1,000 Addresses

You’ve all heard them, the countless laments about how OSM was direly lacking one thing above everything else: addresses. To anyone who complains that OSM was “useless” for something, my standard response is: Then don’t use it – there’s more than enough things for which OSM is tremendously useful, and if our mappers think they’d like to have more addresses then they will surely come.

Having said that, even among experienced OSM mappers I sometimes detected a hint of despair: “We’re never going to get all those house numbers, not without an import anyway.” – This struck me as atypical for a project with a “yes we can” attitude like ours. So I did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation for Germany. There are probably around 40 million addresses in Germany, and we’ve got 40k people who have edited the OSM map here. Now if every one of them were to add a thousand addresses…

Until now, I had mapped addresses only occasionally; now I decided to put in a litte more effort. How hard could it be? Like in the old days when we still mapped missing streets with a GPS, whenever I went somewhere on foot or by bike that didn’t yet have house numbers, I prepared a little printout, maybe a small deviation, and pencilled in a few. And like in the old days, after a while my standard places were complete and I was excited if an errand led me to a place that I wouldn’t normally go to and that was lacking house numbers. (I also cheated a bit, and printed out maps for some areas where I had friends and family, asking them to fill in a couple numbers.)

I had expected it to be a rather boring affair but it wasn’t really. Most streets do have some little secret they want you to discover: house 7a in the back here, house 126 with the side entrance there, or house 26 which looks like it belongs to a different street but doesn’t.

It took me three weeks of that kind of casual house number mapping to collect “my” 1,000 addresses. (Of course that’s only because I was “standing on the shoulders of giants” – all of the streets and most of the buildings were already there so I really only had to fill in the details.)

I still don’t think that addresses are of paramount importance. But I think I’ll carry on recording them on the side, and occasionally involving friends and family as I did, and I hope that a few others will join me in that endeavour – if only to prove wrong the sentiment that “we can never get enough addresses through crowdsourcing”.

It’s like in the old days really, when people said that OSM is never going to work.

Have you got your 1,000 house numbers already?

There's 3 Comments So Far

  • maxolasersquad
    December 12th, 2012 at 18:08

    A few months ago I started collecting addresses. It is a good detail to collect while out on the roads. I now collect the address of every place I visit. I have Vespucci on my phone. So if I’m filling up the tank, grabbing a soda, or loading up on groceries, I am adding POIs with addresses on my phone.

    Sometimes, if I don’t have time to fiddle around with my phone, I’ll snap a picture of the address and add it later when I have time.

    I think it will take us a while, but having a good database of addresses is doable. As more services start using us, I believe businesses will begin to find it in their own interest to add their information on OSM.

  • Vincent dP
    December 17th, 2012 at 20:06

    I’ve started doing a bit more of that too (even though there’s still plenty of more basic mapping needed in “my” area).

    But my tools of choice so far have always been a garmin (GPSmap 62) and a camera, and my “snap a photo of many houses as I walk/cycle past them” behaviour has proven much more suspicious to the local inhabitants than when I only photographed street names and such.

    I’m not organised enough to print an area before I go mapping, but maybe I could print a batch of osm leaflets instead, which would comme in handy when I get “interrogated” 🙂

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