Sunday, December 6, 2009

A fable

Many years ago, a pioneering tribe of settlers established their village at the bottom of a mountain, an idyllic place where flowers grew and rainbows shone and communists were shot on sight.

Such was the fabled beauty and harmony of this village that it began to attract settlers from other villages. Hundreds flocked to it from such far-off settlements such as Karlsrühe, Kyiv, and some place or other up north whose name begins with N.

There was only one problem with this oasis of content. The footpath down to the river, where the villagers caught their fish, was rough, muddy, and liable to become a landslide at any moment.

Time passed, and the villagers grew prosperous. They had broadband, and iPhones, and copies of the Collected Thoughts Of Chairman Stallman.

Yet still the footpath was rough and muddy. It was even rumoured that the footpath had actually been built one drunken night to a set of instructions for a BMX track, and should never have been used for carting fish back to the village.

Some of the villagers, principally those who had come from Saxony, decided the best course of action was to spend endless hours in the village hall debating whether the muddy path should be called a “footpath” or a “path for feet” or a “designated permissive fish (freshwater) pathway for bipedalous ambulation in a progressive fashion”.

But a few of the wiser settlers decided to do something about it. They spent many hours in seclusion, looking at the ancient textbooks of footpath construction. Sometimes they invited footpath construction experts from other villages, who would tell them about what had worked in their village and what had not.

Every few weeks, one of these wise settlers would emerge, blinking, into the sunlight to tell the other villagers about their latest research. They pinned up updates on the village noticeboard. They even had a footpath debate at the annual village pow-wow (the ‘Althing’, they called it), in which they talked about what they had found, and asked the other villagers - who were, after all, villagers just like them - what they thought.

Some of the other villagers were sceptical. They had grown used to the muddy footpath. If falling over into the shit at regular intervals was the price they paid for living in an idyllic village, well, that was the way it was.

But the wise villagers invited them to join with them, and soon some of the sceptics were avidly studying footpath construction books too - even those from Saxony.

After many years of study, the day came when they had a plan for the new footpath. The new design wasn’t perfect, of course. Some of the handrails were a little ungainly and had rough edges. But it would be a tough, well-built path. All the way down to the river, the designers had included three types of supports - so that if two of them collapsed, still no-one would end up in the shit.

The wise villagers, burdened by the weight of carrying so many learned tomes on footpath construction, went hopefully to the other villagers and meekly sought approval for the new path.

To their amazement, a bunch of rowdy villagers stood up and exclaimed loudly, and repeatedly, that they didn’t want a new footpath and they didn’t see what was wrong with the old one.

One villager, Ulful, said no-one had ever asked him about the footpath. The oldest of the wise villagers - who, truth be told, had a volatile temper - pointed out acidly that Ulful had fallen into the shit twelve times in the last month alone, and that every time, someone had scurried to his aid and asked him about how he thought the footpath could be improved. But Ulful wasn’t convinced and continued to shout.

Another villager, George, had been there since the very first days of the settlement. He said that falling into the shit had never done him any harm. In his opinion, the kids of today would benefit from being smeared in shit now and then. He pointed out that none of these new-fangled footpaths had been tried in this village before, and as far as he was concerned the electricity was a mistake too and he wasn’t convinced about the mains sewage. Furthermore, he remembered when it was all fields round here and (contd. p94)

Elisabetta the Fair was not quite as venerable as George. In fact, she had arrived in the village long after the wise villagers had started telling people about their hope of building a new footpath. Despite that, she had spent many hours since then lovingly combing and tending one particular stretch of shit. She was proud that her shit was the best-tended in the whole village and was upset, nay, hysterical, that someone was going to build a proper footpath over it.

One last villager, Antonio - who nobody recognised but who seemed awfully self-assured - said he had a Magic Hovercraft which floated above the footpath and prevented him from falling in the shit. No-one quite understood how this worked and they didn’t think he was prepared to lend the Magic Hovercraft to anyone else, either. But he ranted on so long and so loudly that no-one else could hear themselves think anyway.

Eventually, the wise villagers grew downhearted, and sadly returned their footpath construction books to the library shelves. The books rest there still, unread and covered in cobwebs.

