Sunday, 13 December 2009

Arguments

Monty Python had it right. Some people really would pay to sit in a room to have an argument. The modern day equivalent of the Python's Argument Room would be a chat room, a blog comments list or a mailing list and people don't even have to pay. Here they can provoke others into spurious, circular arguments that get nowhere and some people clearly just love it as a sport.

The OSM-talk mailing list has become the pitch for this sport. I'd like to see a bit of proactive effort by the administrators. When someone is repeating the same old stuff, over and over or when their posts exceed a certain percentage of the total posts, the administrator should ask them, off-list, to be a bit more restrained. If that doesn't work then a public naming followed by a suspension or ban might be in order. Let's get the list back for useful exchanges and banish the trolls.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Ploughing

We went out today to take a look at a site in the Yorkshire Wolds where there is some ridge and furrow marks in a field. There are a few places in East Yorkshire like this, though they tend not to be quite as prominent as areas in the Midlands. The sun was quite low in the sky and the shadows cast across the field were just about good enough to see the furrows.

These marks were made by ploughs that couldn't turn its face round like modern ploughs do. All of the earth that was turned over by ploughing over very many years formed a bank in one part and a trough in another. The only ones that survive today are where the land has only been used for grazing since medieval ploughing stopped and not touched with a modern plough, so most of these marks are hundreds of years old, some over a thousand years old.

I could put it on the OSM map (I'd have to invent a tag but so what), but I choose not to because such archaeological sites get pillaged by treasure hunters with metal detectors so I don't want to encourage them.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

History Centre

While we were in Hull today we took a look at the new History Centre. It's not open yet, not until the new year but it looks impressive from the outside. All of the city's paper archives are going to be stored here, a few from when the city was first awarded its charter in 1299 when it changed its name from Wyke upon Hull to King's Town upon Hull. The city is very low lying, with some of the city centre below high water mark. According to my OS map for the city they have chosen the highest part of the city centre to build this museum, it lies about 4 metres above mean sea level. The normal spring tide range in the marina is 6.4m so this doesn't seem very safe to me with only 80cm to spare. It was previously housed in the Central Library only 350m away, so it's no worse off. I expect that the curators took flooding into account.

Years ago I did some work with a warehousing company in the Netherlands. During due diligence we wanted to know about flood risk in such a low lying country and when we discovered that their whole site was eight metres above sea level, they were so proud of it that they put a brass plaque up in their reception to that effect.

We have been checking a few bus stops in East Yorkshire recently. One thing I find odd is the idea of a CUS stop. This seems to be a customary stop, where buses might stop. The key thing seems to be that there is no bus stop sign at a CUS stop. We were checking such a stop when a bus rolled up and dropped off a passenger. That confirmed that there was a stop there, but I find this odd. Why have a stop that's deliberately not marked with a sign? No one benefits from this. I just don't get it.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Names, power and prisons

We went out today, partly for a ride out on a lovely day, and partly to check some stuff for OSM. Like a lot of sorties to gather map data, it just leads to more detailed uncertainty later. I checked a few bus stops in North Cave, but when I got home I realised that the street name on the NaPTAN data did not match the name on the street in OSM. I can't resolve the problem at home, so we need to go out and check again.

On the way we had a view over the Vale of York from the edge of the Wolds. In the distance is the huge power station of Drax, making about 7% of the electricity of Britain, using coal imported from Australia, with vastly wasteful steam rising from the cooling towers to form the biggest cloud in the sky today. Later in the day there was an item on the TV about electric cars, but while the power to charge its battery comes from places like this and is delivered through the national grid with all of its losses, they make no sense at all.

Later we checked out the approach road to the prison at Everthorpe, officially HMP Wolds. It seemed a bit odd driving towards the prison, but it seems to be a public road, though I think we were on several CCTV cameras. We took a turn around the roundabout at the end and left as quickly as we could without seeming to hurry. I don't think it would have gone down well to take photos.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Slowest

We went out yesterday, gathering some details as we went, including some missing speed limits. On Priory Road we came across the oldest, slowest tractor I think I've ever seen on the road. It looked unsteady and probably unroadworthy. It was only managing about 5mph, off the bottom of my speedometer, so it wasn't causing much of an obstruction as getting past was very easy. We finished our job and headed back along Priory Road, only to find the thing still plodding along. It looked like more of a museum piece than a working tractor but it did look to be going a bit faster, maybe 8mph. A decent part of its load was now strewn along the road.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

NaPTAN in East Yorkshire

Edgemaster has loaded the NaPTAN data for East Yorkshire, so there's another 1622 stops to check. There's been quite a lot of muttering about data imports, much of which I agree with. I think imports should be treated as the start of a process to improve the data they bring and imports need managing by people local to the area the import covers. Imports can bring valuable data in their own right, and the process of checking them certainly gathers extra POIs and extra tracks for lightly covered areas. A few local mappers are checking their local stops.

We've been out locally checking the quality of the data. Compared to Hull's stops the ones in east Yorkshire seem to be much more accurately positioned. The biggest problem so far is that the Atco code is missing from many of the stop signs.

I know that the East Riding of Yorkshire council have some plans for assisting passengers with some new information system and I think they need to have the code on every stop so people know where they are. I hope they will benefit from our findings.

Today we checked the stops in Welton, Brough and Elloughton. There are few shelters and they are mostly old brick built ones, but a couple have been improved.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Last stop in Hull

We've just checked the last bus stop in Hull. The process has been hard work at times, but there's more reward to it than it might seem. We've added a lot of detail that had otherwise been missed. Today we set off to check the last four stops that are tangled up in a substantial rebuild of James Reckitt Avenue. Checking the four stops took a few minutes, and we found a church that had been overlooked. There is a push to import data from various sources - I don't think it should be imported unless there is an accompanying checking process. That checking process must be done on the ground not from your armchair. It must, therefore be undertaken by someone local to the import process. National imports must be broken up into chunks that are managed locally. This is the way NaPTAN data has been loaded, though not every stop has been checked yet.

So, some stats:
NaPTAN had 1299 stops listed, we found 9 extra ones, total: 1308
  • 91 stops (7%) were missing
  • 66 stops (5%) were substantially moved
  • 139 stops (11%) had the wrong bearing
  • 51 stops (4%) had no ATCO code on the sign (there were 39 more in the new transport interchange, but these are electronic boards that don't really need labelling. School bus stops also had no codes).
  • 10 stops (0.7%) had the wrong code (after investigation)
I have yet to send the last batch of data to the Transport Team in Hull City Council, let's see what response I get.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Awkward

The bus stops that have been loaded from the NaPTAN data are not all accurate, so we've been checking the ones loaded in Hull. Some can be checked from a car which helps cover the ground quickly, but traffic can make it difficult. When a bus stop has a bus in it, stopping there to get photos and a good fix is not easy, but when there's a police car in the layby and a bus stopped next to it, then maybe that stop needs to be checked later.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

NOVAM & Vista

I've been checking bus stop data that was loaded from the National Public Transport Access Node (NaPTAN) database, donated by the Department for Transport. Christoph Böhme has created a viewer called NOVAM and kindly added a colour scheme based on my choice. You can see it here. I wanted to try it with IE since the people in council Transport Offices will probably use IE.

My laptop came with Vista. I loaded a dual boot Ubuntu which I use all the time. To try out IE I restarted the machine in Vista. I haven't used Vista for weeks, so the virus checker had expired. I decided to delete it and add a free one. Whilst doing this the Windows update process had downloaded umpteen updates so I foolishly agreed to install them. I had installed the Thunderbird profile on a folder on the Windows NTFS drive so I could use email on both Windows and Ubuntu and see the same messages etc. That was my downfall. At some point windows must have hibernated, I didn't realise, restarted the PC in Ubuntu, did some stuff in Thunderbird, then restarted in Vista. Vista now recovered my running email to the way it had been and threw away my newly downloaded emails.

