Sep 222011

Earlier this month OpenStreetMap(OSM) had it’s annual conference titled State of the Map in Denver, Colorado. To allow for adapting to the mile-high altitude (and perhaps the pre-conf pub trip the night before), the conference got off to a gentle but steady start. Richard Weait gave a keynote titled “Be a Mapper” on the topic of being more than just contributors, consumers, or alayisers of the rich data. We were encouraged to be a part of the community on which OpenStreetMap has grown and by which it is powered. Richard told how attending a local OSM meetup, or organising one, can be really beneficial to everyone who gets involved. Later in the day he chaired a panel “Meet the Mappers” where we got a chance to question example mappers who had a spectrum of local activitiy. The keynote was along similar lines of Professor Muki Haklay’s talk at the European State of the Map in July. Muki told the academic delegates to communicate with the general community and local users. Communinity participation being very important to do before, and while, you perform a study involving data, or teach your students how to add to the interconnected map data.

Other talks on Friday revolved around new apps and products making use of OpenStreetMap data, with various monetization plans, something everyone’s getting used to. After a day that felt more like a reunion than a conference, we went and continued strengthening the community by watching a baseball game. The home team, Colorado Rockies, may have lost, but it was a good social event with a welcome to the conference delegates displayed on the stadium’s screen, and I sat in the row of blue seats exactly a mile above sea level (though my GPS disagreed). View from the mile high seats in the baseball stadium.

Saturday begun with Steve Coast, the OSM founder, having much to say. He was instructed to hurry-up, but still wanted to spend a lot of time giving a good mention to the G3 research on Potlatch usability. Talking to Steve, he doesn’t seem to understand the scary images he used in his slides aren’t actually the eye tracking equipment that gets used. On sunday, an informal meeting to discuss redesigning the OSM website again mentioned Peter Webber and Muki Haklay and the usefulness of statistics and evaluations from their equipment.

Peter Batty gave theother keynote, and had some wondeful slides on OSM’s past present and future. In a talk about the changes in Japan Goolge Maps was thanked for being useful as a historical map. Despite the usual and expected visa troubles, 7 out of the 8 scholors funded by HOT made it to the conference and presented talks from: Tunisia, India, Georgia, Colombia, Haiti, Philippines, and Argentina.

Philippe Rieffel provoked thought with his work designing a map for children using quotes such as “why is this road yellow on the map when I can see it is grey?”.

The programme of talks is available on the OSM wiki. I think all have audio & slide recordings, some have videos which include the speaker(s). Do have a listen to some, but it’s much more fun to come to the conference next year and be part of the community.

 September 22, 2011  Posted by at 9:04 am Misc. Comments Off on State of the Map 2011
Sep 192011

A wee post to share the exciting news that NatureLocator‘s Leaf Watch phone application and the Conker Tree Science project was featured on Friday night’s The One Show!

You can jump straight to their appearance by clicking here (the piece starts at minute 39) or by clicking on the image below:


screen shot from the NatureLocator/LeafWatch appearance on the One Show

Leaf Watch appears on the One Show - click to access the full piece.

 September 19, 2011  Posted by at 1:30 pm 15/10 Projects Tagged with: , , , , , ,  Comments Off on NatureLocator’s Leaf Watch Application Featured on the One Show
Sep 162011

The giant green Conker Leaf symbol is blazing over the Scottish skies and the green phone is flashing… Something isn’t right in Conker City: there is a severe absence of Scottish records in the Leaf Watch database!

Have the Leaf Miner Moths been pilfering the records that show their sinister spread across the country?

Could the GeoRiddler be behind the mysteriously mis-located early Scottish records?

Why are the Leaf Minor Moths able to proliferate with such peculiar proficiency?!

Will emergency broadcasts in the Sunday Times and Farming Today be enough to rouse the Scottish naturalist masses?

To the Leaf (Smart)Phone!

NatureLocator Android QR code

Androids Only!

NatureLocator iPhone QR code

Apples Only!