What the wise villagers hadn’t realised is that thousands of other settlers had come to hear them talk about the new footpath. But they were blocked from view, because Ulful and George and Antonio were continually jumping up and down in front of them, shouting all the while.

None of the thousands could get a word in edgeways, and they were sad about that, because they didn’t really like falling in the shit. They trooped back to their homes dejectedly, realising they were condemned to a life of falling in the shit.

Indeed, today, the villagers are still slipping over and falling into the shit. The hopes of the elders that the village might become a great city have come to naught. New villages were founded with proper footpaths, and they are the ones that have becoming thriving metropolises.

And no-one, to this day, has yet laid their eyes on Antonio’s Magic Hovercraft.

Nick - can we not have the conference in Amsterdam next year please - those drugs Matt gave me are taking a really long time to wear off.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Credit where credit’s due

One of the questions I am often asked is “Great Leader, how should I attribute OpenStreetMap on my iPhone app?”

My answer is of course that Cloudmade will be more than willing to take care of all your attribution worries for a modest monthly subscription to our tile service.

Unfortunately some guys at failing Web 1.0 properties are not smart enough to avail themselves of our service. So just for you guys, because I’m not Evil, I’m going to explain OSM attribution for you free gratis and for nothing.

The crucial point to remember is that our license requires you to credit everyone. Yes, every single contributor who has made a Substantial contribution to OSM.

Now the copyright bores on legal-talk will drone for England (Oxford usually) on what Substantial means. But it is actually really simple.

If you just move one street, or add a roundabout, or map a whole city which unfortunately happens to be in Germany, that clearly isn’t Substantial.

However if for example you establish a world-changing open mapping project, secure €2.6m in VC from genuinely nice guys, and spread the OSM gospel to the four corners of the world via a punishing flight schedule that would make even Ol' Ed blanch, then that is a Substantial contribution and you deserve credit, as well as a free holiday somewhere hot and a lifetime’s supply of designer eyewear.

Happily OSM only has a small number of such contributors, well one in fact, which makes attribution much easier. Let me give you some free examples.

A good example is the OSM signup email, the first thing any new mapper sees. This gets right to the point by mentioning the Substantial Contributor in 11 different languages. Turns out I’m the fundator, the grondlegger and in Germany, the Gründer. I may have to get Nick to check that last one out. I think the Germans might be taking the piss.

An example of how not to do it is ‘OpenStreetMap: die freie Weltkarte nutzenkatzenjammerhermanngoering’, a book by some Germans. This only mentions the Substantial Contributor in Appendix VII, on page 164, which is patently not “reasonable to the medium or means You are utilizing”. And even then it calls me an Erfinder. The bastards.

So now you know who to attribute, you just need to know how. Just copy and paste this handy logo into your iPhone app.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Your choice, baby

So some snotty-nosed punk from some unsuccessful geodata startup sneers at our data:

CEO Noam Bardin is wary of the OSMs licensing and would rather start from scratch.

Unfortunately CEO Noam Bardin is also about to have his ass kicked halfway to Palestine and back. Good luck on "doing our best to incorporate your feedback into the upcoming release", apparently there's still some Netscape engineers in a room somewhere in Mountain View who've been doing the same since 1997.

Our sales line is open 24 hours, Noam.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rails Disambiguation Guide For OSM Developers

So apparently the server weekend had some hiccups because the admin guys kept installing the wrong type of rails. Tsch, these devs, hey?

Even though it’s three years since I did any development I can still teach you whippersnappers a thing or two. Let me make it clear.

1. Rails (Servers)
Installation instructions are either missing or bear no relation to reality. Obscure configuration (weird lever, black catch). Regularly jam. Server works much better without them. Much less annoying solutions exist.

2. Rails (Ruby)
Installation instructions are either missing or bear no relation to reality. Obscure configuration (gems, environments). Regularly jams. Server works much better without it. Much less annoying solutions exist.

You see, no confusion at all. HTH.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Harry saves CloudMade

So you might have heard the news that we had to lay off our community ambassadors (you know, the guys we employ, not the ones in Kiev who actually pay for the privilege of working for me).

So I'm really sad about this. As you know, I'm all heart. But some of my 26 fellow CM executives are less cuddly and did the math on how many contributions our ambassadors were bringing in.

