Tuesday 7 March 2017

Have you moved ...

... or was it just your postcode?

The new open version of GB postcodes has some strange anomalies in it. There are nearly 1.7 million postcodes, but there are over 45,000 that have moved location since the November 2016 version. Most that have moved have moved less than 20 metres but 1,520 have moved 500m or more. There are 15 that have moved more than 10km, with the furthest moving over 62km.

The source of these open postcodes have changed, maybe the process that generates them has a problem in it. I'm going to look into this some more and try to get some information from Ordnance Survey too.

Maybe this is normal but it feels odd to me.

Sunday 5 March 2017

New Postcodes

I have thought about a tool to see what postcodes have been added recently for a while, so now I've finally got around to looking at it. The UK Office of National Statistics provide all kind of open data under the Open Government Licence and one of these is a list of postcode centroids for Great Britain. The dataset includes the date a postcode was added. 

When an area is quite well mapped it needs to be kept up-to-date. A mapper may have visited somewhere to map it when it's not normally somewhere she might visit, so any new developments might not get mapped as it is built. These new developments all get new postcodes, so showing a map with all the recently added postcodes might help mappers find places that need another survey.

I've put together a map that shows all of the postcodes added since the beginning of 2016. You can see it here http://pcdates.raggedred.net/#10/52.7159/-1.3149.  There would be quite a lot of markers in some areas so I use the excellent MarkerCluster plugin to make the markers more manageable. Each marker is a single centroid. If you click on it it shows a popup with the postcode and start date in it. 

If it is useful please let me know what you think. Would you like anything changed? If people like it I will maintain it as each new release of postcode data  id available, which is currently four times each year.

Saturday 4 March 2017

Postcode changes

I have provided a tile layer of postcode centroids based on the Codepoint Open postcodes since they were first published in 2010. I also provide a similar layer for postcodes based on the Office of National Statistics dataset called ONSPD. I have just updated the two layers with the recently updated data.

The ONSPD dataset contains almost a million more records than the Codepoint Open one. Most of these extra codes are retired postcodes. There are also some entries for BT codes. These are Northern Irish postcodes which are not released under OGL, so I don't publish them - I wouldn't want them to be used as a source for Northern Irish postcodes in OSM as that would violate their copyright. There are some IM codes, but without any coordinates. These are Isle of Man codes. I don't believe they are released under an open licence so again I don't publish them, but having no coordinates makes them useless for this purpose anyway.

The ONSPD dataset has a column for the start date and one for the end date. The earliest start date (just year and month) seems to be 1996-06 which most active postcodes have, the most recent start date is 2017-01.

Edit: The spread of dates is much wider than I first thought, with the earliest is 1973-08.

I think showing any newly added postcodes would be useful to help people see where there may be new developments that need surveying. Some new postcodes will just be yet another code on a building that already has many postcodes. These are places that get lots of post (after all that's what postcodes are for), often royal mail buildings where there are PO Box addresses.

The recently published files have changed their formats (again). Now the Codepoint Open dataset has fixed length postcode fields, so the natural spacing is lost unless they are reformatted, which is very easy. In the past the list of postcodes from Codepoint Open exactly matched the processed list of postcodes from ONSPD, now they don't. I'm examining what it is that is different.

Many of the centroids have moved a few metres. I can understand that a centroid might move if the street or section of street had some new houses (delivery points) added or removed, but that is not the cause of most of the changes. It seems the reason for the change is that the source of the centroids has changed. The data used to come from Address Point (which is now discontinued), now it comes from the Postal Address Location Feed of Geoplace. This is interesting because it removes the connection with Royal Mail and gets the postcode from local authority data. Local authorities are where addresses are created, though Royal Mail must have a part to play in adding the postcode. Getting the data from Geoplace may be one small step towards releasing UK address data as open data. I hope so.

To see how to use the tile layers follow the links for Codepoint Open and ONSPD.

I have discovered there are 111 postcodes in the Codepoint Open dataset that are not in the ONSPD dataset after I have processed it. These are 'large user' postcodes and they don't have useful coordinates. In the Codepoint Open dataset there is a field called positional quality indicator. 10 indicates the best positional quality, 90 indicates the worst. All 111 are 90. In future I'll ignore these entries.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Go Pokémon

I'm always keen to see new contributors to OSM. They bring details that interest them to OSM, be it their local area, their sport, their hobby, their work or whatever. Having an open tagging scheme that allows all kinds of objects to be mapped is part of the strength of OSM.

I follow new mappers in my area and sometimes add comments to their changesets or send them a welcome message. Sometimes a new mapper adds one thing and never adds more, sometimes they add one type of thing over wide areas. One thing the East Riding of Yorkshire needs is more fine detail of rural footpaths and bridleways. A few new mappers appeared starting to add footways and I was encouraged that this may spread. Sadly I was wrong and what I hoped was something useful is turning into something less so.

It seems that someone has discovered that some details in OSM may be being used in Pokémon Go, the virtual reality game by Niantic to find imaginary creatures. These imaginary creatures appear more near water and in parks near footpaths. The new mappers were adding footpaths in parks to encourage these beasties to appear. Their new footpaths were in good places and were welcome, but then word spread.

People then started adding more parks and ponds. Some were real parks and ponds that were just missing from the map, but some were plonked anywhere, over existing buildings and roads, over schools or whatever. A few people realised that changing existing areas' tagging was easier, so suddenly a building becomes a park or a pond.

It is not clear to me that Niantic are using OSM data, but if they are, adding phoney stuff won't work very well because it will be found and cleaned up quickly. If Niantic are using OSM data they will probably only incorporate changes to OSM data occasionally, if at all.

It's great to see new mappers. Maybe a few will become more interested in mapping than Pokémon. All the real parks, paths and waterways that are being added are all helpful. Tidying up the junk is nuisance but maybe I'll spot other stuff to improve too.

Back to the new users feed. Oh, there's another one ...