Thursday, June 16, 2011

Open Street Map in Boston

A project called OpenStreetMap is making a free street-level map of the entire world. Put your community on The Map!

Here's the local scene, for those who might be interested. Check out things in your own community.

Volunteers from Boston have already begun mapping the roads and rivers, but now they need your help to add details of street names and local amenities such as restaurants, hospitals and cinemas.

June 18th, 2011

Introduction to OSM at 12pm:
Bocoup Loft
355 Congress Street
Boston, MA (map)

Mapping the Seaport at 1pm - 4pm:
In and around the Four Points channel and the Boston Seaport.

OSM Mapping Tools at 4pm:
Bocoup Loft
355 Congress Street
Boston, MA (map)

RSVP here.
More info here.

So why not just use Google Maps (or the like)?

There are many places on the Internet where you can look at maps without charge, but that's all they usually allow you to do - you cannot re-use the map, modify it, publish it on your own web site or print it in a leaflet. To do any of that, you would have to obtain a license, which usually costs money. And if you spot a mistake in your area, the process to get it corrected is lengthy.

OpenStreetMap is different in that the map data is available to everyone, for whatever purpose they want (it's "open" or "free-as-in-freedom"). Anyone can put in the locations and names of roads, footpaths, railway stations, or whatever else is important to them. And people can immediately respond to changes on the ground, so the data is the most up-to-date information available.

Maps created from the data are available to browse on the Internet (just like other online maps), but they can also be downloaded and used for any purpose. And if you don't like the way the provided maps look, you can download the data and create your map, your way.

So what do I need to participate in OpenStreetMap?

Tools such as GPS receivers and digital cameras are useful for advanced mapping, but simply having access to the Internet will allow you to contribute by checking/editing the maps and to add that all-important local information. The only real requirement is that the information is 'first hand' from observation or local knowledge and that it is not copied from restricted sources (such as printed maps or online services).

Boston is currently being mapped! Visit here to find out more and see how you can help.

Why so long?

Mapping Parties take some time because you get a chance to go out into the world and collect real data about a new neighborhood. It's an opportunity to get a little flavor of the entire mapping process, which starts with data collection.

You also get the opportunity to work with the mapping tools after data collection, under the delicate tutelage of experienced OpenStreetMappers.

It's not necessary to come to all parts of the Mapping Party -- you can show up for the part that most interests you!


Anonymous said...

I won't be in the area, but I'll second the recommendation. It's lots of fun.

Susannah said...

This is the most fascinating and coolest project I have heard of in a while, thanks for blogging about it. I looked up my neighborhood in NYC, and found my street carefully mapped, with the exception of my building! May have to do something about this. Have forwarded this column to a few people in other cities, as this is a sort of "the more the merrier" effort. Thanks again, and Happy Father's Day!