Five years of mapping (and why I started)

According to my profile, today marks my fifth anniversary of OpenStreetMapping. When my friend Robert introduced me to this useless web site I wasn’t too excited. It only really showed about half of the British motorway network if you waited long enough for the very basic map to load, and editing, well, that took a lot of patience.

But curiosity and Rob’s enthusiasm got me hooked, and in August 2008 I organised my first mapping party. Here is a blast from the past showing us adding in the first coverage of Reading, England:

What followed were five years interspersed with many pleasant hours mapping parts of Reading and the surrounding countryside, St Albans, Criccieth, south east London, Hackbridge, Shrewsbury, Dumfries & Galloway and countless little excursions for walks.

As a keen cyclist, I particularly enjoyed entering some of the first London data to create a really useful web map for cyclists.

I’ve produced an “ethical map” of Reading, co-created a green map of Sutton (London), dabbled with various custom cartographic styles (e.g. ye olde, waterways) and most recently tried to create links between the community and government, first in Southwark and then across London.

What has possessed me these past five years? Well at first it was a friend’s enthusiasm; then it was an interest in all things free software / culture / data (at the time I was heavily involved with Creative Commons and started one of the first local arts projects promoting it); then I grew to enjoy the practice of walking and cycling around strange streets getting to know my local town or suburb in every intimate detail.

Most of all, I liked to beat the commercial competitors!

These days it is an automatic obsession to try and “complete” my local area and evangelise all the benefits open collaboration can bring.


  1. […] Thea pointed out that in a community of tens of thousands, only a few hundred can “do” stuff like making amazing tools and creating useful maps from the tags they’ve invented. I’m in the bigger mass of people who want to contribute data, see lots of good uses and ways in which OpenStreetMap can improve, but lack the skills to “just get on and do” much that I’d like to with the data. I’ve been at it for five years. […]

    16th July 2010

Comments are closed.