Now I haven't lost much, but it has just been the last straw. I hate hibernation, but it doesn't seem easy to turn off in Vista - part of the Micro$oft policy of we know best, we'll take your PC that you paid your money for and make it work our way even if you don't like it. So Vista is no more and how good does that feel.

I do have another PC (well a few actually) and there is XP on one of them, so I'm not without access to Windows, so now I can try NOVAM in IE which I didn't actually get around to in Vista in the end anyway. I hope it works.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Wilberfoss

We had a break from bus stops and went back to village mapping. The village of Wilberfoss is alongside the A1079, which is not my favourite road, but once you're in the village the busy road between Hull and York just disappears. We followed the twists and turns of the older part of the village with its extensions into newer stuff. There's a beck, a pub, a school, a church and it's a pleasant place. The beck is quite small but there's a chunky bridge over it which seems way too big. I traced the beck from NPE, I tried the new 1:25000 maps but they didn't load after a few minutes so I gave up. This internet connection is variable, so it might have been us, but NPE loaded almost instantly.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Council update

I've sent another batch of bus stop checks in Hull to the city council. I'm a bit disappointed about the lack of feedback from the transport team. The bus stop data is, however, much better than it was, with stops better positioned, missing stops removed and extra stops added. Some of the NaPTAN fields have mistakes. I have sent the issues to the council transport team so they can update the NaPTAN data at source. I haven't changed any of the real NaPTAN fields because I expect this might be reloaded from another NaPTAN update and then any fields I change would be overwritten.

I am looking forward to finishing this and then moving on.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Stops again

We went out to verify some more bus stops in Hull. The stops have been loaded from the NaPTAN import and have generally been quite good. They are labelled in a straight-forward way and generally their positions have been pretty good. The NaPTAN data includes a bearing showing the direction a bus will leave the stop, in Hull's case this is the 8 cardinal points N, NE, E etc. These bearings are the biggest single error, and it's easy spot. I make a note of such errors to send to a chap in the council so, hopefully, he will update the NaPTAN data from what we find.

We drove up and down Spring Bank today. Driving looking for stops is tricky, but in the slow moving traffic today it was very easy, we stopped alongside most of the stops in traffic which was heavier than normal because of road works. It's generally too far to walk between most stops - it would take too long - but one problem with driving, rather than cycling, is that you get hung up on buses. If I stop at a bus stop for Jean to photograph the sign etc., but a bus is following us we need to vacate the stop before the bus arrives and evicts us. If we end up following a bus we need to find a place to stop and wait for the bus to clear the stops.

I wanted to clear the Spring Bank area this week because next week it will be very busy because Europe's biggest temporary fairground arrives in Hull. It is a great fair, there are the usual small stalls and fast-food stalls and lots of big, fast rides which help you see your fast food again.

Monday, 5 October 2009

The middle ground

The OSM-talk mailing list has descended into farce.

There are people who want OSM to have a leader, some sort of benign dictator, who will arbitrate over issues like how to tag things properly and people who do not want this at all. There are people who respond to every post regardless of how little they know about the subject and people who get irritated by this. There are people who believe that everything can be solved by writing a wiki page and those who largely ignore the wiki. There are people who believe that new-comers should be vetted or guided before they are allowed to edit the real database and other who create tools to make edits by a new-comer even easier. There are people who think there should be a proscriptive list of tags and others who don't. There are people who think every change to the list of tags needs to be agreed with a vote and others who dismiss voting as meaningless. We have seen our first public resignation from the list, but how many more people have just given up on it and walked away? People are beginning to become entrenched and affiliations are forming on one side or another, yet all these issues crossover to some extent.

So, where do I stand?

The calls for a leader are well meaning but naive. SteveC has been held up as such a leader but is someone with vision the right guy to go through the minutia of shield shapes, shop types, road colours, surface type etc? I don't think so. Is it likely that one person can have the knowledge and the foresight to make binding decisions that will apply across all countries and legal jurisdictions? I very much doubt it. Will one person understand the reason that everyone contributes, so what tags really mean to them? Certainly not.

In spite of a few people shouting it down, open tagging works very well. A consensus has emerged about almost everything. Some people want that consensus carved into stone tablets so no tags outside of the 'rules' can be used. So what will they do to the people who don't follow these rules? Throw them out of OSM? The outcasts will then just take the freely available data and start again (and I'd join them). If you don't throw them out then the only other way forward is to change their tags and start an edit war.

The calls for consistent tagging often mention how much harder it is for software using the data to make good use of inconsistent data, yet these people don't seem to make use of the data - the people who do use it occasionally mention that it really is no problem.

it has been said that some people don't map an object because the tags are not clear. I wonder how much real tagging in the real world these people have done. The real work is gathering data from the ground. It is easy to change a set of tags later rather than go out to an otherwise well covered area to gather the data again for a feature you deliberately ignored.

Some people favour Taglist. This shows the number of times a tag is used allowing a consensus to form, but, like any kind of evolution it has no guiding hand. We get convergent evolution where two different sets of tags mean the same thing. We get broken tags where no thought went into them so they don't stand the test of time.

The biggest problem area is the lousy wiki that is used to document things. Creating wiki pages is easy. Creating a useful wiki page is much harder. Creating a wiki page that is useful and stays useful after various people have tinkered with it is very, very difficult. Creating a wiki page for a new tag is easy. Assimilating the comments to make a tag better is tedious but can be very productive if it is done well by someone willing to accept ideas and not just push their own agenda. The final voting system to then adopt a tag is meaningless. So few people vote compared to the number of active mappers that a majority is worthless and sometimes ignored anyway. Once the tag's wiki page is promoted to Map Features it gets changed later without voting anyway.

Open format tags are very useful for our world. Very few things in life are black and white, so extreme views like 'closed tag lists vs anarchy' really don't help. People contribute to OSM for many, many reasons and all are equally valid. Their reason, their culture, their language, their temperament, their environment, their software and their experience all flavour the tags they use and the things they tag. If we close the list of tags much of this will be restricted.

Do I have any answers?

Create a tagging list to get the issues with tagging off the Talk list. Moderators on busy lists should remind people to exercise restraint, both in not just commenting blithely on every message and also not repeating the same argument over and over. Scrap voting on tags - it gives a false air of importance to the process. Scrap the wiki for tag documentation, replace it with some solid tags in a harder-to-edit form and emphasis Taglist and open format tagging.

These are my ideas. They are not binding. In no way do I intend these to revoke anyone's human rights. You are free to ignore them and/or express ideas of your own, but please, please don't start arguments on OSM-Talk.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Bus maps and a fool

We've been out checking bus stops again in Hull. We've now checked over half of the stops. Today was a struggle, on busy roads with lots of stops missing. Hedon road was very substantially rebuilt some years ago and I wonder if the old stops were not removed from the council lists and new ones added, although the consecutive numbers would not support this.

Keeping track of the stops was becoming a pain, so I knocked up an overlay for the stops in Hull. I offered the sources for this map to the talk transit list or to extend it for other areas but there's not much interest. I've sent the link to my contact in Hull council so he can see progress.

Something has been bugging me recently. The OSM-Talk mailing list can be very busy and often has interesting or useful threads on it, but lately it has been full of meaningless, circular, argumentative threads, usually pushed along by one person in particular. I'm beginning to dread the meaningless, rubbish that he replies with, to almost anything people add to the list. I wish others would ignore him.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Such a lovely place

We ventured out on a warm, sunny September afternoon to check bus stops in the Preston Road area of Hull. It is one of the roughest parts of the city, both by reputation and by record. The violent crime record is particularly grim, but on a sunny Sunday all was well. There were plenty of signs about, a few people drinking in the streets, a few youths out with their attack dogs on very short leads, a couple pushing a mini motorbike and an unregistered trail bike along the the street with two toddlers perched on them heading for a local disused railway line and two blokes with a piebald pony on a bit of waste ground, taking turns to ride it bareback using a rope bridle.