    300 new school mappers (thanks Sarah)
+ 250 OSMers energized by lol-tastic SOTM speech (thanks Dirk)
+ 1 super-productive super-happy SteveC (thanks Hurricane)
 - 58 bulk imports that would have been done by crschmidt (thanks Russ)

    Divide into 6,370,031km of highways
= US mapped in 238,764 years

So when I explained to the board that our US streetmap would now ship in AD 240772 rather than the previously promised 2010, they got a bit antsy.

Fortunately Harry - you know, the tall blonde guy from some place beginning with N, who isn't Andy - is going to save CloudMade. He's getting the community to go after those guys who leech OSM's tiles (like, the whole iPhone App Store) and hammer them for license infringement. So when Harry says:

There's a bunch of paid-for iPhone apps springing up which use our maps and our tile servers, and don't credit OpenStreetMap at all. Break out the red text for those kinds of things.

"Break out the red text" is kind of wikispeak for "get medieval on their ass". Think of it as crowd-sourced vigilanteism. And then our hardcore sales team moves in for the kill - every app that OSMers block from the tileserver is a new client for CloudMade. Epic win I think.

Occasionally Juha asks me why we don't just develop our own iPhone apps, so raking in the money while building our brand. I explain to him that the ecosystem is more important, and he nods sagely, deep in thought. It's a good job VC guys always take a long-term view.

Farewell community guys, we'll miss you. Much love. Namaste.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Meet & Greet

Having an awsome time at this year's SOTM, it's bigger brighter better faster than anything we had before! (Some wannabe national chapters claim they'll get 400 visitors for their first conference next year but that's rubbish of course.)

Speaking of Germany, I was taken aback by the EPIC FAIL that was the "State of Germany" talk yesterday - it completely failed to mention the most thrilling thing that happened to the Krautsourcing community in the last 12 months, which was clearly the meet & greet tour that me and my fian^Wemployee embarked on in May. The community just loved it, and basically requested that I post more on talk-de, which of course I did. One of my fan-crowd later sent me this picture and I really think it should have been in the presentation. Prepare for more of this in
the near future.

See you in the pub!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

OSMF Chairman Sweepstake

So as my three-year term as chairman comes to an end, let me give you a run-down of the leading contenders to not succeed me in this important role. It’s important to know who the lucky guy will be with the accolade of coming second in the ballot and you can bet there’ll be no other topic of conversation at SOTM. Well you can bet if you like. You haven’t seen what I’m announcing in my keynote yet.

While we’re on the subject, let me point out that the recent dramatic increase in OSMF membership in the Ukraine is because those guys are so enthused about mapping. Ballot-rigging just isn't in their nature, they know of nothing but free and fair elections. Anyway.

The candidates

Peter Miller. Almost certainly formulating a Use Case for chairmanship of OSMF as we speak. Would change O in OSM from Open to Ontology. Leadership posters to be pasted on bus stops across Britain. 6 to 1.

RichardF. Would impose socialist five-year plan on OSM. Likely to duplicate most OSMF positions, not intentionally but due to a bug in Potlatch. Liable to go postal if elected to Licence Working Group. 20 to 1.

Mike Collinson. Probably also a socialist. Never trust anyone with the PD symbol on their wiki page. Especially not:

Frederik. Thinks he can rely on the support of the German masses to assure him of the position, fortunately no longer the case thanks to our recent hearts and minds mission (in short: appeal to the hormones of 17-year old Linux freaks by sending over CM HOT BABES). 5 to 1.

Iván Sánchez Ortega. Knows his way around NMAs, smart on copyright, good coder, really nice guy. Would make an excellent OSMF chairman. Therefore, far too sane to ever consider standing. 200 to 1.

Andy Blackadder. Showing dangerous signs of independence recently. Appears to be allied with the insurrectionist Sustrans faction in OSM - what is it with those guys? Memo to Nick: throw some more mapping party work his way. 10 to 1.




Nick B. Why didn’t I see this one coming? Don’t the backroom brains behind the organisation always try to take over? What if our German expedition was secretly researching how best to organise a putsch? Shit.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This is starting to hack me off

So Nick wants feature requests for our products. I've got a request - fix the damn routing already. This is getting expensive.

