Archive for April, 2009

OpenStreetMap Palestine — Discussion List — Map the Future

Just emailed out this message .. reproduced here for further distribution. Forward and get involved!

Greetings! Hope you are well!

I’m sending out this message to briefly look back at what’s happened in OpenStreetMap Palestine, and announce a new mailing list [] to take mapping in Gaza and the West Bank forward. You’re receiving this message because you may have contributed mapping time, donated money for aerial imagery, helped get the word out, discussed, or simply provided moral support. Thank you! Or maybe you were cc’d in one of the flurry of emails organizing OSM mapping in Gaza back in January! In any case, you’re invited to *join the new discussion list*. Please forward to anyone who you think is interested.


Dozens of volunteer mappers, Yahoo Aerial Imagery, Digital Globe Imagery, open data, and a wiki. In rapid time, Gaza is almost to 1.0. There’s still some place name labelling and POI and corrections to do, but it’s very close. JumpStart International, in partnership with PCBS and ARIJ, are hard at work. Please join in and edit, especially if you have direct knowledge of Gaza — get in touch if you need any editing guidance.

In the process, agencies like UNOSAT and EC JRC have started selective release of their data sets .. a great start to open geodata exchange. The OpenStreetMap Wiki has an extensive (perhaps the greatest) collection of Palestinian geodata on the internet, all collected rapidly through crowdsourcing.

At the same time, JumpStart International has been rapidly mapping the West Bank, and looks to be on track to release the first complete public domain map of Palestine very soon. It’s phenomenal, exciting work. Keep track of progress, and read fascinating accounts of the work there, on JumpStart’s weblog.

My blog posts for good measure..


A complete map is just the start. One of the very first tasks will be to import JumpStart’s map into OpenStreetMap. We’ll need experienced OSM mappers help.

We raised 4k GBP to purchase recent satellite imagery over Gaza. It’s been put to good use, but there’s so much more that could be done to get its full value .. for instance, agricultural land use is readily identifiable. If you want to work on digitizing the imagery get in touch; we can’t make it completely publicly available due to licensing, but will give access to any OSM mappers who are interested.

Mapping data is nothing unless it’s used and updated. The geography of Palestine changes rapidly, and knowledge of those changes is crucial. The uses of the data are many — for planning, for travel, for media reporting, for business, for education. The best way to maintain, promote and use open geographic data has proven to be through a strong community. We are the beginnings of that community in Palestine .. please be welcome to join talk-ps and work for a Free and Open Palestine.

Very best

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First Thoughts on Google MapMaker Download

Google announced today MapMaker Data Download. What does it mean for OpenStreetMap and Open Geo Data?

The early chatter is focusing on the licensing, naturally. Non-commercial use only, non-compete with Google services, and strict attribution requirements. All three mean MapMaker data is incompatible with OSM licensing (cc-by-sa, or the ODbL). The meaning of non-commercial is pretty clear. Non-competition clause with Google means things like OpenCycleMap are not possible, as routing is explicitly not permitted. But does it mean you can not produce tiles and use them in your slippy map? What about in a mobile device?

What’s left? Well, some humanitarian response applications are possible. UN-OCHA and UNOSAT could make maps with MapMaker data .. but they could not make routing apps for relief workers. Many academic projects would be clear. There’s many possible uses for project in the public interest. It is encouraging that Google is moving in this direction and willing to help some class of mapping projects.

OpenStreetMap is definitely not satisfied .. MapMaker is still effectively a data silo. It is more useful than before for sure. And that’s a distraction from the goal of truely free and open geographic data. Google’s omni-presence and still huge budgets and comprehensive satellite imagery mean they can muscle their way into the discussion. It’s typical Google satisficion.

The data is very interesting. Quickly comparing the roads layers against OSM in Kenya show good correspondence where there is Yahoo aerial imagery to trace against — if OSM had access to the same imagery, I imagine we’d be pretty much equivalent country-wide. MapMaker is slightly more complete in central Nairobi; I put that down to Google having full time employees in Nairobi who work on MapMaker.

Some screenshots from overlaying OSM (green) and MapMaker (purple) in QGIS (you tell me whether this violates any licenses). This is just roads, plenty more analysis to be had on this and other layers.

Kenya MapMaker vs OpenStreetMap


Kenya MapMaker vs OpenStreetMap

Greater Nairobi

Kenya MapMaker vs OpenStreetMap-3

Central Nairobi

The MapMaker metadata file, included in the download, is fascinating and funny. The geographic features layers schema includes a TYPE_SHRUBBERY, POIs include TYPE_GURUDWARA (amenity=place_of_worship,religion=sikh in OSM).

We’re in the early hours of semi-open MapMaker. What will the future hold. WhereCamp Africa should be that much more interesting this weekend .. if you have any questions, leave in the comments and I’ll forward on to attendees in Nairobi. Will MapMaker data for other countries be released? Is tiling ok? What’s going to be the first MapMaker app? Will they import public domain data, such as the upcoming release of JumpStart’s map of Palestine?

Btw, there’s an upcoming Google MapMaker User Conference. Anyone from Bangalore planning to go?!

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