First OSM PLUS Sponsors!

I’m excited to welcome esri, mapzen, Telenav and Urban Mapping to OSM PLUS this year. Each has deep perspective on using OSM data in the real world, with real customers.

Come to OSM PLUS to hear from these and other speakers, their use of OSM data and how we can solve the business challenges together.

For a limited time, use the code “PLUS40″ to book your ticket and receive a 40% discount.


Telenav OSM Contest Winner Announced; New Contest Begins Today

As you might have seen, Telenav kicked off its first OSM editing contest last month and I’m excited to announce that the contest was a great success, with nearly 190K edits made over the course of the month. I’m also happy to announce that “bdiscoe” is the winner of the contest (with 145,713 points/47,563 edits total) and is now a proud owner of a brand new tablet. Congratulations, bdiscoe!

Thank you to all of the editors who participated in our first contest. If you didn’t win this time, we would like to give you another chance …

We’re now announcing a new contest, which kicks off tomorrow (March 12) at 9am PT and will run until 11:59pm PT on April 11. We will announce the winners at the State of the Map conference in Washington D.C.

This time, the prize will be much bigger! We are going to give away round-trip airfare, lodging, and admission for the winner to either the (1) State of the Map Conference EU in Karlsruhe, Germany, June 13- 15, 2014 or (2) State of the Map 2014 Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, November 7-9, 2014 (up to $2,500 value and the winner can decide which event he or she would like to attend). At the end of the contest, we will also randomly select another winner from the rest of the participants who will win a new iPad or Galaxy Note (their choice).

For this contest, we will be requiring editors to use MapRoulette and please note that you will still need to sign up on our contest page in order to register for the contest. Registration and all contest details will be available on this page beginning tomorrow morning.

Thank you again to all participants! We look forward to another successful contest. See you at SOTM US in DC!



OSM PLUS logoOSM PLUS is returning in 2014 after a super successful event in 2013 with 80 attendees discussing how to use OSM to solve business problems, sharing solutions and discussing the common issues that we face leveraging OSM data.

The event will be directly after the State of the Map (the awesome community-focused event), on the 14th of April in Washington, DC. Tickets are available now.

This year we will focus on discussion points and panels, bringing together the spectrum of users of OSM data to jointly figure out how to manage quality, fix the holes and efficiently leverage OSM while remaining respectful of the licensing issues that surround the project.

Why attend the OpenStreetMap Professional Large User Summit?

You’re professional. Professional users of OSM have different priorities to the Free and Open communities. You have expectations to meet and deadlines to make. You need a degree of certainty. Join us April 14th to learn how OSM can support professional use cases. Learn how others use it today in professional settings and discuss the future of OSM in your world.

You’re focused. You appreciate the community’s Open Data mission, but you need answers and facts. OSM PLUS is a forum for a select group of professional users to come together. It is a space for professionals to have open conversations about how to move the state of the art forward in open mapping. Space is limited!

You’re not alone. People like you will attend. Professional users of OSM data and tools are now everywhere. They have similar concerns, similar questions and a similar mindset. Come and meet them. Find out what they’re doing and look for areas of collaboration.


The Book of OSM

bookI’m tempted to celebrate OpenStreetMap’s first decade with a book about how it came to be.

Not a book about how to add a footpath or use the tools, but the history & design of the project. How did mapping parties start? Why does the data structure look like it does? How did the SotM conference start? What was it like commercializing the project? How the ODbL came to be and the Foundation evolved to where it is now…

You can sign up to learn more.


Ukrainian Maps (and the lies they tell)

In a moment of curiosity I wandered over to bing maps to look at the Ukraine:

Bing Maps of Crimea

Bing Maps of Crimea

I noticed that the BBC’s map is very different to the above:

BBC Map of Crimea

BBC Map of Crimea

Notice that the BBC make out the Crimea to be some sort of large land mass extending in to the Black Sea, whereas Bing show it to be essentially a big island with a couple of major bridges. In one of them, it looks like Russia is taking control of a chunk of country, in the other it looks like they’re taking control of an island. The implications are very different, in that an island is much easier to control and defend.

