January Hangouts: Designers & Developers

The Wikimaps Creative Communities met online on the 7th January. It was the second event for the Designers & Developers community and the Wikimaps Nordic community met online for the first time.

Designers & Developers

Arun Ganesh had prepared a presentation of the Wikimaps Atlas for the event, but technical obstacles prevented it from happening. The project is a newly funded Wikimedia IEG project. Arun and Hugo Lopez will create a set of up-to-date maps and tools for easily creating maps on demand. They will work on Wikimedia-specific map styles, and look after the implementation of the maps in the Wikipedias. We’ll be hearing more from them!

Type in a different language code in the input box, hit tab and see what happens. Project by Arun Ganesh.

In the discussion we aimed at framing the scope of the Wikimaps tools project right. We had two key topics that we wanted to tackle:

  1. How shall we deal with the integration of the Wikimaps tools in Wikimedia
  2. We must start with use cases to come up with the most important tasks

Talking about cropping

Dan Michael O. Heggø told briefly about his experiences with OAuth. This way, the Wikimaps tools could be external to MediaWiki, and the user could authenticate in the external tool using their Wikimedia credentials. Dan has created a tool for cropping images in the Commons, the Crop Tool.

The crop tool in your Wikipedia toolset

The discussion drifted to cropping or not cropping maps for example when wanting to stitch several map sheets together. For this, we have a common understanding: You must not crop a map before uploading it to the Commons! You can make another cropped copy of the map. A special template can be made to maintain the connection between the images. Or you can use the cropping tools in the Warper, to mask undesired areas. We made note of the need to highlight different areas on the map image, such as the legend, or the scale.

We noted that images or maps can already be annotated in Wikimedia Commons, using the ImageAnnotator. There are other great projects dealing with map annotations, like the MapHub project and the consequent Annotorious project.

This again lead to a discussion about identifying and collecting place names on a map – or using place names as a means of roughly geolocating maps. There are academic and governmental place name repositories, that could all be taken advantage of. We are touching this topic in the Wikimaps project further along our roadmap, in the Wikimaps Gazetteer project. Even though it is not in the making yet, ideas about it are more than welcome.

Talking about use cases

As a commentator put it in the Etherpad for ideas about Wikimaps Warper: What’s it for? Who’s going to use it? What are the key things users want it to do?

Rectifying maps in Wikimedia Commons is a facility many people may be interested in. The users may be archives, who want to have volunteers rectify their maps, or they may be historical mappers who look for appropriate old maps to use as information source. And many others.

We can see that there are users that are interested in the pixel – often the case of the archives – and others that are interested in data. For example, you can calculate travel times along ancient routes if you have extracted roads from the map images as vector data. See for example http://omnesviae.org/ , http://orbis.stanford.edu/ and http://vici.org/.

The maps in the scope of the Wikimaps may also cover undermapped areas of the world, as brought up by Jaakko Helleranta, who works with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap in Nicaragua. Tim Waters showed us http://maps.nypl.org/relief, a version of the MapWarper that was used to georeference maps of Haiti in the earthquake relief.

You can join defining the use cases in the Wikimaps Design page. And please, ask for editor rights here to tell about your experiences or projects with historical maps. Comments and discussion are welcome! You can also read the meeting minutes.

Thank you for participating in the January Hangout Jan Ainali, John Erling Blad, André Costa, Tom Fish, Arun Ganesh, Harald Groven, Jaakko Helleranta, Yuwei Lin, Dan Michael Olsen Heggø, Pekka Sarkola, Manuela Schmidt, Rob Warren and Tim Waters!

Wikimaps online meetings start to roll in the New Year

The Wikimaps project will kick off at the New Year.  We are meeting in two creative communities:

The  Designers & Developers

Everyone, who is interested in developing the tools and the content for the Wikimaps: wikimedians, openstreetmappers, glammers and others.

The Wikimaps Nordic

Wikimedia chapters, OpenStreetMappers and GLAMs from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Estonia and Denmark.

Wikimaps around the World

The Wikimaps project was involved in a chain of international events. First in series was State of the Map Baltics organized in Tartu, Estonia. The series continued to Wikimania in Hong Kong ja finally the project was part of a code sprint organized to celebrate the 9th birthday of OpenStreetMap.

In Tartu

Together with the Baltic mappers we arranged a workshop on historical maps of Tartu. The Estonian National Archives, the National Library and Tartu University provided us with the old maps. They depict the city of Tartu over the years 1892–1986. All maps used in the workshop are now available in hi-res in Wikimedia Commons.

