Suggestion for OSM UK quarterly projects

At a recent pub meeting  mappa-mercia mappers felt that UK  OSM contributors are all busy on their own specific projects and apart from the occasional discussion on the talk-gb mailing list don’t really get together as a community. Compare that to the Irish community where there is a real drive on one large project to complete the mapping of townlands by 2016. There’s a real buzz about this with some fantastic tools and data visualisations, chat, problem solving, and  a great series of instructional videos. You feel a real part of a community if you participate.

So to try and rectify this we’re starting a campaign in the West Midlands, which we hope will be adopted by mappers all over the UK. Each campaign will last for 3 months – plenty of time to achieve something big,  work together as a community on a common goal, whilst leaving you time to work on your own projects alongside.

Task 1: Check that road name!

The first task is to add missing road/street names and to correct misspelled or misnamed roads. Reasoning? This is a basic geographic data requirement  for a map and we have some way to go in the UK to achieve completion.Until we complete this we’ll always lack credibility.

This task has been slowly ticking along but it’s currently both lonely and tedious. There’s a great opportunity to get out to some areas that haven’t been touched for some time;  come up with some new ideas to involve newer mappers, reactivate mappers who have ceased mapping, possibly even coordinating with housing developers to keep OSM right up to date. And more…. we’re looking for ideas and actions to reach out to develop a community here.

The latest release of OS Locator data gives everyone the opportunity to get out there and chase down the latest set of road name revisions. ITOworld’s OS Locator tracker shows us at 98.14% completion. There are 14,639 major issues and 2,125 minor issues (mostly involving the use of apostrophes). (You need to register to use this tool).

If we take the end of the quarterly project as  March 31st 2015 we need to correct 197 road names a day to achieve completion.  We’re so close, if we get enough momentum this is achievable. Even if we only double the current rate of completion that would be a big slice off the target and we’ll have started to build ourselves into a community that does things together.

Watch out for more blogs, posts and chat about this project. All ideas discussion and action welcome!

Tell us: Where is the Midlands most unusual listed building?

posted in: Observations, Participate | 1

Here in England we are lucky to be surrounded by many historic buildings , and indeed our heritage is a big attraction for local and overseas tourists alike. To ensure that the most significant of our historic buildings are protected for future generations to enjoy, a building may designated as a “Listed Building”. Once on this register a building has statutory protection and  may not be demolished, extended, or altered without special permission from the local planning authority. The register, which is maintained by English Heritage, is published online and we’ve also produced our own heritage map for the West Midlands using this data.

It’s very expensive to own and maintain a listed building, so unfortunately a  significant proportion of them fall into serious states of decay. This is the Old Steam Mill in Wolverhampton not far from the station:

Wolverhampton’s Old Steam Mill – a Grade II listed building in need of some urgent attention

Many buildings and structures do not make it through the rigorous selection procedure to become listed, but still have some architectural or historical interest, so local authorities maintain “local lists”.  Locally-listed buildings do not have statutory protection so developers can do what they like with them, often demolishing them; but local planners will use all their powers of persuasion to preserve them. For example, Coventry’s local list can be found here.

“It has six wide ‘zebra’ stripes painted in white onto the Tarmac road surface, flanked by two lines of dashed marks either side…”

“Buildings” is perhaps a poor description, for the register can contain any historic structure. In the Midlands for example we have listed bridges, milestones, canal locks, telephone boxes, sewer ventilation pipes, tunnel entrances, fountains, bandstands, statues and monuments. Meanwhile in north London the Abbey Road zebra crossing  – made famous after appearing on a Beatles album cover – was added to the register of listed buildings and structure in late 2010.

Abbey Road zebra crossing – a Grade II listed ‘building’ getting plenty of attention

There are also some very interesting structures to be found in local lists. Wolverhampton City Council has locally listed  “Margery Cabinets”: these are electricity distribution cabinets designed by T.A.G Margery, the then Borough Electrical Engineer about 1930.

