Making the Most Of Open Data

Søren Johannessen aka Neogeografen is passionate about, cycling, Wikimedia, historical images, Maptime… and Mapillary. See how he uses them in tandem to create useful, open data.

“Space cowboy - Open geodata pusher” - that’s what it says on Søren’s Twitter profile. A GIS expert by trade, it seems he spends 24 hours a day working with geodata. By the long list of everything he's involved in, one may think it’s more than 24 hours… To our great joy he is also keen on Mapillary which he has incorporated into many of his activities, and we are proud to have him as a Mapillary Ambassador.

In this post we want to demonstrate Søren's holistic approach to geodata and how he leverages this data on issues he cares about.


Neogeografen editing in OSM

Editing in OpenStreetMap using Neogeografen's Mapillary photos

Central to Søren’s activities is OpenStreetMap, which he started out with six years ago. By now he is a genuine power user and has written several how-to guides (in Danish) as well as given numerous talks about OpenStreetMap to governmental organisations, GIS professionals and students.

Over the years he has made over 11,000 edits on OpenStreetMap, using Mapillary for many of them. These include tracing countless paths and rivers, adding buildings to the map and amenities such as outdoor fitness equipment. He’s also been instrumental in #MapLesotho (a crowdsourced initiative to create a complete map of Lesotho on OpenStreetMap), providing a lot of the stats and analysis of the competition and featuring in the top 100 edit contributors for the country.

He has also held many events where Mapillary is used to collect data for OpenStreetMap. For instance, he organised a mapping competition for older school children. One group of students in particular had the task of photo mapping handicap designated parking spaces on Mapillary so that they could be added to OpenStreetMap.

Overall, he feels Mapillary makes information in OpenStreetMap “richer and more valuable”. Objects unnoticed in the first instance can later be added to the map by anyone looking at the photos.


Maptime Copenhagen Meetup

Søren at Maptime Copenhagen, explaining how to use historical photos with Mapillary

Maptime is a platform that aims to get a wider variety of people involved in and excited about mapping. We wanted to support the creation of a chapter in Copenhagen, a forum where people can meet to learn and participate in mapping initiatives. It was immediately clear that it would not get off the ground without the expertise of Søren.

He has been the driving force behind it since the first event, helping to organise, promote and share his wisdom at the events themselves. A great example is the Maptime Copenhagen meetup about historical images. He showed us whole process of geotagging and uploading the images, and inspired a room full of people to go out and take photos in the same areas as the historical photos to see how they appear today.


A cycling path Søren has photomapped with Mapillary

Søren is also an avid cycler and cares deeply about improving cycling infrastructure. As he rides around Denmark, he captures his journeys with Mapillary, using the photos to improve OpenStreetMap.

This data has a practical value, with projects such as Cyclistic (a tool for cyclists to find routes and Points of Interest) and Supercykelstier (a collaboration between Danish municipalities to improve the bike commuting infrastructure) dependent on the contributions of people like him. He’s also been using Mapillary photos to document problematic and/or inadequate bicycle infrastructure.

His bike also serves to capture photos for other purposes. He photomapped the routes for an annual running event for hobby runners in Denmark called Grevinde Dannerløb, so that participants would have the chance to view the trails on Mapillary before the competition day.

Historical Images

Historical slider

Drag the slider to see Frederiksborg Castle across time

Søren was also one of the first individuals to come to us with historical images, carefully locating them and uploading to Mapillary. He’s been using historical images from the Danish National Museum’s and State Archive’s photo collections. The next step then is to take a photo of the same place from the same angle so that it is possible to compare “then” and “now”. He calls this pastcaching - a great name for the activity of locating the places that are “hidden” in historical photos. He even developed a neat little slider to easily compare an area over time. We loved the idea so we built it into Mapillary JS so that people can showcase how a place changes over time on their blog or website.


Historical image on Wikimedia

Historical image contributed to both Wikimedia and Mapillary

As a final example of weaving different projects together we must also mention Wikimedia. Søren’s been contributing a lot to Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository, with both historical images as well as Mapillary images that are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

Søren’s story demonstrates the myriad uses that photos contributed to Mapillary can have. Whether he’s using photos to edit in OpenStreetMap, better understand cycling infrastructure, see how an area changes over time or sharing them to Wikimedia, we are happy to see Søren leverage Mapillary in his quest for open geodata.

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