It is that time of year 9

Yup it is the time of year for some reflection and some goodwill unto all men, particularly those in California, Southampton, Denver, Westminster, Haiti, Seattle to hint at just a few.

Thanks to Imelda

Several people have or will shortly pronounce on what they consider to be the geo-events of the year, their favourite maps, the top tips for success in 2011 and a load of other stuff in that vein including OS and Google Maps Mania. So here in reverse order are my top 5 of the year just about to pass.

5. A GeoVation loser turns out to be a winner were one of the GeoVation finalists who although they caught my eye did not get the judges vote. I liked them enough to make an investment and join their board. Things have moved on pretty well since then and I have high hopes for the coming year as we move into new offices in January and start to ratchet things up. It is great to be back in the geogame.

4. Loads of mappy TV and Radio

There was a flurry of TV and radio programmes about maps including Magnificent Maps: Power, Propaganda and Art on TV and at the British Library (I went 3 times or was it 4?)

3. Open Source – a tipping point in the UK?

The announcement that the UK INSPIRE solution would be developed using Open Source components will perhaps be seen as the tipping point for Open Source Geo in the UK. I summed up my views on why this was important and possibly a game changer in this post, Ian Painter doesn’t agree with me on all of this and makes some good points in the comments.

2. Microsoft and MapQuest embrace OpenStreetMap

If I wasn’t so parochial I would have put this as number 1.

I wrote about the announcements from Bing and MapQuest at State of the Map 2010 and the tension I sensed amongst some of the core volunteers. I suggested that the participation of such big players would inevitably change the the game for OSM. Since that post Cloudmade announced that it had raised $12.3m in a funding round and soon after one of its founders, Steve Coast who also started OSM, jumped ship and shortly after resurfaced to join Microsoft.

If you look at the way MapQuest have integrated editing tools into their site using standard OSM tools you can get a feel for how these two giants could really drive uptake and coverage for OSM.

I expect there will be several more big announcements in 2011, maybe even a mid-sized one from not too far away.

1. OS OpenData (C)

Still think the copyright symbol is a bit ridiculous linked to OpenData, is it the lack of a space that qualifies it for the (c)?

This had to be the number 1 event of the year. After several years of Free Our Data campaigning a brief conversation between Gordon Brown and Sir Tim Berners-Lee unlocked this core data for the Open Data movement, I posted loads of assessment here so I am not going to recap. Suffice it to say that this has helped to unlock the derived data nightmare (still not completely resolved, need to post some thoughts on that soon) helped to get several new initiatives, apps underway and has provided some useful background to OSM which can aid filling in some of the missing GB bits.

I doubt that it will generate the tax revenue for the treasury that some FOD visionaries foresaw but we have a recession to help muddle that issue up so let’s enjoy the data and leave the cost to the treasury (who may cast an eagle eye over the costs of maintaining OS OpenData in the future)


I have hinted at some of my views for 2011 above but let me draw out a couple more themes/predictions:

  • Nearly half of UK GI spend is in the public sector, that market is going to be somewhere between not good and downright awful. It just has to be as the impact of massive cuts washes through to new GI investments and even continuing support and services contracts. On the positive side a squeeze of this scale opens up opportunities for businesses that offer radically different business models and big cost savings. Think shared services, cloud, open source and open data to name just a few.
  • One of the big GI players will either “consolidate” into a specialist niche or be sold to an even bigger player, the field is getting too crowded with new entrants and they aren’t innovating sufficiently fast to buck market trends
  • We will start to see less maps in mobile apps and more “ubiquitous” location that just works.
  • Someone is going to mess up big time with location and privacy
  • One of the big checkin players will check out

Several hostages to fortune there, no doubt some humble pie to be eaten this time next year. If you don’t blog, feel free to add your faves of 2010 and thoughts for 2011 in the comments.

I sometimes wonder whether I write this stuff for myself or for whoever reads it (a bit of both I guess). To all of you who have been kind enough to comment either on this blog or face to face, thanks for following me.

I hope you have a geotastic 2011 or as someone said “make maps not war”

That’s me done for 2010

9 thoughts on “It is that time of year

  • Richard Fairhurst

    “I am not sure why the [OSM] ‘community’ didn’t go with simple public domain with attribution”

    Many early OSM contributors were/are also free software advocates with strong, Stallman-shaped views in favour of reciprocal licensing.

    Those of us with a more relaxed, PD-friendly attitude have long been shouted down by the ‘sharealike’ enthusiasts. This doesn’t mean the outcome is good, but it explains why it is what it is.

    • steven

      Hi Richard the”I am not quite sure … ” was a stylistic choice to some extent as I recognise the complexity of reaching agreement across the whole community.

      Gary makes a good point that the current licensing may scare off some potential large participants because of the difficulty in separating their “own” content from OSM within an application and that separation may indeed not be practical if you are conflating data with OSM, I thought this was partly what the new database license was intended to resolve. There may be a disconnect between the interests of contributors and the needs of potential users of the data.

      I want to be careful here not to make quick comments about the licensing when so many people who understand the issues have been working for ages on this. I suppose the right place for discussion on the license would be somewhere on the OSM wiki rather than here.



