The growth and uptake of today’s internet and web allows us to do a lot of things that were previously the preserve of the professional. You can see this in the rise of words which now have citizen prepended to them. We don’t just write blog posts, we’re citizen journalists. We don’t just take photographs, we’re citizen photographers. To this list, we can now add citizen cartographer as well.
With the help of OpenStreetMap, HERE’s Map Creator (which I work on) and Google’s Map Maker, anyone with a modern web browser and an internet connection can now help to make maps where previously there were none and to improve and keep maps up to date, which still remains one of the biggest challenges to map making.
There’s already been a book about OpenStreetMap, which I wrote about in April of 2011. As far as I know, no-one’s written about HERE’s Map Creator but for Google’s Map Maker there’s Limoke Oscar’s Instant Google Map Maker Starter.
When I wrote about OpenStreetMap; Using and Enhancing the Free Map of the World, one of the reasons I liked reading about making maps with OSM in a book was because …
OpenStreetMap is easy to use, graphical (on the website), comes with multiple discussion and documentation sites and well supported mailing lists; you can always find the answer to your question. But sometimes you don’t know what the question is. Sometimes you just want to read a book.
The same can be said of Instant Google Map Maker Starter. The e-book edition I’ve just finished reading doesn’t appear to have the physical weight and depth of the OSM tome, but that’s only to be expected of a book that clearly sets out to be a starter.
As a starter, the book describes itself on the cover as short, fast, focused and on all these counts it succeeds admirably. Making, creating and editing a digital map is now massively easier than it was 5 years ago, but it’s still not simplicity itself.
When you’re setting out, you need to have explained what the difference is between what’s in the map, the spatial data of the map itself, and what’s on the map, the places or points of interest. You need to know how to use your software tool of choice, be it OpenStreetMap, Map Creator or Map Maker. You need to be shown the shortcuts and how to avoid the inevitable pitfalls.
Limoke obviously knows how to use Google Map Maker and it shows in the clear, concise prose, which educates from the ground up and doesn’t once stray into making the reader feel patronised or being lectured.
Maybe I’ve been spoilt with the depth and coverage of this book’s OpenStreetMap counterpart and even though the book is clearly labelled and pitched as a high level starter guide, it left me wanting more. But that’s not the fault of the author. Most of what I wanted more of is information that only Google would be able to provide; about why Google Map Maker is open for editing in some countries and about why you have to ask Google to get the data you put in back out. But I would have liked to have seen the author touching on the why of map making as much as the how, which he’s admirably written about. Why do people make maps and what motivates them?
Maybe there’s a book to be written about this; maybe one day I might even do that.