Aug 192008

I have discovered 2 very cool things this week which indicate just how mature and mainstream OpenStreetMap has become. The first is an OSM routing service demonstration that seems to work well and gives beautiful output. A nice touch is being able to export the route as a gpx track that can be uploaded to a GPS device.

The second thing is a fantastic example of what OSM has to offer. Flickr, the amazingly popular photo-sharing site, has wonderful tools for geo-tagging photos and then browsing interesting photos by their position on a map. A week ago, coinciding with the start of the Olympic Games, Flickr introduced OpenStreetMap coverage of Beijing to their geotagging map. This was not just done for fun; the fact is that the OpenStreetMap of Beijing is far more complete than the Yahoo map (which is used by Flickr for the rest of the world).

Interestingly, this reveals a remarkable symbiosis between OSM and Yahoo. A while ago Yahoo agreed to let OSM contributors freely use their aerial imagery to trace features. This enabled people to contribute significantly to the OSM project even without a GPS device, and a lot of OSM data has been obtained this way. Now Yahoo (who own Flickr) are able to use the OSM dataset to enhance the geotagging service that they provide. Yet another example of how opening up access to information invariably leads to win-win outcomes.

Oct 122007

Today it is possible to get a map of essentially anywhere on Earth, but in years gone by there were plenty of empty holes in even the best world maps.  A favourite way of indicating that these gaps were unknown and potentially dangerous was to mark “Here be Dragons” on the map (unless it was a Pirate Treasure Map, which usually had “Here be Sharks” instead).

An OpenStreetMap contributor recently moved out of London to the city of Durham, which has not yet been mapped in the OSM database.  He has decided not to use any map that he can’t legally modify and display however he likes, which basically leaves him with the dragons.   When friends invite him to a certain location, they need to sketch a map rather than simply give an address to look up.  That is, until he has added that location to the OpenStreetMap.

He is writing about his experiences as he maps Durham and evicts the dragons, and his determination not to use restrictive maps should make it interesting.