How To Organize A Mapping Party

We had a mapping party at NIT Calicut recently. After the first day of the event I shared some ideas to make such mapping parties better with GeoHackers team.

Sajjad Anwar created this 'How to organize a mapping party' guide based on those ideas. After few corrections over the weekend I felt it is ready to be shared with everyone. Perhaps we turn this into neat mini howto. If you are interested please leave a comment or get in touch with me.


Map-making or Cartography aided mankind from the time when lived in caves, the geographic knowledge and the compass guided the progress of our civilization. Today such wealth is only available to those who can pay huge royalties or license fees. OpenStreetMap project (OSM) takes its inspiration from Free Culture philosophy and aims to provide geographic information of the entire planet to one and all.

Mapping parties are organized to teach map making skills and contribute to OpenStreetMap project. With the advent of GPS technology anyone with such a device and computer can build high quality maps. This document explains how one can organize a mapping party in their school or workplace.

The Tools

Lets look the tools that are needed for making maps, we need a GPS device, a personal computer to edit the mapping data and an account on OpenStreetMap servers to upload your data.

The GPS device

GPS is Global Positioning System. The earth is surrounded by 31 satellites, which provide us sufficient information to identify where we are on the planet. This tracking is processed with the help of geographic coordinates called Latitudes and Longitudes. There are lot of stand alone GPS receivers available in the market. Now most of the smart phones are equipped with GPS receivers. GPS devices are the primary data collection tool for mapping. The data collected in the GPS devices are used in the GPX format. This is the most easy and efficient method for fetching the data from the device. The GPX file is the collection of traces and waypoints. Map images in formats like .jpg, .png etc are also used. The OSM data subsets are available in the .osm format.

The Map Editor

Map editors are the workplace were we use the data collected from GPS to create the map. Creating the map involves proper tagging of the data. Many editors are available, like Java OpenStreetMap editor (JOSM),Potlatch ,merkaartor. Among these, JOSM is the heavy duty offline editor.

Getting an OSM account

We need to have a proper OSM account to validate and upload the map we created. You can create a new account here.

Lets start mapping !

The next important step is creating teams. The entire party is divided into small teams based on how many GPS devices you have at your disposal and size of mapping area. Each team should have at least one person with good sense of direction. Each team can be given a name or colored arm band (optional). Each team is equipped with a terrain map with landmarks that show the borders of their sector. Various services like google, yahoo. provide terrain maps that can be printed before hand. A person can act as a control center co-ordinator. He is responsible to staying in touch with team in the field with mobile phone or portable 2 way radio (optional).

Data Collection and Downloading

Maps are created at this stage. The data we have mined are ordered, analyzed, and tagged. We need to make sure that all the team follows a naming convention or comment. The coordinator should watch for over marking / mis-marking of the same location. Once the data is properly tagged, it is time to upload it to the OSM server.


Each team would be provided with a feedback form, which they are intended to provide sincere information regarding their experience in the workshop. This step is a sort of improvement and corrective measures for future mapping parties.

12th Bar Beach Party

Beer, Barbeque's and Blues at the The 12th Bar beach party in Kovalam

kovalam beach The beach The Music The Blues And the food ! ( What more can one ask for) 12th Bar Band Johnny, You guys rock!

Kalarippayattu Video

I lived in Kerala for over an year now. Never had a chance of watching Kalarippayattu, the oldest fighting system in existence. Last evening I visited Thapovan to watch a demostration of Kalari.

Veli Tourist Village

Veli Tourist village on the other side of Trivandrum city is very popular with tourists. Thats one reason why I didn't visit it until now. The village was created by the kerala tourism is built on site where Veli lake flows into the Arabian sea. As you enter the Veli tourist village, there is park with couple of artificial ponds and huge fish in dirty murky water but it doesn't seems to matter much. Everyone around is happy snapping pictures and posing.

There are sculptures everywhere on the green grass. Some celebrating the beauty of female form other so obscure that no one gives them a second glance. And to top it all there is a huge power grid tower right middle of the park. Perfect !

artifical ponds in veli tourist village Art work in Veli village Veli Tourist Village boating Veli Tourist Village lake flows into the sea

Found a good spot on a stone bench and immersed myself in Philip Zimbardo's book The Lucifer Effect. It can be trying experience to ignore the crowds gawking at you. Its too hot to go walking yet, have to kill few hours before I start walking along the pathway on lake shore and then onto the mile long beach. Veli Tourist Village, arky sitting and reading Veli Tourist Village,pathway along the lake shore Veli Tourist Village beach Veli Tourist Village beach Veli Tourist Village beach

Loads of Linux Ideas

Its scrabble night. Now it is Isabel's turn to play. This word is for arky and she forms the word 'linux' on the board. :) Scrabble with letter spelling linux

Daisy books on Linux

There is very little information on using DAISY : Digital Accessible Information SYstem ( DAISY ) digital talking books on linux operating system. In this post let me introduces two programs that allows linux users to read and produce DAISY digital talking books.