We plodded round, photographing everything as we went. It sometimes draws attention but not really much today, except for one point where a young chap followed the line of the upward-pointing camera and stared into the sky beyond the bus stop sign, looking for what we were photographing. I didn't like to point out that it was just a bus stop and we left him looking for UFOs.

We have now checked about 45% of the stops in the city. I'm going to send another batch of updates to the council for their comments.

On the way home we saw a buzzard very close to home. Although they're making a strong comeback in lowland Britain, so they are not especially rare there any more, it's still a pleasure to see one circling overhead.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

A question

We dashed out on a busy day to grab a few bus stop checks. We managed a couple of dozen. The email lists have discussed how to tag some of these and one thing that came up is that some stops have a raised curb to assist people on wheels to get on the bus. I don't know the official name of this feature so I've tagged them as ramp=yes. I sent an email to the bloke in the council who's interested in these checks to see what they call them. It turns out that he knows a friend of mine too - it's a small world.

I need to review the photos for some of the stops I've already checked to see if they have ramps too. The tagging of stops might yet change by adding features, like a shelter or a ramp, to a bus_stop tag which is a contemporary way of tagging. I'm not sure about comma or semicolon separated lists though.

Monday, 14 September 2009

What button?

The NaPTAN load of bus stops has given us reasons to revisit Hull. The city was chock-a-block over the weekend as the Round the World Clipper race started from the marina. Today the city was back to normal and we went into the city centre to walk round some of the stops. The GPS reception was about the worse I've ever seen. Most of the time it had no position lock at all, and when it did, briefly here and there, it was so poor that I ignored it. I took lots of photos to position the bus stops on the streets.

The stops were very poor, many did not have the NaPTAN code on them, the postions were poor and there were extra ones and missing ones. So far the NaPTAN data has been pretty good, but in the city centre it's not been good at all. The absence of GPS locations didn't help when it came to editing, but I think it's pretty good.

One thing I did find was a placebo button on a crossing. The junction is controlled by traffic signals, the crossing is over a one-way street, so the traffic signals for the crossing are part of the junction signals. There used to be a button on the crossing, but now the button has been covered over. There looks like there is a button, but it doesn't do anything. It just makes you feel as though you have requested the lights to change to make you feel better, hence it is a placebo button.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Lets move on

We mapped the last chunk of streets in Goole today. There's still stuff to complete for the town in details like some POIs and maybe some footways, but I'm going to leave it to someone else. I'm moving on to map somewhere else.

I have used a Yahoo email account for the OSM mailing lists. I wanted to keep all that separate from my normal mail. Thunderbird makes managing separate email addresses very straightforward, so all was well. Recently though, many messages were being delayed. The mail threads didn't make sense, I was getting replies to emails that I hadn't seen yet. When I added a message it was hours before I got it back again. So I set up a mail account on my testing domain which now seems to work very quickly. I just forget to change my name, so the lists got a message from 'osm' - not very helpful.

I did ask Yahoo about this, they sent me an email, which arrived immediately, so there was no problem apparently.

Monday, 7 September 2009

More of Goole

We went to Goole today, to map a bit more of the northern part. I can say that motivation to map Goole is low - I just can't generate any interest in the place. I've mapped all sorts of places now, pretty villages, busy towns, grotty estates, open country and loads of housing estates, but Goole somehow in just not exciting.

There's more to do to finish the place so another visit or two is required. One should include a walk through the docks on a public footpath which might be interesting. I hope so.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Council update

We've been out checking bus stops again. We now have checked about a quarter of the stops in Hull. We have done some of the busiest roads so some gentle routes around quieter parts today made it easy. One of the stops is labelled as St Bede's church, so that helped add the name of a rather strange church that has no name board up but does not seem abandoned.

I have a sent a spreadsheet off to a chap in Hull City Council's transport team. It lists the stops we've checked and add the comments and issues, like stops with no signs, or no code on the sign or no stop at all. I'm interested what he thinks of our efforts - he has already said he wants to see it. I have not detailed the stops we have moved, mostly less than 20 metres, unless they were completely wrong such a the wrong side of a junction, or the wrong side of a street or on the wrong street. Most of the stops have been good, well labelled, and well positioned. There's just a lot still to do.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Pub reopens

One thing I like about OSM is the immediacy of it. I heard today that The Minerva is reopening, which is against the trend for pubs up and down the country. The Minerva was a great pub, it had a micro brewery attached where they brewed Pilots' Pride and they also kept a wonderful pint of Tetleys too. They served good food and being on the waterfront it's a good location. I hope the revamped pub is as good as the old one. A few minutes after I heard this news the pub was re-instated to the map and a bit later the renderer had redrawn it.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

A few tenfoots

Some houses have alleyways running behind them. When the houses are joined together to form a terrace this forms the best way to get access to the back of the house. It seems the way to tag these in OSM is as highway=service, service=alley. In Hull and the surrounding areas these are known as tenfoots - they are usually about ten feet wide. Some streets have much narrower access to the back of the house that is really only as wide as a footpath and these are not tenfoots.

We went out to look at an area of Hull that we know have tenfoots, partly to see how easy it is to get access and partly to see what the extra detail might look like. Access was very easy. The tenfoots were all paved and only a couple of places had potholes. We didn't see many people, a few dog walkers, a few cyclists and a few children playing. I think I'll take tenfoots much more seriously, they add extra detail with little problem and they are not well mapped elsewhere. My only comment is that they might need to be rendered a little less prominently on some Mapnik zoom levels. Take a look and see what you think here.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Flagged down

We went to check out a few bus stops in Hull against the imported list from NaPTAN. As we were heading along Cottingham road a car caught us up and flashed its lights. He stopped and wanted to know why "You photo my wife?". She must have been at a bus stop. When we showed him the printed map and explained we were checking bus stops he calmed down and left. After he had gone I realised that I had some business cards with me with the OSM logo and web address on it and I should have given him one of them.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Bus stops again

So we had another little foray out to look at a few bus stops. We deliberately chose to look at a small number, firstly to see what the error rate seems to be and secondly to check our system works.

After some short mailing list discussion I have decided not to amend the naptan: fields in the imported data, except that I delete the naptan:Verified=no field. I extracted a list of all of the nodes created from the changeset when they were imported and loaded this into a spreadsheet. I'll use this to record any anomalies I find. So far we have looked at 38 bus stops from the import, 2 are missing on the ground, 1 is on the wrong road, 3 have the wrong bearing, one is on the wrong side of the road, and 2 have the wrong code on the sign, the rest seem good, though I have moved a few too. Only another 1261 to check.

Our process works well now, but I could do with a render that shows bus stops at a lower zoom level to get more on a printed map. I add source=naptan + survey, I add shelter=yes if there is one and I will add layby=yes if there is one (none yet). If I find something wrong I add a note to explain the problem, and I write it into the spreadsheet. This works well for me because it looks as though we're the only people working on this in this area, but if anyone wants to join in I'll just share the spreadsheet online.

I have also contacted Hull City Council transport team to see if they are interested in feedback from what I find, I've yet to hear from them.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Bus stops

Much of the data in the database for the UK were gathered either by tracing out-of-copyright maps or gathering GPS traces with notes or photos to add the detail. We do have some imported data though and NaPTAN is one. The National Public Transport Node database which has data gathered from local authorities about things like bus stops. A selection of the data was loaded for the West Midlands to trial and now the data for Hull has been loaded. We set out today to see how easy it is to verify.

It was pouring with rain when we decided to go, so we went in the car. This was our first mistake. Next time I'm going by bike. You need the bike to cover the ground between the stops, but you need to be able to stop at a bus stop, to take a photo and a GPS way point. The car was just a nuisance. The next mistake was to not check the camera battery before we set off; it promptly gave up after four pictures, one of which was the photo of the GPS to sync the times up. We then resorted to keeping a list and using GPS way points. This meant getting right next to the bus stop to establish its position.

