Archive for August, 2008

Burning Man Earth Information Release

The gates are open, so we’re in the clear to release Burning Man geodata.


Burning Man camps and art in OpenStreetMap

Burning Man Garmin map files choose the latest

There’s a long chain and network of people and processes that got Black Rock City data into a fungible form, and a ton of cool imagery and tracking projects. I can talk about that next week, gotta pack.


Ups and Downs Mapping the West Bank

We’ve become mappers in the West Bank.


It happened so quickly and easily but it’s not all that surprising — these are sharp young engineers! But even though I preach that OSM is easy and open to everyone, somehow I still think it’s a bit too complicated. So when these guys just start getting it full on, I realize how much the OSM approach rocks. It’s awesome! “Awesome” is one of the words we’ve exchanged with the Palestinians. Other slang: our meaning of “Killer” wasn’t really understood here. I’m not really keeping up my end of the bargain by learning any Arabic.

Banksy, not the wall

Such a turn from just a day earlier. Friday was our first day for editing, and the lab of windows boxes started restarted randomly. Turns out Kaspersky Anti-Virus is the most evil software ever, actually shutting down the computer if the license had expired. I about lost it, something so stupid disrupting our mapping. Totally dispiriting. The locals were way more laid back, having to deal with way more serious things then this on a daily basis. Cooler heads prevailed, the evil software was uninstalled, and our facilities looked ok. Things could only go up.

Jazz Band in  Beit Sahour

After a much needed beer (Bethlehem has a large Christian population of course, so easier to get a drink then other parts of the Arab world) we traveled to the neighboring town of Beit Sahour. Watched a great jazz band bang out a few tunes (“this one is for all the Palestinian women in Israeli jails”) in a the old part of Beit Sahour recently renovated by a full suite of NGOs and UN agencies, into a lovely intimate gathering place, lined with the lovely white stone adorning all the buildings here.

Military Based transformed into Park, Playground, Hospital

Then dinner, invited by the mayor of Beit Sahour, in the municipal park, part of the amazing Oush Grab project. Land that had been held by the Israeli military (and prior to 1967 by the Jordanian army) was abandoned and redeveloped by the local munipcality, with areas to barbecue, play sports, and children’s playgrounds. Adjacent to the park is an area planned for a hospital. Wandering around the playground, I was delighted to see grass, swingsets .. and then I realized, I’m walking around totally delighted by a playground! And the fact is, this kind of facility is so crucial to normal life, so taken for granted, but very very exceptional in this place. Military base transformed into a playground, dinner with great company and great food .. totally refreshed and restored my enthusiasm for our work.

JumpStart and friends

If I get a chance before leaving Tuesday, we’re going out there to fly some kites, take pics, and do detailed mapping of that place.

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Mapping the West Bank

Right now, our first group of mappers are out surveying Bethlehem!


I’m here in the West Bank working with JumpStart International, a NGO that has accomplished amazing things in some of the toughest parts of the world. JumpStart organized programs putting people to work clearing and reconstructing public buildings in Iraq and Gaza. They’ve now started work to create a free and open map of the Palestinian West Bank, training recent engineering grads in the OpenStreetMap way. The founder of JumpStart is Sean O’Sullivan, also a founder of GIS company MapInfo, so the interest in and understanding of the importance of maps, especially in developing countries, is strong. We’re being assisted by Engineers Without Borders – Palestine, and the Engineers Assocation Palestine. Schuyler will be joining us in a few days, and we’re also getting help from Patrick of a great project, KiteGang.


The goal is to complete a map of the entire territory in a few months time, and get these sharp folks connected up with the wider world. It’s completely audacious, crazy, impossible and wonderful .. just like how people viewed OpenStreetMap just last year. (We’re gaining acceptance in some quarters, not that flickr is any less crazy and wonderful.)

JumpStart wants the work they sponsor to be in the public domain. Since core OSM is licensed CC-by-SA, we are running our own copy of the OSM software stack (rails, mapnik, and nightly Garmin maps). For the duration of the project, we’ll make edits for the West Bank on this server. At the conclusion of JumpStart’s involvement here, we’ll release the database into the public domain, and import that into OpenStreetMap. Following from that time, ongoing improvement and maintenance will happen in OpenStreetMap proper.


This effort here faces tremendous challenges. Just getting around the West Bank is difficult, and it’s a sensitive and volatile region. But that’s why it’s so important the we have a free and open community and geodata resource here. It’s also an opportunity for cutting edge work on OSM, especially in localization and disputes. We’re going to collect street addresses. I’m really excited to be a part of this effort, and really look forward to see things develop. And if you have any interest in helping, there is definitely work that can be done from abroad, just get in touch.

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Mapping the West Bank

I’m working on this right now..

FreeMap West Bank Presentation


Mapufacture and FortiusOne!

Mapufacture has joined FortiusOne!

No need to repeat why this makes so much sense. Andrew and Sean share the great news. More officially, there’s the press release and Mapufacture blog.

Personally, my new role at FortiusOne gives me latitude for explorations and tangential efforts, which I’ll be writing about in the coming time.

From my perspective, we’ve all been pursuing this vision of maps, tools and data, in order to better understand and communicate about our world. At the conclusion of researching Weaver House, I wrote..

there’s one simple system which they all could easily hook into .. geography. I simply want to be able to search, and ask for all the information about a small half kilometer square area. That is why I’m pushing for GeoRSS, open geo data, and open source geo software .. not just for the Web 2.0 holy grail of a good restaurant review .. but to provide the simplest and easiest way to organize information about the world, and put everyone on equal footing when it comes to deciding our future.

It’s incredible to experience and witness all the different forms of organization and endeavor that pursuit of such a simple thing conjures. From hackers, open source, and NGOs, to start ups, big multinationals, and the United Nations, we’ve worked in so many capacities. As Andrew and I have worked through Mapufacture, pushed through and spun out the simple ideas into the new alphabets soups of the GeoWeb, all paths were open to us. And we’ve been fortunate to have the support of so many great folks. When FortiusOne made the offer to join forces, it was a completely natural idea. Complementary focus, similar technologies and approach, and a shared vision of what all this code can do. I’m confident great things are happening. Rockin!

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