Today we’re asking you – where is the Midlands most unusual listed building structure? We’re not limiting it to just Birmingham, or just the West Midlands; feel free to explore the outer edges of the Midlands. If you think it counts, we want to hear about it. Drop us a message using the comment section below, or contact us @mappamercia on twitter.  A picture would help enormously.

OpenStreetMap 10th Birthday Party Saturday August 9th

posted in: Mapping Party, Participate | 1

OpenStreetMap’s 10th birthday party is on Saturday Aug 9th. We’ll be celebrating here in the West Midlands complete with birthday cake alongside scores of other cities and communities around the globe.

It’s hard to believe just how much we’ve developed our map and community in 10 years.

Anyone who has ever contributed to OpenStreetMap in the West Midlands or adjoining counties is welcome to come along and chat about the past 10 years of mapping and probe into the future of the next 10 years. That’s about 1,000 of you! Or indeed anyone who has ever registered as a user and not been able to make an edit – see how you can get started! Or anyone who’s just interested in maps and wants to find out what we’re about.

Our venue is very central. We’ll be located in the basement of 6/8 Kafé on Temple Row B2 5HG from about 12noon until about 2pm. Being mappers we have to provide a map on how to get there: it’s here.

Get there early or there may not be any birthday cake left (only crumbs, smiles and photos).

Birthday cake will be provided by Andy Robinson’s partner Liz and judging by the food we got at past  planning meeting at Andy and Liz’s house – its an event not to be missed!

6/8 Kafé are generously providing the space free to us so come along and sample some of their coffee and food. The venue has been voted as one of the top 50 coffee shops in the UK by readers of The Independent newspaper. Google Reviews opines: “ Relaxed cafe where coffee-mad baristas serve up artisan brews, home-baked cakes and deli fodder.”

Join us for your first global birthday party. Pop in and stay for as long or short a time as you like.

Mappa Mercia’s May meetings

posted in: Mapping Party, Participate | 0

We are holding two meet-ups this month and to celebrate I’ve rehashed the alliteration in the title of this blog post from our from our March meetings post. I promise the meetings will be more exciting than my writing!

Our two meetings are on the first and last day of the month:

  • Thursday, 1st May: The Edward Rutland, Stourbridge at 7:00pm for our regular pub meet; and
  • Saturday, 31st May 2014: Mapping day in Tysoe (at request of Parish Council – details to follow).

As always newcomers are very welcome to join us and find out more about OpenStreetMap and Mappa Mercia. Try to let us know beforehand so that we can look out for you. Details on the contact page.

You can also view our full Summer 2014 schedule on our wiki page.

Warwickshire Aerial Imagery

posted in: Participate | 1

Warwickshire County Council have kindly provided access to aerial imagery captured during 2013. The imagery is available under the Open Government Licence and can therefore be used for mapping in OpenStreetMap. It comes at just the right time as many of you would have spotted a drop in the Bing aerial imagery (particularly when zoomed right in). It covers both Warwickshire and Coventry and can be used in JOSM, Potlatch 2 and iD using the following guides.


It can be added to JOSM using the following steps:

  1. Click on the “Imagery” menu, then on “Imagery Preferences”
  2. Click on +WMS
  3. Skip boxes 1-3. Instead jump straight to 4 and paste in the following:{proj}&WIDTH={width}&HEIGHT={height}&BBOX={bbox}
  4. Add a suitable name in box 5 (e.g. Warwickshire aerial 2013).
  5. Click OK.

The new layer can then be added as a background from the Imagery menu (as usual).


To use this imagery in Potlatch 2 simply click on the “Background” drop down menu. Click “Edit” then “Add”. The the “Name” column enter something suitable (e.g. WarwickshireCC) and in the “URL” column, paste the following:


You can now click the “X” to close the background window. You should now be able to pick the new background layer from the drop down menu.


Click the “Background Setting” button (stack of sheets) on the right hand side. Next click “Custom” and paste the following URL in the text box:


The new layer should appear automatically.