AnyDAISY DAISY Book Player for Firefox

You can read DAISY books with firefox web browser using AnyDAISY extension. Its been actively developed with the help of Benetech and Mozilla foundation. AnyDAISY Firefox extenstion

odt2daisy DAISY Book Creator for OpenOffice

You can quick turn your documents into DAISY book by using odt2daisy extension. Download this extension and you can export your documents into DAISY format. odt2daisy in Extension manager odt2daisy Menu option in

You can also use these extenstions on other operating system too. Please try them and report problems to the developers.

Protospace Bangalore, A creative space for artists

Some creative endeavors start in the most unlikely places. For me it was waiting for my turn to bat. With my thick glasses and diminutive size I was the lowest in batting order of our gully cricket team. I would spend most of time perched on the moss covered walls along the boundary line. It wasn't that bad. I turned my creative prowess to covering the walls in chalk graffiti. Primitive cricket scoreboards, insults and expletives addressed to no-one in particular and in the height of my creative fervor I produced a simian that looked like a classmate of mine. The later did landed me in great deal of trouble. The boys mother stormed my house in such fury which is quite uncommon in mid summer. My good-for-nothing uncle number three came to my rescue, for which I am still grateful. I often buy him a bottle sometimes when visit home.

Though my nascent career in mural arts was snipped at bud on that fateful evening. I kept on scribbling through math classes in high school. In college, it helped me pull through dreadful lectures on supply and demand. It seemed my interest to be always in short supply. The only consolation in this unproductive part of my life, I lived life my way. From hazy dorm rooms and to my own digs in the city, Art was everywhere in the chaos of my lodgings. The spatter of ketchup (or was that curry) on the far side of the wall was inspired by Jackson Pollock. And the CD's spread on the floor among the books was straight out of Salvador Dali's 'La persistencia de la memoria'.

Looking back now, I feel a loss of those personal creative spaces and collaborations that started with rolling of a joint. Visiting Protospace filled me with some hope, perhaps all is not lost. Good luck and thank you for having me protospace team!.

An Evening at Silk Estate

Its sunday evening and it started to rain. It been raining for three days now. Sipping hot coffee I remember the weekend with fellow blogger Tys at his family estate in Nedumangad.

It was a hot day when we left Trivandrum . The weather turned mild as we drove up the winding road to Nedumangad. As the car turned away from Nedumangad town, I caught a glimpse of massive Thirichittoor Rock. Thirichi means 'turn' or 'return' in Malayalam. The monkey god Hanuman lifted this rock seeking a life saving herb but realizing it was wrong hillock he put it back and the name stuck.

We turned off the narrow main road, the sign above the gate says 'Silk Estate'. Before the Indian independence this was a mulberry plantation, the estate still bears the name. We stopped before a beautiful bungalow, it is surrounded by a rubber plantation. About 10,000 rubber trees the plantantion worker giving me tour told me. I never seen how natural rubber is made, all I know is what I seen in books and on television.

Rubber is collected in small cocount shells from the tapped tree. It is mixed with water and few chemicals, allowed to conceal in large flat bottom trays. Later water is rinsed out mechanically and the rubber mats are cured in large boxes with wood fires. This process of making natural rubber must have remained unchanged in decades.

Later we started trekking up the Thirichittoor Rock to enjoy the magnificent sunset. There are few place where illegal rock mining was rampant before it was finally put to stop.

I hope to visit this beautiful place once again. For now I head out for dinner and a evening walk in rain.

Moving over to Hackable:1

Hackable:1 seems to be the most interesting of other openmoko distributions. Here is a quick dekho of rev4 release. There is that old GSM registering bug which is fixed in newer release and also an unexplained blinking?. Perhaps I should go for more functional Hackable:1, rev5rc1 instead.

A quick question before I sign off What is your next phone going to use?

Traffic Lights Gone Bonkers

You don't have to hack traffic signals (remember Hackers movie?) in India, they don't work anyway. Video of traffic lights gone bonkers right in front the Police HQ. Sweet!