tommorris.org

Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.


Lazyweb request: OpenStreetMap offline mobile data editor

I have a rather obscure request.

I edit OpenStreetMap. It’s lots of fun.

There are a number of ways to edit OpenStreetMap. Firstly, there’s the traditional GPS trace method. You take a GPS device including a smartphone, and you build up traces of roads, footpaths and so on. This is very useful if you are adding new roads or footpaths that didn’t exist before. You drive or walk or cycle or hoverboard or whatever around a place and the GPS traces where you are. You then scribble down whether you are doing a road or a footpath or a cycle lane or whatever. Easy. I do this for adding footpaths.

Then there’s Walking Papers. This allows you to draw buildings quite well, but does require you to either scan or replicate what’s on the paper map back on to the computer.

There’s also photo mapping. Photo mapping is fun. You wander around, either with a GPS-enabled camera or a camera and a GPS tracer and take photos. You use photos as a way of establishing where buildings and points of interest are.

This is all good. But here’s something I want instead: a decent way of checking metadata.

The OpenStreetMap metadata format is, for the purposes of this exercise, a set of key-value pairings attached to a geographically locatable object. (It’s a bit more complex than that, but that doesn’t matter.)

A bar might be tagged with, say, name, amenity=bar, phone, postal_code, website, addr:housenumber and maybe some more exotic business specific metadata like smoking, real_ale, cuisine, minage (minimum age), gay etc. etc.

When you are out doing mapping, checking this kind of data is hard. What would be very useful would be an offline metadata display. Being able to see a list of nearby points of interest, laid out almost like a spreadsheet, with the ability to edit particular metadata. Then the ability to export all the changes you’ve made as a diff.

I’m not keen on building an application for this. Firstly because I’m just a web developer, secondly because I haven’t got time and thirdly because there isn’t really enough of a return for doing so. As in, it’s great for me and a few other dorks who like OSMing, but not really enough interest for anybody else.

Currently, my plan is to try and use Numbers on iOS, and build some infrastructure around it, so I can make it easy to quickly turn some OSM data into a spreadsheet, load it in, edit it, then get a CSV back out again somehow, do a diff on the data and turn the result into an OSM change set. The main thing is some kind of loosely structured data typing on a form that is wired into a data store. The loosely structured data typing means that, for instance, I can hint that minage is probably a number, and that real_ale is usually a yes/no boolean.

Does anyone have any bright ideas? Tweet or email.