FROM: Michael Galvin

What NEED does this meet?
A local A-Z. You can use standard maps to find a city, but then if you’re looking for a bus station, restaurant, hospital, place of business etc, you're usually stopping the car and asking the toothless yokel sitting at the bus stop, who may or may not understand what you're looking for.

What is the APPROACH?
Would all be natural directions (not “proceed down road for 45 metres, take penultimate left”, but more “go past the Woolies and the Ladbrokes and on the right, you’ll see some graffiti – take a right there”). Created by local people, either on request or as default for major attractions (for example, I’m visiting Bournemouth next week, I’m staying at the Luxor hotel, how do I get to the dog track?”)

Most routes would attempt to go through at least one other major attraction, so that they can be reused, for example, if someone has already put together a route map from the bus station to the dog track and happened to pass the Luxor hotel on the way, the requisite portion of the route could be shown instead of requesting a brand new one

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Obviously, it's the help given to visitors to your town.

What is the COMPETITION?
Competition would probably be the toothless yokel :) is only a step away.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Not very. A small number of moderators would be required to gather and enter data to begin with (say 1 for most major cities) and to then subsequently review and moderate the data that is being written by visitors.

The most difficult part will be the natural language part (where dog track = greyhound track = dog racing = racing = the dogs, etc). But this will develop and improve as the site grows.

The site should quite easily be set up in a way that it could make money: Tourist offices could come on board as partners, local businesses could pay to have their offices inserted into routes ("go past PJ O'Denis solicitors")

November 4, 2003 in Geographic, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Open, annotated mapping

FROM: Chris Lightfoot

What NEED does this meet?
Many of the other proposals here rely on the availability of high-quality mapping data and supporting applications. Unfortunately collecting this data in a distributed, "open source" fashion would be an enormous undertaking and a duplication of effort; it's not clear how good the results would be, either. Licensing it is expensive, especially for a small project. Of the twenty most recent proposals I can see now, something like a quarter have some GIS component.

My idea is to set up a mapping site (like multimap or streetmap) with the same high-quality mapping data, and an open interface to allow other users to overlay their own data (abandoned cars, volunteers, locations of meetings, houses for sale, whatever) on the site. Obviously this needs funding to license the Ordnance Survey's data -- and their willingness to grant a license on reasonable terms -- but the actual implementation of the site should be pretty easy.

What is the APPROACH?
Either set up a new site to implement a simple API for adding/removing/searching very simple map overlays onto licensed mapping data, or negotiate with an existing provider to add this service. The license would have to allow the uses to which we're putting it, and preferably some degree of republication on other projects' sites.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
It would enable many other useful projects which depend on this sort of simple GIS data, avoid duplication of effort and make possible projects for which the expense of licensing mapping data would be prohibitive.

What is the COMPETITION?
Multimap, Streetmap, etc. offer the mapping data (through a crummy user interface festooned with advertisements...), but no way to exploit the data for third-party projects. Ordnance Survey have the "Get A Map" service which will license small amounts of mapping data for use on other web pages, but the conditions of use are restrictive and you can only re-use data covering small areas. Professional GIS packages like Arc/INFO are expensive and not appropriate for small volunteer projects.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The most significant ongoing costs are licensing the map data and running the physical service -- in particular, serving map images is likely to be bandwidth-intensive. (These costs could be offset by geographically-directed advertising, and perhaps by charging a subscription to the other projects putting overlays on the map, though obviously the point is to make this charge as small possible: preferably zero for most users.) Implementation of the database and overlay API is pretty easy, probably a week's work.

November 3, 2003 in Geographic, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (13)

The World At A Glance

FROM: Brad Evans

What NEED does this meet?
This idea serves the general well being of the Earth. It is a way of keeping all informed of the state of the world's violence, environmental degredation, disease and human inequities. A focus point for discussion and hopefully action.

What is the APPROACH?
A website displays the globe divided into 10 km square blocks. This globe is searcheable, magnifiable and spinnable. Each block has colours and/or symbols indicating it's state based on information from various concerned groups.

First there would be an indicator of violence as it applies to the local population of each block. Are the inhabitants in danger of immediate violence from war, civil unrest or perhaps their own government and police force?

