US State of the Map Conference 2010

Sep 3, 2010 | Georgia, Open Source GIS, Open Street Map

If you missed it – you just missed it.

On August the 14th – a little over two weeks ago – theĀ  US State of the Map conference was held in Atlanta. It was excellent – I think it will be one of those events where I will say “I was there” 5 years from now.

OpenStreetMap has been one of those things I’ve had a hard time wrapping my head around. It took me months to get comfortable editing. Once I did I found it hard to stop. I’ve made more mistakes than I care to admit. I’m trying to decide now how to fix some attribution mistakes I made in adding data. I think I’ll have to take the “eat the elephant approach” to fix them – but they will get fixed.

The big thing that struck me about this conference was….well two things.

The first was how these guys (non-gis people) were doing in essence GIS work. They had the luxury of not being bothered by all the stuff I worry about – and because of that they made an excellent map. I’ll toss data if I think it is bad. I would rather have no data than bad data. It actually got me to think that maybe bad data isn’t really all that bad – no data is the problem. If you have nothing – you truly have nothing. Anything is better than nothing (in most cases). I really began to understand the term “Crowd Sourcing”.

Second – OpenStreetMap is changing. The idea behind GIS data is changing. I watched Learon Dalby stand up in front of a group of maybe 100 people and offer all the roads in Arkansas to OSM. Free. No License. No Nothing. Take them please. There was dead silence in the room. It was beautiful. In reality – what good does it do a state/county to collect data and then do nothing with it…except sell it…oh yeah and serve it out in a map over the internet. Give it away – give it to Google, give it to OSM……Make it available to the people. Learon’s reasoning…the New Madrid Fault. When it lets loose what will we use for the rescue? The data he has given away. Look at Haiti and what happened. There was no data for rescuers. The New Madrid earthquake will make Katrina look like it never happened.

I watched as a representative of the US Census made a case for using the map and the data and contributing back to the map. I watched as representatives from local US Gov’t made cases for using the map and the data and contributing back to it. I found it interesting that both talks centered around this approach. Use the data – contribute back. Not get the data and share it out from an overpriced server with a flex front end.

I found it to be more interesting to watch the people in the audience. People I thought would be really overjoyed at this – didn’t seem to be. It was interesting….possibly a bit telling as to the internal state of OpenStreetMap. I like the politics of mapping – it’s always been a guilty little pleasure. How do people react…how do they not react…..how good is your poker face. Mine is terrible. I guess that’s why I try to watch everyone else in the room.

So OSM is starting to serve whether it likes it or not as a…a National Map of sorts. A data repository. A place that data can be stored and shared. It wasn’t built for this and the concern was evident at the conference. What do you do? My gut feeling is the recent deal with MapQuest is going to result in a better backend for OSM. I really think Google should take notice. Google should help. After all – The opposite of “Do no Evil” is “Do all Good”…correct…maybe. This would be a good thing to do.

Anyway – I’m rambling a bit. It was an excellent conference. Oh yeah – the price for admission. $35 dollars.Yes. $35 dollars.

I watched OSM grow just a bit in the US. Actually I think it grew a lot in two days.

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