Mapping in 2019

Mapping 2019strong text
My mappings has evolved. I never started out to contribute mapping data.
I trace the origin of my mapping bstrong textack to Bangkok, Thailand in 1973 after the pull out of the American forces from the Vietnam theater. I befriended a man from Iowa when I was in Bangkok. He was working on mapping out the bus system in the city of Bangkok and later for the whole county of Thailand. During the conflict in Southeast Asia maps of any kind were considered to be classified information. The general public had no map of the bus system, where each bus went and when.
I was recruited as a volunteer to ride the busses, see where they went and take notes.
This was before cell phones or digital photography. I was writing back then.
I took my Olivetti typewriter on the bus with me and I tried to describe the route as best I could not knowing the local alphabet or language.
Things have changed over the years. Back then there was no GPS.
I started in with Panoramio in the late 90’s. Their goal was to seek out landmarks and take good quality pictures of them. The pictures were juried and those that met the criteria were placed on a “layer” of Google Earth.
I started with Panoramio before Google took an interest in them, way before Google bought them out (Google downgraded the selection methods and did all they could to dishearten the volunteer picture taKers who were contributing.)
I climbed the leader boards, making a name for myself as a landmark picture taker. My pictures on Google Earth covered all the “lower 48”. I enjoyed looking for fire stations, bridges, especially the covered bridges, churches, country court houses, and post offices. I would notice things as I traveled and when I noticed them I made an effort to take a picture.
Most often my travels were less to get some place, more to see what I could find to take pictures of. I got into the a routine of taking pictures during the daylight hours, then in the evening I would edit the pictures and upload them to Panoramio. I took some pride in my acceptance ratio. When a picture was rejected I did one of two things. If I saw that the picture didnt meet the criteria I would either delete it myself from Panoramio or I we ould crop the image to make it acceptable. If I thought the picture met the rigid guidelines for acceptance I would remove the rejected picture and re submit the image. Most often the picture would then be placed on Google Earth. I maintained a 99% acceptance rate. With nearly a million pictures that was no small feat.
Before the sudden and unexpected death of Google Earth and Panoramio they formed “groups” these groups stimulated more and better pictures to be taken. The owner of each group got to select what pictures would be in their group.
I had 17 groups when Google pulled the plug.
The ones I can remember are
Connected house and barns.
Railway bridges
Train tracks
Post offices,
Fire stations
Mail boxes
Saw mills
Stone houses
There were more. In November of 2016 Google announced that they were discontinuing Panoramio and Google Earth would be smudged into Google Maps.
When Google stopped collecting landmark pictures for their maps I was the leading contributor in the U.S.
Several of us Panoramio contributors discussed what we would do upon the death of Panoramio.
Mapilary was one option that was tossed about. I tried Mapilary. Their motives were very different. Mapilary has no interest in real photographs of landmarks so people can travel virtually like they had become accustomed to on Google Earth.
Mapilary wants numbers, nothing more. Every contribution is counted, no matter how poor the quality. Roads mapped at night on a foggy rainy night are better than unmapped roads. The computers can recognize things in poor quality pictures that us humans don’t want to bother with.
As a Mapillary contributor you are ranked on just 3 things.
Firstly you are ranked on the number of sequences you have concocted. A sequence is an as yet unidentified substance or object that dwells in the minds of the Mapilary developers. The word "sequence " may have as many definitions within Mapilary as I have contributed images.
Next you are ranked on how many images you have contributed. I think it would be far more accurate to say the number of images they have accepted. For a long while the most frequent response I received from Mapilary was that they would not accept my images on the grounds of their accuracy of placement. There was a while there where mapping became very unpleasant. Each night, after spending my time and gas to gather data from as yet unmapped roads, further and further from home, I would get the nastygram
“Your pictures cannot be accepted”
They must have accepted some of my contributions. I am after all at the top of both my country and the world’s leaderboards.
The last thing you are ranked on is the number of.meters you have covered. No matter if you cover the same meter over and over, you are ranked on how many meters you have covered. I have covered 331 million meters. I have never intentionally driven a meter. I only drive miles. The meters translated to 256 thousand miles. I’d love to know how many of those meters/miles are on white unmapped roads turning them green, how many are going one direction and how many I was the first to map.
I came into 2019 at the top of the leaderboards. I had been limping in 2018, suffering with an aged Ford van that was all I could afford when the Chevy van I had before it died on Christmas day 2017 with 450 thousand miles on it. I limped into 2019 with the Ford van. The Ford was the worst vehicle I have ever tried to operate in a wintry climate. Ohio has a 5% winter. The Ford wasn’t up to it. I couldn’t reliably drive on plowed salted roads. The van was not a pleasure in summer, in winter it was simply not safe to drive even in Ohio’s mild winter weather. In late January of 2019 the Ford asked to be put out of its misery. I tossed in the towel. I had been going broke with the Ford. The Amish would not hire me. Often the van wouldn’t get us up some hill. I had suffered the summer with no air conditioning. As winter came the lack of defrost and heat was worse. When the van broke down and had to be towed for the 9th time in one calendar year triple A said they would no longer tow me. I became without wheels, the van taking up my parking space in the driveway but inoperable. I was broke and without wheels. My business as a Yoder toder, one who hauls the Amish when they go further than the horse and buggy will take them, suffered. My van was not reliable. I had had to admit defeat on hills everyone else was climbing with no problem and I had become known as the guy who takes all the pictures.
I stayed that way, without wheels and turning down all the trips I was offered until June of 2019, leading the leaderboards but not contributing any data. I had carved out a lead and that lead kept me ahead during my hiatus from driving/contributing.
One of the Amish, a friend of mine helped me out.
I have an app on my phone that shows me property boundaries and the name and address of the owner. My Amish friend really needed this for his standing timber buying. I’d find the wood on the satellite image, find the owner through the app, then I would walk and mark the property boundaries for him.
He was able to find me an old clunker of a minivan to be able to take him around hunting for timber.
The Amish as a faith do not like cameras, computers or the internet.
I discussed my passion for mapping with my customer, the timber buyer.
I explained that this was my contribution to God’s creation. Once I am dead I can no longer make the world a better place. My mapping is my way of upgrading life on earth, upgrading the maps we all use.