It’s interesting to consider that these are at best maps of political boundaries yet the geography behind them is what’s actually important for military action. Thus as presented by the BBC and CNN, it’s easy to misinterpret the political boundary for actual landmass.

I’ve been following the BBC’s version of events which turns out to be questionable. Like every source it has a bunch of biases, and some cursory looking around the web will show that the Ukraine has threatened to drop Russia’s Black Sea fleet a few times. I’m no fan of Russian government, but if your neighbor goes unstable and threatens your ~23,000 personnel, 50 ships and a major military base… It shouldn’t be too surprising if they do something about it (which is not to say what’s happening is the best thing to do). This isn’t mentioned much by the BBC.

Of course, the BBC aren’t alone. Here’s CNN’s version:

CNN's map of Crimea

CNN’s map of Crimea

Al Jazeera similarly paint a peninsular story. Possibly the least biased we’ll find will be satellite/aerial imagery. Here’s Googles:

Google's satellite map of Crimea

Google’s satellite map of Crimea

The aerial tells another story, not quite island, not quite peninsular with more crossing points. Sadly there isn’t much streetview availability at the border/choke points between the north and south. Flickr’s map is equally lacking in content, otherwise it might be nice to find some pictures of what these bridges actually look like.

The lesson appears to be not to trust major news outlets for their maps, but to go verify things for yourself.

Map Comparison Tool

Map Comparison Tool

If you want to explore more, try geofabrik’s map comparison tool. Notice at the bottom that even the aerial imagery (Bing on the left, Google on the right) can tell a very different story. The depiction of shallow waters are very different between the two, and Google’s brown blob (top middle of the bottom right image) can lead you to thinking it’s easy to walk across the whole thing. In contrast, notice how Bing makes a much clearer land/sea divide with the dark blue and deeper greens.

Which map is best? That’s up to you.



Telenav OSM Editing Contest Update (We’re Halfway There!)

Earlier this month, Telenav launched its first OSM editing contest and I’m excited to say that many of you jumped on it and are actively editing your way to the chance at a new tablet.

So far, our contest has led to more than 86,000 qualified edits! In just two weeks, that is pretty admirable. Thank you to all of you who have participated to date!

It’s not too late to sign up and have a chance at winning! Even if you sign up now, we will factor in edits that you have made since February 11 (start of the contest), so please head over to the website and register.

Here is the list of the Top 20 editors so far:

  1. bdiscoe    38102
  2. ada_s    31126
  3. ingalls    29998
  4. jonesydesign    21817
  5. rickmastfan67    16699
  6. Your Village Maps    16098
  7. pkoby    11388
  8. wvdp    11165
  9. Natfoot    8529
  10. bbmiller    8418
  11. hno2    7914
  12. Dr Kludge    6474
  13. asciiphil    6154
  14. jwagenet    6018
  15. andrewpmk    5407
  16. RoadGeek_MD99    5180
  17. Data411    3635
  18. Peter Dobratz    3301
  19. Ahlzen    3222
  20. dchiles    2914

I’d love to hear your feedback on what type of prizes would interest you for future contests, please email me with suggestions.


Telenav giving away iPad Mini or Galaxy Note to Editor with the Most Edits Made By March 10


As many of you probably know, I’m heading up OSM initiatives over at Telenav, the Bay Area-company that develops GPS navigation apps like Scout.

For three years, Telenav has been dedicated to helping the community through map updates. Today, we’ve kicked off a contest to see if we can help drive even more edits over the next 30 days. Anyone can win and it’s pretty easy to enter.

All you need to do is sign up here to register for the contest and make as many quality edits as you can by the end of March 10th!

