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State of the Map: an idea got Big

Published in Conference, Neogeography, OpenStreetMap

State of the Map Logo

Later this week I’ll head back over to Europe for State of the Map (SOTM), the annual OpenStreetMap conference. Three days of talks, demonstrations, brainstorming, demos, and camaraderie. In fact, GeoCommons is a Sponsor again this year (all three years and counting) with a very exciting and interesting surprise on how we’re supporting the conference.

Of all the upcoming conferences (Open Gov Innovations, GeoWeb, FooCamp) I have to admit I think SOTM is the most exciting. All the conferences are about change – incredible advancements that have come about in the past few years – but State of the Map has gone from a nascent concept, even an activist movement against the complex, and onerous licensing requirments of geospatial data in the UK, to a global phenomenon that is being leveraged by individuals, companies, governments, and global NGO’s.

For verification, take a glance at the OSM statistics. Two years ago there were just 8,000 registered users, last year there were 40,000, and today there are more than 124,000 users! The “Year of Edits” video never fails to leave an audience speechless and amazed. The US WhiteHouse is using OpenStreetMap and projects like WikiProject Palestine Gaza show that OSM is the tool people now turn to in a time of crisis and for data.

On Sunday I’m giving a talk about how we’re using OpenStreetMap in GeoCommons and our private GeoIQ servers: “Enterprise and Government Visualisation Analytics using OpenStreetMap”. It’s just one example of many about the power open and crowd-sourced data has in supporting and growing businesses and serving customer and citizen needs. Other companies such as CloudMade, DevelopmentSeed, and itoWorld are also building out the ecosystem that is necessary for open, community projects to have a longevity.

There is an entire suite of tools that has been given form and purpose because of the huge amount of open data. Mapnik and other map rendering engines have data attributes to style; JOSM, Potlatch, and other vector editing tools are beginning to provide more compelling, and non-expert interfaces for modifying topological, geographic data; GPS export, data licensing, navigation and routing are more problems that have been explored and solved through the OpenStreetMap community.

So I’m excited about State of the Map because it means a result of thousands of individuals hard work and aspirations culminating in a meeting to celebrate what has been accomplished and also set goals to much higher, and diverse peaks. It’s proof that a crazy idea of people running around with GPS receivers can make a real impact.

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