Selling mapping to an Amishmen was not an easy task. It took weeks. Several times he to remove the cameras. It helped that what he wanted from me was my mapping skills. I found him timber. I couldn’t tell from the map if the owners would sell or if he had already talked to that land owner, but I found him virtually endless timber to talk to the owners about. Now I have heard him defend my mapping among his Amish pears.
That first minivan served it purpose. I was able to prove I could find timber and the boundaries of the land owner’s land.
When that van died ( it was on death’s door way before I got it) we were able to find another minivan the same day. When I went in to pay for that van I told the used car salesmen that if he ever had a 14 passenger van I could make money with that. (I was thinking I could also get some trips that would get me out on some as yet unmapped roads)
Of course it was God’s plan that he should just happen to have just the van I needed.
For three months I have been searching out timber to buy and making some trips in this nice GMC 14 passenger, 3500, Savana one ton 2004 van.
In October of 2018 I met other mappers for the first time.
I was able to get a spot at the mapping convention in Detroit, Michigan. There I met some of the big shots in Mapilary as well as some other contributors. There I was awarded a Waylens camera for being the undisputed leadership on the OSC leaderboards. The folks from Mapilary assured me that they had a camera (a better one) for me.
It took some not so subtle reminders but in October of 2019 I got a Blackvue camera from Mapilary.
The Blackvue camera record videos. This yields far more images per hour of driving than the phone does. The picture quality seems to be similar, but in Mapilary we are not judged at all on the quality only on the quantity. The Blackvue has no sim card. Every night the unique micro SD card has to be taken out of the camera, taken into the laptop and uploaded from there. I find that if I record for more than 9 hours the data wont be uploaded off that micro SD card before I head out the next morning. The SD card for the Blackvue are unique. You can’t used the ones you can get at Best Buy. To buy just one Blackvue SD card online is well over $400.
I requested more cards and was sent two more.
One of these highly valuable cards has died.
I find I need to reformat the card after each uploading. The one bad card won’t successfully format any more. That card has 118 gig of as yet not uploaded data on it. But there seems to be no way I can recover either that unique $400 micro SD card or that data gather 250 miles from home. The good news is I have never really trusted the Blackvue. I always run an S8 gathering for Mapilary as well, so at least those roads were turned to green. The camera faces straight ahead and covers a wide angle. The S8 is on the driver’s side aimed at signage along the roads.
The leaderboards were not working for several months in the autumn of 2019. When I regained wheels enabling me to again map this summer I was ahead of my arch rival allen. He had just under 12 million and I was not very far ahead of him.
For a while I was #2 on the individual leaderboards following the Florida department of transportation.
Soon after I started again to map and contribute the leaderboards went down. During that time ozflor appeared on the leaderboards. I had never noticed this contributor before. (I’ll refer to this contributor as a “he” although I don’t know gender or even if this is an individual rather than a Organization like the FlDOT) He has kept right up with me on the Mapilary leaderboards. He politely stays back 3 million or so but seems to be contributing as the same rate I am.
As a side note, I now lead all but one organization, KAARTCAM out of Colorado springs. I talked to them after I met two of their people at the Detroit mapping convention. I offered them my services. They declined.
I hope you will forgive me talking about Open Street Cam in the same place as Mapilary. To me they are both a part of my mapping. I run one S8 phone and the Blackvue for Mapilary and I run one S8 phone and two Waylens cameras for OSC everywhere I map. The two Waylens cameras point at the two curbs. They don’t have as wide an angle as the Blackvue or even the S8. The OSC dedicated S8 faces right down the center of the road. The S8 shows how many points I’m earning for any given road.
The point system used to be systematic and predictable. That has changed. It used to be you got 10 points for unmapped, never mapped roads,
5 points for roads mapped going the other direction
3 points for roads that have not been mapped in some time.
You always earned one point for each image no matter if it is your driveway that you cover twice daily.
Nowadays the best you can get is 5 points per image. You are awarded 5 for mapped main roads completely at their discretion. No more 10 pointers. Every so often for no discernable reason I earn 3 or less often 2 points. These two point scales are as yet unfathomable.
People ask me what are the points worth. I tell them I have 46 million points, how many points do you have? I always have more (my nearest competitor has just 15 million points) soIi am just that much ahead of you. I still
try to find the roads that award more points.
When I am out without an Amish customer I have the Mapilary app on the “Explore” feature, I look for the white roads. These are the unmapped roads. It used to be that for these I would be turning them green (mapped) for Mapilary and I would get 10 points for OSC. I still turn them green but most often I am awarded just a single point from the folks at OSC. I’m ok with this as long as every contributor to OSC is awarded points the same new way. The old system seemed to make far more sense and be more of an insensitive to find the roads that had not yet been mapped.
When I am hauling the Amish, not hunting for timber to buy I take them on trips further than they can go by horse and buggy. Often this is to weddings, funerals and family gatherings. I usually have time after I drop them off to go "exploring ". I search out the white roads. When I am this I still look for worthwhile landmark pictures to take. I have become fairly well known for my pictures of barns older than I am and for my collection of Post Offoce pictures. I still find it hard to pass a church, unique mailbox or covered bridge without stopping to take a picture.
I average right around 200 miles of driving per day. I take note of my milage on the first of each month and divide but the number of days in the month. My average is always close to 200 miles driving per day. Hunting for trees I sometimes do 300 in a day, some days I barley get 100. Sundays, when the Amish don’t hire the english to haul them I often ring up 300 or more miles, much of that turning white roads green.
I have a few longer trips booked to finish out the year. I will be going over to Bern Indiana for Christmas and I have a PA trip before the new year. If the van holds up I hope to cross over into 2020 at the top of both leaderboards.
In the new year I’d like to meet more mappers. I enjoyed the Detroit convention. Next time I go I’d like to be one of the speakers.
I am hoping to get a cochlear implant this winter. This will make being in large groups easier for me. As it is I has just 3% of my hearing in my left ear. Groups are difficult for me. I think I did pretty well in Detroit with the captioning and talking to other mappers in quiet places.
Increasingly I am shown that I spend far too much on mapping. I need to be more frugal, not buy a tank of gas every day I dont have a paying trip.
I put too many miles on my vehicle. I’m ranked on meters yet I drive miles. I’d really like to somehow map as a professional.


