As part of my series of ‘quality blogposts I will eventually get around to writing’ (see also further notes on making websites from open source CMSs and comparing music player software), I’m working on some hows and whys to make embedded website maps using open source tools. Inevitably, this isn’t that. But I did come across this website and I figured it was worthy of a shout out:
OpenStreetMap is a project aimed squarely at creating and providing free geographic data such as street maps to anyone who wants them. The project was started because most maps you think of as free actually have legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from using them in creative, productive or unexpected ways.
Their mediawiki powered, cc-wiki licensed website is amateurish but that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my estimation. Sometimes amateur websites suffer from poor informational design, but this is one of the better I’ve seen. The “I want to see maps; get out of my way!” link square at the top of the front page may be a bit cute but it does the job. The ‘lolcat of awesomeness’ they hand out to special contributors may be way too cute but well, it does the job. The whole thing comes off as active, friendly, and telegraphs how to get deeper in, rather than intimidating the new visitor by suggesting how much deeper in you would have to go to figure anything much useful out.
And they’re an open-access street map project. How cool is that?