OpenStreetMap, says Joe Morrison, “is now at the center of an unholy alliance of the world’s largest and wealthiest technology companies. The most valuable companies in the world are treating OSM as critical infrastructure for some of the most-used software ever written.” Corporate teams, rather local mappers, are now responsible for the majority of edits to the OSM database; Morrison speculates that their participation is about “desperately avoiding the existential conflict of having to pay Google for the privilege of accessing their proprietary map data.” In the end, he argues that we’re in a strange-bedfellows situation where corporate and community interests are aligned. (To which I’d add: for now.) [MetaFilter]
Angie Cope reports that the Seeger Map Company, the Wisconsin-based publisher of hundreds of city, county and state maps, many for the American Automobile Association, since the 1970s, will be closing down at the end of the year. “At the height of the company’s success in the mid-1990s, they employed 27 people and produced 2 million maps a year.” [MAPS-L]
The Philadelphia Print Shop (not to be confused with the Denver-based Philadelphia Print Shop West), an antique prints, rare books and maps dealer that closed last December, is back in business. David Mackey has bought the business from Don Cresswell, who founded it in 1982, and is relocating it from Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighbourhood to nearby Wayne. A “COVID-style grand opening” is planned for October. [WMS]
Garmin’s online services have been hit by a ransomware attack, TechCrunch reports, with outages still ongoing as of this writing. “The incident began late Wednesday and continued through the weekend, causing disruption to the company’s online services for millions of users, including Garmin Connect, which syncs user activity and data to the cloud and other devices. The attack also took down flyGarmin, its aviation navigation and route-planning service.” Email and call centres are also reportedly out of operation.
A short piece in the Edinburgh Evening News last April noted the 100th anniversary of the death of John G. Bartholomew (1860-1920), the fourth of six generations of mapmaking Bartholomews; their firm, John Bartholomew and Son, was responsible for the Times atlases before they were taken up by HarperCollins.
Speaking of his ancestor’s legacy, great-grandson, John Eric Bartholomew, told the Evening News that the fact John George Bartholomew is recognised as the man credited with being the first to put the name Antarctica on the map remains a great source of pride.
Little known is that, in 1886, Bartholomew had a brief flirtation with considering the name “Antipodea” for oceanographer John Murray’s map depicting the continent, before settling for Antarctica.
Previously: Robert G. Bartholomew, 1927-2017.
Cartographer Hans van der Maarel, of Red Geographics, is interviewed about what it’s like to be a cartographer for a podcast called Discover Your Talent—Do What You Want. I’ve never heard of this podcast, but seems to focus on careers and career planning, which explains some of the questions. The episode is thirty minutes long. [via]
Columbus Globes, the century-old German globe manufacturer, lost its warehouse to a fire Thursday night. The 2,500-m2 building in Krauchenwies, Baden-Württemberg was completely destroyed, causing at least €1.5 million in damage. Police suspect arson: there have been a number of deliberately set fires in the Krauchenwies region in recent weeks—two at the Columbus site. News coverage (German only): DPA (Badische Zeitung, RTL, Süddeutsche Zeitung), SWR.
Search Engine Land: “Earlier this week Mapquest was sold by corporate parent Verizon to System1, an ad-tech company you’ve probably never heard of for an undisclosed amount, which was ‘not material enough for Verizon to file paperwork.’ That’s a metaphor for how far Mapquest has fallen since its heyday as the dominant online mapping site roughly a decade or so ago.” Verizon got MapQuest as part of its purchase of AOL in 2015. [Brian, James]
— Soc of Cartographers (@CartoSoc) August 22, 2019
The Society of Cartographers posted a notice on Twitter announcing the formal dissolution of the Society after its upcoming (and now presumably final) Annual Summer School Conference. That conference will be held in conjunction with the British Cartographic Society’s Annual Conference on 11 and 12 September at the Ordnance Survey’s Southampton headquarters.
Apart from reactions like Kenneth Field’s, there is no other information about the Society’s dissolution available online, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s been discussion in members-only areas. What on earth happened? (Comments open.)