We’re asking that editors focus on the U.S. and to make edits either through or Battle Grid. We have created a point system for edits and the person with the most points between now and March 10 will win either an iPad Mini or a Samsung Galaxy Note (your choice!).

Good luck and happy editing!


How to Build a Billion Dollar Software Business

Over the years I’ve used a variety of devices and come to the conclusion that you can approximate how successful they are in the market with two of their features. That’s it, just two. Device manufacturers spend a lot of time copying each other but it really comes down to:

  1. Does it turn on?
  2. Does email work?

If you can do these two things, you’ll make a billion dollars.

It might sound like most computers, phones and tablets are capable of this. But no, they aren’t. Most devices die pretty quickly and even today most aren’t capable of talking to an Exchange server or have a unified inbox.

Let’s start with the most disappointing.


The latest Ubuntu 13.10 wouldn’t even install on the ASUS laptop I have (which is a year or two old). After half an hour playing with BIOS settings I gave up and downloaded 14.04 pre-release. That installed, but something called “compiz” sat using 100% CPU and draining the battery. Using a decade’s worth of experience, I fixed that. Neither Thunderbird or Evolution email clients will talk to Exchange out of the box, but there is a variety of contradictory documentation on the web about how you might one day get that to work. When you send an email in Thunderbird it sits there with a server communication dialog rather than getting out of the way and sending in the background. Upon closing the laptop and reopening it, it crashes and sends a bug report to Canonical (the makers of Ubuntu).

Does it turn on? No. Does email work? No.

Surface & Laptop Windows 8.1

Same laptop as above, installs fine. Updates itself. Can turn on and off and even hold battery charge when closed. Modern email client looks great but for some bizarre reason doesn’t have a unified inbox. Surface dies within days of sitting on a table top.

Does it turn on? Sort of. Does email work? Close, but, no.

Nexus 7 with Android Rainbow Sandwich (or, whatever)

The battery dies within a few days of leaving it idle on a table. No unified inbox I could figure out, pushes gmail on you.

Does it turn on? No. Does email work? No.

Kindle Fire HDX

Battery life is better than the Nexus 7 but still dies quickly. Unified inbox! Exchange works out of the box! But, for some reason, the email client keeps switching away from unified and in to each individual inbox when you tap on email. Maddeningly, you have to keep going back to the unified inbox to see all mail. Amazon have done a great job with this, but it’s just not quite there.

Does it turn on? Almost! Does email work? Almost!


You can leave the iPad for weeks and it will still have some charge. Unified inbox works smoothly and Exchange works great. If you have 10 email accounts and you’re offline the thing will spam you with (at least) 10 dialog boxes saying it can’t connect to your email servers. My Powerbook is just as good.

Does it turn on? Yes. Does email work? Yes.


The worth of computers and tablets really comes down to their ability to help you communicate. To be able to do that, it has to be able to turn on. Email is the primary way we communicate today and it has to work flawlessly. Few people are down to one email account and Exchange is the best-selling (and only, really) email server you can buy. If it can’t do unified inbox and Exchange, it doesn’t work.

Amazon and Microsoft come very close to getting there. Amazon’s customer focus shines through on the HDX and is a hair away from having a device which works. Modern Mail on Win8 is similarly close but probably self-restricted to make sure it doesn’t compete with some feature or other in Outlook.

Why am I willing to pay two or three times as much as those devices for an iPad or a MacBook? It’s not for Pages. Office is great, OpenOffice is acceptable. It’s not because it’s shiny; there are shiny Ultrabook PCs now. It’s not because the iPad is a great piece of hardware; the Dell Venue 8 is a very comparable tablet.

It’s because they turn on, and because email works. All the UI stuff, the APIs, the app stores, the marketing budgets… All that stuff it secondary or tertiary and I’m back to my MacBook and iOS devices.


It’s Time to Make OpenStreetMap Your Only Street Map

Today at Telenav we’ve announced that we have acquired skobbler – an OpenStreetMap (OSM) navigation company based in Germany – for approximately $24 million. skobbler brings a super popular OSM navigation app and 80+ employees in Europe to Telenav, expanding our reach globally across many of our products, services and offices.

