googlemaps for mobile cell location database

Google has announced their “My Location” feature for the google maps for mobile. No GPS needed for the application to be able to locate you. You can see a blue dot with a transparency buffer around that dot representing accuracy. Now,

The my location feature was not able on my Nokia 6230i with j2me. From the mailing list, it appears that it can work if the application can see the cellid. This then leads to the indication that Google has a database of all cell id locations. This database is in turn created by other users that do have GPS whilst using the application. It also means that Google doesn’t have to buy expensive datasets of cell tower locations, or bother about making sure the external datasets are up to date.

User created geodata, done without any conscious participation. Ed says it’s a great example of (Unconscious) crowd sourcing

I wonder how long it would take for someone to hack something useful from the database 😉

OSM 3.0, a Manifesto?

If web 2.0 was all about users generating content, and folksonomies, then Openstreetmap would fit very snugly into web 2.0, just like Wikipedia. But it’s much more, and I want to help more people to see the potential.

It’s web 3.0, where the view and interface becomes less important, and the data and the interpretation becomes central.

OSM is different from Wikipedia. Wikipedia’s data and the data’s interpretation is one-to-one. One view of the data, you edit the page, and it’s shown on that page. OSM is different, you can edit the data for an area, and different renderers, interpretators can show (or not show) that in different ways.

This thinking was inspired by recent mailing list discussions [here and here] about an “edit war” over placenames in Northern Cyprus, and by some talks at BarCamp Leeds. I won’t go into the details, but will quote (very heavily edited) some old OSM thinking here:

OSM should present a snapshot of the state of play at the time a mapper maps an area… After all, OSM is used is a navigational aid.

OSM is a navigational aid rather than a history book.

Whoever tags a place first gets to keep their name in first place.

Are there any lessons, learnt from wikipedia?

OSM is for english speakers.

The future will see me hosting the map itself in a non editable form

and some future thinking ideas:

OSM should accurately represent all legitimate points of view. While at the same time, fairly and without provocation.

isn’t the real issue that there’s really no “fundamental truth”.

Does osm have the ability to present multiple views of the database, for a given region? rather than try and put all the (variant, disputed) data in one place, perhaps the data should be (effectively) put in two (or more) places/views, and when such a region is requested, the user should be forced to choose which view of the region they wish to see.

OSM is a break with the past. There is the possibility to somehow represent all points of view.

the decision needs to lie with the renderer (or other user) and not with the mapper – what we currently see is mappers trying to force their world view onto the renderer (or user), instead of allowing him to chose; this is wrong.

Editing OSM is at the moment, mainly done using a google maps model of mapping. Linear editing, change something using the editor, and it’s reflected on the Map.

Editing OSM with web 3.0 model. Multiple possible paths, change something using the editor, and it may or may not be reflected on multiple different Maps, according to the interpretation / rendering rules.

So some notes for a manifesto:

  • One to Many – One database – Multiple views.
  • Tagging system accommodates multiple representation.
  • Whoever renders (interprets) the data (map) should have the say on what is rendered.
  • Encouragement of alternative views, renderers, servers. We need more custom map servers. This is not forking, as it’s the same underlying database, but the interpretation is different. Here’s a real example: Cycle Map for OSM: http://www.gravitystorm.co.uk/osm/
  • Maps are representation of reality. Community should debate folksonomy, correct tagging procedures as before, allowing for alternate representations of the same object, as before.
  • Example, an Ethical OSM map, showing recycling, cyclepaths, and names of buildings, business according to their ethical behaviour.
  • Example, Roman OSM map, showing places and roads, ruins, temples, that only existed during Roman times.
  • Example, a insert-country-here OSM map, showing boundaries and placenames that the Country’s administration consider authoritative.
  • Example, already up and running, the Cycle Map, renders the data for cyclists, and publishes guidelines for contributors, on how to edit OSM so it will show up on their Cycle Map

Note, I have not touched on how, technically, these things can be solved (the threads linked to above have some suggestions) but they are something to reach for.

For one, I welcome more edit wars – they shake up old “OSM as a wiki” thinking, and I welcome more servers showing different views, as a starting point.

Barcamp Leeds

Attended the first Barcamp Leeds this weekend, it was very good. Many good talks, chats, and laughs were had.


(photo by Moshin Ali)

My talk (slides) on Openstreetmap Leeds (creating a free map of Leeds)went ok, helped to crystallize some of my recent thinkings of the project and will be the subject of a forthcoming post. Some comments about OSM, how to encourage more people to take part? possibly though the use of “here’s my places i’ve mapped”, possibly a chart of personal stats, for some competition. I think OSM is still pre-early adopter at the moment. Oh, and special thanks goes to Kevin Whitworth for the use of some of his great photos! please don’t sue me! 😉

Some of the talks I enjoyed:

  • Victor Szilagyi “on getting lost with GPS”. A fascinating look at locative media, and some ideas about new interfaces, passive, for experiencing these. Like a braile / pin face on a device so you can feel events and locations, and a locative radio player. Had some good chats with Victor: he organized Mobile Camp London.
  • Reinhold from Leeds Met gave a fun account of his work in augmented reality and vision, robot cars and races, and puts out the challenge for Leeds, shall we enter a car for the next DARPA grand challenge? (also, he talked about how these types of challenges, with a big award at the end encourages good development).
  • Tom Scott, one of the organisers, and who is doing interesting things with pineapples apparently, did a very fun “zero to game in 20minutes”. We made a card game, based on Ninjas in Space. Fun!
  • Ikem Nzeribe, who I first met at the State of the Map conference, presented his ideas for Doodol, a great idea – using vernacular geographical sketch maps to describe places that blows the pin on a map out into last century. Worth watching for.
  • Tom Smith, I have loads of time for. He presented about “stuff we may not know, but might want to”, amongst all the gems he talked about, were the works of Tufti and Robert Horn, how paired programming makes your code better, aka Talking to the teddybear (Made me want to register that as a domain name!), and is looking for good ideas to take into reality. His slides are here
  • Ben Dalton from Leeds Met, did a wonderfully funny session on futurology and “paleo-futures”, and we split into groups and devised the future for Dogs and Metal detectors… well you never know! Paul Robinson then did a session where he looked at how futurology is crap, and you cannot predict the future.

As with all events with more than one stream, there’s things I missed, alas. On the whole things went really well, apart from ASDA who delayed and generally messed up the refreshments delivery. Boo to ASDA!

Yay! to local games developers, Rockstar Games for the booze etc, was first time I played with a wii on their new game, table tennis, and for general hilarity!

Thanks to Dom, Tom, Deb, Linda and Imran for all their hardwork. Looking forward to a two day event in the springtime!