The NaPTAN data loaded has made many tags, including a code, the street name the stop is on, a name for the stop and other location stuff like a street that is nearby. Part of the code is displayed on the bus stop sign. All of this seems fine, until you discover a bus stop that is not where it's supposed to be. We found a stop on Sibelius road but the ID was for one described as on the nearby Gershwin Avenue. One of the tags is a bearing to help understand the direction that the bus would go from the stop, such as N (north) or SW (south west). The bearing for the stop was N but the stop faced west. I moved the stop to reflect its real position, but should I change the NaPTAN tags? I've asked the talk-transit mailing list what they think, but the more I think about it the more I think that the imported data should remain. Maybe our findings should get fed back to the authority that created the NaPTAN data and amend them.

I think the whole exercise will take ages to complete, but it will be a background task to fit in around other things. A few other things will make the process easier. Firstly I need a render of the map that shows the bus stops but more zoomed out than the standard renders which only show them at zoom 17. I also need to process the bus stops to produce a list we can work from. I downloaded the OSM changeset of the upload to work from so I'll process that into some sort of list. This process might be useful to other people who follow with all of the other areas of the UK.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Goole area

We've paid a few visits to the Goole area now, firstly the village of Hook which lies in the bend of the river Ouse to the north east of Goole. Then we took a look at Old Goole which lies to the south of the town. Both times we nibbled away at a bit of the town that was closest to the village. Today we waded in and tackled part of the town centre and residential area south of the railway.

Hook was straight-forward. It is a pleasant place but rather ominously there is an embankment between the village and the river. I want to improve the river bank and there is a footpath along the top of the embankment so a walk is in order. I think the river bank was drawn as part of the coastline process from aerial photos. It is very jagged which is not how the river looks, but the only way to make it better is the walk it with a GPS. I would find it hard to live under the embankment without constantly checking how high the river is on the other side. About one fifth of the rainfall of England flows out of the Humber into the North Sea; the Humber is mostly fed from the Ouse and the Trent.

Old Goole is a rather run-down place on the outskirts of Goole near its docks. We trolled around seeing two abandoned churches and a single small supermarket. We headed into Goole to look at the industrial estate near the docks. We discovered a bustling, thriving marina at the end of the Aire and Calder canal. There was a mix of canal narrow boats and motor cruisers. I think there is access into the river Ouse through lock gates. There is a public footpath through there so I'll get a better look.

Today's push into the town was through a tangle of Victorian terraces which was quite a tricky job to draw up later. The buildings gave a couple of areas with poor GPS reception and some of the name plates on the streets were hard to find and very hard to read. Some of the streets were completely boarded up ready for redevelopment, presumably when the building industry picks up.

The town still needs much more work so a few more visits are needed. I'm not sure when we will return because Hull is about to get all of its bus stops loaded from the NaPTAN import. We then need to visit them to see if they are correctly positioned. We have not tagged any bus stops so far so the issue in some areas of merging existing stops with the new imports will not apply, but the experience of the Birmingham team who processed the first import indicates that most stops need moving and that some will be missing or spurious. We'll see what we find.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

How many?

After a bit of a break we set off to sort out the East Yorkshire villages that look like they should be in Lincolnshire. We took a route through Goole to establish some detail there. I think that almost all that exists in Goole are sketches from NPE maps. This is a good way to map the docks where access is very difficult, some of the roads, however, are sketchy. Goole needs lots more work, so chipping away at it does help.

We joined the A161 as it heads south out of the town, past Old Goole (left for another day) and into the countryside along the south bank of the river Ouse. The village of Swinefleet was the biggest of the places we saw, the smallest was Goole Fields, except for Little Reedness. This has just merged into Reedness. It's easy to be sure because the village signs for Reedness and Whitgift are back to back on the same posts. The biggest presence for much of the route was a large embankment beside the river. The Environment Agency have plans to increase the height of this mound. It means that although some houses are very close to the river, it is completely hidden from view.

Whitgift has a fine old church - nothing odd about that, but take a look at the clock. The shape is novel, but not too strange. The motto, In Terra Pax, means Peace on Earth, again not an unusual wish for a church. Just take a close look at the number at the top of the dial ...

Friday, 31 July 2009

Secondaries and schools

Another chunk of Pocklington is wrapped up. We spent time trying to work out the extent of Pocklington School - a 500 year old boarding school. I think there are actually two schools on the campus, but without access or local knowledge I've wrapped up the area simply as one school. The sports grounds are extensive and I'm not sure if I've got it right. Maybe sorting it out properly would be a good little project for the school's geography department. There's a public footpath that is yet to be added and that might turn out to be the boundary of the school grounds. It also leads to the Gliding Club airfield. It's years since I flew from there in a glider; as a private pilot in a plane with an engine I wasn't welcome unless I could tow gliders skywards.

The town centre still needs some work. There are roads missing and nonames. There are lots of POIs waiting to be added. Then there's the secondary road that dries up. The B1246 passes through the town, but in a chunk in the middle of the town the signs for the road suddenly change to B1246 in brackets. I think that the original route includes Market Place which is now a low speed road for shoppers. It then goes up Union Street which has become a oneway street, so the route breaks in one direction. I'll see what else I can find next time.

There are other people who have done some work in the town, Al21 and Stevie D especially, so maybe they know how it works. The town might only need one more push to get the basic level complete.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Coincidence

I've been working on getting the Yorkshire coastline up to scratch for a while. I've been gathering details from various sources and so on a very rainy day I thought I'd spend an hour trying to pull it together. I wanted to separate the existing coastline from the administrative boundary. The boundary had been added to the coastline as a starting point, but this is actually not right. The boundary of English counties generally lies along the mean low water mark - a completely impossible mark to discern by a visit. The best data we have that we can use is NPE, which shows the mean low water mark and high water mark for much of the coast.

On many coastlines this will be very good - easy to trace either in Potlatch or JOSM and accurate. On the Holderness coast it is easy to trace, but the accuracy can be poor because the coast has eroded so quickly that it could easily be 50 metres out and maybe more than 100 metres out in places.

I started untangling the relation for the county boundary and English region from the coastline and adding a way for the administrative boundary from the south northwards up the coast then adding the relations to the new way. Unbeknown to me Mickey (Warofdreams) was adding the beaches down the coast, also from NPE. The result is interesting and good, although it is still rendering.

The coastline way should be on the high water mark, which in many places it is not. This is leaving a gap showing water between the coast and the beach. Now the coastline is not tied to the boundary I'll have a go to nudging it into place to sort this out. It would be good to sort the coastline into its proper position before the next coastline update for Mapnik which only happens occasionally.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Abandoned railways

I've been drawing up the data we collected today. There is an abandoned railway line which passes through the town. I've been trying to work out the position of the railway and moved it a bit based on the NPE map, and the line through the town. The hedge that bounds the old line creates a boundary of the sports ground, so working this out will help later. Only later did I realise that the abandoned line does not now render on the Mapnik view. Hooray! Who ever made the change - thank you.

Back to mapping

After a bit of a lay off we've got back to mapping again. Today we completed a little village called Hayton then moved on to another chunk of Pocklington. The newish estate to the south east was easy to complete and went well. The trickier centre of the town still awaits.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The mystery boundary

I have asked Hull City Council for details of their southern boundary along the Humber using the Freedom of Information Act. I asked:

I am interested in the boundaries of Hull, especially in the Humber. I therefore request where is the boundary of Hull UA along the Humber estuary? Does the boundary abut the boundary of North Lincolnshire or is there a gap between them?

They have answered my request. I'm not sure I can post their full answer because the email states that I should treat the email as confidential, so I'll paraphrase it:

They don't have any written records of where the boundary is.

