Getting started with OpenStreetMaps

Open Street Map – if you’re going to edit it, you should look at it first!

Much of the power in it is in the layers you can add over the top, visualising various sets of information. You can also add background layers – like arial imagery from Bing.

To edit it, you need to create an account. Then? You needy to both do the surveying and add it into the system. Some people take notes and sketches, some people use apps.

Once you’re logged in, you can draw features on the map – and assign values to them, with the in-browser interface suggesting appropriate tagging. Smaller features – like benches – can be assigned using a point tool. Complex shapes can be created via a multi-polygon tool.

There’s a huge variety of tags you can use to add information – including the older name for a property, for example, or the multi-lingual name (useful here in Scotland). The OpenStreetMap Wiki is a great sources of information about tagging, beyond the obvious auto-suggestions.

You’re not restricted to ground level features, either, you can “dig” down to underground features. And you can map within buildings, or create 3D models of the buildings at a simple level.

If you’re already collecting this data – why not add it to OpenStreetMap? You can use it, but it’s available for others as well.

JOSM is an open source Java-based editor for Open Street Map, which can be useful if you’re familiar with GIS tools.

An hour is a good length of time to do practical research, especially with new recruits, and then bring them back into the room to upload the information.


How do you deal with a destructive change to an environment?

The rule is that what’s on the ground is true. So, you’d delete the building and mark the area as brownfield.

Could OpenStreetMap mapping be used by emergency services?

An example: post-Grenfell, many authorities had a hard time locating the buildings over a certain height. There are some rural building not mapped on OS or Google. Yes – it depends on how extensively mapped an area has been. Sometimes during crisis events – like hurricanes – there’s a global effort to map the affected areas from satellite imagery to give a useful mapping resource to the first responders. The same people can then work from updated maps to identify the most damaged areas.

[Session Notes]