How good is OpenStreetMap

That is a statement not a question.

I have been at the 1Spatial user conference at Homerton College in Cambridge today. Several people commented on the difficulty that they had in finding the conference centre on Google Maps which matched my own experience. Search on Google for Homerton College and you will get directed to the centre of the Addenbrookes Hospital complex famous for heart transplants but not to my knowledge a conference venue.

Google Maps search for Homerton College

The “A” marker is what the search returns while the green arrow is the location returned by Google for a search on the postcode CB2 8PH which is what the conference web site quotes and which turns out to be correct. But that is a bit confusing as there is no Homerton College at the location of the green arrow (if you look very carefully you might see a slight shading that could represent a building but definitely no attribution and certainly not the detail of Addenbrooke’s. Part of the problem is that somehow Google have the wrong postcode recorded for the college. No wonder people searching on Google were a bit confused, at least one was last heard of still driving around the hospital.

I am not in any way criticising Google, the fault, if any, is with their data supplier Tele Atlas. Homerton is not exactly a new build, it has been on the current site since 1894 so one would have thought that the same vehicles that drove round the Addenbrooke’s site could have nipped a few hundred yards up the road and recorded Homerton or at least put some carto text on the map if they were unable to capture all of the detail.

You can guess where this goes next. I looked up Homerton College on OpenStreetMap and wonder of wonders

View Larger Map

Beautiful isn’t it? I thought so and when I showed it to one of the people complaining about Google/TA they were impressed but asked “why would anyone do that for nothing?” Well that’s another story but thanks to ito World you can see who mapped Homerton College and when here.

Now Homerton College Cambridge is not the whole of the UK let alone the world. Perhaps the demographics of a university town mean that it will have a strong team of active mappers. But it does prompt some questions about completeness, detail etc.

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