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last modified January 28, 2008 by sbenthall

Let's work on an open geocoding system!  That means:

  - open source software

  - freely available data

 It seems like the best way to do the latter is to leverage the Web 2.0-ey powers of the internet.

It looks like the crux is in the NLP problem .


Not reinventing the wheel


We should check out all of these and see what we can learn from them:

  •  open geocoding (no affiliation)  Somebody's already trying to do this, on the data end, using Google Maps as the map interface.  I haven't been able to find any contact information for the person who runs it, and I don't know if and how he is keeping control over his data.  But this seems like a good thing to work with.
  • Apparently SRC has released its Explorer geocoder under the LGPL license (see press release).  Is this any good?
  • Ivan points to a an existing open source python geocoding library.  It looks like it doesn't actually do the geocoding, rather it pulls in information from other geocoders and data sets.  Good to know about.  One of the sources of data that it is able to interface with is
  • MediaWiki with the GIS extension, which is kind of interesting.  Hey--why doesn't OpenPlans have a GIS extension?
  • Hey, check it out!  geocoder.us is offering itself as a free geocoding service, using address data that is freely available from the U.S. government (it calls it "open knowledge"--is that a buzzword we should know?)  There only problem is apparently that their UI and mapping interface totally sucks.  Also, their software isn't open source.  Yes, it's only for the US.  But that's a huge start, and I bet other governments have a similar thing going on.
  • Meanwhile, GeoNames has a creative commons licensed database of geolocated places around the world, and appears to have a team of people going about getting more information.  And a geosearching firefox plugin.  They use Google Maps, of course, to display the results.

Lots of potential!  This shouldn't be that hard at all, right?

One thing:  In an email, Ivan mentioned that it would be nice to be able to do a search not just for addresses, but also for features.  I think this makes a lot of sense, especially if we plan to have a big collaborative map with things like areas of public interest.  A big part of the success of the whole geocoding deal is that people can put their businesses and institutions on the map, and these would just be features, right?

Personally goal: I want to be able to geocode Kurdistan.