They sent me a pdf with the inevitable, copyright OS map, which I cannot trace for OSM. It is interesting because the boundary doesn't follow the convention of being the mean low water mark, but this could be something to do with the docks. The docks used to be most of the extent of the city boundary along the Humber, so this might be why the boundary juts out into the river.

So, how to draw this onto OSM without breaching the OS copyright. Well the really good news is that the boundary looks the same as the one on the out-of-copyright map which we can trace. I now have what I need to have a go at improving some of the boundaries in the Humber.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Cliff and a chick

Holderness is a part of East Yorkshire between the coast and the rolling hills of the Wolds. It is peppered with small villages and very small rural roads. The land near the coast is being lost to the sea at nearly three metres each year and the villages, roads, farms, caravan sites or anything else just descends to the beach as the muddy cliffs collapse, usually in a winter storm.

We went around the little villages just north of Hornsea ending at Atwick on the coast where we saw the sign. The small villages are what we were expecting by now. Some don't have speed limits, most don't have any street names for the main drag through the village. The houses have names rather than numbers. They have a post box, maybe a church and maybe a pub. Occasionally there might be a pond, and where there's a pond there's often ducks. If you're lucky there might be a moorhen, or even a moorhem with a chick. The pond goes on the map, but not the moorhen, even if it has a chick.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Snuffy

We went out again for a little, fairly local session. The temperature rose to 25°C, in spite of the forecast predicting 20°C, the sun has shone all day and the forecast showers were nowhere to be seen. I was glad of the fresh air, so we went to join up the Snuffy.

Snuff Mill Lane (the Snuffy) is a footpath that joins Cottingham to the outskirts of Hull. It crosses the Hull to Scarborough railway line on a little foot crossing. Satellite reception was very good, much of the time showing six feet, so I went to sort out a few more footpaths and cycleways that we had missed or we had really lousy tracks of before. In the process we found a public car park that I didn't know about.

Another pleasant couple of hours in the sun, I'm just waiting to see the Snuffy rendered.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Micro parks

After a couple of uncomfortable days, I wanted to get out, so we went to check up a couple of things we had noticed in Cottingham. This very big village is mapped to a basic level, but we have seen a few small patches of green, public space that we could add and a footpath we had missed. They all quickly fell under the unblinking gaze of my GPSr and camera. We saw a few benches as you might expect in small parks. I do add amenity=bench when I can but one caught my eye with a rose arbour behind it, it got the extra tag arbour=yes. Now I will know we have an amazing map when the renderers come up with a special icon for that tag. We found a small residential couryard we had missed too, so a useful little foray as well as being nice to be in the sun.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Formal and informal

I have asked the East Riding council for details of where their boundary lies on the coast and in the River Humber. I got a rather formal reply that was informative. Part of their reply says that they lease the land that lies between mean high water mark and mean low water mark from the Crown Estates for much of their North Sea coastal boundary. This led me yesterday, at Peter's suggestion, to ask the Crown Estates for more information.

This morning I got a friendly reply with some suggestions and some information. There were helpful questions which may lead to receiving more information, including, perhaps, a map. The guy who answered had read this blog to try to find what I was interested in and seems to be trying to help rather than being forced to help.

One thing he has offered is that they will show a visitor to their London office the extent of their land in their GIS system. I don't go to London much nowadays, but maybe some other OSMer who is interested might like to.

I'll see what his final response is but I expect it will be good given his helpful start so far.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Butterflies

Another gentle outing took us to Alderman Kneeshaw Playing Fields. It is a council playing field on the Eastern edge of Hull. Its Eastern edge is on the boundary. It appears to be fairly well kept, but not well used. There used to be a running track, but the surface is not maintained. There are big spaces for football pitches and there are goal posts, but no lines to mark the pitch - it is outside the season so maybe they will be marked later in the year. There were a couple of well kept bowling greens, one was in use, but there were other spaces that looked like disused greens.

Around the edge of the space is an embankment with wooded sides. We walked around the embankment and it turned into a lovely place. There were warblers singing from the trees, wild flowers at every turn and butterflies a-plenty. We saw red admirals, a coma, our first painted lady of the season, green-veined white, gatekeepers, small whites, ringlets and small tortoise-shells. I only had my compact camera, so photos were awkward.

The rest of the playing fields seemed quite tame after that stroll. The wildlife is not keen on big areas of mown grass. I'm glad the wilder bit is out of reach of the mowers.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Wolds and a bridge


Yesterday we took a look at some more of the villages in the Wolds. There are a few less requiring a basic level of attention now. It's a great place to meander around and the views are good too. There were a few little extra roads and POIs to add, but much of it was pretty good already.

Today we stayed nearer home and took a walk around parts of the Humber Bridge country park. I've been adding cycle routes when I can and today I added a bit of both the National Byway and NCN route 1. They both cross the Humber bridge (for free on a bike or on foot). The way they join up to the quiet roads in Hessle is a bit of a wiggle, but it did take us past a viewpoint for the bridge, which was worth a photo. I really can say that the National Byway is complete in East Yorkshire, but there are a couple of small gaps still of NCN 1, but that's for another day.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Pocklington

I've seen other people adding to the data in my local area and it's great to see. A couple of people have been adding streets to the town of Pocklington and the surrounding area. I think their main impetus is to add footpaths and bridleways, so the streets they added were not named. I thought we could look at the village of Barmby Moor to the south west of Pocklington, then try to add names to some of the streets in the town. Barmby Moor is a small place with the usual winding roads of an older English village. There were no problems so we set off for Pocklington.

Pocklington is a small town in the Vale of York at the foot of the Wolds. It is a pleasant place and the surrounding countryside is lovely. It's main drawback, to me, is that the main road to Hull or York is the A1079. This is a dreadful road that is busy and dangerous, and one that I avoid when I can.

We ended up re-tracing many of the roads already on the map to be sure of where the name changes were, then struck out into areas not yet mapped. We have not finished the town, it will take at least two more visits to get a basic coverage.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Venture north

It was a hot day yesterday and forecast to be hotter today. I hate sitting in traffic in a car on a hot day, but meandering along quiet country lanes in an air-conditioned car on a hot day is rather pleasant, so that's what we did. I've been maintaining a list of the places in East Yorkshire and the progress towards completing a good standard of them. This, to me, means all public roads added, with names where possible, and the obvious PoIs, such as churches, schools, post offices, pubs and some shops. More is better, but this will give a usable map and a good framework for people to add extra stuff to.

There were some villages in the north of the county that were partly complete so we thought we would take a look at them and try to bring them to a good standard. There are also some country lanes that were missing, some of which we could take in. I like the countryside in this part of the county, known as the Yorkshire Wolds - there's always something to see. We saw pheasants, partridges, yellow hammers, linnets and a kestrel. The verges were full of flowers, especially meadow cranesbill.

The most northerly place we visited is the hamlet of Fordon. There's not much of the hamlet in the picture, but in fact there's not that much more to the whole place, but the view is great. We did venture out of the East Riding a few times to join up a few roads to roads in North Yorkshire. There was a noticeable surface change at the boundary - perhaps a good clue to where unmarked boundaries lie.

In the end we completed seven villages. All of them had had some useful work done before by other people and some by someone I have come across before. Once more his tracks are pretty good, but some of the names on roads have clearly been copied from other sources. They are right now, but it does make me cross.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Freedom of Information

I can't decide where the boundary of the English counties end at the coast. Does the county end at the sea wall or cliff? How much of the beach or mudflats are part of the county? Is it only land above the tide line and if so which tide line, low, high, mean, lowest ever, highest ever? I'm also interested in how islands are dealt with. Peter from ItoWorld suggests they might be treated as enclaves, that is not joined directly to the county. Actually they could only be an enclave if they were surrounded by another county, islands don't count as enclaves, but that really is being picky. Another approach would be to extend the county boundary out from the coast to include the island then back to the coast line. I think this makes sense when the island is part-time like Lindisfarne which is only an island around high tide.

