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Getting Jiggy With OpenStreetMap

The OpenStreetMap U.S. Foundation held its annual State Of The Map (OSM) U.S. conference in San Francisco this past weekend, and Code for America was delighted to help and attend. Almost 400 participants in the globe-spanning, street-scale, wiki-style world map community converged on San Francisco for the largest OSM conference to date. We had visitors from South America, Africa, Asia, and Europe to talk about community projects, technology, and design. Core OSM project contributors including the UK-based project administration team, international foundation board members, and representatives of organizations and companies like Humanitarian OSM, Mapbox, and Esri were all there.

Code for America was closely involved in the conference in numerous ways. Many of our current 2013 fellows were in attendance sporting their CfA track jackets, and five current and former fellows presented. We even hosted the opening night party at our office.


Early at the pre-conference party at Code for America, photo by Justin R. Miller

CfA Fellows Reed Deucy-Gibbs (Team South Bend) and CJ Bryan (Team New York) presented on OpenUrban, a project to map the world as it could be. Their talk demonstrated OpenUrban’s community-driven collection of urban development plans and its goals for the future.

Sophia Parafina (Team San Mateo County) and Rich Gibson talked about their game project Street Name Fight, built on words which appear in the names of U.S. streets. For example, there are 11,472 streets with Washington in the name, compared with 8,581 for Lincoln. And three for Obama. Street Name Fight is a silly game to help with geographical literacy and the use of the OSM platform to support other games and toy interactions.

Ryan Closner (Team Las Vegas) showed off his recent work blending the Voxel JS, the open source voxel game building toolkit for modern web browsers created by 2011 CfA fellow Max Ogden. Ryan used OpenStreetMap and USGS data to prototype a 3D interactive world in the style of Minecraft to explore the idea of using OSM data to more accurately mirror our experience of interaction with urban spaces. Ryan was surprised by the amount of engagement from children 12 years and younger:

“Most questions in the Q&A session were prefaced by something like ‘my kids were streaming the talk from home, and they wanted to know…’ or ‘my son loves Minecraft, and he wanted to make sure that I asked…’ There were many times that I caught myself wondering how many of the adults sitting out in the crowd were anything more than mere proxies for some 10-year-old wishing she was listening to a talk about Minecraft instead of sitting through another day in math class.”

Aaron Ogle, a 2011 CfA fellow, joined the epic Saturday afternoon Vector Tile session to talk about walkshed.js, a project combining OSM data tiles and cost-distance calculations to visualize pedestrian access to locations in Philadelphia.

The conference was followed by a day of code sprints, and was an amazing opportunity to get some of the world’s best minds in open geographic data together in one place and get excited about new ideas and new opportunities to collaborate.

It's a crowd at State of the Map US

It’s a crowd at State of the Map US, photo by Justin R. Miller



Questions? Comments? Hit us up @codeforamerica.