Isle of Man

Ballavayre Cottages site launched

Ballavayre CottagesThe new website for Ballavayre Cottages went live recently to give a new online presence to this 5 star self-catering accommodation in their 200 year old cottage in Colby, Isle of Man.

The site, built on Drupal, allows the cottage owner to change content as and when they wish, and also to update their availability calendar to let visitors know when the cottages are available.

To help visitors see at a glance where the cottages are located, and to give directions from the sea terminal and airport, we included a series of custom built maps, designed (with some very helpful tips from Steve Chilton) using OpenStreetMap data.

Directions to Ballavayre Cottages

It is always great to help promote the Isle of Man as a tourist destination, even in a small way, by giving accommodation providers a chance to promote their services to a wider market.

The Isle of Man and a Manx euro

Euro coinsWith the British pound getting closer and closer in value every day to the euro, it's hard not to consider what will happen when the currencies align. The Guardian comments on this 'psychological moment' in a piece a week ago, when the high street rates (after commission) gave less than one euro for your pound, when a year and a half ago, you would have got around half as much again for each pound.

"Sterling's decline to a value of less than a euro, after commission charges, is seen by economists and opposition politicians as a pivotal 'psychological moment' - and evidence of declining faith in the British economy on global currency markets."

It's not a given - and there will likely be a struggle before it happens - but there is a possibility that the United Kingdom could adopt the euro, and that time may not be too far off.

The thing I'm more curious about though, more than the situation in the UK, is the situation in the Isle of Man if the UK were to adopt the euro.

The Isle of Man has it's own currency - the Manx pound - that is linked in value to the British pound. Coins are similar in overall design characteristics, portray our head of state (Elizabeth II), and have a local design on the reverse. The currency can be spent on-Island but not off, while the British pound can also be used on-Island.

Before the euro was introduced into Europe, around ten years ago, the Isle of Man Government set up a working party to investigate the implications the euro would have on the Island. They published a report titled A Review of European Economic and Monetary Union and its Implications which stated (in part):

"The Isle of Man Government is presently planning to ensure that necessary preparations will be in place for the eventuality of a single currency, irrespective of whether the UK participates in monetary union in 1999.

[...]

If the UK joins monetary union and Sterling is replaced by the euro, the Isle of Man will retain the right to issue its own currency. The provisions of the Currency Act 1992 would allow the Island to issue a new Manx currency which would be a ‘substitute Euro’, similar to the ‘substitute Sterling’ currently issued. The Government has been active in its preparations for a new currency as the retention of the Island’s own currency through issue of the Manx euro has two significant advantages:

  1. It provides a positive public statement of independence for the Island; and
  2. It allows for the continuation of the accrual of investment income from the issue of Manx notes and coins.

While it will clearly be necessary for the technical specifications of notes and coins to be the same as other euro issues, the Island is preparing its own designs for Manx euro notes and coins."

So, the Isle of Man could adopt a Manx euro, similar to the current Manx pound, whether or not the UK adopted it. But what would the currency have have on it?

The Island is not part of the UK, nor part of the European Union (though it has certain ties to both). It has managed with the current psuedo Sterling currency since 1971, with very little confusion other than when people try to spend the money in the UK. With the euro, where each issuing country has their own designs on one side of their coins, having a Manx euro would create one more design on the equivalent of that 'national side' as well as a replacement 'common side' that differentiated it from 'real' euro coins. There's much more potential for confusion than with the British/Manx pound.

It would be interesting to get a glimpse of the designs that the Government were preparing a decade ago to see how they have retained the basics of the euro, highlighted that it is not a normal euro while also adding a Manx look to the currency.

How would you feel if the Isle of Man were to adopt the euro? Can you see it happening any time soon? What images would you like to see on the currency if it were to be introduced?

(Image source: Wikipedia)

Making maps from OpenStreetMap geodata

Snaefell Mountain Course - Isle of Man TT outline mapI spent some time last year making some maps of the Snaefell Mountain Course (and other roads) on the Isle of Man so that I could add an overview map to the Wikipedia entry for the course.

Last night I was trying out some of the options in the OpenStreetMap 'export' tab, and since it can now export SVG (scalable vector graphics) files, I thought I'd have a try at redoing the maps from last year in a more re-usable and editable form using vector graphics instead of bitmaps.

To make the SVG map using data from OpenStreetMap (as shown in the preview), I just followed some relatively simple steps and a little trial and error while using the graphics editor.

I thought I'd share some of the steps below, in case anybody else was interested in making maps from the great data becoming available in the OpenStreetMap project.

So, what's needed to make your own custom maps?

