OpenStreetMap-WaypointsDotPH Meetup

4:54 pm PHT

Last October 18, I attended a really small intimate meetup for Filipino OpenStreetMappers and contributors to WaypointsDotPH. This was held in Makati at the posh condo unit of Louie Galvez, who’s into real estate. Louie is one of the prominent people associated with WaypointsDotPH.

There were actually only four people in that meetup: me, Louie, Maning Sambale, and a certain Sonny. Maning Sambale is my fellow OSMer and he’s actually the most prolific Filipino contributor to OSM. (The other prolific contributors are expats.) That meetup was the first time I met another OpenStreetMapper and it was actually the second meeting between OSM and WaypointsDotPH, the first happening on October 10 and is actually just Maning being invited to attend a WaypointsDotPH eyeball to talk a bit about OSM.

WaypointsDotPH? What’s that?

WaypointsDotPH is basically a community of Filipinos who collect waypoints in the Philippines—waypoints being the geographical coordinates (i.e., longitude and latitude) of a location. Their website lists hundreds of tourist locations in the country, often the types that are off the beaten track, and many of these have downloadable GPS trails so that you can follow the route to the place. I have been using WaypointsDotPH as one of my valuable sources of research for Vista Pinas. (An example of a sight I featured in Vista Pinas that I located with the help of WaypointsDotPH is the entrance to Palawan’s underground river.)

Apart from the main website, which is maintained by Ed Garcia, two other WaypointsDotPH community websites are the GPS Roadguide by Jan Vanslembrouck (where you can download a Garmin-compatible GPS-referenced main road map of the Philippines) and Louis Galvez’ own RPMap. RPMap also has a Mapmakers forum where WaypointsDotPH contributors talk about stuff, usually about GPS devices and creating routable maps for such devices.

Meetup Takeaways

There were quite a lot of things discussed during the meetup, most of it being the techie kind that would bore you to bits unless you’re a cartography/GIS enthusiast. Most of the nitty-gritty details have been documented by Maning in this e-mail sent to the Philippines OSM mailing list. I’ll let you read that if you want to know more. What I’ll talk about instead are the things I found interesting to highlight.

The WaypointsDotPH community is quite interested in OSM and how to contribute there. Maning and I were able to demonstrate how to add and edit data in OpenStreetMap by using Potlatch and JOSM, the two most popular OSM editors. The beauty of OSM is that at the core of it all, it actually only consists of a database and API to access that database. The community has then provided flexible tools such as JOSM and Potlatch to provide a user-friendly interface to the API.

Most of the question Louie had centered on how to contribute data he already has to OSM. The problem is that adding existing data from some arbitrary GIS file format is not as straightforward as selecting a file in a web form and then clicking the upload button. The GIS world is a loose federation of various competing formats and OSM has its own internal but very simple format. There’s plenty of file format converters available, but sometimes creating a script is necessary. For instance, Louis Galvez has a database of all the points of interest (POIs) their members have contributed (separated into various normalized tables). These POIs (about 10,000 all in all) include the locations of shops and restaurants, gasoline stations, ATMs, landmarks, churches, and tourist attractions. From what I see, they would only need a simple script to convert a denormalized database of such POIs into the XML format that the OSM API can accept.

One thing I was surprised to learn is that the WaypointsDotPH community has a fairly complete and updated street map of Metro Manila. That means that before OpenStreetMap and before Google Map Maker, WaypointsDotPH already created the first user-generated map of the metropolis.

Their community also has plenty of GPS-referenced road data for the whole Philippines, but this is mostly the main and secondary roads; not all the streets for every town and city in the country. The difference between their road data and the one OSM has is that OSM’s data is much richer, having a way to encode metadata such as turning restrictions, one-way directions, speed limits, and things like that. In addition, in OSM, it is very much desired to get the actual topography (as in network graph, not terrain) of the road network, whereas the WaypointsDotPH data uses a really simplified network graph.

Upcoming “Symposium”

We spent the whole afternoon at Louie’s place and despite the hours of discussion, there were still plenty of topics left to tackle. Add to that the fact that there were only 2 WaypointsDotPH members present and so Louie suggested that there be another meetup between the OSM and WaypointsDotPH communities, this time getting as many members from both sides as possible to attend. Louie wants the meetup to have a grand-sounding name like “symposium”, “summit”, or “conference”. The date is tentatively set for November 15, and the venue is still TBD.

If you’re interested to join the meetup (or to sponsor, hehehe) feel free to contact me using the comments form for this post. Even if you’re not interested in creating maps, meeting the WaypointsDotPH members for their GPS devices knowledge would be worth the attendance, methinks.  :-D

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