Interview: the State of OpenStreetMap in Mercia
7 Mar 2015
Today we speak with Brian Prangle, one of the people behind one of the oldest OpenStreetMap regional groupings: Mappa Mercia.
1. Who are you and what do you do? What got you into OpenStreetMap?
My username is brianboru. I’ve lived in Birmingham for 30 years, moving here in the 1980s to work in the University of Birmingham having worked in IT and now retired. By the time I retired, even though the money was good I was very disenchanted with the world of corporate IT, so OSM was a perfect vehicle for exploration, exercise, learning new technical skills and above all co-operating with like-minded individuals on a global scale.
2. What would you say is the current state of OSM and the OSM community in Mercia? Why do we need an effort specifically to map Mercia?
Firstly, Mercia is the historic Saxon kingdom roughly extending over the current West Midlands, so doesn’t have an official existence. We just like the name. OSM as a map in the region is in a good shape, with fillout of buildings, addresses and landuse well ahead. We’re also pretty good at keeping on top of change (well at the least the major developments). The community works well together and meets regularly with half the year ( the warm bit) devoted to mini-mapping parties. We just need a bigger community, We’ve recently stared joint meeting with OSMers in the East Midlands. We have our own website
Birmingham is currently the largest local authority in Europe and is set to expand as Greater Birmingham, so it would be great to have it as one of the best-mapped areas.
3. What are the unique challenges and pleasures of OpenStreetMap in Mercia? What aspects of the projects should the rest of the world be aware of?
The pleasure is the sheer variety of stuff to map: we’re at the centre of transport networks (canals, motorways and railways), loads of heritage sites and artefacts, and a variety of landuses. One challenge is the density of stuff to map: much of it is industrial, run-down or derelict and most mappers given the choice prefer the scenic stuff. Another challenge is getting local organisations to take any notice- there are one or two exceptions however.
4. What is the best way to get involved? Are you looking for remote support or trying to get locals as your primary mappers?
Follow our blog to see what we’re up to, or join talk-gb-westmidlands and come along to one of our meetings or mapping excursions. If you want to help remotely our biggest challenge is tracing buildings from aerial imagery. But we’re really looking for local mappers, especially for the Black Country.
5. What steps could the global OpenStreetMap community take to help support OSM in Mercia specifically ?
Use our data as a sample for analysis and testing tools - we like to think we’ve got a pretty complete set of most things (and are happy to be prove wrong!)
Helps us complete the tracing of building outlines
Whenever you visit Birmingham take some time out of your schedule to add some addresses.
6. OSM recently celebrated its 10th birthday, where do you think the project will be in 10 years time, both globally and in Mercia specifically?
I’d like to think we’ve completed the acquisition of base data and can move on to involve specialist communities adding data of interest to them. OSM should be the default map for online use.
Locally I’d like to think we have sufficient density of mappers to spot change as it happens and move towards to a real-time map.
Many thanks Brian for the answers and everyone for their efforts in Mercia. If you’re interested in learning more, follow @mappamercia on twitter. Thanks again to Brimingham for hosting us for SotM in 2013.
You can see all the Open Geo interviews here. If you are or know of someone we should interview, please get in touch, we’re always looking to promote people doing interesting things with open geo data.