mscape at State of the Map 2008"For my latest adventure around the world with mediascapes I went off to the OpenStreetMap Foundation’s second annual conference, entitled State of the Map. This year the conference was held in Limerick, Ireland - cue an obligatory limerick competition (the winner of which I unfortunately didn’t write down).
For those you haven’t already heard, the driving force behind the OpenStreetMap idea is that the online maps that many people believe are free, such as Google or Yahoo maps, are actually far from that. Yes, you can look at them for free, and can build mashups where your own data is overlaid on top, but you cannot extract the maps images and use them offline in any way, you can’t print them in paper brochure and you cannot add, update, or alter them without falling foul of the licence restrictions all of these sites include. That is, all of them except for OpenStreetMap.
Essentially it’s the wikipedia of online mapping, built using crowd-sourcing - a large-scale online collaboration where anyone can add to the map, or fix errors they find. The way it is done is that people cycle around with a GPS that logs their path, and record the street names, locations of parks, pubs, shops or restaurants they pass using using a camera or pen-and-paper. Back home they upload the GPS log and use one of OSM’s mapmaking tools such as potlatch or JOSM to draw in the streets, paths, & junctions over their route, and enter in the other point-of-interest data.
We first looked at OpenStreetMap a couple of years ago but found that the data was so sparse that the maps really were not all that useful. Fast-forward to the present though, and the 46000 registered users have done an amazing job so that the quality of maps in major cities like Bristol is often more detailed and up-to-date than the equivalent Google map..."
They then go on to present the following side-by-side example:
It does look quite good. I think I may have to take a look at my local area and see what the data is like.