Tune to this Leaf Channel:


Tune to this Leaf Channel:

And if you’re a Leaf Minor Moth then, Holy Minor Leaftastrophy! Your days could be numbered…

Tune in next week – same GECO-time, same GECO-channel!

 September 16, 2011  Posted by at 1:47 pm 15/10 Projects, Humour Tagged with: , , , , ,  Comments Off on SCOTLAND: NatureLocator Needs You!
Sep 122011

This is a short post to remind you that the UK Data Archive / JISC GECO INSPIRE for Social Sciences event will be taking place on Friday 7th October in Essex is now available for booking!

You can find the full information on the event page. The programmme includes a fantastic line up of speakers from academic, research council and data provider backgrounds including the ESRC, the UK Data Archive, EDINA, the Swedish National Data Service, the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, and NERC.

The event is organised by U.Geo and JISC GECO. You can read more about U.Geo, and their work to unlock the geo potential of national survey data, on their blog:

 September 12, 2011  Posted by at 9:44 am Events, Misc. Tagged with: , , , , ,  Comments Off on INSPIRE for Social Sciences Event on 7th October Open for Bookings
Sep 062011

After the last few years, GIS and geospatial awareness has come into our lives more and more. A number of the current jiscGEO funded projects are working to make it easier for geospatial informattion to be utilised by other disciplines or the average person.
G3 looked at the “Child of Ten standard” meaning that a 10 year-old should be able to learn to do something useful with a system in 10 minutes. It makes me really wonder what a child would do with a professional GIS program such as ArcGIS. I was in a university class where it took a lot of students 2 to 3 of the 2-hour workshops before they understood even the basics of creating and exporting/printing a map. G3 also performed a much-appreciated user-experience study of the OpenStreetMap Potlatch editor, discovering a lot of common hurdles for new users trying to get started in making basic edits to the map.

The GEMMA project recently walked through creating a map of the main London airports without specialised software or knowledge. It seemed their child of 10 might struggle to make an acceptable image, despite trying a number of options. They hope that GEMMA will provide an adequate solution when complete.

Though they are the two projects specically looking to making easier non-expert tools for GIS work, ELO Geo is creating a framework and a repository for sharing lessons and teaching material for students wishing to use GIS. The Nature Locator and GeoSciTeach are using the medium of mobile apps to make it easier for work to have a geospatial context.

Some might say GIS is a complex beast, that should only be worked with by experts otherwise mistakes and false conclusions could be made. But I’m excited about the idea that everyone could become geospatially aware, or use educational apps that are aware of the location they’re in. It empowers people to know about the world around them, and can also result in more geospatial data to be used by those experts who really know and love looking at such things.
If a child of 10 can do something in 10 minutes, then there’s not likely to be problems for anyone older. How easily would a child of 10 use the other projects, and would they find any needed instructions/tutorials without them being given? What couldn’t they do without the work of the project, or what would they have done instead (e.g. taken ages, or a flawed work around)?

 September 6, 2011  Posted by at 5:52 pm JISCG3 Tagged with: , , ,  7 Responses »
Aug 302011

Last week saw the GECO team attending and co-organising an Open Mapping Workshop with the DevCSI team. Addy Pope of GoGeo was one of our speakers on the day and has kindly written us this guest post about the event and some of the useful resources related to the presentations and discussions on the day. For more information on the event you can also see our LiveBlog of the day, we will also be adding audio and images from the day in the coming weeks.

The DevCSI Open mapping workshop was held in Glasgow on the 24th August 2011.  The program was:

  • Introduction to OpenStreetMap – Bob Kerr (OSM)
  • Open Source GIS and OpenLayers – Addy Pope (EDINA)
  • Getting started with PostGIS/Postgres – Lasma Siestone (EDINA)

This post aims to highlight the resources that were introduced and discussed during the workshop rather than chronicle the workshop itself.

Getting Started With OSM
Basic editing in OSM can be done through the OSM web interface.  Just create an account and then sign in. The web editor runs Potlach 2 which is shown really intuitive to use.

