[Talk-us] Proposal: Drinking-water-specific photomapping website

Joe Morris joe at xenotropic.net
Sat Sep 17 17:39:09 UTC 2016


I am a bicyclist/attorney/programmer in Oakland, California. On a lark, 
and to learn about how OSM works, I made a tileserver/leaflet for 
California, which is at http://bikewater.org. The tiles are styled to 
show amenity=drinking_water prominently. Based on what I've seen on that 
map, I’m now interested in improving coverage for that tag, by creating 
a website to collect public-domain geo-located photos of drinking 
fountains/taps as a datasource for OSM.  Before I spend time writing any 
code, I want to run it past the community for your thoughts and input, 
to help me determine if it is something worth my time. My overall goal 
would be to make it super-simple to get information on drinking 
fountains from people who are otherwise not into mapping, GIS, or OSM. 
In particular I'm hoping bike clubs might get into this, since it is 
data that helps them, and bicyclists cover a lot of territory but can 
stop easily to take a photo.

Here's what I've done and what I'm proposing, in more detail:

(1) Current OSM Drinking-Water Data. As a bicyclist, I want to know 
where I can fill my water bottles on a ride. On long rides or tours, 
I've run out of water in remote places; at that point, the location of 
the nearest water tap becomes a the most important datapoint. On shorter 
rides, or just riding around town, it's helpful to know where you can 
get a drink. So, using the switch2osm guide, I made the map at 
bikewater.org to shows amenity=drinking_water icons with more contrast 
and starting more zoomed-out (10) than the OSM default (17).  I haven’t 
told anyone about the site, except this list. It is California-only and 
it is on a weak Amazon EC2 server, so it may be slow or fail to render 
some tiles. There was a $.99 sale on .org's while I was working on it; 
it's not an actual organization or anything.

What I think it shows, though, is that OSM mapping of drinking water 
sources varies widely, and seems to correlate with income or education 
level. Berkeley, Palo Alto, and San Francisco, have dozens of 
amenity=drinking_water nodes. By contrast, California’s central valley 
from Lodi to Bakersfield – an area where millions of people live – has 
about five. Around where I live in Oakland, I’ve started taking pictures 
of drinking fountains when I find them and I’d say about half aren’t 
OSM-mapped. I've also read about how a lot of municipalities and 
nonprofits are interested in drinking water data to reduce disposable 
plastic bottle waste, and reduce soda consumption. So that motivated me 
to think about how to get the amenity=drinking_water data more complete.

(2) Description of the Proposed Website. My proposed website would have 
a form where the user uploads the photograph of the drinking fountain, 
checks a box for a public domain (CC0) dedication, completes a CAPTCHA 
to reduce spam/abuse, and optionally enters text data correlating with 
commonly-associated tags for OSM's amenity=drinking_water, such as 
access restrictions (e.g., hours), description, bottle=*, indoor=yes, 
etc. After that, I'd show the uploader the photo's position (from EXIF 
data) on the bikewater.org map so user can preliminarily check if the 
site is already in the OSM database, and whether that location is accurate.

The data path from photo to OSM database I’m a little less sure about, 
but I think the initial method would be for me (or other volunteer 
reviewers) to open the picture in JOSM to check that the location is 
reasonable, check again that it’s not a duplicate, enter the tag data, 
and commit it. Obviously there's room for improvement there, like 
integrating with OSM accounts to allow direct edits, but I want to start 

There's other projects that are sort of like this, WeTap.org and 
Mapillary seem to be the closest. WeTap is water-focused and I’d 
probably reach out to them before doing anything, but right now seems to 
be iOS only. Mapillary, although it's new and hot, I've only looked at 
briefly; but it seems pretty complex and generalized, focused mostly on 
map enthusiasts for developing street view. I think what I'm proposing 
would be different enough, but if there's something that really already 
does this let me know. It sounds sort of like the "old" OpenStreetView 
but for one purpose; from reading the wiki article on that it sounds 
like it more or less worked. I'd probably start with just California and 
then add more data if the idea seems to have traction.

(4) Questions. Is this worth doing? Would pictures like this be good 
enough as a datasource for OSM? I don’t want to spend the time on it if 
folks don’t think those are "yes" answers.

A second question is, if it is worth doing, how much information do I 
need about the person uploading for it to be valid data? Do I need to 
keep and collect names and emails of uploaders? I’d rather not be 
collecting their personal information, and having the barrier to entry 
of creating an account, if it is not necessary. If there is a photograph 
of a drinking fountain, from an anonymous person who has indicated they 
took that photograph and it is public domain, and someone 
OSM-knowledgable has reviewed it, is that good enough to use as a basis 
for adding a node?

Let me know where else I should run this past people, as well, like 
maybe the imports mailing list or if I should make a wiki page or 
anything else before proceeding.



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