Conferences Mashups OpenLayers OpenStreetMap

Education Profiling with an Open Source Geostack

I was in Manchester yesterday for the first day of the Royal Geographical Society annual conference. I gave a talk at the session called “New Urban Geography: Evolving Area Classification for Socio-Spatial Generalisation” which was convened by my boss Dr Alex Singleton and chaired by Prof Paul Longley, both also of the Department of Geography here at UCL.

My talk discussed a Web 2.0-style mashup of English school attainment and geodemographic data, which has been put together as an online “atlas” using OpenStreetMap data as a contextual layer, Mapnik to produce the graphics and OpenLayers to display them. The atlas is not yet complete, and the data is a little old, so it’s not being widely promoted yet, but if you are really keen on visiting it yourself you can find the URL by looking carefully in the presentation…

It is here.

[slideshare id=1914330&doc=openlayersandmapnik-090827073034-phpapp01]


OSM gets Isle of Man Government Data

Dan Karran writes that he has received an official, recent (2007) dataset from the Isle of Man government, comprising of a 1:25000 raster with tourist points of interest (POIs), and detailed satellite imagery from 2001, with a licence suitable for tracing into OpenStreetMap. This is great for OpenStreetMap and for the Isle of Man. Although the data doesn’t include individual house shapes, and other fine detail that wouldn’t be on a 1:25000 map, it does allow for complete coverage of the island with a level of detail suitable for routing, POI-finding and landuse mapping.

Now, if the Ordnance Survey could be persuaded to do the same thing for a test area in Great Britain, such as Caithness?


OpenStreetMap Road Coverage in England

Peter Reed has been doing some excellent work comparing the Department of Transport measured road lengths by English county, and comparing them with the total lengths of roads in OpenStreetMap.

This has only recently become possible to do with spatial data purely in OpenStreetMap, because the English counties have now been completely added to the project. This last step was harder than it might seem because there is no freely available definitive source for boundaries in the UK (which is just plain odd.) Instead, it was necessary to use a combination of local knowledge, examining signs and council objects on the ground, and trace from out-of-copyright maps, to form the boundaries.

Peter’s choropleth map is excellent and deserves a wider audience, here is a smaller version of it (click through to see the large version, which may also have been since updated.)

osmcoverthumbChoropleth of OSM road coverage vs Department of Transport figures, by Peter Reed.

It is encouraging to see many areas at nearly (or over) 100% coverage, there are a number of reasons why coverage might be more than the Department’s own figures, due to more up-to-date information, counting of slip roads, and mis-tagging private roads as public on OSM, so the map’s figures should be taken with a pinch of salt.

The Welsh and Scottish county boundaries are not yet complete in OpenStreetMap so the coverage analysis cannot yet be completed.

Muki has also (with a student) done OSM road coverage analysis, using equal area blocks rather than county-based units.


Mapping Party and Mapzen Sneak Peek!

The next London mapping party is on Thursday evening, in Mayfair, the really posh bit of central London (you can tell its posh as it only has one bus route going through it.) See here for details and to signup.

What’s special about this one is that Cloudmade’s in-development mapping editor, Mapzen, might be being demoed. The screenshots look very interesting, this could be pretty cool.


Map Cake

One of my favourite bits from the State of the Map conference last weekend was when they bought out the cakes:


If you are familiar with London’s geographical layout, you might recognise the big green blob on the cake on the right as being Regent’s Park. I think my slice ended up being part of the waterfront in Amsterdam.

A random event? Not quite. When mapping parties are being organised, the most efficient way to ensure that the area in question gets good coverage from the different mappers on the day, is to look at the existing map and divide it up into sectors – mappers then bag one or more sectors that they will concentrate on. Such a map is known as a “cake” and each of the sectors are known as “slices”.

An an example, here’s the mapping party “cake” for the next London mini-mapping party that’s being held on Thursday evening, collecting POIs around King’s Road in the west of the city:

2, 4, 11 and 12 are alreay nabbed. If you fancy a slice, put your name down on the wiki page and then get mapping on Thursday evening!

Conferences OpenStreetMap

State of the Map 2009 Review


Just back from StateOfTheMap, the OpenStreetMap community’s international conference. I missed the first two conferences but made it along to this year’s in Amsterdam. I skipped the “business day” on Friday and joined the conference for the Saturday and Sunday, when it reverts to being a community conference.