For more advanced editing, perhaps where you want to compare different satellite images or where you with to do bulk edits, you may want to have a look at JOSM.  JOSM is a Java based desktop editor which has a lots of useful resources that are not available in simple online editors such as Potlach2.  In addition, there is a stack of videos and tutorials to help you get started with JSOM.

Open Source GIS and Openlayers

GIS was once the the preserve of large software companies and the cost of licences made it difficult for non-gis professionals to access GIS tools.  However, over the past 5 years open source GIS tools have emerged and are now competing with proprietary GIS software in terms of usability and functionality.  This has allowed “Joe Public” to create custom maps and publish spatial data.

QGIS – QGIS is a free open source desktop GIS. While there are many other open source GIS’s out there, QGIS is packed with features, easy to use and well documented.  The other nice thing about QGIS is that there are a host of python plugins written by the QGIS user community that you can access and use. These allow you to do some neat things including:

  • DXF2SHP – convert dxf files to shapefiles
  • Delimited Text file import
  • Ordnance Survey translator – transforms OS GML to shapefile
  • fTools – Vector data management toolkit
  • PostGPS – load and save GPX files from your GPS

The plugin that was demoed at the workshop was the OGR2Layer tool. This allows you to load spatial data into QGIS and add the data to a Web Mapping Service (WMS) from OSM.  The tool outputs the OpenLayers code that you need to embed in your website to create an interactive, map.  The configuration options may be quite simple and limited, but they do give you a good start point from which you can easily build more complex, customised map inserts. A screenshot example (sadly not interactive) of the OGR2Layer output is shown below.

OGR2Layer output

and here is some of the code that the tool produces:

var map, selectsControls
function init(){
var option = {
projection: new OpenLayers.Projection(“EPSG:900913”),
displayProjection: new OpenLayers.Projection(“EPSG:4326”)
map = new OpenLayers.Map(‘map’, option);
olosma = new OpenLayers.Layer.OSM(“OpenStreetMap Osmarender”, “${z}/${x}/${y}.png”);
var ls= new OpenLayers.Control.LayerSwitcher();
map.addControl(new OpenLayers.Control.Attribution());
var ForestSOTM2_template = {
strokeColor: “#b9b9b9”,
strokeOpacity: 1,
strokeWidth: 0.26,
fillColor: “#00aa7f”,
fillOpacity: 1
var ForestSOTM2_style = new OpenLayers.Style(ForestSOTM2_template)
function onPopupCloseForestSOTM2(evt) {
function onFeatureSelectForestSOTM2(feature){
selectedFeature = feature;
tableForestSOTM2=”<html><meta http-equiv=’Content-Type’ content=’text/html; charset=UTF-8′><body><table><tr><td><b>NAME:</b></td><td><i>”+feature.attributes.NAME+”</i></td></tr></table></body></html>”;
popup = new OpenLayers.Popup.FramedCloud(“chicken”,
new OpenLayers.Size(1000,500),
feature.popup = popup;
function onFeatureUnselectForestSOTM2(feature) {
feature.popup = null;

Openlayers by Erik Hazzard

If you want to find out more about OpenLayers then I would suggest reading OpenLayers 2.1.0 by Erik Hazzard. This book covers the basics but has enough detail to be useful for experienced users.



Another useful feature of QGIS is that you can stream a WMS into it so you always have a basemap to give your data some context.  I wont explain this here, if you wish to read about doing this then please read the post on the GoGeo blog.



The final session of the day looked at PostGIS and Postgres. Used in tandem, these packages have powerful spatial capabilities but the barrier to use is often perceived to be quite high can put some off using them. The presentation should be available through the GECO blog soon but you might want to look at the following books:

That should be enough to get started with. I will try to add more links to useful resources as i find them.  In the meantime, you could search through the thousands of links in GoGeo. If you think there is a link that compliments this thread, please add a comment below including the link and a wee sentence or two about the resource it relates to and why you find it useful.

 August 30, 2011  Posted by at 2:34 pm Events, Guest Posts, Misc. Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Guest Post: Notes and Useful Links from the DevCSI / GECO Open Mapping Workshop
Aug 252011

Today we will be liveblogging the DevCSI/GECO Open Mapping Workshop which is taking place at the CCA in Glasgow. At the moment we are just setting up for the first session which will be on OpenStreetMap.