Thanks for this little peek into your history @JBTheMilker :wink:

I liked the scoring system I’ve seen here:

@mapillary, do not underestimate the power of scoring / ranking.
In “the good old days” I was one of the top Dutch contributors of the Berkeley SETI@home project (distributed computing project to find ET). The only thing gained were points and a team one could join. I built the statistical engine and graphics for the top Dutch SETI-team. We had competitions with other teams, other members etc! Why? Because we loved the concept and… well never underestimate the power of scoring / ranking :stuck_out_tongue:

Above all, the scoring system must be transparent and fair… I take great pride in that 100% of my uploaded images are 360 degree images. That doesn’t give me anything in the “leader boards”, I don’t mind, but I do think it would help if Mapillary would implement a scoring system that would be more then just 1 image = 1 point. Give more points to better images… like in that complete the map link earlier (and do give +2 for 360 images :stuck_out_tongue: ), give like two extra points for never mapped roads, one extra point when the previous image of that spot is over two years old, 1 or so points for an image that has been made less then a week ago etc… something like that!
I realize that would cost some extra CPU power for Mapillary, but I am sure the overall image quality would improve… in the end, quality must win over quantity, must it not?


I agree wholeheartedly.

When if comes to mapping, you can’t have quality without quantity.

You can’t have one without the other. But indeed you are right in this case, there is quality in quantity also!

Wow, didn’t expect it to get so philosophical !

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How about, “The more data that is added, the smaller the errors become…” Quality being represented by a narrower bell curve, Positional errors for example should be reduced by multiple passes in both directions.

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