of the week each week.

We’re 10 today!

On our tenth birthday we can look back on a year in which our free and open world map has gone from strength to strength, being deployed by large companies such as Apple, Mapquest and Foursquare, and relief organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and the American Red Cross.

But now we can look back on ten years. In 2004 one man set out with a bicycle and a GPS recorder. Back then creating a map of the world from scratch seemed crazy to many people, but even so, people joined the effort. A few people at first, but 10 years later OpenStreetMap has grown to a global community with over 1.7 million registered members, with around 3,000 members editing the map every day. This map built by volunteers is now used for serious work: for example Médecins Sans Frontières works with OpenStreetMap to help its doctors in West Africa keep track of the current ebola outbreak.

We’re celebrating in cities all around the world : Toronto, Montréal, DC, Denver, Seattle, Athens, NY, LA, Phoenix, Lexington, Nashua, Cleveland, St Petersburg (US), St Petersburg (Russia), Moscow, London, Amersfoort, Birmingham, Barcelona, Dublin, Budapest, Passau, Paris, Zagreb, Zürich, Bangladesh, Taipei, Fukushima, Tokyo, Muko, Awaji, Ichinomiya, Hamamatsu, Cochabamba, and Santiago.

The Japanese community probably have the best cake:

…but the night is still young.

So in honour of ten years of OpenStreetMap, please join us to raise a glass (Make it a virtual glass if you can’t make it to one of these party locations)

Happy Birthday OpenStreetMap!

At the Edge of the License

Where the ODbL Ends and the Community Guidelines Beginguidelines_sign

In the beginning…

OpenStreetMap (OSM) is, at its core, a global database of geographic information and has a license, the Open Database License (ODbL), which is designed from the ground up to ensure freedom for publicly released databases. In spirit, it is very similar to the Creative Commons “Attribution Share-Alike” (CC-BY-SA) license, which is designed for creative works, or the GNU General Public License (GPL), which is designed to cover computer source code.

Both the CC-BY-SA and the GPL have existed for many years and are built on “copyright” laws, which allow the author or authors of a work to control under what conditions it may be duplicated. These laws have been around, in some form or another, for over 300 years and, because of their long history, have been scrutinised by legislators, lawyers, judges and juries many times. This process of scrutiny results in legislative or judicial rulings, and each of these decisions helps build up a body of “case law” and precedents that can be used later on to form an opinion on whether a particular use is likely to be challenged or not. It is important to know that decisions are only made when judges or juries give verdicts, which means that it is often impossible to make any definitive determinations without prior case law and precedents.

The extent and powers of copyright have been tried in court many times and it would seem sensible to base OSM’s license on it. However, it is far from clear that copyright would apply to a database of geographic information and so our license is based on copyright, contract law and the “database right”, which was first enshrined in law in 1996 as part of the European Database Directive. Sadly for us, open data, as distinct from the more established fields of open computer source and open highly creative works, has a set of distinct challenges, especially when share-alike licenses are involved. The “young” nature of the database right also means there’s very little history, case law and few precedents which leads to uncertainty about the implications of ODbL. This uncertainty translates into risk for the users of OSM data, which can prevent OSM being more widely used and hinders one of the project’s primary goals: allowing the data to be used in “creative, productive, or unexpected ways.

Until case law and precedents can be decided by court cases and judicial decisions we can reduce the uncertainty by clarifying the intentions of those (i.e: the OSM community) who released the data. Our consensus opinion carries a great deal of weight and can help shape the direction of any future decisions regarding the use of OSM, and possibly other open data.

The new guidelines

The Licensing Working Group (LWG) has been working hard to ensure that uncertainty is reduced for data users while the intent of the community is protected. After much discussion, in June this year the first set of guidelines was approved.


Just as copyright has “Fair Use” exceptions when the sample is not substantial, so does the database right. Whether an extract is substantial or not according to copyright depends on the relationship of the extract to the original work, as it does in database right. Unfortunately, this creates uncertainty for data users as to whether their use is substantial or not. This guideline tries to define the term “substantial” more precisely in the context of OSM. For more details, see the “Substantial Guideline”.