I contacted the boundary commission who replied with the now expected gibberish that they can't release this for use with OSM because it is recorded on a Ordnance Survey map and the licence doesn't allow them to release the map. I don't want the map - we are making a perfectly good map for ourselves, I want their data. At least they responded quickly and succinctly.

I tried another tack: I completed a Freedom of Information request to my local council, the East Riding of Yorkshire, to find out where they boundary is. My request was :

I want to know where the boundary of the county of the East Riding of Yorkshire ends at the coast. Does the county extend up to the 12 NM limit in the North sea? If not, are beaches on the North sea coast included in the county? Where does the boundary end in the Humber estuary? Does it abut against the boundary with North-East Lincolnshire and North Lincolnshire or is there a gap? Are the forts in the Humber part of ERoY?

I was surprised to get an email today which seemed unusually quick for the council. The email had a letter attached, so I had to wait with baited breath while OpenOffice fired up so I could read their reply. Was it worth it? Of course not, it was just an acknowledgement for my request. Only a fool would attach a document to an email that could just have been sent as an email. I wonder what the carefully thought out and worded answer will finally be.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Holderness villages

We had a ride out to the coast today and mapped four tiny hamlets in the process. The East Yorkshire coast is one of the fastest eroding coastlines in Europe, losing about 2.9 metres of cliff to the sea each year. We went to Mappleton just south of Hornsea and enjoyed a drink by the sea. There were a few people on the beach and it's not the holiday season yet, but as you can see in the picture there was a huge swath of empty beach to the south as far as I could see. I moved the coastline inland a bit, but I'm not sure of the best way to map the whole situation. It's too far for me to walk along the beach of the whole coastline and cycling on soft sand is right out, there is often no access to the cliff top and all existing aerial photos are out of date.

We completed Mappleton and Rolston on the way. On the way home we had a look at Goxhill and Seaton as well as a couple of minor roads. This is very useful because there is now a swath of Holderness that is pretty well complete from Hornsea southwards. The town of Hornsea will take some effort and there are a few bigger villages further north, but slowly the county is succumbing to the gaze of my GPS.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Tennis, moats and ruins

It was a hot day today, about 27°C, so we returned to Howden because it would need a walk in the park to complete it. We trolled around the few remaining residential streets, then pulled up in the new car park near the Minster. The car park was so new that the ticket machines were not working so we parked for free. We wandered into the Ashes Playing Fields, which is a park, with children's playground, football pitches, a cricket ground with pavillion and some open space. At the entrance there was a map which a passerby said was upside down - it looked fine to me. It described a space in the middle as being surrounded by a moat. In this space there should be two bowling greens and a tennis court.

The moat would certainly not repell invaders as the photo shows, the tennis court turned out to be two new multiuse courts with a dazzling array of different coloured lines for each sport and two sets of basket ball hoops at each end. The park was a very pleasant place to take a stroll with a GPS.

Next to the minster is a ruin run by English Heritage. When I got home I realised that I didn't have a photo of any board or information, so I'll need to check that out again another time.

The landuse around the town was already in place. There seems to be a fad for adding the landuse to unmapped towns and villages probably to improve the look of the map at a glance. Whoever did this one just threw some lines at the map - it was completely and utterly wrong in just about every part. It's a bit better now. There was also one of the fairly rare cycleway=opposite_lane where a oneway road has a cycle lane on it that cyclists can ride in the opposite direction to the cars.

Friday, 12 June 2009

On the Wolds

I've been going through the list of places in East Yorkshire that still need a first-pass mapping session. I found a few places where my list was out of date and when I'd sorted that out suddenly another milestone was passed - more than 200 of the villages and hamlets in East Yorkshire have had that first pass. There are still about seventy to go. Most of these are quite small, but there are also some towns, including Bridington, Goole and Pocklington.

Today we drove out into the beautiful Yorkshire Wolds to take in Middleton on the Wolds. We took the small country lane route rather than the main roads; the views are better, it's quieter and it's quicker. The village is quite small and straddles the A614. A disused railway skirts the village, indeed part of it has become a road. This non-railway still appears on the Mapnik map and now on the Osmarender map too. Eventually we will wake up to taking this junk off the main map and moving it to a specialist map.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

River, dock and lock

We took a stroll along the bank of the River Humber, not in a scenic countryside setting, but through the city of Hull. It's amazing what you talk yourself into in pursuit of a decent map. Part of the route was along the Victoria Dock village waterfront - it's just a newish estate built on an old dock, but I expect that the spin of calling it village put the house prices up. It seems a pleasant enough place, with open spaces and a pleasant waterside walk. Further east the path runs next to part of the dockland of Hull. The first dock is Alexandra dock. Much of the dock layout is hidden behind a corrugated shed, but the entrance to the dock is through a rather large lock, the photo of it was taken on the lock gate at the river end.

The tags for lock gates and locks seem to be geared up for canals, which there are many more of. Lock gates seem to be a node and the waterway=lock applied to a way, usually a canal. I need lock gates to be a way - these gates have a substantial path over them, and the lock to be an area. I've tagged them as I want them, (what else could I do?) but Osmarender ignores the tags so now the dock is not connected to the river. I'll see what Mapnik does.

There are more huge locks on the entrances of other docks that we have yet to look at so some sort of solution is required.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Tidy up the blog

I've been writing this blog for nearly a year and a half. It is generally about my work with and use of the OpenStreetMap. A neighbour has started a blog about our allotment site and I wondered if we could put a map on the blog. Then it hit me. My OSM blog doesn't have an OSM map on it.

Well I had a fiddle around with the widgets that were available and plonked some HTML into one and hey presto, we have a map centred on the place where we live.

I have had a widget from FeedJIT on the blog for some time. It is based on Google maps and shows the location of readers of the blog. I like the idea and it has been interesting to see where people are reading the blog (all over the world actually, which is very gratifying) but I thought having two maps was a bit OTT. I took the FeedJIT widget off and speed has returned to the page. So, FeedJIT: a nice idea but be prepared to slow down your site.

I changed to a slightly broader layout to give the slippy map a bit more room. What do you think?

Monday, 1 June 2009

Life's a gas ...

... especially in Easington.

We made a determined effort to polish off the villages and roads in the south-east corner of Holderness. It was a lovely day and as the school half-term break was over the roads and villages were quiet. We started in Hollym, moved on to Easington, took a look at Kilnsea then followed the road home checking out Skeffling, Weeton and Welwick on the way. All of the villages were straightforward, the GPS reception was very poor around Easington and maybe there's a reason.

If you are looking for a policeman in East Yorkshire and can't find one I know why - they're all in Easington. There is a big gas terminal there. When you drive through Easington on your way to Spurn point (there really is no other reason to drive through) you don't see the gas terminal, but by entering from the small road from Out Newton to the North you drive past the expanse of the site yet the real size of the site is still hidden because the gas is stored in huge underground caverns dug for the purpose. About a third of the UK's gas supply moves through here. All of this gas arriving from the North sea platforms and from a brand new pipeline from Norway is seen as a target for villainous terrorists hence the hoards of police, all cruising around in four-wheel drives.

Maybe the poor GPS resolution is also connected to Jonny Terrorist, maybe it is to make it hard for them to use GPS to target a home-made missile onto the site, or maybe it was just a poor reception day.

We went to Kilnsea, from which you get access to Spurn Point, a really wonderful nature reserve. We didn't go there today, we decided to spend a day there soon and I'll use that to map the site as well as possible. Spurn point is a sand spit on which someone has added the track down the middle from the out-of-copyright maps as highway=unclassified. This made be chuckle - they've obviously never been there. The track is moved after each storm as parts get washed away and although some of it is metalled, some is made of steel ramps used by the military just thrown over the sand. Not an unclassified road at all.

