Would like to announce an update to the walkers’ Android OSM app OpenTrail. Other than the augmented reality stuff (now separated out, see recent posts), I haven’t really had the chance to add any new features to OpenTrail until now; the last release back in March included Freemap and OS out of copyright maps and the ability to add annotations in the field.
However I’ve made a start on adding new features to OpenTrail with a view to developing it into a full-featured walkers’ app. You can now search for selected nearby points of interest (pubs, restaurants, places and peaks); the POIs are downloaded from the Freemap server and then cached on the device. Also, existing annotations and walk notes are also now overlaid on the map.
I’m hoping to do some more work on OpenTrail in the coming weeks/months, the long-term aim being an open-source version of something like Memory Map. One feature I’ve had in mind for a while is for the app to display annotations and notes to the user in the field as alert boxes (probably accompanied by some form of alert sound) as they pass its location. This should be fairly simple to implement and could have a number of uses, for instance, a user could be presented with some information about a view or a place of historical interest as they pass it, or could be presented with directions at a location where it’s easy to get lost. I can envisage this working as follows. Someone follows a path, loses their way temporarily, finally finds the path, and then records instructions in OpenTrail and uploads them to the server. A later walker could then be presented with the same instructions automatically as they pass the same spot.
I’m also aiming to integrate with Freemap walking routes, so that, for example, a user could search for walking routes in their area. However, I’m planning (time permitting of course, as always) on overhauling walking routes as part of a new and quite significantly different “development” version of Freemap (running alongside the main site) in which I aim to experiment with client-side rendering using kothic-js (see last post), so addition of walking routes to OpenTrail will be in conjunction with this. The current walking routes code in Freemap is slow and inefficient, particularly now that the volume of data has increased. So I started looking round for pre-built solutions and came across pgRouting, which adds routing functionality to a PostGIS database. Got step one done here: it’s built and installed successfully and I’ve managed to import some OSM data using osm2pgrouting. Next step will be to see if it actually routes between two points quickly and efficiently; if so I plan on using it to work out a walking route of underlying OSM ways given a set of user-specified points. However, to avoid the DB getting too big (and thus, possibly, slow) the walk route functionality might be restricted to selected areas of the UK initially.
Anyway, where is OpenTrail? It’s available here, if you find any bugs let me know.
This blog post isn’t a formal evaluation of the usability of OSM’s software or the equipment used for mapping. It is not meant to attack particular software; The software and implementation of OSM deserves many medals with equal amount of recognition.
This post is about things I noticed while mapping in Tandale, there is no statistical analysis, I have no dependent or independent variables, it’s based mainly around anecdotes and conversations with people. Though this doesn’t exist as a formal ethnography, it could serve for some useful pointers in future.
As we had netbooks with a small-ish (11″) screen-size and a trackpad, mice are essential for mappers getting started. In month spent in Tandale the designated editors have become JOSM gods with the majority of students and community members having fair literacy within JOSM’s processes. However when starting, the software was made accessible to the mappers purely through using a mouse. Most of the mappers were familiar with mice, whereas a trackpad was a piece of technology that wasn’t commonly used.
Conflicts commonly occurred within JOSM, in that groups where editing and uploading areas that they had mapped independently. This was difficult to control at first, as we had started with a blank slate, however boundaries of the sub-wards was relatively well known and demarcated by physical boundaries. Regardless groups wandered into areas which weren’t theirs to map. With the division of labour, in that roughly half were mappers undertaking the bulk of the surveying and with the others editing. When conflicts occurred the process was occasionally esoteric, especially if the group in question had been editing for a while.
To counter this I requested that each of the different sub-ward teams follow the mantra of save, upload and download often. Unfortunately this, on many an occasion, fell on deaf ears. This just meant conflicts were a laborious process, how could they be made better? Also JOSM’s autosave feature was a godsend, inevitably something would crash, causing people to start again.
Within the final presentation to the wider community and stakeholders, one of the points raised was incorrect spelling. There is autocomplete in JOSM, however it seems that if a spelling mistake got in first, like ‘Madrasah’ (an Islamic school, with debate on its correct spelling anyway) this would filter down, with the new mappers believing that the system is right. This would start adding clunky bits of software onto something that was never designed for spelling correction, but should plugins be created to improve this?
Due to the informal economy within the slums formal medical advice and dispensing is very rare. The community-at-large simply cannot afford ‘professional’ medical care. This has led to ‘dawa’ – medicine – shops dispensing everything from medical advice to prescription medication. Formally defining these structures into OSM is difficult, we could just create custom presets, it’s something done within Map Kibera and Map Mathare.
The issue here is that we are using the same ‘custom’ presets repeatedly. It surely would be better to include the commonly used attributes (common when mapping in environments such as Tandale/Mathare/Kibera) in the JOSM package itself? Is this feasible?