OpenStreetMap recognised by Free Software Foundation Europe with Document Freedom Day Award 2014

On Saturday evening 22nd March at the Warehouse Café in Digbeth Birmingham members of mappa mercia received the annual Document Freedom Day Award 2014 on behalf of the OpenStreetMap Foundation from the Free Software Foundation Europe, whose members travelled down from Manchester for the event.

DFD certificate


Document Freedom Day is organised every year by the Free Software Foundation on the last Wednesday of March “ for celebrating and raising awareness of Open Standards and formats . On this day people who believe in fair access to communications technology teach, perform, and demonstrate.”  So watch out for events all round the world this Wednesday 26th March.

Last year’s award went to  Die Tageszeitung  for using  five Open Standards in publishing  their daily newspaper.

Receiving the award Brian Prangle long time OSM contributor and local mappa mercia community co-ordinator said: “It’s always great to have your work recognised, so thank you, on behalf of all the hundreds of thousands of contributors to OpenStreetMap, to FSFE for their award. We’re thrilled that you see OpenStreetMap as making such an effort towards open standards and it’s especially pleasing that you position us as an ‘emerging standard’”

DFD award


A celebration is nothing without a cake, so apart from the mandatory certificate which we can share with the whole of OSM, FSFE generously provided a superb cake which we ate so unfortunately we can’t share it! But rest assured we worked hard on behalf of OSM and devoured as much as we could before heading off to a nearby pub.

 DFD Cake

“This was a wonderful opportunity to learn about the achievements and problems faced by a sister movement” said Anna Morris from the Document Freedom Day campaign. “We found that we have many common goals and ample opportunity to share skills and resources.”

DFD cake cut

We had such a good time with a lovely bunch of people from FSFE and as Anna said we share many goals and ideals so we are planning to keep the contact and collaboration going to see how we can assist each other.

DFD group

Images   Andy Mabbett,
CC-by-SA 3.0

Coventry Bridge Munch

posted in: Map Improvements, Participate | 0

Sometimes in order to build something better you have to start by taking something old down. That’s exactly what happened in Coventry this weekend. And as always OpenStreetMap was the first to reflect these changes.

Coventry Friargate

The Friargate project is a major redevelopment project in Coventry, right next to the train station. The development encompasses 37 acres and will comprise a vibrant mix of commercial, civic, leisure, residential and hotel space. Currently the site, which will also be home to Coventry City Council’s new council office, is separated from the rest of the city centre by the ring road. Although some good work was done in time for the 2012 Olympics to help connect the Friargate site and train station to the city centre, there was certainly scope for a lot more. That something more, is a new “bridge deck” spanning the ring road:

“The bridge deck is a key part of the Friargate development at the railway station and the council’s own move to a new office building on the site. The bridge deck will better connect Friargate to the city centre by removing the raised roundabout and building a 100 metre wide connection across the ring road, creating a public boulevard linking the railway station through Greyfriars Green directly into Bull Yard.”

As the quote above mentions, stage 1 of the Friargate project was the removal of the existing (road traffic only) raised roundabout. The following image is from Coventry City Councils flickr account:

Junction 6 bridge removal

 Bridge munchers at work on Coventry’s ring road junction 6.

Why I contribute to OpenStreetMap

OpenStreetMap is a free, editable map of the world. It is often described as the wikipedia of maps, but its much more than just a map. All of the underlying map data is made available for anyone to use. You can create your own map style, create mountain bike routes, and many more things that are possible with geographic data. You’re only limited by what your own imagination hasn’t thought of yet!

This weekend, whilst the bridge munchers set about tearing the roundabout bridge down, I set about making the change in OpenStreetMap. Of course I had the easy job – it took only a couple of minutes and didn’t create any rubble or dust!

Using our relaunched mappa-mercia twitter I posted a quick tweet – one that was later retweeted by Coventry City Council:


The above screenshot is taken from this Storify page created by the city council. It gives a great record of the events in the run up to, and during the bridge removal. I think it nicely sums up the benefit of OpenStreetMap!! Whilst Google Map’s change is still “pending”, the OpenStreetMap change is already live, both on our own maps, and those that use OpenStreetMap data (such as this FourSquare map).

