Its been a while since my last update on the progress of my thesis, but I suppose it is time for one as the day of my defense draws nigh.  Speaking of which. December 19th, 2011 is the big date and it seems like days are getting shorter is the day comes closer.  That could also be the effects of the sun setting earlier but I’ll save you all form my thoughts on that. (I love the winter)

So, progress.  Where am I?  Well interestingly enough – and I suspect this was clear to some from the start – the project has slowly deviated from being a study on the visualization of the data to an ongoing conversation about the openness of the data that drives such visualization.  For the aesthetically hungry, yes there is still a technical aspect. (And yes, I’m extremely excited about the 3D OpenStreetMap meetup in Germany, March of 2012!).

What I’ve found as I’ve been working with the data is that what we perceive to be “released” into the open is, in fact, not actually “open” as someone thinking in terms of open source would define it.  This poses two major problems (in addition to many smaller ones).

  • Integration – There can be little or none.  With data released under restrictive licenses we’re teased with high-quality data but are legally bound not to do anything of consequence with it.  It dooms the geo-savvy developer to perpetually bolt a viewer onto the data rather than to bring anything new to the table.
  • Quality Assurance – Its left up to the governing bodies.  Public input is taken via HTML contact forms.  Are corrections ever made?
The problem is a spider-web and it entangles just about everything that it touches, or gets even remotely near.  I won't write my entire thesis here, but I'll leave you with a thought that's been sitting with me for a few weeks now, ‘Are we really supposed to wait for “official” data producers to catch up to us?'