My favourite talks were:

  • Andy Allan showing off some advance cartographic techniques that make “other” maps beautiful and how we could apply them to OpenStreetMap’s default renders.
  • Muki Haklay’s talk on measuring data quality and completeness – turning the “unknown unknowns” into “known unknowns” is something that is becoming increasingly important as the community starts to “market” its data to a wider audience.
  • Mike Miguski’s Walking Papers was very well received and is a brilliant way to make mapping POIs and simple areas easier, without using a GPS. He also showed off some of the lovely looking Stamen map designs.
  • Richard Fairhurst’s lightning talk on Potlatch. Some people might have tried Potlatch a year back, thought “urgh” and gone back to JOSM, but the editor has come a long way recently. Version 1.1, released last week, allows drag-and-drop placement of POIs. Version 2.0 is also on the roadmap and promises a closer look to the Mapnik “default render”.
  • The “State of Japan” talk, while not revealing anything particularly innovative, was very funny and well presented – a simple “nice picture, map before, map after” sequence of slides for each of several shrines and castles in the country. The mapping is very high quality too and shows that OpenStreetMap is more about streets. As an aside, there seems to be a bit of an international “contest” to get the most detailed zoo mapped on OSM at the moment. Amsterdam’s zoo has the individual cages on it, as do several others. London’s is way behind, don’t even have the perimeter on yet.
  • Some of the international lightning talks, from people who had won scholarships from far-off places to come to the conference, were great. I particularly liked Abdel Hassan’s talk about OpenStreetMap in Cairo. GPS receivers have only been legal in Egypt since March!
  • Jorgen Topf’s primer on “proper” GIS and using OpenStreetMap data with it. A topic which the OSM community needs to know more about! It was only the tip of the iceberg, although there’s only so much you can say in 15 minutes.
  • Martin Lucas-Smith’s CycleStreets – attractive looking solution and with a good routing engine that will only get better as the data gets more complete.
  • There was a talk on browser-based rendering of OSM data, which looked pretty exciting.

It was also interesting, for me, to be able to compare with the OSGIS UK conference I also went to, last month.

What I liked more about StateOfTheMap was:

  • This was far and away the most social conference I’ve ever been to. Admittedly already knowing quite a few of the delegates, thanks to UK mapping parties and the London mapping marathon pub trips, helped break the ice, as did being in a city like Amsterdam which naturally lends itself to post-conference relaxing at a canal-side venue. Being stuck in a Travelodge on the edge of a town in the Midlands, or in a modern university campus when the students aren’t around, is never going to have the same opportunities.
  • The full-scale use of technology – not really surprising for a conference by a technology community of course, but it was good to see it being used well, e.g. the Twitter Wall on one of the big TV screens.
  • The conference venue was really nice! New, bright, colourful, with a view of the city. Very Web 2.0. The food and drinks were also excellent. The catering staff even got invited onto the stage at the closing session to be thanked for their good work.

What I liked about OSGIS UK more was:

  • The talks were more consistently high quality. SoTM’s talks were very variable in quality, some of them needed hooking off the stage with a walking stick!
  • All the speakers turned up to speak. Sounds obvious really, but at least two of the SoTM talks were skipped due to speakers not being present. Particularly disappointing was that one of them was the talk I was most looking forward to (about Processing.)

Noticeable about both conferences was:

  • More people than I expected from the big commercial players in the field, despite them in some ways being “rivals” to the concept of open source and OpenStreetMap.
  • Presentations were always short – never longer than 30 minutes and frequently never longer than 15 minutes (or 10 minutes in the case of the “State of Country X” talks, or even 5 minutes for the lightning talks). Even the keynotes were short. This is, by the way, a Good Thing.


Conferences OpenStreetMap

OSM Data & Choropleth Maps

Here is the presentation I was planning to give as a “lightning talk” at the StateOfTheMap conference this weekend. However, there were more speakers than places for these sessions – and quite a few of the speakers failed to appreciate that, by running over the five-minute limit, they would be denying other people the chance of speaking! So I didn’t get to present it. However, you should be able to get the gist of what I was going to say through the contents of the slides.

Conferences OpenStreetMap

State of the Map

I’m off to the State of the Map conference in Amsterdam on Friday. It will be interesting to compare with the OSGIS UK conference a couple of weeks ago.

I almost certainly won’t be live-blogging the event, thanks to data-roaming charges, but if I get around to setting it up, there might be a few text-message-powered short entries.