Jump in to editing OpenStreetMap here and you can help too.

Poll: Licence or Addresses

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Earlier this week Alex (from Mapbox) posted an diary entry on OpenStreetMap with his reasons as to why he feels that OpenStreetMap should drop the “Share Alike” component of its licence. As you would imagine, this created quite a bit of discussion both in the comments of the diary entry, but also on the “talk” mailing list. With the memory of the last licence change still fresh in my mind, I’ve refrained from adding any comment to these discussions, but I did pick up on one of the replies:

Alex states that “The reality is that OpenStreetMap is only used extensively in situations where the share-alike license does not apply, for instance, map rendering.” I’d respond by saying that’s because OSM doesn’t contain a lot of address or navigation data, not because of the license.

The reply above is taken from a longer response by Steve Coast. You can view the full reply here.

Here in the West Midlands we’ve done a lot of work to map addresses and other navigation data (see for example our gritting map), so today we’re simply asking Licence or Addresses? Submit your answer in the poll below.

(Poll is now closed)

Note: This is intended as a bit of fun. The results of the poll represent only an incredibly small part of the OpenStreetMap community and will therefore have no statistical significance. If you don’t like our poll, then don’t submit an answer.

SotM 2013 pledges

posted in: Map Improvements, Participate | 0

One of the things we introduced at State of the Map 2013 in Birmingham was a “Pledge Wall”. The basic idea being that our delegates make a pledge to OpenStreetMap to be completed before the next State of the Map (now known to be in Buenos Aires in November 2014). It’s been six months since State of the Map 2013, so lets see how Mappa Mercia has delivered on its own pledges and those of other people.

  • Pledge: “To complete addresses for one UK postcode region” – A pledge made by our own Brian, and one that he completed in late November for the B11 postcode region. Well done Brian! I’ve also been adding a lot of postcodes to buildings already mapped in the CV3 area.
  • Pledge: “To organise at least one mapping party” – We held a belated Christmas meet-up in Warwick in January and managed to squeeze in some mapping before the light faded. Our next mapping party will be in Worcester on Saturday 15th March. Why not join us.
  • Pledge: “Train and encourage 1 person to be an active mapper” – This one’s always harder to do in Winter as the days are short and the weather (more) unpredictable. We’re looking to work with a local community near Stratford-on-Avon soon and will be providing OpenStreetMap training.
  • Pledge: “To evangelize about OpenStreetMap in central and local government” – For me I see this this as a slow burner. Public sector is generally considered to move slowly and when you add to this the recent cut backs, its not surprising that local government is focusing on delivering their day to day work (and rightly so). It’s not all bad news though. We now have access to Warwickshire County Council’s aerial imagery (a great source for mapping in OpenStreetMap) and Coventry Council are staring to use OpenStreetMap for more of their online maps.

So some good progress after just 6 months. Here’s to some more summer mapping fun!

Mappa Mercia’s March meetings

posted in: Mapping Party, Participate | 0

[Update 2014-03-13: The plans for Saturday’s mapping event in Worcester are confirmed as an afternoon mapping followed by a meet-up at about 5pm in The Crown pub in the city centre.]

Firstly an apology. Inspired by Andy’s recent mailing list email I simply couldn’t resist in adding to the alliteration in the title of this blog post! Sorry folks.

There are two mappa-mercia meetings organised for March. Our regular first Thursday of the month evening meet-up and a Saturday mapping party in Worcester. As always newcomers are very welcome to join us and find out more about OpenStreetMap and Mappa Mercia. Try to let us know beforehand so that we can look out for you. Details on the contact page.

  • Thursday, 6th March 2014: The Bull, Birmingham at 7:30pm for our regular pub meet; and
  • Saturday, 15th March 2014: Mapping day in Worcester (details to follow).

 See you there!