Friday 27 February 2009

Numbers and footpaths.

The decorating at home is just about done, but not leaving enough time for a proper foray into the local area mapping. Instead I thought I'd try another way of adding addresses. I printed a map with a couple of streets on it and set off to check out the numbers on the doors, writing on the map. I found this a bit less intrusive than taking photos, but still slow and meticulous.

I took my GPS and I'm pleased I did. I wasn't sure that it was needed but the track returned improved the position of the roads somewhat. It has also led me to wonder about footpaths, or what are known, I think, as sidewalks in the USA. Some roads have footpaths beside them on one or both sides. We currently map the road, but generally not the footpath. The tracks I have show very clearly that I was on the path, not the road and I could comfortably add the footpath (or sidewalk or footway or, very confusingly for some, the pavement). At what point should I add any of these? What would I tag them as; highway=footway looks much too bold on the standard renders? I could use one of Cloudmade's custom renders, but the standard Mapnik would still look very odd. Also, does a little local sidewalk add enough value? I might invent highway=sidewalk and use my own renderer (when it's working) to see what it could look like.

Monday 23 February 2009

Hedon part two

We've made a couple of visits to Hedon to finish what we started. The GPS signal got badly canyoned in the Market Place and around the church, but three visits have given us decent averages. The church of St. Augustine is a very large affair, which was a bit difficult to get a decent photo of to do it justice.
Across the north of the town runs an abandoned railway line which is now a rail trail footpath. It has footpath signs (not cycleway signs). My OS map shows the route as a footpath (short green dashes) but also shows it as a offroad cycle route (orange dots). The path that I saw was fairly narrow and very muddy. The route was tagged as a cycleway, but because of the footpath signs I changed it to highway=footway; cycle=yes.

The rest of the town was fairly straightforward. I think there may be a few other bridleways around the place. If no-one else sorts them out I may well return in the summer and have a walk or a ride around them. Thinking about it - I could walk in the beautiful Wolds, wander along the Yorkshire coast or seek out some peace along a quiet part of a river or canal, so why would I walk through a town like Hedon?

Friday 20 February 2009

Addressing again

I just did a little bit local addressing. I'm still not sure I like it, and this time there's no ice underfoot to blame. I went round a little cul-de-sac close to home and immediately hit a problem.

I live in a pleasant, fairly affluent village which has grown steady over the years. Since the local football team (Hull City) has made it into the Premier League we now have a few WAGs and Range Rover sports based in the village, but we do have a little bit of a dump too. This is where I decided to walk down today, photographing a few houses to get their positions for the address tags. I got my first direct hostility: "What are you f-bs f doing?" etc, shouted bravely from a distance when I'd left by the recent arrivals dumped there by our local council.

The problem lies with taking the photos. To get the position of an address you must record the number, so take a photo of the house, usually their front door and if you are seen this generates a response.

Actually the problem lies with a few lowlife morons who think that abusive language is normal and can't string together enough of their native English to ask a civil question, to which they would then receive as much of an answer as they would like. Still, their loss ...

Thursday 19 February 2009

Hedon, head on

We had a little trip out to Hedon this afternoon. It's a little town to the east of Hull and somewhere I've only really driven past, especially since a bypass was built. I thought we would start in the east of the town and work west. The east is a big housing estate, with a few footpaths. The estate is bounded by an abandoned railway which is actually now a cycle way. I didn't walk down it - I'll go back for that. This old railway still shows up on the current mapnik render - I wish it would only render on specialist maps. Kaerst has added cycleway tags to part of the route, but because there is also still the abandoned railway tags too Osmarender seems to get a bit mixed up at different zoom levels.

There's been some stuff on T'Interweb about Birmingham council not putting apsotrophes in street names, but it seems as though someone got there first, albeit by mistake.

Lying to the west of the town is a large chemical plant called Salt End. It is a large, local employer but also a source of controversy. Most recently an incinerator for rubbish has had its planning request approved, but now there seems to be some sort of rethink and the approval has been removed. What ever the rights and wrongs of of the plant, the planning system stinks much, much more than the rubbish that might be burnt at Salt End.