  • James C

    Steven, only just caught up with this post for some reason; perceptive as ever (as well as time-rich – my blog is almost gathering dust by comparison!).
    For what its worth and you identify it for 2011, the biggest geo-event of 2010 is the one with the biggest downstream consequences for the most people (in turns of pros and cons) and that would (in the UK at least) be the political choices made by the new government with respect to what has been marketed as a crippling national debt.
    For the “industry” (mainly the supply side with its 10,000+ employees and 25,000+ associated ‘hangers on’) it promises to offer a major shake out while for the “market”, or at least for the braver parts of it, it could be a game changer.
    We’re probably already inured to the demands for efficiencies and cost cutting but they’re not going away any time soon (although the global market is more mixed) and it will be interesting to see how both sides of the equation respond in terms of the types of services offered and those strategies adopted be it in PS or outside.

    Geo has long been touted as the hidden enabler of greater opportunity (for cutting costs, informing decision making etc) and at the Location Economics session at the RGS it was interesing that only the PS was able/willing to lay out case studies to this end. There is obviously plenty of scope across the economy to deliver such value but the days of ‘seats’ and ‘maps’ business models (and the associated language) to do so look pretty shaky from here.

    Going to be an interesting and exciting period….

  • Mark Percival

    Steven et al,

    Those of us who do not blog, but sometimes contribute, give thanks to you and the other geoleaders for taking the time to provide information/comment/criticism/insight into the commercial world and what is going on in the wider world – it really is useful for those of us in our sectors who don’t get out much these days!

    2011 – I’ve been warning about this for 2 years now up to the point where people are getting fed up with hearing me, but it has now come true, boy and how! So I’ll say it once more for those who I haven’t bored – Public sector GI/Geo is closing down to new business (as are most other ares of PS) so if your business model relies on the PS to keep you going you might just do OK and truck along nicely but if you want to grow you’d better change it quick and come up with some value-added services ’cause it ain’t gonna be no picnic for at least the next 5 years!

    However, being the eternal optimist I am I happen to think that this industry has some brilliant people at the helm and will turn up something that will make us say “Wow, I want one of those”. So come on guys lets show ’em we’re not beat!

    Best wishes to all for 2011.

  • steven


    There is clearly value to Bing and MapQuest in switching off their licensing of TA or NTq. Even if they only do so in some of the geographies they serve.

    MapQuest seem to be quite serious in their committment to OSM and it will be interesting to see what happens with Microsoft and OSM now that Steve has joined them. I will be slightly less sceptical than you and give them the benefit of the doubt for 2011.

    You make a good point about the difficulty in conflating OSM data with other sources without less restrictive licensing (I am not sure why the “community” didn’t go with simple public domain with attribution but I guess it is complex stuff and they have had advice).

  • Gary Gale

    Maybe I’m missing something but so far I’m immensely skeptical on the commercial interest in OpenStreetMap. As far as I can see all the Microsoft and Mapquest involvement has been doing is contributing funds and providing another OSM powered variant in addition to their existing (Teleatlas or Navteq powered) mapping and service platforms.

    No-one has yet addressed or utilised the value that OSM has by integrating the data corpus with one or more additional data sets. Given the state of the OSM licensing model and that of the commercial mapping vendors I’d be very surprised if this actually came to pass, but until that does all I see are commercial vendors trying to accrue “open source kudos” by contributing funds to OSM whilst continuing to perpetuate the OSM silo.

    Until that (predominantly license led) silo is broken down and opened up I remain deeply skeptical on the uptake of OSM outside of the OSM community and outside of those products and services (such as Skobbler) which rely entirely on OSM data.

    Which is an immense shame as most commentary on the Microsoft and Mapquest funding have, to my mind at least, mis-represented what is actually being done. OSM continues to go from strength to strength but it’s got to be approaching the (self imposed) ceiling of usage and only a revisiting of the license terms (both on OSM’s part and on the part of the commercial vendors) will allow OSM to be utilised in the “real world” and give the project the widespread prominence it merits.

    Unless I’m missing something?

  • steven

    I should have added in a few of the low points of UK mapping in 2010.

    At the top of my list would have been OS taking legal action against the publishers of a light hearted and slightly ribald novel “The hills are stuffed with Swedish girls” about hill walking that used a spoof of the style of a Landranger printed map as a cover.

    Not the OS’ greatest moment of 2010 methinks

  • Steven R

    Steven, I read your posts and even your biased football assessments :d)

    One of the things I liked about 2010 was more discussion around managing information spatially, rather than managing spatial information.

    Also User Generated Content (VGI, crowdsourcing, whatever you want to call it) causing more constructive debate in the industry. It would be certainly ramp things (and increase visibility once more) up if Apple buys a digital mapping provider.

    Since I have spent the last 6 months of 2010 in the industry standards body dedicated to all things location, I would also add that more work is being done on lightweight candidate standards like Open GeoSMS and Geosynchronisation. [There’s a discussion on the latter on LinkedIn Group, Geospatial Data Integration]. The OGC is more than just standards development and I hope that is communicated in 2011 (my challenge!).

    Anyway, good luck to you and the Gunners for 2011 and remember there’s lots of (proper) snow in Norway….


  • Thierry_G

    Thanks Steven, I always enjoy reading your posts and you just saved me the effort of writing/thinking about my own round-up of 2010. All the best for 2011 and good luck with!


Comments are closed.