We did also see a great road name too.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

NCN 65

We have just got back from a lovely little ride along the banks of the Humber Estuary. The main reason was to complete the little missing part of the national cycle network route 65 from Broomfleet to Faxfleet. This is also part of the Trans-Pennine trail, but I haven't yet decided how to map that. The TPT is intended for foot, horse and cycle and much of it is just one route, but there are sizable chunks where the different modes of traffic divide. Westwards from Faxfleet is a good example: the pedestrian part runs along a footpath by the reed beds at the side of the Humber but the cycle sticks to the small country road. One way to map it is to create separate relations for foot and cycle. Where they share the same route there will just be two relations together. The only problem would be that would have similar names, but they would show up on different map types. Another way is to just create separate braids of the same relation, but I think this is messy.

At Faxfleet we stopped to look out over the Humber reed beds - an internationally important habitat for breeding birds. We got scolded and chittered at by mistle thrushes with young nearby, so we left them to it.

The track crosses the Market Weighton Canal where there is a lock for boats to enter and leave the Humber. The gate on the track has a very forceful sign warning people to keep out, but there is a public bridleway, which is part of the national cycle network, running through the gate. The gate has a standard horse rider-friendly catch on it, so why the obnoxious sign?

The lock itself is somewhat puzzling. There is a solid concrete hump-backed bridge, refurbished in 1994, over the waterway with the lock under the bridge; a lock gate at either side of the bridge. This low bridge will seriously restrict the height of any vessel using the lock. I suspect that a canal barge would fit under the bridge, but not much else, maybe that's the point to restrict what can get out of the Humber into the canal. I don't know how much of the canal is navigable - maybe it would be interesting to find out.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

How do Howden

Howden is a market town in the western side of East Yorkshire. As towns go it's pretty small and pleasant. It's very close to the M62, so quite a few of the modern shed-style industrial and commercial premises have built up around the edges, but the old centre seems to have preserved much of its charm.

We didn't finish the place in one go, but it should only take one more visit to get the basic layout of streets and general points of interest. There's a large, functioning church, known as the minster, with an older set of ruins next to. We skipped by that intending to have a better look on foot next time. There's also a park or playing fields close by so that would be best investigated on foot. I need a better look at the schools and cemetery too.

One thing a did notice was the local police station. Bearing in mind my last post I was particularly careful about how we recorded that. No police officers were harmed in the making of this map, and I even sneaked a photo of their sign, cunningly disguised by a blurry focus just in case.

We'll be back to finish Howden soon, but to help matters I'll wait until the latest update to the Garmin GPS maps are released so we can then see where we have been.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Photographs might be a crime

I've just had a bit of surprise. I read an article about photographing the police becoming a criminal offence under certain circumstances. Read it here.

So, if I wander around a town or village making a map for OSM and I photograph a police officer, quite possibly by mistake, he or she could then start asking questions about what is going on. If I don't satisfy the officer I could then be arrested and my equipment confiscated. Simply by being arrested a sample of my DNA would then be stored on the police DNA database. I would not have to be found guilty or even charged to have my DNA taken, I just have to be arrested.

Now, I don't have anything to hide, I have a clear conscience, but I also know something about IT. I know that the database and the infrastructure around it is the weak link in this process. If my personal details and my DNA data get mixed up in the inner workings of some software upgrade, I could then get a knock on my door in the middle of the night- now imagine sorting that out and proving that the DNA database is wrong.

Now I know people will say there's a lot of 'ifs' here, and there are, but the fact that there are any 'ifs' at all is what is wrong. We need government security databases like we need more holes in our heads. We do need to remove erosion of our liberty because some paranoid control-freak in government thinks it might help with their re-election to the gravy-train by spinning some tale about protecting people from terrorism.

I'll get back to some mapping later this week, maybe we'll leave the eastern part of our county for a while and head west to Howden, I'll just keep the cops out of my viewfinder.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Photo archives


I have been checking out the Holderness loop of the National Byway. I realised that I had seen part of the loop near Sunk Island. I checked the history of the roads I added there. That gave me the date it was added, so I turned to the CDs with my OSM photo archive for that date and dug out that day's photos. From the photos of the Holderness Loop signs I put together the missing route from Otteringham to Patrington.

Now we need to join up to the route near Tunstall and the pick up beyond the washed-away road at the coast and find how it rejoins the main Byway route.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Washed away

We've been working away at the southern end of Holderness again, last Sunday we looked at Winestead, Rimswell and Tunstall; today we reached Patrington, Holmpton and Out Newton. Sunday's run was mostly along small country roads - the villages are very small and simple to map. To start today's session we looked at Patrington. We added a bit of Patrington months ago when we visited Sunk Island. We've been though it many times on the way to Spurn Point, the sandy spit that sticks out into the mouth of the Humber, which is a pretty special nature reserve. Patrington is a set of small, twisty roads that were soon completed. We then set off for Holmpton.

Holmpton was a pretty place with rolling little hedge lined lanes, but in spite of the drop in house prices there were quite a few houses for sale in such a small place. A trip along Seaside Road shows you why - the villages is being washed away into the North Sea. Tunstall is suffering the same fate. Part of the road that the National Byway Holderness Loop is on has washed away; the cycle route has been diverted.

We then headed along a little road to Out Newton which is a small, spread out place on the way towards Easington. We have yet to map Easington which has a huge gas terminal on the outskirts of the village. The gas terminal receives most of the gas from the North Sea rigs and also from a new pipeline from Norway to supplement our own dwindling supplies. The police have permanent armed patrols at the gas terminal to deter attacks from the omnipotent terrorist, so driving around taking photos might not go down well.

We need to find a way to trace the new coastline. Walking the cliffs is dangerous and much of it is private property. Walking the beach is difficult because the high tide reaches the foot of the cliffs, which is why the soft boulder clay washes away. The cliffs are receding by many metres each year where they are allowed to, so the aerial photos are already out-of-date. The existing coastal defences are being abandoned except at big or important places like Withernsea or Easington.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Up-to-date?

I didn't get out to gather any map data today, maybe tomorrow. I have been looking at the stuff we mapped last week. The Osmarender view is nicely up-to-date, but the Mapnik view (which I prefer) is not. Under the old scheme I knew that I would have to wait until the next weekly render and when that ran the whole area would be refreshed. Now the Mapnik view is supposed to refresh more quickly, but in practice this just means I don't know when it will refresh, it can take more than a week, and some zoom levels are sometimes missed altogether for a small area; it rarely updates in less than a couple of days.

I know that the upheaval of the upgrade to API 0.6 has caused a lot of extra work and some things might not be working fully yet, so I guess things will get better but it is very off putting when your work doesn't appear. A new mapper near me, who has had some problems understanding how things work, has hacked his editings back and forth believing that the reason his work has not appeared is that he has done something wrong. He has made some mistakes - he hasn't joined roads together, he left gaps in streams where they go under bridges and he has used the wrong tags - all things a newbie might be expected to do, but it doesn't help that he can't see his work and I can't tell him when it will appear.

Maybe what is needed is a way to request that a Mapnik tile-set be refreshed, just like Information Freeway can request an Osmarender refresh, in fact why not use this to trigger both views to be updated?

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Robin path

We are working towards completing the road network and the villages in the East Riding. We went to complete another couple of villages in Holderness, Burton Pidsea and Roos. They were both straight-forward. There was a residential road still being built without a name, but otherwise things went quite well. There are a number of footpaths, none of which we traced - we'll save that for another time, but one seemed to have a fan.

We also saw another section of the National Byway Holderness loop. This is beginning to make some sense now, but I'm not sure how the loop will join back to the main route. It would be easier to follow if it appeared on the cycle map (hint, hint).

