Ten years of OpenStreetMap contributions

Today I wish to talk about my participation to OpenStreetMap, a collaborative map of the world. I started mapping in 2008, borrowing one of my research group’s GPS devices, and taking notes on paper. This direct contact with maps led me to using computer-based GIS (geographic information systems) and later learning how to program. After university I didn’t map for a long time, except for a few fixes. A couple years ago I found a renewed interest in mapping, and have walked around the city with a printed Field Paper for systematic mapping, or StreetComplete for more casual, on-the-fly mapping. It’s amazing to see how the map needs constant grooming: a new shop opens, the opening hours of a museum are changed, there is a new cycleway in a nearby street, the bus schedule got updated… that’s why we will never be done mapping!

For OpenDataDay 2016 in Santiago, Chile they asked passers-by in a public square to put sticky notes over a big printed OpenStreetMap map. Read more on this OKFN blog post. Source: OSM Wiki

I also contribute indirectly to OSM as an editor of the weekly OSM news. Every week I get to read articles about mapping, city planning, research, software, mapping initiatives, geography in education, and more. I then write a short summary and link the source, and provide the French translation. I dedicate a couple hours a week on this task, and I feel enriched and motivated by all the activities of the OSM community all over the world.

Are you interested in knowing more about OSM? First, you can check how your surroundings look like on the map! Then you can find all information in the wiki, and find mappers around you who can guide you in your first steps. Or you can start with the weekly OSM news, by writing articles and/or proofreading them. For any question, feel free to contact me as well!


Cooking… and the universe

Wednesday has become the regular appointment with my “From the kitchen” posts. Today I have no recipe to share, or better, no good pictures of the recipes I wish to share (we were too fast eating them!).

I thought of what I could post about gastronomy… and remembered a quote of a Greek film where the uncle of the main character tells him that the word “gastronomy” includes the word “astronomy”… he showed him a connection between cooking and stars… I found it so inspiring that after 20 years I still remember it.

So here is my astronomy post, with my recent sources of information about the immense, black, mysterious universe around us.

First, ESA’s Picture of the Week that features breathtaking images such this one of NGC 278 in the constellation of Cassiopeia:

Then I present you the project GalaxyZoo, an online citizen science project, that offers everyone a simple tool to help classifying the immense number of galaxies detected by the world’s most powerful telescopes. Citizen science is a way of including non-specialists into actual science projects. I dislike how science is commonly left to specialists, when anyone with just a little patience, curiosity and love for precision can produce high-quality data for further analysis. This has been demonstrated by the many phases of GalaxyZoo, which allowed many scientists to publish papers based on these galaxy classification datasets; and by bird-watchers in many countries, who accurately recorded presence data on extensive areas, an effort that scientists could not imagine to attempt through regular sampling expeditions. It remembers me strongly of the collective mapping of OpenStreetMap. Of course a single contributor makes mistakes, but the strength of this model is in the many eyes that cross-check contributions and improve the dataset every day. And as a former (or dormant?) scientist myself, I know that specialists are not immune to errors either – and that’s why they resort to peer review and collaboration. See the timeline of ceratopsian research – even only the pictures – to see how many attempts were made, how many times some data have been reinterpreted, how many hypoteses have been remodeled and thrashed to come to our present understanding of these dinosaurs. But I am stuffing too many topics in this post! I will expand them in future posts.

Until then, I wish you all a relaxing and cheerful festive season, wherever you are all around the world!