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The Great and The Good

I only came across OpenStreetMap at the end of 2007 and was delighted to find that what I had fancifully imagined (along with hundreds of other people, no doubt) some three years earlier might one day exist had already appeared. The Great Steve Coast had not simply thought of it but had the drive/determination/ambition/ability/time to make it so. Not only that, but hundreds of The Good OSM mappers had already built up an enormous base of data to make OSM a truly useful map.


When I found The Map there was a great big hole around where I live with nothing in it - not even main roads. I had already written a mobile map app (PocketBritain) for mobile phones and quickly adapted it to allow me to create GPX tracklogs and start filling the gap. Since early 2008 I have been steadily adding ways and POIs in the triangle between Derby, Ashbourne and Wirksworth, Derbyshire. As the weather improves I will be mapping out into the Peak District and holiday destinations.

I track logs using my own software running on a mobile phone (currently a Sony Ericsson W880) linked to a cheap Bluetooth GPS receiver (with the catchy name of FGPXBT02 and, according to the manual, Trimble FirstGP innards). With the GPS on a loop, tucked under my jacket and my phone in my pocket both are protected from the weather and mapping is both automatic and inconspicuous.


I have developed a new application, mom (mobile open map) specifically to view OSM maps when out in the field (or street, obviously) and to save tracklogs for adding to The Map. The app has been tested in half-a-dozen countries on as many different phones by volunteer testers whose help has been invaluable and the first release version is now available for download at and there is a wiki page here mom.


As well as maps and programming I am interested in local history. I have been reading about and visiting the sites of old roads in my locality and would like to be able to add historic roads to OSM. My idea is to be able to tag features by date and navigate the map not only in the N/S/E/W directions but also in the timeline, so I could step through time in a particular area and see the route of a prehistoric track re-used as a Roman road, continue in use through the Middle Ages, get diverted as land is enclosed or away from new houses, be upgraded in its new route as a turnpike road, become disused as railways, new roads along valleys and motorways come along, and finally fade away to become no more than a footpath or parish boundary. A similar approach could apply to almost any type of map feature. Such a time-based map viewer (I'm calling it the HistoryMap) could be invaluable to local history societies, academics and hobbyists who wold, I'm sure, get drawn into contributing data and expanding OSM back in time. A similar approach could work in the opposite direction too, allowing proposed new motorways and the like to be viewed on the FutureMap. I am writing a draft proposal explaining my ideas in more detail and would welcome ideas and constructive criticism.