Maps at the Zürich hackathon

The Wikimedia Hackathon was held in Zürich this year with a focus on maps. As a conclusion, it seems maps will be an integral part of what Wikimedia is, as soon as everything presented is taken into use.


Erik Möller (Wikimedia Foundation) envisions that Wikimaps.org will be a new project, with a community and repository of it’s own. The space could host tools for creating maps as well as geographic data in all it’s forms.

The Maps namespace

Jon Robson (WMF Engineering, web), Katie Filbert (WMDE, Wikidata) and Derk-Jan Hartman created a MediaWiki extension for maps. It introduces a Map namespace where data for the map is stored in raw GeoJSON and can be edited via a JavaScript map editor interface. It also allows the inclusion of maps in wiki articles via a template.

Näyttökuva 2014-5-19 kello 8.26.23The demo: https://wikimaps-ext.wmflabs.org
The codebase: https://github.com/jdlrobson/WikiMaps

Wikimedia tiles

Having Wikimedia’s own tileserver has finally moved forward. Kai Krueger, Tim Alder and Alexandros Kosiaris (WMF, Engineering, operations) have worked to set up a test environment, that shows the base map in several languages. The styles priority list is currently: Mapnik-default, -nolabels, hikebike, black&white, WikiMiniAtlas, multilingual map and hillshading.

Vector rendering is high on the wish list. It would be ideal for historical maps, as there is an infinite number of snapshots of history which should be rendered as tiles. I would not like to be the one who curates important dates!


Our project Wikimaps might need a new name. When we move under a Wikimaps.org umbrella, we become the Old maps project, the OpenHistoricalMap counterpart in the Wikiworld and the Wikimaps Gazetteer project.

Using the Maps namespace for old maps

In our Old Wikimaps project a key use case for the new Maps extension is the display of the old map layered on top of the current map. It can be used on the map file page on Commons or in the upload wizard, with an interface for positioning the old map on the current map. In this example, the interface is a collection of items from the iD editor for OSM, the Maptcha project and the Wikimedia styles.

Template:Map for map metadata

André Costa (WMSE) worked to finish the first version of the Template:Map, that we want to include in the GWToolset as well as the Upload Wizard. We are still open to influences: Please give feedback! Wikidata will soon take over handling Wikimedia Commons metadata, and these metadata templates will become obsolete. But in the meanwhile, we will upload hundreds of maps with their help and learn about maps metadata.

The information has different layers:

  1. Image data that is similar to data about any image.
  2. Publication and copyright: the cartographer, publisher, printer etc.
  3. Geographic: point or bounding box, place names, time, scale etc.
  4. Object in the archive: materials used, ID, institution data etc.

Wikimaps workflow: Request for Comments

Wikimaps project flowchart

Many suggested that we formulate the Wikimaps workflow into an RfC. Please share your thoughts about this draft, and prepare to discuss about the actual document. (link to be added)

Wikimaps Atlas

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The Wikimaps Atlas team is half way through their individual engagement grant. They are producing a scripting environment to recreate all Wikipedia hand-made maps.

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The Wikimaps Atlas team Arun Ganesh (left) and Hugo Lopez (sitting) discussing with Jakub Kaniewsky. CC-BY-SA 3.0 Pakeha, Wikimedia Commons

Bridging between projects

A wealth of maps projects were presented:

Beat Esterman (WMCH) rectified old Zürich maps and provided us with a lot of valuable user testing with the Warper.

Simone Cortesi (WMIT) also had a set of Italian maps to rectify.


Petr Pridal from Klokantech produces a georeferencing environment that is used by many memory institutions and the map portal OldMapsOnline. Jakub Kaniewsky has produced Sharemap, a toolset for working with maps, that also features map rectification. We discussed the interoperability of data produced in these environments.

Tim Alder has created a map view for showing items in specific classes in Wikidata. See the tool in: http://tools.wmflabs.org/wp-world/wikidata/superclasses.php?lang=en.