In case you aren’t familiar with it, OpenStreetMap is the worldwide wiki-map that anyone can edit. When I founded OSM nearly a decade ago, my vision was to create a map everyone could use and contribute to. No strings attached. I created OSM as a non-profit community project – no one owns it and none of the community members make money from editing it. It is built and managed by people just like you, updating their neighborhood maps from their phones and computers.

Current OSM map vs. Google Map of Sochi, Russia  where the 2014 Olympic Games begin on Feb. 7 (Thanks to Alastair Coote)

Current OSM map vs. Google Map of Sochi, Russia where the 2014 Olympic Games begin on Feb. 7
(Thanks to Alastair Coote)

Have others tried their hand at crowd-sourcing map data as well? Absolutely. Waze and Google – or, just Google now – provide similar mechanisms to improve their maps, based mostly on OSM’s innovations. With one big catch. It is very much their map. Not yours. (Just ask the developers who pay a lot of money to use it.)

OpenStreetMap is different. All of the quality data contributed is openly available – just like Wikipedia. So, anyone can download, experiment and play with it freely. It’s not locked up beyond your reach.

OSM is one of the world’s most active open and crowd-sourced projects with over 1.5 million registered editors (a number that has been doubling every year). It has grown exponentially faster than I could have ever imagined ten years ago. In fact, it has been a fantastic display map (map you can look at) for some time, mapped right down to trees and footpaths. We’ve seen many uses of OSM in that context, from mere pretty artifacts to stimulating visualizations. The quality of the map data has evolved so much that, in the past couple of years, developers like Foursquare, Pinterest and Uber have integrated OSM as a display map into their products (most likely as a way to get access to a more detailed map and to avoid those costly fees from Google).

Mountain terrain in Sochi, Russia where skiers and other athletes will compete.

Mountain terrain in Sochi, Russia where skiers and other athletes will compete.

Today, OSM is a repository of quality map data, with more coming in than going out. I want to change that. Now it is time to leapfrog the simple design use cases – the economically efficient background usage of the map. It’s time to take OSM and harness it for everyday navigation. That’s where the users are and where we can really make difference.

I’d like it to get OSM to seven billion contributors in the next year or two. The only real way to get there is to allow a significant amount of consumers to get their hands on the map. I want more mobile users to have the chance to navigate with it and provide feedback as they go. This feedback can be implicit in their GPS trails, or explicit in their feedback to us as they tell us where the map needs improvement.

Turn-by-turn navigation on our phones is the way most people in the world use maps today, and it takes incredible effort and work from companies like Telenav and skobbler to mold OSM in to something a consumer will get a thrill from using. That’s what we’re focused on: getting OSM in to the hands of the everyday person, so that it’s part of our daily lives.

While Wikipedia proved the crowd sourcing model, OpenStreetMap is about taking it to the next level, switching it into warp drive, turning up the volume, pressing ‘play’ and not looking back. Now it’s about closing the loop. It’s no longer about taking OSM data, filtering and massaging it in to a simple map to put pins on top of. It’s about solving real problems for users – how to get somewhere – and providing them with a great experience that they are inherently a part of, by fixing the map as they go. To make this work smoothly requires tremendous engineering effort, orders of magnitude beyond providing display maps. We, at Telenav, have taken on that challenge and I am personally extremely excited to be a part of the team that is going to make it happen.

For nearly ten years, OSM has had potential for developers and consumers, let’s switch it up and give it potential because of developers and consumers. While others have spent billions of dollars building unsustainable maps based on your contributions, OSM is free, easy and available to all.

The project is ready for you. Here is how you can contribute:

…and watch for OSM data and services coming to Scout, our award-winning consumer navigation offering, very soon.

It is time to make the switch: make OpenStreetMap your only street map.


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