Getting back to open source mapping

OpenStreetMap logoSince my initial contributions to the OpenStreetMap project back in January I haven't added much more data to the system. Having no access to a car at the moment, I've not been able to get out and about exploring the area around Stuttgart and take tracklogs as I go. That, and when I was using the OSM site back in January, it had become incredibly slow as the size of the project grew so quickly.

Despite that, a number things have happened recently that have really energised me and encouraged me to get back into the community to create geodata:

  • Last week I recieved an email from someone planning on doing a Masters dissertation on the OpenStreetMap project. What's more, he's from the Isle of Man, and doing the same course that I did last year.
  • A little while ago, I managed to get another person from the Isle of Man involved in the project. He's now going out with his GPS, cycling around Port St Mary and then adding his tracks to OSM.
  • There's a workshop being planned on the Isle of Wight in May at which there's a group of people (who I will join, if I can get there for the weekend) that have a goal of mapping the whole of the island on OpenStreetMap.
  • This last weekend, one of the OpenStreetMappers gave me the incentive to classify the data I'm inputting and have already input. He came up with a XSL stylesheet that transforms the raw geodata from the OSM API into an attractive SVG image (sorry to use so many TLAs) that can then be manipulated in other applications. It's the first time I've seen my data visualised in any sort of flexible way, and most importantly the first time it's hit me just how important it is to tag the data (with road names, types, etc) as you put it into the system. Without seeing the effect of your tags, there's no incentive to tag it.
  • I tried out the desktop based JOSM editor that lets me edit everything locally and upload any changes - including the ability to tag everything. It's a shame I can only use it on a PC though, so I can only use it after work before going home to my iBook.
  • The site itself is now running at an acceptable speed again, so there's not too much delay when adding data.
  • Right now there is a very important discussion going on in the mailing lists about the type of license that OpenStreetMap data should be released under, what people should be allowed to do with it, and how they should be able to use it. It's great to read so many people's opinions on the topic, especially as none of the existing open source licences really cater for the needs of open geodata. It also demonstrates just how active and involved the community is.

All of this, along with a bout of nicer weather here in Stuttgart (until yesterday) has made me get my GPS out again and start mapping some of the streets of Stuttgart. I'm thinking small streets that I can walk through and explore instead of roads that, in order to map, I'd need to drive along.