Wednesday 18 February 2009

Dodgy wire

The painting at home is on hold and we've been out mapping again, though only briefly. We went to check the post boxes in Hessle (HU13) , where there were a few missing. All went well, we found every box we expected, but my GPSr lost its power and switched off without us noticing. I think the power lead has a dodgy connection. Fortunately the couple of boxes we found while it was off are obvious from the photos so no real harm done.

We found a couple of dental surgeries, both only taking private patients. I've tagged them as amenity=dentist but I'm not sure how or if they render. The issue of private versus NHS dentists is a hot topic here, but even more so in Lincolnshire just over the Humber. It's a large, very rural county so people have to travel miles for many services and NHS dentists seem as rare as hens' teeth.

Saturday 14 February 2009

A patch

I found partial cure - draw coastlines from Yahoo images. Not as good as real mapping, more a replacement therapy.

Friday 13 February 2009

The shakes

It's been a week and a half since I added anything to the OSM database. There's been a lot of snow on and off, which is a bit weird round here and the ground has been frozen for days. My allotment has been snowed under, so ordinarily some mapping would have been in order, but decorating the hall and stairs seemed like a good idea. We have spent days preparing the paintwork ready for painting, with still a couple of days work left.

I prefer waiting for a map to render to waiting for paint to dry.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Addressing - arrrgh

There was icy snow on the ground so I thought I's stay close to home. I've been wondering how to improve the map of our village and a little tweet from SteveC suggested addressing. I looked up the Karlsruhe scheme to see how it works and set out to have a go. I chose to put the addresses on two streets in our village. Dale Road meets Main Street near the village pond and I thought it would be a gentle introduction to put their addresses on.

Firstly there are quite a few houses without numbers on. You might think that doesn't matter much when houses around do have numbers, but the two streets I chose are, in part, some of the older streets, especially Main Street, so the numbers have awkward gaps and odd little fill ins. I ended up placing most of the houses in Main Street individually whereas I could add some houses in Dale Road as ranges.

It was a very awkward walk, the paths were very slippery and my attention was split between watching where I was putting my feet and keeping track of the street numbers. When I got home I needed to work on the edit quickly just so I could remember all of the gaps and oddities. Adding the tags was fairly straightforward. I'm now not sure if it is really worth all of the effort. The map looks cluttered at the highest zoom level (of Osmarender). If I tried to add the addresses of Hull it would take years and I think I'd very quickly give up. I might do some more streets at home, and I might try some newer streets that are easier to understand to see if it really is worth it.

Sunday 1 February 2009


I've exchanged some interesting messages with Gary from Nafferton (NaffChap). He's been adding some footpaths through various parts of the local area. His questions have just reinforced the fact that the documentation for the project is letting us down. We use a wiki to document stuff, which seems to be the norm now, but I'm not convinced that it is a good idea. The very fact that anyone can edit it is great and awful at the same time. The wiki pages are all over the place, the language, tone and emphasis varies hugely. There are conflicting entries in a few places. I have created a few pages and maintained them, but most pages don't seem to have an owner so they either languish in slow decline or get hacked hither and thither by people with conflicting ideas or points of view.

I have tried to tidy some pages, but have given up because of adverse comments and conflicting revisions from other people. Some really useful features like relations are largely wasted, partly because the documentation bounces back and forth as to how to use them. People who know about how the wiki works just add complexity by sticking templates here, there and everywhere, which overloads the poor little server. They think this promotes consistency, but that comes from the text itself, not the layout.

The mailing lists are useful, though you need a thick skin to venture into osm-talk, but most users will only look in the wiki. SteveC has suggested a wiki cleanup day ( I think he probably had a wicked connected-world phrase for it) and that will be a good idea, but is a wiki really a good place for straightforward documentation - not in my book because sooner or later someone will screw it up.

Speaking of books , some people in Germany wrote an OSM book - I wonder how good that is at getting beginners started. The advantage of a book is that no-one can fiddle with it when it's published. The disadvantage is that it goes out of date, and quickly in world like ours.

I want OSM to succeed, and I'm sure it will, but it will do it better if beginners enjoy the process rather than fret over how to get started.

Gary has added some footpaths and that has just reinforced an idea that a walker's map for Easy Yorkshire will be a good idea. It is a lovely place to go for a walk and a good map always helps.