The schedule is full to bursting, with two parallel streams of talks and a workshop stream. I should, if all goes to plan, be giving a “lightning talk” on how we are using OpenStreetMap data here at UCL, in particular as a “context layer” for laying on choropleth maps. However, there are a lot of lightning talks and only a limited time in the schedule for them, so we shall see. Certainly looking forward to hearing about Steve8’s crowd-funded mapping expedition to Antigua last month! In the “main talks”:

  • Muki Haklay’s talk about quality should be interesting. OSM certainly has “quantity” now, with the ever-increasing numbers of crowd-mappers, thinking about how we measure and display the accuracy and completeness of data is something that is going to become more and more important.
  • Being a closet cartography enthusiast myself, Matt Millar’s stylesheet talk, and Andy Allan’s advanced cartography talk, will be of particular interest.
  • Sunday’s “secret geo-celebrity” keynote soudns intriguing.
  • Peter Miller’s talk “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. Hmm!
  • Laura Slivinski’s TerpNav (OSM for pedestrianised areas.)
  • Vladimir Agafonkin’s Online map visualisations made easy – viz is always a crowd-pleaser and the IT-orientated community behind OSM is capable of some great off-the-wall viz thinking thanks to coming from a “different” background than the traditional geographers.
Mashups OpenStreetMap

Map of UK Scenicness… and Pubs


Here’s a little something [no longer online] I knocked up, based on the MySociety scenic score data release last week, as well as OpenStreetMap’s data for the UK – including particularly its pubs.

Basically, the vote point data was converted to a surface, using an IDW (Inverse-Distance Weighted) function. The cell size was pretty small (1km), so there isn’t much smoothing across many vote locations going on – a single vote may cause quite a steep gradient. Instead, the surface effectively extrapolates the values into all areas. Some jiggery-pokery was required to first project the votes onto the British National Grid (so that x/y distances become equivalent) and then the resulting surface was fully rasterised and reprojected to Spherical Mercator so that it could be tiled under the existing OpenStreetMap network overlay. This was surprisingly painful to do.

Note that the photographs that were voted on generally weren’t of the pubs shown on the map, so the pub might well be extremely photogenic – but in an area where the nearest Geograph photos used in the dataset for the voting were not rated highly.

It’s good to see that the Scottish Highlands come out so green (i.e. scenic.) Urban areas generally don’t do too well, although the voting was generally quite critical, so a yellowish hue is still a sign of a very scenic part of a city.

Data came from MySociety (using photographs from Geograph) and OpenStreetMap. The pub icon came from Wikimedia. The map tiles were produced using Mapnik for the OSM network overlay and MapTiler for the scenic map. The increasingly excellent OpenLayers is used to display the tiles, and a point vector layer showing the pubs.

There’s many areas with apparently no pubs at all. This is simply because the data wasn’t in OpenStreetMap when I pulled it in on Friday. However OpenStreetMap’s data is rapidly becoming more complete throughout the UK at the moment, so a future pull of the data should reveal many more pubs.

Some very remote areas don’t have any vote data either, but the production of the surface uses and extrapolates the values from nearby votes instead.

Conferences OpenStreetMap

Open Source GIS is from Mars, OpenStreetMap is from Venus?

I’m going to a couple of conferences in the next few weeks – the 1st Open Source GIS UK (OSGIS UK) conference at Nottingham University, and State of the Map 2009, the 3rd OpenStreetMap conference in Amsterdam.

On the face of it, one might expect an overlap between the two conferences. In both cases, it is about a community geared towards developing and using open source (“free”) geo-applications to further understanding of spatial issues or “do cool things”.

But OpenStreetMap (OSM) is not in the title of any of the talks on the OSGIS agenda.”GIS” appears just once in the SOTM agenda titles – “Bridging the GAp: Using OSM Data with GIS Tools” by Jochen Topf should be an interesting talk.

I suppose the two communities are really separate, coming from two different sources, operating on two levels and with two aims.

  • The open source GIS community comes from academia, particularly Geography, and is interested in having the power to develop applications to advance research, without facing the user interface and functionality challenges of the big proprietary GISes, not to mention the expensive licensing costs. They already have the data – they’ve collected it, or negotiated academic rates for access to the national mapping agencies.
  • The OSM community comes from IT and just wants to do cool things with the data – but doesn’t have the willingness to pay commercial rates for the data – so they are more focused with getting the data in the first place. Once they have it, they are not willing to learn (or aware of ) GISes, which are complicated bits of software, at best, instead generally scripts for specific bits of functionality.

Two worlds, it seems, with “open” goals but seemingly little overlap.