Introduction – Mahendra Mahey, DevCSI

Mahendra is introducing the DevSCI project, funded by JISC, which focuses on creating an ecosystem for developers to encourage innovation. My connection to today’s event is through Jo Walsh, she sits on our steering committee and one of the requirements of being on our steering committee is that you arrange an event and this event today is Jo’s event although unfortunately she is off sick today.

We are very much about informal communities and events. To share experience and network and share ideas. My particular focus is developers in academia but it’s a very open and informal space – we have commercial developers and other interested people of all kind. If you have any ideas for events or meet ups then I’m really open to hearing about those. We are also looking for some case studies around how to get the best out of developers in academia and routes to stimulate innovation.

We run lots of hack days, usually over two days with accomodation nearby, to stimulate new ideas some of which go on to be funded projects.

Finally if you are along for the next few days, at the OpenStreetMap State of the Map Scotland event we’ll be in a larger space with this room, the Electron Club, in use for those who want to hack and developer.

Editing and re-using OpenStreetmap – Bob Kerr

OpenStreetMap is like Wikipedia for maps. Anyone can edit it. That usually scares folk as you could put a motorway right through George Square and ruin Brad Pitt’s zombie movie! But it’s all volunteer generated, all created by the community. And we’ve done a lot of mapping. We’ve actually completed Edinburgh and have compared it to the Council’s list of street names and we’re actually more accurate than the Ordnance Survey data on street names! Continue reading »

 August 25, 2011  Posted by at 9:01 am Events, Misc. Tagged with:  3 Responses »
Aug 222011

GeoSciTeach Have placed QR codes for plants around Kew Gardens. They provide the context of plants and connections between plants. The phone app was trialed. Students felt ‘freed’ to explore the learning themselves. Teachers seem very keen in exploring innovations and apps.

Nature Locator (horse chestnet leaf disease) There were some troulbes/delays with the Apple App Store relatiing to being a university not an individual The Apple App Store take 2-3 weeks for approval, whereas Android market can be released right away (this was known, and so the Android version was uploaded when the iPhone app had been approved) Screenshots are available Good success with over 3000 submissions of images/reports. Very few (less than 20?) inappropriate reports. Great geographic distribution (across the UK).

IGIBS Datasets considered. Thoughts about which WMS software to use, and patches made to be INSPIRE compliant. They have lots of users, that will be both providers and condumers of data, to use as case studies for the work. There’s lots of data to preserve. They’re making it easier to find data.

STEEV Decided that visualising at house-level is too deatiled to offer any meaningful representation Decided to additionally create a REST API, so the view state can be returned to. Will be discussing the implementation of the framework 19th Sep. Mock-ups (pretend screenshots) are available

ELO Geo Have been learning a lot about management tools available to use, especially some created/provided by JISC that they didn’t find straight away. E.g. Jorum and JISCMail. Repositry has been launched, and following OSGIS conference some lessons/information has been added to it.

Pelagios Lots of discussions in their big team of thedata mappings and ontologies, making sure they get it right. Claros joined Pelagious and added data. The Pelagious Graph Explorer now has a live demo. Very good for exploring the data and an intuative interface.

xEvents Have gone through lots of code and database design thoughts. Blog is very much a view of their technical work at the moment and why they are writing patches and modules for the libraries/frameworks they use (though the, very technical, ‘how’ is written up in another blog that gets linked to). No demo or screenshots yet.

GeoCrimeData They’ll be presenting their work so far at a number of conferences in September. Source code has been released for the tool that calculates the Mean Path Depth of each road in an area (using OpenStreetMap road data). This can be used to show an estimated traffic value for each road. It’s not directly crime data, but can be useful to see along side and the dataset/tool may be useful in a similar way to other projects and evaluations.

G3: Bridging the Gap Presented at State of the Map EU (OpenStreetMap) and met the OSM GeoWeb community. The OpenStreetMap community were very impressed with their work, especially the Potlatch(an OSM editor) evaluations through user studies they had done. Some recomendations for improvements have now been implemented and others are more likely to now that the research supports the improvements happening.