Previously: Whither the BCS?
Facebook’s AI tool has added some 480,000 kilometres of previously unmapped roads in Thailand to OpenStreetMap, BBC News reports, but some local mappers have been complaining about the quality of those edits, and the overwriting of existing edits by Facebook’s editors: see OSM Forum threads here and here. In particular, see OSM contributor Russ McD’s rant on the Thai Visa Forum:
What Facebook fail to state is the inaccurate manner in which their AI mapping worked. The OSM community in Thailand had for years, been working slowly on mapping the Country, with the aim of producing a free to use and accurate map for any user. Information was added backed by a strong local knowledge, which resulted in a usable GPS navigation system based on OSM data. Main road were main roads, and jungle tracks were tracks.
Then along came Facebook with its unlimited resources and steamrollered a project in Thailand with scant regard for contributors … sure they paid lip service to us, with offers of collaboration, and contact emails … but in reality, all our comments went unanswered, or simply ignored.
Sure, their imagery identified roads we had not plotted, but along with that came the irrigation ditches, the tracks though rice paddies, driveways to private houses, and in once case, an airport runway! All went on the map as “residential roads”, leaving any GPS system free to route the user on a physical challenge to make it to their destination.
Local users commented, but the geeky humans who were checking the AI, living thousands of miles away, having never visited Thailand, just ignored our comments. They would soon move onto bigger and better things, while sticking this “success” down on their resume.
Sounds like another case of local mapping vs. armchair mapping and automated edits, where local mappers are swamped and discouraged by edits from elsewhere. [Florian Ledermann]
Previously: OpenStreetMap at the Crossroads.
Tom MacWright thinks that online maps are neglecting bicycle and multimodal routing at the expense of driving directions, which keep getting better.
Routing is the most powerful tool we have to reduce the environmental impact of driving, make cities quieter, safer, and more livable, and fight congestion. And you are blowing it.
This might be because HERE, the number two provider of map technologies, was bought by a bunch of car companies. Or because Google is headquartered in the suburbs. Or that the financial world is fixated on opening the pandora’s box of self-driving cars.
But the end result is the same: bicycle and multimodal routing continues to be a toy, and driving directions keep getting better.
This might well be about systems designed for in-car navigation first, or designed to replace them; or that are aimed at what is perceived to be the meat of the market. There are undoubtedly solutions out there that address Tom’s points, but there’s something to be said for having that solution front and centre in a mainstream service rather than having to find it in a less well-known app or a dedicated device.
Garmin announced the Overlander GPS receiver today. It’s designed for off-road, off-grid navigation, with maps that include public lands boundaries and 4×4 trails (in the Americas, at least), sensors to detect roll and pitch angles, and other features suitable for mucking around in a Jeep or ATV. Costs $700. [Engadget]
Anyone who assumes that the GPS device market has been killed by smartphones will be (a) surprised that Garmin is still around and (b) wrong. Though its automotive segment continues to decline—last quarter it was down to only 16.6 percent of Garmin’s revenues, making it Garmin’s smallest market segment—Garmin continues to do well in other market segments. Building devices for very specialized uses, for which a smartphone app might not be up for the task—see above—seems to be one of the ways it goes about that.
Another article on the comeback of paper maps that is really about the move of the venerable map and travel bookstore Stanfords’s London store to new digs, this time from Nicholas Crane in the Financial Times. He maunders a bit, as do many map aficionados when we get started, and ends up becoming a paean to Stanfords’s old paper maps as much as anything else. [Gilles Palsky]
You know who isn’t worried about the future of paper maps and whether people still know how to use them? The people who actually sell them. The Guardian’s Kevin Rushby talks to Stanfords cartographer Martin Greenaway, ostensibly on the occasion of the venerable map store’s move to new digs in London; Greenaway thinks that paper maps are ripe for a comeback (Stanfords does a lot of print-on-demand maps), and points out a number of other map use cases that a mobile device simply can’t be used for. [CAG]