  1. An area of OpenStreetMap that's got enough information in it to be useful for your purpose.
    If the data you want is not all there, or you want to add more, see the beginners' guide and the map making guide to get you started off adding or improving data in the project.
  2. An SVG image generated from OpenStreetMap using the export tab.
    To export your vector graphic file, zoom the main map into the area you want to export, click on the export tab, tweak the area you're interested in (if necessary), select 'Mapnik image' and 'SVG' from the options and click Export. Experiment with the scale to see what the results are, but initially the default scale will probably suffice.
  3. A vector graphics editor such as Adobe Illustrator or, even better, an open source editor such as Inkscape.
    Open the downloaded SVG file in your editor and you should see a nice pretty OpenStreetMap image there. To start to work on it, it's a good idea to 'ungroup' the items so that you can edit them individually (I had to do this twice to fully separate out all the objects). You'll notice that the map is made up of many objects, one for each node and way you'd normally see rendered on the maps at openstreetmap.org. You'll also notice that text annotations (names, road references, etc.) are all broken down to their constituent characters too.
  4. Some time to do some (at times quite fiddly) image editing and map making.
    You can get some results out in a relatively short timeframe, but you'll likely want to improve the map over time as you become more familiar with the data and tools available.

What steps were needed to create the TT map?

  1. Select all the items and fade them (I lowered the level of transparency, but there are probably better ways of doing it).
  2. Select the text items, group each the characters of each name together to make it easier to edit them, re-emphasise them, and change their size if desired.
  3. Select any other items that should be re-emphasised and do that (I did the sea and the land).
  4. Select each element of the subject that you'd like to highlight (for me, this was each way that makes up the course) and change the styling of it (I increased the size, and re-emphasised the original colours). I also combined them all into a single 'path' and joined the end of each one to the end of the next (using the 'Edit paths by nodes' ad 'Join selected end nodes' tools) to make it fill in the gaps that appear between them.

Hopefully this short tutorial (well, documentation of my first steps) was helpful for other budding neo-cartographers out there. If you've made your own maps from OpenStreetMap data and have any hints and tips that may be useful, please feel free to add a comment to this post.

OpenStreetMap change monitoring: OSM Mapper

Change monitoring software has something that's long been desired in the OpenStreetMap community - the ability to easily see what changes have been made in your areas, and by who. I've been excited to see this week that it's finally come to fruition in the form of OSM Mapper from ITO World.

Their blog post gives some more information about what it can do:

Using this product you can set up one or more areas to monitor and analyse in a variety of ways. You can even establish RSS feeds to get alerts when other people make changes within areas of interest. You can also generate beautiful images to download and post anywhere as (CC-by-SA).

... plus all sorts of mapping products that highlight changes over time, changes by contributor, etc.

OSM Mapper - change monitoring for Isle of Man OpenStreetMap data

I've been trying it out this morning to try and identify people who have recently contributed to the OpenStreetMap dataset of the Isle of Man, to try and make sure I don't give anyone a big shock when importing the new dataset from CloudMade, and hopefully to encourage others to help out once it's imported, to identify if anything is still missing.

I have to say I've been pretty impressed at how well it works, and how quickly I've identified the major recent contributors and where they've been editing.

Is your business on the map?

Cronk-e-Dhooney Cottage B&B on Google MapsDid you know that you can list your business for free on Google Maps and have it highlighted to people who are searching the map for businesses like yours within a certain area?

When I was building the Cronk-e-Dhooney Cottage B&B website a few months back, I was looking for ways to promote it. I added it to TripAdvisor to give it some visibility in the world of travel (and it's recently had its first glowing review) and then tried to add it to Google Maps using the Local Business Center.

Trying to add it, I stumbled when it came to entering the address (which doesn't have a street name, and has a Manx postcode, which wasn't recognised by Google). Without a working address, there wasn't a chance of getting it listed.

When I saw today's release of Google Maps for the Isle of Man, I thought I'd give the process another shot this evening, and try once again to add Cronk-e-Dhooney Cottage to the map. This time it worked much better (though not painless, as it still didn't like the postcode) and I've managed to get the information (and a couple of the photos I could get it to accept) onto the map. For the extended profile that pops up on the map, you can add photos and a wealth of information about your business.

Now, do a search for bed and breakfast in the Isle of Man and you'll see the cottage come up in pole position. With free publicity like this, can you afford not to have your local business on the map?

Tip: When adding the address, type it all out except for the postcode, click the link to change the location of the pin on the map, move it to pinpoint your property, and only then add your postcode. That's the only way I could get it to accept the address.

Google Maps comes to the Isle of Man

Isle of Man on Google MapsIt's taken quite some time, but it's great to see that Google Maps now has a map of the Isle of Man to go with the imagery they added a little while back. Thanks Google!

Just one day after I write about CloudMade announcing that they are donating their map of the Isle of Man to the OpenStreetMap project (see my post from yesterday), I notice today that Google Maps has added the Isle of Man to their list of places they have map coverage for (though no official announcement I can see on their LatLong blog as of yet).

I had my suspicions that there may have been an imminent release of maps for the Island when I noticed that it wasn't possible to add map data on the Island through their new MapMaker tool that allows you to add your own data to unmapped regions.

It's a shame that this data isn't editable like the CloudMade data that I'll soon be importing into OpenStreetMap though. Zooming into Castletown for a quick close-up look, I've already spotted an error (typo) in the naming of a road: check out Abrory road (should be Arbory Road) running into Castletown. If that was an error in OpenStreetMap data, it'd be a simple job to go in and fix that up so other users could benefit from correct data.