U-Geo Datasets and their unit size have been reviewed. Mapping of UKDA to INSPIRE, and GEMINI to DDI 2.1 has been completed.

GEMMA They’re in the process of creating iPhone and Android apps. Combinging existing CASA products: Survey Mapper, OSM Feature Highlighter, MapTube Presented at State of the Map EU (OpenStreetMap). SurveyMapper could provide lots of helpful information very easily (a survey, but combined with locations) such as what is the geographic distribution of people wanting to buy Olympic tickets. Unfortunatly noe of the surveys are getting near enough responses for observations to be made.

JISC GECO We held our first event on Open Source Geo and Health this month and are now planning follow up activities with those who attended. We are also putting together future events around geo so do let us know if you would like to be involved. A new mailing list has also been set up this month for discussion around geo, sign up here.

 August 22, 2011  Posted by at 7:45 am 15/10 Projects Comments Off on #jiscGEO Projects August Update
Aug 192011

Whilst it has been clearly established that under the INSPIRE Regulations as enacted in the UK, universities are considered ‘public authorities’ and hence fall under the scope of the INSPIRE Directive, there remains the need for clarity on interpreting ‘public task’.

Clause 5. 1 of the Scottish  Regulations (and same applies to rest of the UK) state:

"Scope of application of the Regulations: spatial data sets and spatial data services
5.—(1) In so far as a provision of these Regulations concerns a spatial data set
 for which a Scottish public authority is responsible, that provision applies in
 relation to that spatial data set only if that data set is held— 
(a) by a Scottish public authority which has produced or received that data set,
 or manages or updates that data set, within the scope of its public tasks; or 
(b) by another person on behalf of a Scottish public authority which has produced
 or received that data set, or managed or updated that data set, within the scope 
of that authority’s public tasks." [our emphases]

So, the big question is – do universities need to comply to the INSPIRE Regulations? Being, as they are, defined as public authorities the impulse is to say ‘yes’, however the interpretation of the Regulations begs another follow on question – is it part of their Public Task?

Naively, one might think this would be a simple yes or no but initial enquries with our legal team suggest that universities do not have a defined public task and hence a clear answer is problematic.

Universities are not necessarily alone in this and in recognition of the ambiguities and lack of clarity around the term ‘public task’ advice has just been released by the National Archives which aims to provide a set of principles in relation to which statements of public task can be assessed..

These principles relate to the definition of “public task” under the re-use regulations rather than INSPIRE, but we anticipate that the principles will be transferred across to INSPIRE.



 August 19, 2011  Posted by at 10:15 am INSPIRE Comments Off on INSPIRE, Universities and ‘Public Task’
Aug 122011

Following our Open Source Geo & Health event this week (look out for a further blog post and report on that) JISC GECO are proud to be supporting two events on using open mapping tools which take place in Glasgow later this month:

The DevCSI / GECO Open Mapping Workshop (Thursday 25th August 2011, Electron Club, CCA, Glasgow) is a fantastic opportunity to spend a day finding out more about using open mapping and open data. There will be introductory sessions on editing and reusing OpenStreetMap, getting started with PostGIS geographic database, creating interactive maps on the web with OpenLayers and using map styling tools. There will also be hands on support for your problems, questions or ideas. More information is on the DevSci page for the event and you can book your place here.  If you can bring a laptop you should be able to try out all of the techniques on the day (and if you can install Java that would also be helpful).

State of the Map Scotland 2011 will see the Scottish OpenStreetMap community meet to talk, workshop and hack for two days. The event takes place at the Electron Club at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th August and you can find more on the #sotmscot wiki page and you can book your place here.

Both of these events are free to attend so we would encourage you to sign up early to ensure your place.

To find out about future GECO related events you should keep an eye on our new events page and you can also now subscribe to our events calendar [XML | iCAL | HTML]

 August 12, 2011  Posted by at 12:14 pm Events Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Two Upcoming Open Mapping Events in August