Sunday, May 3, 2015

Part 2: OpenStreetMap and Civic Hacking

Whew!! While researching OpenStreetMap (OSM) and civic hacking as background for writing this blog post, I saw the tip of the iceberg for civic mapping. It's an extremely large iceberg!

If you're new to civic mapmaking and want to learn a bit more, this post has a few links to get you started. If you didn't already read last Friday's post, Part 1: OSM and Civic Hacking, consider reading that first. Then take a look at the Baltimore post, "Elliott Plack is putting Baltimore on the OpenStreetMap — and he could use some help." The post talks about getting local GIS open data imported into OSM.
Baltimore, MD
"There’s a new way to get Baltimore on the OpenStreetMap, and it doesn’t involve flyovers or geocaching. The map that’s emerged as an open-source alternative to Google Maps has a bold mission to create a free and open map of the world, including address data and building names. The best way to get that data for an open-source project is through the government...The U.S. government has made data available, but local leaders have been a little slower to follow suit. Open data initiatives, like those underway in Baltimore city, are changing that. Even after the data is available, though, there remains a need for someone to upload the data onto the map. Enter Plack and a group of other mapping devs...“Local mappers have been editing the map in Baltimore for years, myself included, but it is quite consuming to survey (walking around and taking notes) every address on every street,” said Plack...Recently, however, they got access to data from Baltimore city that’s made the project more efficient. Plack met with Jim Garcia of the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology. Garcia is helping the mappers get the data they need from the city, and provide any data that isn’t already in the City’s Open Data Portal...The end result, Plack said, will be a map for all to use. As the municipal backing of efforts to get the data onto the map illustrates, OpenStreetMap is becoming increasingly appealing as a home of not just the visual maps, but also the data that is uploaded and layering capabilities through apps like MapBox."
If an interested group of Appleton civic hackers want to follow the same path that Plack is taking in Baltimore, they could talk to the city of Appleton GIS Department to figure out the most effective way to create an awesome map resource for area residents.

One way to do minor edits of OSM is to use its browser-based editor, OSM iD iD, as described in "OpenStreetMap 101." You can go to a zoomed-in view of the area of interest, then click on the Edit button in the upper left area of the screen. For editing the map, click on the Layers icon along the right side of the screen and make sure Map Notes and Map Data overlays are on (boxes checked). For just viewing OSM, turn off those overlays so you have a clear view of the map. For more info on editing and using OSM, check out the learnOSM guide or the guide.

Before doing research for writing this post, I wasn't aware of the term 'editathon' or 'mapathon,' but both those terms are used to refer to hackathons for open mapping with OSM (and probably with other mapping tools). During the OSM US Winter Editathon 2014, one of the mapping sessions held around the country was at the Esri HQ in Redlands, CA. It's great that Esri, a company which develops and sells proprietary mapping software, is willing to support OSM civic hacking events. The OSM US Spring Mapathon 2015 included a session in Madison, WI. It's nice to know others in Wisconsin are already doing civic mapmaking. Civic mapmakers in northeast Wisconsin could schedule a trip to Madison to meet with those folks, or have them come to our region for a learning session in Appleton or elsewhere in the area.

To me personally, the most interesting aspect of open mapping is the civic mapping of hiking trails. "Add A Trail To OpenStreetMap" is a good read to understand what your first edit of OSM by adding hiking trail information would be like.
Where's Our Trail?
"Let's add a trail to OpenStreetMap. Multi-use trails add character to a neighbourhood and to a map. Here is a way to add your local trail to OpenStreetMap. This is a suitable first mapping project when you get a GPS receiver, and this is the sort of mapping that you can do with family and friends. I know from local knowledge that there is a multi-purpose trail in this new neighbourhood. Before our survey, the map does not show the trail. Grab the GPS and the kids and let's go mapping. When you get to the trailhead, switch on the GPS and let it acquire a good signal lock. Pop the GPS in your backpack and enjoy a trip around the trail with the family. When done, switch the GPS off. That doesn't seem like such a burden does it? You get a nice outing with the family and you get to do some mapping without them rolling their eyes
There's Our Trail!
quite so much. I believe that this is trail is a loop when complete, I've only surveyed a portion of it so far. That's okay, of course. When contributing data to OpenStreetMap, one may contribute as much or as little as they choose.
Another article, "On the Trail with Open Data," talks about the OpenTrails standard as it relates to civic mapping by adding hiking trail information to OSM.
"With the Spring Mapathon 'The Great Outdoors' fast approaching, we want to highlight interesting developments and tools around open data for the outdoors. For this guest blog post, we invited Jereme Monteau of Trailhead Labs to talk about the OpenTrails standard, its relation to OSM and the TrailEditor tool...To explore our many wonderful trails we have to know how to get to access them...We need to know where the trails connect to roads or sidewalks or other transportation paths. These points are traditionally called trailheads. A nice trailhead will not only be the entry point to a trail, but it will also be a place where you can find more information, get drink of water, use the restroom, lock your bike or park your car. These days, we look online for information about parks and trails first. Unfortunately, quality outdoor information, including the location of trailheads, can be hard to find. OpenTrails is a new open data format for sharing parks and recreation information. It is designed to make it easy for the outdoor community to publish comprehensive and consistent information about parks and trails in a way that can be easily consumed by applications. It was also designed with OpenStreetMap (OSM) in mind so that it would be easy to share data between OSM and OpenTrails."
For a final open hiking maps article, I recommend reading "Beyond Strava."
"...standardization is happening for data about trail networks, which means the cash-strapped agencies that maintain the trails will be able to liberate that data for anyone to use to build accurate, easy-to-use, and dependable maps and apps...Strava is also one of a handful of organizations working to standardize trail and public land data...The nonprofit Code for America, which uses technology to improve local government and public services, is leading the project, called the Open Trail System Specification (or just Open Trails). Open Trails was born through a project to help visitors navigate the hive of different trails system in Ohio's Cuyahoga Valley National Park, adjacent state and
city parks, and trail systems in the Akron and Cleveland metro areas. "The specification is designed to help these parks communicate with one voice and provide one map for their 8 million annual visitors," says Alan Williams, who runs Open Trails development at Code for America."
These additional links will be of interest to those of you who want to add trails info to OSM.
If your outdoor human-powered mode of travel is cycling rather than hiking, check out OpenCycleMap, which was developed using OSM. OpenCycleMap has a few bike trails marked in the Appleton area, but it seems like there are lots of opportunities to add more routes to the map in our region.

Two final links for civic mappers are from the Association of American Geographers' 2015 annual meeting. A blog post about the last day of the annual meeting says, "The last day of AAG 2015 is about citizen science and OpenStreetMap studies." The previous day's post covers the topic of "Civic Technology, Citizen Science, Crowdsourcing and mapping," and has content of definite interest to civic mappers.

If the June 6th DHMN Civic Hackathon/Appleton 2015 generates enough interest in GIS and map hacking, a core group of civic mapmakers may want to consider launching an Appleton page on OSM, similar to the pages for Cleveland or Dallas.

If you don't write computer code, maybe mapping is an area of civic hacking you'd like to try out!


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