Satellite Image Tracing
One of the experiments that ‘failed’ was the tracing of satellite imagery. Bing were very kind in releasing their imagery to the OSM community to derive data, and our initial idea was to derive building outlines from this imagery. Initially it was perceived that tracing went well, some buildings weren’t quite perpendicular but using JOSM’s built in ‘q’ function fixed this. When map completeness was approaching, validation errors were caught informing that pathways were going through buildings and vice-versa. There are three explanations for this;
These factors are a combination of human and technical problems, in this case I believe it is a culmination of each of the factors. Some of them, especially with image quality and GPS accuracy would presumably need some sort of best practice to be implemented. Other sources of human error in the editing process are harder problems, especially without a comparable dataset, this is a more open ended problem.
When I joined OSM I was a student in a foreign city, with no map with which to explore with. A massively pro open source friend recommended the OSM project. I already had a GPS from my time working at a camping store during summer holidays so it was a match made in heaven really. My first edit was of the D400 road from Nancy to Lunéville around 2007/8 then I set to work in the area.
The community was very small and so, presumably was the power of the servers; it would take a few days for anything to be rendered on the OSM homepage. Now something uploaded can take anything from five minutes to an hour. The server administrators deserve more recognition in their services, so if you meet them, buy them a drink – they deserve it.
In summary, I believe that the tools we use in OSM are great, none of what I’ve written is a slant at a particular software or person. I believe that we should however consider certain points about widening access to the software in making it more usable. I also welcome comments below!
Written and submitted from the World Bank Offices, Washington DC (38.899, -77.04256)
Durante los últimos días se han producido algunos hitos relacionados con el proyecto OpenStreetMap:
Ahora, sin embargo, es OpenStreetMap (y en concreto, la Fundación sin ánimo de lucro que mantiene sus servidores), la que pide vuestra colaboración. Aunque el proyecto no corre un riesgo urgente de ser cerrado, el constante crecimiento de su popularidad hace que cada vez sus recursos se queden más pequeños y sea necesario escalar. De hecho, hace unas semanas se tuvo que establecer una nueva política de uso del servidor de teselas ya que había algunos programas que abusaban del servicio que proporcionaba gratuitamente OSM. Para solucionar todo ello, se ha identificado la necesidad de compra de un nuevo servidor que se usará para:
Recordamos que la Fundación no tiene ni un solo empleado en nómina, y que todos los contribuidores son voluntarios, desde la junta directiva hasta los administradores de sistemas.
La dirección de internet desde la cual podéis realizar vuestras aportaciones es:donate.openstreetmap.org/server2011/
El objetivo es llegar a los 17.500 euros estimados de coste lo antes posible. ¡Esperamos vuestra colaboración!
This is a guest post from Carlton Reid, executive editor of BikeBiz.com and the editor of BikeHub.co.uk. He writes here about the great new facilities in the Bike Hub app, which uses our routing and OpenStreetMap POIs feed.
The latest version of the Bike Hub cycle satnav app is 2.2; I’m currently testing 3.0, due for release soon. The new version will be packed with extra features, many of them suggested by app users.
I’m conflicted by all the additions. On the one hand I’ve always wanted to keep the app plain, simple, focussed. But users have said they want it to be feature rich.
2.2 – released at the end of October – was enriched with a GPX download feature so plotted routes could be emailed to a user for later use, perhaps in a route visualisation programme, such as Google Earth.
I’ve used this feature a couple of times but it’s not what I’d consider the app’s core function: this core function is to be a cycle-specific satnav. We have also been asked to include other ‘performance monitoring’ features but there are many other apps out there that do this well.
It’s a fine balancing act: making the app feature-rich but not so complex that it becomes hard to use or worse, buggy.
The app is a standard satnav in that it routes from A to B. Version 3.0 adds what could be a world exclusive and that’s A to A routing. This makes the app into a touring tool: arrive at a railway station with your bike, fire up the app to guide you on a three hour trip sticky to country pubs and off you go.
Part of this functionality was added to 2.2. You can navigate to and from Points of Interest: ATMs, places of worship, parks, castles and many other PoIs.
Version 3.0 uses this growing database as a tour suggester.
Also in version 3.0 – and a much requested feature – is dynamic route recalculation. Stray from the route and the app will suggest you make a u-turn. Stray a bit further and the app will create a new route, on the fly. This is standard on car satnavs, and it’s finally on Bike Hub version 3.0, thanks to app coding work from app developer Tinderhouse and routing tweaks by CycleStreets.
Version 3.0 also has tighter integration with CycleStreets, adding a box to input a CycleStreets journey number. This will be useful if you prefer to pre-plan your routes via desktop and then want to transfer the same route to your smartphone.
The most requested feature from users is added in version 3.0. This is map cacheing. Map tiles can be downloaded to a smartphone when in range of wifi or a good 3G signal. Users will still require a phone signal to call down the route from CycleStreets but maps – which can take a while to download in a poor signal area – can now be stored locally. (And deleted later, if wished).
I know I’ll use this feature for cycle tours in Northumberland.
The app has evolved greatly since launch and will continue to evolve, thanks to funding from the Bike Hub levy fund. If you have other features you’d like to see added, get in touch. editor at bikehub.co.uk