Do these mapper guys not realise that Admiral Insurance don't accept "way 987345 and 8653425 were mistakenly joined without a layer tag" as a valid reason for driving your car into a river? Trust me, they don't.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Trolling, moi?

I'm deeply hurt by the suggestion that OSM people have been trolling the Google Mapmaker discussion group. You certainly wouldn't catch me doing something like that. Perhaps some other OSM users can help me in trolling^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H refuting the allegation.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New CEO appointed


So I’ve not blogged much recently but that’s because at CloudMade we’re doing moar stuff ftw than ever before (I must stop stretching these memes, it’s getting painful). Obviously it’s all super-secret stuff that I can’t tell the community about, but I figure the loyal readers of this blog are entitled to a preview. So:

  • Our editor is almost ready. Really. Having distracted RichardF with API 0.6, Frederik with ODbL, and the Merkaartor guys with Stefan de Konink, the three incumbents have been in feature stasis for months now which means we can blow them away with a mere flick of the toolbar. We’ve actually hired the People’s Map guys to write our editor - we wanted people who really understand the user experience. But more on that at Where 2.0.
  • Location is everywhere. It's all about pervasive geocontext. CloudMade is dedicated to pushing the boundaries so we have 30 people working on geocontext. We don’t actually know what it means yet but we’re determined that when someone invents it, we’ll be there first.
  • We don’t just aim to reinvent mapping. Oh no. We set our sights high and so we also have a plan to reinvent the Internet. The existing infrastructure is just not fast enough for the increasing demands of the 21st century (e.g. cycle-map tiles, Map Features page, long anguished e-mails about ODbL) so we need a speedier replacement. Our new Internet will solve this. All packets will be delivered by shaunmcdonald on his bike.
  • Midnight Commander is not just meant to look like the Matrix. It is the Matrix. It’s set up in my basement on a 40in plasma screen and I do have a five-year plan for world domination. “No, Mr Ramm, I expect you to die” - you know the drill.

But I realise that, even for someone like me who is able to be in three continents at the same time - oh did I mention we were working on that too? - this is a bit of a stretch. Take this posting for example - I set myself a deadline of midday for this and I’ll only just make it. I have to give something up.

Also some of our wonderful community has been muttering (in German) about conflict of interest, or as Google Translate has it, “blitzkrieg of hobby”. Personally I don’t agree but I'll let it pass in the interests of community cohesion - as you know shitting on active members of the community and telling them they're worthless has never been my style.

Also I need to take some time out to instil discipline in the troops, what with Matt and Andy promoting insurrection on legal-talk and ymca-discuss and who-knows-what about ODbL. The shtick to the investors that “we need ODbL because it gives us certainty” kind of wears off when our own super-intelligent techies keep posting that they don’t understand it.

So I’m stepping down as Chairman of OSMF at this year’s elections - my three years are up and I’ve decided not to seek reelection. Instead we’ve decided to replace the Chairman post with that of CEO - paid staff for OSMF is one of our top priorities and this is the obvious place to start.

Now you’d be A Fool if you did this without any succession planning so I’m pleased to announce our preferred candidate will be SFan00. Those of you who don’t read #osm might not be familiar with him but I’m sure you’ll find his enthusiastic style will ingratiate him with you immediately. Indeed Mr Fan is equally intelligible in every language so the German guys will love him right from the off. He even says “ftw” now and then although we think this is probably a spelling mistake for something else. It’s going to be an exciting time.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Future of Communications is Happening Here

I've been blogging about the cool things we're doing at CloudMade. (Our editor is almost ready. AS3 FTW!) But as the chairman of the board of OSMF, I am often asked: "Steve, what are the cool things in the OSMF pipeline? Any surprises in store for us on the community side?"

