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.


MSc Dissertation

Last year (2007-8) I studied for an MSc in Geographic Information Systems, at City University London. The course was taught by an excellent team of academics and I can thoroughly recommend it as a good, technology-focused introduction to GIS. The highlight was the field-trip, a week away in the Lake District, carrying out three two-day projects, each involving planning, data gathering, preparing and presenting the findings.

The summer last year was spent researching and writing the dissertation. It is entitled “Use of a GIS for Production and Maintenance of Street Orienteering Maps: Can a GIS and Spatially Aware Data add Value to Orienteering?” and can be downloaded from here (24MB, 102 pages).

You almost certainly don’t want to read 102 pages, so there is an extended abstract here (1MB, 5 pages), entitled “Creating and Maintaining Street Orienteering Maps using OpenStreetMap”, which appears in the “Proceedings of the GIS Research UK 17th Annual Conference”, aka GISRUK 2009. I presented a poster summarising the work at the conference, which is reproduced below – linked to a larger version.

Poster for GISRUK 2009