Sick of the errors in the new iOS 6 Maps app? Consider adding or updating OpenStreetMap (OSM) data. OSM is a crowd-sourced world map, think wikipedia for maps, that can easily be edited once you create a free account on their website. OSM is one of the data sources used for generating what you see in the iOS 6 Map app.
An easy way to get started is looking up your neighborhood to see if local amenities like grocery stores, schools, and parks are labelled correctly. OSM edit-mode is pretty straightforward and allows users to create points of interest on the map, edit incorrect labels, and even designate more complex shapes as buildings and artifacts straight from a web browser. Just like wikipedia you’ll have to explain your edits when you hit save after making your changes. I was able to update data on a bunch of bars in my neighborhood with little instruction. Some of the bars on my street had closed while others had moved and OSM didn’t accurately show the correct info. The changes I made were immediately available on the main OSM site. Contributing to OSM helps generate open map data used by a variety of applications and hopefully will help improve the incorrect data currently generating so many complaints toward Apple. It’s still unclear how much data is being fed to the iOS Map app from OSM, however, I’ll be testing to see if my edits have made it into iOS 6 application and will report back on what I find.
Empowering a community to contribute and modify open data helps systems dependent on that data to mature and also helps create educated citizens. Google provides tools for users of their systems to improve their dataset, now with Apple’s decision to no longer license Google data in such a high profile application the onus is on Apple to do similar. The difference in the end between improving the datasets driving Google Maps and OpenStreetMap is that the latter remains open while Google data belongs to Google.
The outcry from end users and technology journalists regarding the iOS 6 Maps app is a unique opportunity to discuss the value of open data and the importance of geographic information systems in our daily lives. I hope you take this moment to read a bit about why OpenStreetMap exists and, if you dare, try editing the world in your pocket.