Now I can't of course share our full 5-year plan of world domination with you (Nick came up with the fashionable OSM 2014 tag for it) but a key pillar of this is going to be a radical communications revamp. You have already seen how we're gradually replacing mailing lists with telephone conferences. But there's more! I have heard your complaints about the Wiki and they are all true - the hardware is meagre, the software is crap, and the users, well, I've promised Nick not to throw the talk-de trouble makers any more bones. The good news is, we're going to replace the Wiki with a full-colour, monthly membership magazine that is delivered to your door, free of charge, courtesy of CloudMade sponsoring! I have three CloudMade designers working round the clock on this assignment and their beta results are awsome. You'll absolutely love the centrefold design they came up with. I'll let Nick be the editor-in-chief and he has promised me space for a monthly philosophy column.

And before the naysayers complain: There's absolutely no reason to be worried. We will carry at least half a page of letters to the editor. In each issue. Promise.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The CloudMade difference

Sometimes people ask me "Steve, what does CloudMade bring to the OpenStreetMap party that OSM can't do for itself?". And my answer is, hot babes.

The dude on the left is old-school OpenStreetMap. The hot babe is CloudMade. Being committed OSMers, they are of course both awsome and both have seriously awsome names, but only one of them looks like Richard Stallman.

(If you do know how to crowdsource hot babes, perhaps you could tell our product development team. We think it could be the killer app for the Slashdot crowd.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

How awsome am I?

So not many of you know that CloudMade also has an awsome data analysis team that works on future geo industry trends. I don't mind admitting I was once a bit of a n00b at all of this so when Nick told me "we need some serious geo intel", I started opening up our PCs and ripping out the AMDs.

But all that's changed and we now have dudes working on what's happening before it happens. I'm going to be announcing the first such product at our London launch event this evening but you lucky guys get to see it first.

So we like to start with big overview stuff, and this first product is a swingometer assessing the strength of the geo industry. Obviously I don't want to give away too much about the extreme analysis magic behind it but suffice it to say that if you're following the latest in SteveC goodness you'll already have read the source..... and it's FULLY compliant.

Hey--if you're reading this by RSS or planet openstreetmap you'll need to open the FSC blog for the full awsome swingometer effect.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Moar products!

[Nick - check with Matt or one of the Ukrainian cool kids I’m using the meme right - okay thanks bye!!!]

So our SF launch was amazing, check out the twitter buzz.

Very few technical hitches, considering. I did ask Andy Allen why the cycle route planner sent me on circuitous routes up mountains, over fences, down alleyways and along dirt tracks, but he informed me that Sustrans routes are meant to be like that, and furthermore could I please get back to pestering Mick Jagger’s PA as I was distracting him from some important blogging he had to do.

Anyway I’ll let the products speak for themselves.


CM routing is moar detailed than any other routing engine available! Imagine the arguments you can have with your girlfriend when she turns left after only 32m. (If you had a girlfriend.)

See the power of crowd-sourced map data! You wouldn't get results of this quality with Google.

Style editor

See what you can do with our style editor!

Geocoding and geosearch

CM search is the only product on the market that matches the awsome speed of the OSM namefinder!

Oh yeah.

Remember how Google announced nothing of significance at Where 2.0 but then dropped the bomb a month later? I’m just saying, is all.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

You'll need this

So it occurs to me that some of you following my world-changing presentation via satellite linkup might not understand how we work at CM.

Juha has approved that we release our organogram to the public. I think it makes it clear who does the real work.

CloudMade make blogs differently

YES YES YES it’s my big day YES YES YES



I’m SO psyched. I’m so FUCKING psyched. I am SO fucking hot right now.

Punchbag. Gimme that punchbag.

*thud* - Google
*thud* - Microsoft
*thud* - Yahoo [Hang on, don’t we like them? - Nick]

I rise above the haters. Today you see Steve Rampant, rising glorious from the flames, in excelsis mapso. I am revived. Maps course through my veins.

I think no longer about trivialities. Mails and Rails, patches, Potlatchs and dispatches.rb. All that is for the worker ants.

I can map using only my consciousness and my clearly expressed desire. One tweet and the world invisibly shapes itself around my will. I merely have to say the word MAPS and another city falls into line. MAPS. MAPS. You see. Oceans fall and mountains drift as SRTM voids shape reality. MAPS.

Tomorrow there are two realities, three realities, four realities all expressed through my Style Editor. Tomorrow the world routes itself through the highways, byways, roads and rails of my vision. Earth shall fall and Cloud shall envelop all the lands.