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Cultural heritage items in Wikidata plotted on a map. Wikidata superclasses by Tim Alder.

The Reasonator is a creation by Magnus Manske, an original creator of MediaWiki. It is an environment to test Wikidata capabilities that are not yet in production. The latest addition to the toolpack has been the display of Wikidata items within a certain radius from a point on the map. You can follow the new features in Reasonator and Wikidata in Gerard Meijssen’s blog Words and What Not.

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Reasonator showing all Wikidata entries within a radius from a coordinate point.

Collaboration between Wikimedia and OpenStreetMap

Simon Poole, the chair of OpenStreetMap Foundation attended the hackathon, and lead a group of people on a tour around Zürich. It was a mapping party: We collected house numbers by sneaking around houses, marked forgotten details and corrected errors made by ignorant German mappers!

There were many pressing topics to be discussed between OSM and Wikimedia, and the presence of the new ED of the Wikimedia Foundation Lila Tretikov made the event feel like the Davos of open knowledge.

Hackathon - Zürich - 2014 - Lydia Pintscher and Lila Tretikov

Lydia Pintscher, Product Manager for Wikidata and Lila Tretikov, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation getting familiar with data issues. CC-BY-SA 3.0 Ludovic P. Wikimedia Commons

The most important issue is to solve the incompatibility in licensing between the Wikimedia and the OpenStreetMap projects. Even if it is possible to combine the projects through skillful linking, it is not easy for a volunteer to navigate the differences. We are excited to see the enthusiasm in both projects to create something great together and wait to see what the legal teams in the organizations will come up with.

Tracking crossover projects

Quim Gil (WMF, Engineering community) has created a page to collect crossover projects between Wikimedia and OpenStreetMap. A Wikimedia Tech Talk around maps is also planned.

More maps, different maps

Using OSM data on a map in Wikipedia is only one of the many use cases that are out there. We also have the OpenHistoricalMap database to map to Wikimedia data. Through weighing several options, we promote the solution where the OHM database is kept separate from Wikidata, and items are mapped against each other only when needed. Geographic contributions are made to the OHM database and further content in Wikidata. If this sounds obscure, let’s discuss more in the RfC!!

Tim Alder outlined a new proposal to store “ephemeral geodata” in an instance of the OSM toolstack, the Open-Wikidata-map. This means fuzzy features such as climate regions, habitats of animals and thematic features of all kinds. Mikel Maron has proposed such infrastructure in a recent talk in SotMUS OpenStreetMap as Infrastructure.

The OpenSeaMap is another specialized geo database, that could be linked across to Wikipedia articles about seas, rivers, water sports and shipping affairs.

More proposals

Tim Alder also proposed to initiate a network of local OSM/Wikimedia ambassadors in as many countries as possible. They could create projects and organize events, and work in collaboration with the forthcoming Maps & Geo Team at Wikimedia Foundation.

The authentication across projects through OAuth should be put into action.

Simon Poole mentioned the idea to collect aerial imagery, both user-generated and open data. Tim Alder reminded it would be a natural continuation after WMDE’s support for OpenGeoServer.

Andy Mabbett suggested the use of crowdsourcing games and bots for adding Wikipedia links to OpenStreetMap objects.

Going beyond maps

Dan Andreescu (WMF Analytics) worked on a visualization framework that overlaps a bit with the Maps namespace. Have a look at the famous Napoleon flow map by Charles Joseph Minard created by the extension!

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Click the image for the original visualization

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Discussion page about open datasets

Open data worldsThe event gathered many open data activists, and there were many discussions about how and where to store open data within the Wikimedia family. David Cuenca created a page to answer (or – in fact – ask) some of those questions.

Wikimedia Hackathon Zürich 2014 Contributions

Microcontributions, attracting new editors. Thiemo Mättig CC-BY-SA 3.0