Why is there no word on OSM being used with the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami?

Here is the link to the wiki page Japan:


“OpenStreetMap has good map data in this region”

I beg to differ. I would call OSM data in that region as VERY poor BEFORE the disaster.


Now the data that is there is possibly even more useless. Why is there no freely available areal photography to map the region as with Haiti? This is the kind of situation where OSM comes into its own due to the rapid ability to map change.

It’s a wiki you can change it.

I don’t know why you state that the data is positively more useless: various people have been working over the last 48 hours to map the area around Sendai immediately affected by the tsunami from post-tsunami imagery. You can see the difference here http://www.cloudsourced.com/2011/03/14/openstreetmap-after-the-tsunami/.

I also suspect you are confusing the speed with which the map has rendered with the availability of data. The area of your link has substantial data added in the past 3 days. It just has not yet been rendered at zoom level 12 (indeed I don’t think z12 re-renders have happened anywhere in the affected area).

Improving the map can help in many different ways, not just now, but in the future.

On the osm wiki page, link above, there are post-desaster images, but not so good to map evectively. The HOT team is in discussion with the imagery providres to get better imagery, but it needs time, see [1]

Greetings, Dietmar

[1] http://lists.openstreetmap.org/pipermail/hot/2011-March/000631.html

The important thing is to demonstrate that the map data being created now is an accurate representation of post disaster Japan and not just people from around the world rushing to OSM and doing what they can. I have to admit when it happened I started tracing some Bing maps in regions where the data was REALLY bad (whole towns not mapped).

If you cant demonstrate clearly to outside non-tech people that the new data is a clear representation then you can start doing something with it. That however is only true if there is enough new data in the disaster zone to be of sufficient benefit. Fair enough, that takes times, but a few roads doesnt make a map.

The really important thing is to utilise the ability to rapidly modify the map to reflect the current situation. As soon as high enough resolution areal imagery is available it not just be realised onto the main OSM editer, but also publisised through blogs, banners etc.

On a slight side note, I hope we can emphasis to the community the need to have a well mapped Japan since its current state is generally poor. That isnt to put down the Japanese mappers, im sure what they have done is good. But there is a real need to have a lot more data. It always annoys me how the OSM community takes the slant that ‘we have all the roads, we are complete’. I have heard this about Germany. Well, a lot of the roads are there, but far from all of them. And what about all the shops? all the buildings? all the leisure centres? all the speed limits? You get the picture. A map isnt complete until there is nothing possible left to map, which is of course never. From a user centred design perspective, OSM is useful in some sense with some main roads, but its usefullness increases immensely the more data of different types are included in the map.

Sorry for a massive rant, it is really not meant to put anyone or anything down, I just think this community is in an excellent place to be able to play an important role in supporting activities from this point on, and more should be done/ talked about. As soon as I can chip in, I will as much as I possibly can.

Ok, sod it! Here are post disaster imagery


Yes it is from Google, yes we dont have the right to copy it, but I say screw them! Lets use this and EVERYTHING we tace we tag with Google_Tsunami

If Google get pissy we can remove all the tagged polylines and nodes. I would hope Google’s mantra of ‘do no evil’ might lead them to letting us use these for humanitarian purposes.

Yeah please don’t do that.

It’s not an issue of “If Google get pissy”. OpenStreetMap is a project all about creating open licensed data. It’s built on that principle. If we derive data from copyrighted resources on the basis that the copyright holders will hopefully not get pissy, then all of that comes crumbling down, and all we’re left with is a map built via multiple breaches of copyright, which people cannot feel confident in re-using legally. At the end of the day, the Japanese government probably have wonderfully accurate maps, but they’re not free and open. Any idiot could create maps by copying them. Free and open makes all the difference. Without that, we’ve achieved nothing.

I know this is hugely frustrating in a situation where lives might be saved by abandoning these principles. But there really is no point in abandoning these principles. All we can do is point the finger at google, who sometimes seem to be demonstrating a desire to “own” crisis mapping like they own everything else on the internet.

Happily this is now a moot point of course. We have post-quake imagery for Japan available from various sources, including patched directly into bing in some areas. No need to use google.