Update: In some places, it's just plain wrong, e.g. this main road in Ballasalla (A34) that has been re-routed down a footpath before joining up with itself again.

Isle of Man gets free map data

Map of the Isle of Man from CloudMadeMap coverage of the Isle of Man has been slowly growing since I started contributing to OpenStreetMap in January 2006, spurred on at times by old Ordnance Survey New Popular Edition maps being made available to gather data from, and by the Isle of Man Government making some of its maps available too.

By this time last year the Manx map was looking in a pretty good state, though still lacking quite a lot of detail in the larger towns. The lack of detail was helped somewhat by the mapping party I organised at the end of last summer, but still didn't take the map to completion.

Around the time of the mapping party, little to my knowledge at the time, the founders of OpenStreetMap were making a concerted effort to map the island from scratch (under the guise of the startup map data company CloudMade) with the view of donating that data to the OpenStreetMap project. This method was in direct contrast to the piecemeal way the map had been growing up until that point and was more in line with the way commercial providers such as Navteq and TeleAtlas collect their data. With dedicated time, equipment and manpower, the methodology allowed for the map to be more accurately built up and methodically completed.

I'm happy to see that this weekend's State of the Map conference saw the release of that complete dataset. CloudMade's blog post and press release from yesterday give more information as well as a preview of the map.

Now that the data is available, I've agreed to lead the effort to import the data (licensed under a Creative Commons licence) into OpenStreetMap, likely replacing the existing maps built up by the piecemeal effort of a number of us volunteers with the results of the concerted effort from CloudMade, and afterwards adding back any of the original information that is complementary to the CloudMade map data (if any).

We should start to see the results of the new map over the coming weeks as I get time to import the data. I'm really looking forward to using this data in some of the web projects I've been doing in my spare time as well as maybe some others that have been floating around in my mind for a while.

How well does Google.im perform?

Watching a video today about Google's localisation of their search results (part of "A peek into our search factory"), I spotted the Manx flag and thought I'd give Google's Isle of Man localised search (www.google.im) a test run and see how it performs at disambiguating queries and giving preference to local search results.

Topic

Google Isle of Man

Google UK

Places

Ballasalla

all relevant

all relevant

Castletown

top 2 relevant, rest contain Irish, Scottish and Manx results

top 2 relevant, rest contain Scottish and Manx results

Colby

X no relevant results (mostly US)

X no relevant results (UK/US mixture)

Douglas

X no relevant results

top 2 relevant

Peel

X no relevant results

2 of top 3 results relevant

Ramsey

X no relevant results

X no relevant results

Sport

Golf

X no relevant results

X no relevant results

Golf courses

X no relevant results

X no relevant results

Swimming

X no relevant results

X no relevant results

Swimming pools

X no relevant results

X no relevant results

I think that's enough testing to realise that the Google Isle of Man tailored service isn't Isle of Man tailored at all. Even the Google UK service is better.

It's great that they have a service aimed at users from the Isle of Man, and I'd love to see it succeed, but I don't understand why they have it out there at the moment if it's not actually tailoring the search results to be useful to the Manx market.

Aerial Imagery of the Isle of Man: now on Google Maps

After a long wait, Google has updated their aerial imagery to include high resolution imagery of the Isle of Man. The imagery is available through both Google Maps and Google Earth.

You can now explore the Island's towns (e.g. Castletown, Douglas or Ramsey), glens (e.g. Silverdale Glen, Glen Helen and Glen Maye), historic monuments (e.g. Lady Isabella or the Laxey Wheel, Corrin's Tower on Peel Head, Peel Castle, Castle Rushen in Castletown and Derby Fort on Fort Island, Langness) and the only mountain (Snaefell) or anything else that can be seen from above.

Unfortunately there still isn't any name data, so it's much easier if you know what you're looking for when exploring.

Update: I see from the Isle of Man Newspapers website - Improved Isle of Man images on Google Earth - that the imagery being included in Google's database is dated 2006 and is the result of "months of negotiations involving the Department of Local Government and the Space Commerce Division of the Treasury."

A new Bed & Breakfast in the Isle of Man

Screenshot of Cronk-e-Dhooney websiteI'm proud to launch the new website for the Bed and Breakfast accommodation at Cronk-e-Dhooney Cottages in the Isle of Man.

Recently awarded a four star rating and located in the hamlet of Ballakilpheric near Colby, the cottage is just a short drive from the airport, the golden beach and sunset views of Port Erin, the working village folk museum at Cregneash, the historic capital of the Island at Castletown, and many more things for visitors to see.

If you're looking for a comfortable, family-run B&B in the middle of the beautiful Manx countryside - perfect for outdoor activities such as walking, cycling or just as a base for exploring the Island - look no further than Cronk-e-Dhooney.

The website is based on Drupal to make it easily maintainable, includes some mapping from OpenStreetMap and also photos that I took in and around the property to help show it off to prospective visitors.

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