Produced Work

“Produced Work” is a term used by ODbL to broadly separate something created from a database but not a database itself. Because the share-alike provision of ODbL applies only to databases and not to “produced works”, it is clearly important to make the distinction between the two as unambiguous as possible. For more details, see the “Produced Work Guideline”.

Trivial Transformations

There are situations where OSM data can be manipulated or “transformed”, but in such a way that the manipulation does not actually add to or enhance the core contributions made by the OSM community. Therefore, there is no common good to be served by forcing the publication of the result of those manipulations. An example of this might be loading it into a PostGIS rendering database with osm2pgsql – no value has been added by this transformation, so we call it “trivial”. For more details, see the “Trivial Transformations Guideline”.

Regional Cuts

There are many places in the world where OSM data is the best available map data, and some where it isn’t. In regions where it isn’t, many users would like to use an alternative source instead, but are unsure whether this would trigger share-alike requirements on the whole dataset. This uncertainty prevents, in some cases, any use of OSM data, even in regions where it is superior. This guideline adopts and formalises the established principle that OSM data may be used for some regions and not others, as long as certain conditions are met. For more details, see the “Regional Cuts Guideline”.

Horizontal Layers

Just as there are many regions of the world for which OSM data is the best available, there are also many thematic “layers”, for example restaurants, for which OSM data is superior. However, the question of whether the use of additional layers from other sources is acceptable is preventing some uses of OSM data. This guideline adopts and formalises another long-established principle: that isolated layers in a map may come from OSM or not, as long as certain conditions are met. For more details, see the “Horizontal Map Layers Guideline”.

Where do we go from here?

These are just the first guidelines and there is still much work to be done in clarifying the grey areas surrounding proper use of OSM data. Specifically, work is needed to help make coherent guidelines on:

  • Metadata Layers – If a layer of externally collected (non-OSM) metadata is made and kept completely separately but matched to numbers generated by the database to identify individual elements in OSM, when is it derivative and therefore must be shared?
  • Indexing – If OSM data is indexed, for example by a search engine, is that a derivative database which would need to be shared?
  • Geocoding – If locations are found for addresses, or descriptions generated for locations, in a process of “geocoding” would that trigger the “share-alike” clause on the license and require the sharing of the data being geocoded?
  • “Fall Back” – In a service which first attempts to find an answer by looking at OSM data and, if an answer cannot be found, “fall back” to search another database, are these databases separate or does the process you are using mean that you have combined them and are therefore required to share the combination?
  • Dynamic Data – If providers of dynamic data, such car-park occupancy, use OSM data as an underlying reference source, does that require the sharing of the dynamic data?
  • Offering alteration files – When sharing a database, the ODbL says one can offer “a file containing all of the alterations…”, but is not specific. What form should this file be in?

The LWG will continue to work hard and discuss these issues with the community and data users. If you feel that you would like to contribute, then please contact LWG, join the OSM Foundation and the discussion there, or join the general legal discussion mailing list. We would love to welcome your voice and views to the conversation.

Welcoming our first Corporate Members

Back in February we described a new membership option for the OpenStreetMap foundation, and since then we’ve seen our first “corporate members” joining.

Geofabrik, Geotab, Naver, and NextGIS were the first four members, and [UPDATE] they are joined by Mapbox today:

By becoming corporate members, these organisations are generously helping to keep our servers running, supporting the work of our volunteer working groups, and above all showing their support for OpenStreetMap.

We hope to see a growing number of organisations appearing on our Corporate Members page. Thank you for your support!

OpenStreetMap at Open Knowledge Festival

Next week OKFN’s Open Knowledge Festival takes place in Berlin bringing together open data practitioners from all over the planet. There is also a flurry of activities around OpenStreetMap, here is a run down. Are you in Berlin? Come out and meet other mappers.

…and plenty more open map data possibilities related to other sessions on the programme

There’s other conferences where OpenStreetMap will be making an appearance coming up soon too, including:

Check out the wiki events list for these and many more events, and stay tuned for more news about our OpenStreetMap conference(s)