Then there would be an indication on how human needs are being met. Is there sufficient availability of drinkable water, food and medicines?

Then an environmental indicator would attest to the safety of the environment for human beings. Factors such as pollution, old landmines and/or some other local danger.

Once immediate humman needs are expressed by indicators, then we can move on and have indicators expressing political freedom, average affluence and longevity.

And after human needs are expressed then there would be indicators of the quality of the land, environmental degradation and the effects of overpopulation.

Administered well, the World At A Glance would contain unbiased, up to date information for all to see.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
All the above information is available in some for or other, but I feel that it needs to be compiled into one easy to read and understand situation map. The World At A Glance will remind people that things are not well outside of their own sphere. It will help groups and governments decide where resources and efforts need to be directed.

Some governments may be embarrased into addressing the troubles in their countries. Many school children around the world will seek to change all the indicators on the World At A Glance to the best values.

What is the COMPETITION?
I'm sure that some governments and some think tanks have situation maps of the world. There are situation maps for certain commodities.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The technical expertise of building this would come from the open source community. That part would be free. Most of the effort would be in coordinating and rating the information and its sources.

A templates of factors and scales would have to be devised with the help of experts. That fact that these experts would be people who have devoted their lives to addressing human need, would mean that they would be probably be willing to participate freely.

I think a line from the movie 'Field of Dreams' can describe how people might be attracted to this project .. "If you build it, they will come".

November 2, 2003 in Environmental, Geographic, Use of Statistics | Permalink | Comments (3)

Free Local Knowlege

FROM: Martyn OConnor

What NEED does this meet?
How do you know whether the hotel you book or the place you want to visit is really the best for you? How do you know which is the quickest route from one place to another in an unusual town?

What is the APPROACH?
Have local people who are willing to share their knowledge sign up on a postcode basis and anyone can put a query to the area they are interested in so that real people can then reply offering real, up to date human assistance and experience.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
There's no going somewhere and thinking "Next time I'd avoid this..."

What is the COMPETITION?
Not that I know of

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Not particulary. I could probably build something myself in php and mysql with some time to think about it.

October 31, 2003 in Connecting People, Geographic, Increasing Awareness, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (3)

UK Open Mapping

FROM: Ben Daglish

What NEED does this meet?
A big bugbear in the UK GIS community is the fact that the Ordnance Survey (the main source of accurate UK map data) holds and enforces copyright to all its products (although it's paid for by our taxes...). Even if you just want a simple "our location" map on your website (or business card, or party invitation), you have to either pay somebody for the privilege, or go out and survey it yourself. I'm proposing an attempt to put together a high-resolution alternative source of UK data, open to all. As a side effect, other data (postcodes, road names, routes etc.) could also be collated and made available.

What is the APPROACH?
The basic plan is a collaborative site. As GPS systems grow more common (in-car, mobile phones etc.), it is hoped that most streets in the UK could be mapped by their residents - stand at one end, note the co-ordinates, walk to the other end, do the same, then come home and type them in. Schools etc.could become involved, surveying and mapping their own immediate areas. Going out for a drive? Keep the kids from getting bored by having them note down road names and co-ordinates.
A good starting point (to 'seed' the DB) would be the Digital Chart of the World data. This, although low-res, contains much of the basic information (major roads / towns etc) needed to 'marshal' the collected data.
Pre-copyright (> 50 years) OS maps, if hunted down, could also be used for starting-off purposes - although most major cities mapping will obviously have changed greatly, many more remote places may still be exactly the same, and terrain details should, in many cases, be exactly the same.

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Free (today the UK - tomorrow the World!) maps for all - created by the people, for the people :)

What is the COMPETITION?
Nothing I know of. There are a few online pre-copyright OS maps (often for model railway enthusiasts!), but nothing with this scale, and certainly not collaborative.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
Not much :) As a Perl/DB/Web guy myself, I reckon that it'd take 3-4 months to build - certainly by that time it should be ready to receive data, cross reference for accuracy and produce basic maps. As to how long it'd take to 'finish'...well, we all know how intangible *that* is :) This obviously would be an ongoing project, but once the basic mechanism is there, it should be 'self-running' - further work would simply be in enhancement of presentation,efficiency etc.