Pharus-Plan Dorpat, 1910

Pharus-Plan Dorpat, 1910

Tartu’s history is multifaceted: The fortress, that was known as Tarbatu in the first centuries AD, was renamed Yuryev when Yaroslav the Wise, the Grand Prince of Kiev renamed it after his Christian name Yuri. Conquerors and names kept changing since. In the end of the 13th century Tartu was a member of the Hanseatic League under the name Dorpat. For the Swedish rulers Tartu was known as Dorpat, as well as for the Polish ones. The Estonian name Tartu was adopted since Estonia detached from Russia in 1918. This was good material for our workshop.

OpenStreetMap actives from Estonia, Finland, Russia, Belarus and Poland were gathered in the main building of the Tartu University. OpenStreetMap Foundation representatives from western Europe attended also.

Wikimaps-työpaja SotM Balticsissa CC BY-SA 3.0 Pekka Sarkola

Wikimaps workshop in SotM Baltics CC BY-SA 3.0 Pekka Sarkola

We started the workshop early Sunday morning. I presented the maps and the challenges

  • Who would use old maps?
  • How could the historical maps be used?
  • Comments on a specific section of the Wikimaps plan

We worked with a tight schedule in five groups. Attentive sounds of discussion filled the space. Two of the groups managed to get their thoughts on paper.

The first group discussed the properties that are to be collected from a map. As an example, when a mapper traces the Tartu Town Hall, there is no way of knowing the start_date, the construction year of the building – only that it existed at the given date. Or maybe the map is not truthful. In one of the maps from the Soviet era the geographic features had been falsified.

Rautatiestä lenkkipoluksi. Mitenkäs nyt matka-aika lasketaan?

Jogging track from old railway line. What happens to travel times?

We discussed routing and calculating travel times along historical itineraries. Routes emerge and disappear: bridges are bombed, railway tracks removed and a cycling track is built in place, new highways are built.

The proposal for mapping Paris of the Musketeers triggered more ideas of placing literature on a map: Pubs of Joyce’s Ulysses, Sherlock Holmes’ London, Robin Hood in Nottingham and mapping the land of Kalevala, the national epic of Finland. Biographies of historical figures could be placed on a map in Wikipedia.

Wikipedisti ja kartoittajat samassa veneessä. State of the Map Balticsin veneretki. CC BY-SA 2.0 SK53 OSM

Wikipedian and mappers in the same boat. The boat trip in State of the Map Baltics. CC BY-SA 2.0 SK53 OSM

In Hong Kong

Later the same week hundreds of wikipedians gathered in Hong Kong for Wikimania from all over the world. During the event the participants in the multitude of Wikimedia projects can exchange experiences and tighten their collaboration. On the other hand it is an opportunity for the Wikimedia Foundation staff to discuss developing the environment together with the volunteers. For Wikimaps it was an chance to show what we have done and start establishing the project.

Round table discussion

The first thing done in Hong Kong was organizing a round table discussion about geodata in Wikimedia. Particiapants were people from Wikimedia projects that use geodata as well as people from the Wikimedia Foundation.

  • Maarten Dammers presented the Geographicus map donation he has helped to upload in the Commons.
  • Barbara Fischer presented a work in progress for a time-based animated map of Römisches Limes representing the erection and disappearance of Roman fortresses in Central Europe. The German Wikimedia organized an interesting event Wikidata trifft Archäologie 2013 this spring that gathered together the people working with definitions of place in the Ancient world.
  • Hugo Lopez is starting a project where maps for Wikipedia articles could be created from GIS data dynamically.
  • Daniel Kinzler explained the state of geodata in Wikidata.
  • Wikimaps presented briefly.
  • Tim Alder ja Daniel Schwen were present. They have been creating connections between Wikimedia and OpenStreetMap over the years. WikiMiniAtlas, OSM-Gadget, Geohack and WIWOSM have been made by them.

We discussed the needs of the projects and created a document.


By the end of the week Susanna presented Wikimaps together with Maarten Dammers. Maarten is a volunteer of great projects in the Wikimedia Commons and he has originally proposed a project by the name Wikimaps.

Wikimaps Warper työssä

Wikimaps Warper at work

We presented the Wikimaps Warper that has been customized for Wikimedia Commons by it’s original developer Tim Waters. It is now possible to georeference images in the Wikimedia Commons. The maps that have been georeferenced, can in turn be used in Open Historical Map for mapping historical features with OpenStreetMap tools.

OpenStreetMap Birthday Sprint

With all we had done and presented over the course of the week, we were part of the OpenStreetMap code sprint. 12 hour time zone difference made it impossible for us to do things together, simultaneously. The maps of Tartu had travelled from archives in Tartu via Hong Kong to an event in the US.

Tarton kartta Open Historical Map -ympäristössä, jossa voi käyttää OpenStreetMapin uutta iD-työkalua

A Map of Tartu in the Open Historical Map environment, where you can use OpenStreetMap’s new iD tool.