Thursday 10 September 2015

Why does The Guardian think that OpenStreetMap is owned by Google

My attention was drawn by a tweet to an article in The Guardian online showing some nice examples of cartography:

To my amazement it contained this:

To quote "Google's OpenStreetMap"!

Now, The Guardian has generally covered OpenStreetMap well over the years, and has made use of appropriately credited OSM data from time-to-time over the years. Last year it re-published Serge Wroclawski's influential blog post "Why the world needs OpenStreetMap". It's former Technology editor, Charles Arthur, was very familiar with OpenStreetMap, and in turn played a big part in the campaign to get open data from the Ordnance Survey.

This error is symptomatic of two things:
  • A widespread assumption that anything to do with on-line maps must come from Google (most often seen in the belief that the images are taken with Google's own statellites).
  • An absence of care in fact-checking when taking information from other webpages. 
There is not a great deal that the OpenStreetMap community can do about the former. After all commercial players such as DigitalGlobe have to put up with the same sort of thing. However, we can do something about the latter: but in general probably don't put enough effort into such things. (Perhaps unsurprising, its more fun to survey & add data than try and get people to get their facts right).

A quick google search reveals more or less the identical string in numerous webpages referring to Luis Dilger's 3-D city visualisations:

Clearly most of these are just straight copying from a single source. However it is not the original statement by Dilger (see link above). So it looks like The Guardian really has not checked it's facts and has the text is probably unoriginal too.

Thankfully I got a speedy response from them (thanks to twitter):

All-in-all the episode highlights that as a group we in OpenStreetMap have a long way to go in communicating who we are and what we do to mainstream media types.

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