October 31, 2003 in Geographic, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (14)

collaborative cartography system

FROM: Chris Heathcote

What NEED does this meet?
Many projects based on real communities (and real life) need good high-quality geographic information. In the UK, this data is only available at a very high price through a few companies (notably the Ordanance Survey, Consignia). This takes mapping and geographical data out of the reach of many small community and non-profit projects.

Several of the project ideas already mentioned on mysociety require a good base map and additional data collection/local participation (e.g. CCTV map, Eyesore - and others such as My proposal is to build an extensible system that not only is a useful resource in itself, but acts as an enabler for many other projects, giving open free access to the data collected to other suitable organisations. So, the participants are people who want to engage between their environment and the collaborative system, but the real beneficiaries are the many projects that can benefit from such mapping and geographic information.

What is the APPROACH?
Collaborative cartography requires a structure to organise activity, prevent duplication and cross-check data quality.

I have outlined initial thoughts, on how to handle the scale of the problem, potential enabling projects, and participant organisation at .

Whilst this mainly talks about London, now is the time to think about ways to extend and plan the system to support anywhere where there are enough interested citizens to make it work.

Several other people have been thinging about collaborative cartography: (with a specific mention for Jo Walsh, who has created several projects that start looking at this problem - )

What are the BENEFITS to people?
The benefit is subtle but with huge implications. Geographically-organised campaigns become trivial to start. Civic projects become location aware, and more user centric. Projects that could not even be considered due to cost implications can now be started. Good geographic information is a key enabler for true social software - projects that talk about your local society and let you engage with it on a completely equal footing.

What is the COMPETITION?
The biggest competition would be if the OS waved their magic wand and released a subset of their data under a free-for-non-profit licence. Any data like this would be rolled into (and benefit) the system. The system is more than just geopgraphy, as the participants will also be collecting other useful data, such as streetfront photos, wi-fi access points, mobile phone cell IDs, and any other social information that would be useful for a project.

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
The hard bit is creating the database and front-end system, and keeping interest alive (until the community has enough momentum to carry on regardless).

Some people have created some exploratory code to test some of the programmatic concepts: .

It would be worthwhile doing research into how others use the free geopgraphical information available (such as in the US - wi-fi mapping and planning, MYC cell phone quality map), how to make it more useful, and what input and output mechanisms would benefit such projects.

There's nothing that hard in the system, but there's quite a lot of it, and potentially a lot of data to store and search.

From a participant point of view, we could conscript contributors from projects that would benefit from this information (such as to beta and seed the project.

October 31, 2003 in Geographic, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (26)

Smart Directions

FROM: benjymous

What NEED does this meet?
Everybody who's had to rely on online map/directions sites know that often they create utterly useless directions such as "at the roundabout turn onto the A123", when there are two A123 exits or "on the B1234 take a left turn onto Fox Street" (so you end up driving slowly peering at every street sign hoping it'll be your turn)

What is the APPROACH?
Instead, use directions written by people. You know how to get from the motorway to your street, so you can write directions that a human can follow

"At the roundabout take the 3rd exit (there's a chipshop just before it) onto the A123 You should pass a big mobile phone warehouse then go under a railway bridge soon after the bridge, opposite the post office, take a left turn onto fox street"

Once the database is filled up with snippets of directions, the code would be able to string these together into longer journeys (and of course there'd be some kind of moderation system to make sure directions make sense)

What are the BENEFITS to people?
Nobody likes getting lost in a town they don't know, and often when we rely on machine-generated directions they can just get us more and more lost

What is the COMPETITION?
All the other mapping services I know of just let a computer generate the route and give a disclaimer that you should check it for validity yourself (which is fine if you know the town your driving in)

Giving nicely written understanable directions would make everyone's lives easier

What BUDGET & LOGISTICS are required?
I biggest hurdle would be actually joining the snippets of directions together into single routes. Access to existing map databases (or postcode/location databases) would be beneficial

October 31, 2003 in Geographic, Transport, User Created Content | Permalink | Comments (2)