Monday, 11 May 2009

Back to the river

We had another wander along the banks of the river Hull. This time the section of river bank was closer to the city centre so I didn't expect it to be quite a green and open as the first section we walked. Part of the route was bounded by industrial areas, but there were open and pleasant areas too. Overall the walk was very pleasant and interesting. There were no butterflies around today - it was a bit cool and much too windy for them I think. We did see and hear plenty of birds. We heard more reed warblers in some reed beds and we saw a common sandpiper and a white throat. We also saw a bed of very fragrant flowers on the river bank that we are still trying identify (any clues anyone?) .

We've seen a big wind turbine from all over the city, but today we walked very close to it. The photo doesn't really give the scale of the thing, but the works in the foreground are huge, yet they're dwarfed by the turbine. The wind was fairly strong, so the blades were whipping round with a deep whoosh. We found a little fishing pond nearby which I didn't know about and we had a look at the fairly large recreation ground next to it. I think I'll take a better look at this sometime later.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

River Hull

We've been out gathering data again. It felt like a pleasant walk along a river bank but we were actually gathering data. That's how OpenStreetMap works, some people get on with gathering data, some people use the data in exciting and creative ways, some people put in hours to manage the infrastructure and support software and a few people think of ways to short cut the process by importing data from other sources, some good, some not good and some would infringe other people's copyright if they were not stopped. Fortunately most people get the way it works and do the leg work to make a wonderfully complete map, which, by the way, is free for anyone to use.

Today's data gathering was a walk along both banks of the river Hull between Sutton Road and Raich Carter Way. It turned out to be a very pleasant walk which for some of the time was hard to believe we were in a city at all. As we set off we passed a sunny glade between some bushes in in less than a minute we saw many butterflies including an orange tip, a comma and a green-veined white. They all flew off before I could photograph them. I've had lots of practice photographing butterflies and a sunny, breezy day makes it hard. There was, however, a speckled wood which did sit still long enough for me to snap its image. I think it felt safe against its background.

We then wandered along the path on top of the embankment at the west side of the river. There were swallows in the air and from the reed beds alongside the river we could hear the calls of reed warblers. When we reached the bridge at Raich Carter Way the traffic seemed deafening. We returned down the other bank, quickly getting back to the quiet and leaving the traffic noise as a very distant hum. The path ran along side open space with hedges and bushes full of birds. I really enjoyed this stroll. I'm looking forward to another one along another part of the river.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

NCN routes

On Thursday and today we made short bike trips to fill in chunks of the NCN routes that were missing. On Thursday we filled a short local chunk which I think is a braid of NCN 1, though there are no signs. It certainly is a bridle path. Today we completed a well signed bridlepath that is shared by NCN 1 and NCN 66 between Cottingham and Beverley. It joins an existing road next to the Creyke substation, the photo is only a small part of it. It certainly buzzes.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

River paths, museums and no signs

The Wilberforce Way has helped me improve the map of Hull, but not by adding the way to the map. I've spent another afternoon wandering about the city looking for signs of the Wilberforce way and completely failed to find any sign of it. One of the reasons might be that the leaflet we have was published by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, not Hull City Council. Maybe Hull Council have just ignored it and not put any signs up. The only real signs we have found are in East Yorkshire. While searching for signs we did discover this little gem, notice the wall that's a fence without any wire barbed or not.

Still, we did have a pleasant afternoon in the sun walking along footpaths beside the river Hull that I didn't know existed. It also made me realise that the existing mapping of the lower reaches of the river are not well mapped. Most of it is a single way when it is wide enough to need the riverbank approach. The biggest problem is that there is not any access to both banks of the river for some of its route through the city, especially the widest part. I looked at Landsat images and the out-of-copyright maps and I think I can create a better mapping of it than currently exists.

The Wilberforce way goes past the Wilberforce museum in High Street, but there was no sign of the way. I didn't go into the museum to ask for any information which I now think I should do. We did walk past the Arctic Corsair which is a retired side-winder trawler and now a museum.

It has inspired me to walk along as much of the riverside paths as we can find over the next few weeks, which will allow me to add the paths of course but also draw the river much more accurately, but I've given up on the WW in Hull.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Post boxes

I've been saving a little job for a rainy day. I didn't know I'd have to wait for weeks for the rain. We are very keen to see some heavy rain for our garden and allotment. It rained a bit so we went out to check the post boxes in HU9 in Hull. We've checked other parts of the city based on a list provided by the Royal Mail, but the list is not that good. The HU9 area is a roughly triangular slice of the city, with Holderness Road on the north-west hypotenuse, the river Humber on the south side and the city boundary to the east. Once again a systematic search proved very difficult because of the quality of the list descriptions.

A few examples: Southcoates Lane had no post boxes on it according to the list but actually had three boxes along its length. The box described as Bilton Grange remains unmapped, Bilton Grange is district of the city which we searched but clearly not well enough, the name of the road the box is on would have been nice . The box described as on Barham Road is actually on the junction of Staveley Road and Thanet Road. Others were up to the usual Royal Mail standard of being near the described road rather than on it. There's more of this fun to come in future trips.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Swallows and Hull

We set off to check out more of the Wilberforce Way. It is supposed to start at the wonderful aquarium in Hull called The Deep. It is then supposed to head roughly north along the river Hull until it leaves the city heading for Beverley. We spent an almost completely fruitless afternoon chasing it. We only have the leaflet to go on and its map is next to useless, so I was dependant on finding signs on the route. We only found one sign that might be part of the route, but the picture shows it is only a hint. The scrap that remains doesn't match any other sign I have a picture of and there are no other routes in this area that have 'Way' in their name. All the same I can't add this to the map as the Wilberforce Way. We will search beyond the city to see if we can find the route further north to join to the existing route we have already found.

I could buy the book of the route, but I feel bad about this for two reasons. Firstly I'm a Yorkshireman. We are much like Scotsmen, but with all their generosity wrung out, so spending money on the book might sting too much. The second, more serious, reason is that if I can't find signs on the ground then simply lifting the route from a book is arguably a breach of the publisher's copyright.

The upside of the search was that we added some cycle lanes along the way and we saw our first swallows of the year. The bird books all call them barn swallows, but the 'barn' bit is never really used here. I suppose it's to distinguish them from any other kind of swallow but that's what the Latin name is for, which, if you're interested is Hirundo rustica. I managed to snap a couple of pictures of a swallow, which is tricky because they fly fast and jink suddenly.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Mill Rise

We wandered around a little part of our village recording addresses. What a pleasant change from Dale Close, we got a few smiles and hellos and no hostility at all. This addressing lark takes a long time to do well. I can't add it to the database at the moment because of the API upgrade to version 0.6.

The other reason to take the GPS out for a walk is to check out the Garmin GPS maps I've just loaded from Lambertus's site. The maps are pretty large compared to the Garmin ones so I had to load a large chunk of the north of England which takes a while through the serial link that my old Garmin Etrex has. My laptop went into standby near the end of the first upload process, so I had to start again, but it was certainly worth waiting for. The map looks great and the current track is drawn alongside the map. Well done Lambertus, it really is great.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

South Holderness Rail Trail

As part of the push to map the villages of the southern part of Holderness, we set out to map Keyingham. It's a fairly ordinary village with a couple of churches and a couple of pubs, a new school and a chunk of the South Holderness Rail Trail. This is an abandoned railway running from Hull to Withernsea, although the rail trail only goes as far as Patrington according to the East Riding Council web site. We are working our way towards Patrington so we'll find out. The abandoned station at Hedon is a car park for access to the trail, but in Keyingham the station is a private house, so the trail has to take a detour along a couple of tracks. I first saw the route in the east side of Hull which is a wide, tarmacked path. The trail between Hedon and Keyingham is a muddy track, not a cinder track like some abandoned rail lines and certainly not paved. It is signed as a footpath, but the council web site hints at riding a bike on it. I'd ride a mountain bike, prepared for mud, but it might be a bit much for a road bike.