Thursday, December 6, 2007

The People's Map is deeply fucked

Hey. Today I want to talk to you about The People's Map.

The People's Map is this effort by some cartographer guys with beards to do OpenStreetMap, except without the fun bit (parties). Also, they don't have any Germans and take it from me, not having Germans is a serious blow to any collaborative mapping website. Also, the guys with beards actually make less sense than the Germans even though they're speaking English.

They do have this really great imagery, the whole site is owned by an imagery company. Selling aerial imagery was a good idea for about two months in 1999. Now everybody has downloaded Google Earth for free (which our friend Ed invented) so good luck with that.

So these guys have created the People's Map and it's taken them about three years and they now have five roads and an editor that doesn't work properly. Meanwhile we've mapped half of Britain and the entire Netherlands.

Anyway, it's a little known fact that Nick and I actually worked on the People's Map back in the day. Unfortunately, code you can buy but clue has to be earned (or crowdsourced). If there's one thing that's been contentious in OSM and they might be able to improve upon with hindsight, it's the license - but look at theirs:

  1. You may copy the People's Map except when you may not.
  2. All copyright is retained by the People's Map where prohibited by applicable laws and/or your mum.
  3. Exceptions may be granted for non-profit organisations in the area bounded by Ordnance Survey grid square SK23 on a Thursday, if you pay us.
  4. Reproduction is not permitted at scale 1:100,000 or above. What is this pixel shit anyway? I want a paper map.
That's not only unfree, it's barely English.

What we figured and they haven't is: it's the community, stupid. You're not going to get hundreds of mappers pounding the streets of Reigate just so that some guy can afford to buy himself platinum-plated beard-clippers. But when you contribute to OpenStreetMap you get a warm glow of satisfaction, especially if you stand near the t@h server, which is currently heating the eastern seaboard of the US because some German dude has decided to request the entire Norwegian coastline at pebble-level detail or something.

Siooma, motherfuckers. Siooma.


crschmidt said...

The t@h server is in San Diego: I understand that American Geography is hard, but that's over here on the West Coast.

Dr Tim said...

I do not have a beard and the People's Map is not deeply fucked.

We do not have any Germans but we do have someone from Basingstoke, which is almost as good.



Dr Tim Rideout