The Who’s On First Spelunker is still running, today, but the experience highlighted the importance of having a ready alternative on hand. Something inexpensive and easy-to-maintain which, absent a searchable index, made sure there were still human, machine readable and graphical representations for every Who’s On First ID, with links to their relations, available on the web. That tool was the Who’s On First Browser. This post is about some recent, optional, features we’ve added to that tool: The ability to run it as a Tailscale virtual private service and to use Protomaps for display maps.
go-whosonfirst-browser is a web application written in the Go programming language for rendering known Who’s On First (WOF) IDs in a number of formats including HTML, SVG, PNG and GeoJSON. It uses Bootstrap for HTML layouts and Leaflet, Tangram.js and Nextzen vector tiles for rendering maps. All of these dependencies are bundled with the tool and served locally. With the exception of the vector tiles (which can be cached) and a configurable data source there are no external dependencies. It is designed to work locally and remotely with a variety of Who’s On First datasources.
There are some pretty substantial changes coming to the way we will publish administrative data in Who’s On First (WOF) and from the perspective of people not actively working on WOF they will be coming fast, like next week.
One of the things I’ve taken to saying in recent years is that sometimes we make mistakes because of circumstance and sometimes we make bad decisions because of reasons… so please just write those reasons down somewhere.
The Spelunker was rebuilt on a bare Ubuntu 16.04 Linux server, following Dan’s WOF in a Box instructions and everything worked without a hitch. Along the way, I made some updates to the “fetching and indexing data” piece specifically to make things faster and easier for people who just want to work with the data as-is and don’t need to make updates.
The first week I started at Mapzen, in 2015, I remembering thinking I wonder if I can swap out each one of third-party services used by Privatesquare with an equivalent Mapzen service? The answer, at the time, was “No”. It was a useful reminder of the work we had set out for ourselves.
It means that while things are not literally “better than yesterday” – since yesterday you didn’t have to read this blog post – it means that things are hopefully better than the yesterday of the last time a service you came to depend on had to shutter its doors.
The 70s were weird like that in a way that we don’t have time to discuss today except to say that Who’s On First would like to be the bucket of water to OpenStreetMap’s giant eagle.
Perhaps we can stop teaching our tools the bad habits of the past.
I like to think the WOF API Explorer is another illustration of the idea that “Mapzen should always be Consumer Zero (of Mapzen services)”.
Anything you can do by clicking around the Spelunker should be able to be automated using code.
Multiply "a lot of venues, even in the smallest of communities" by the "entire planet" and you’ve got… well, a lot of venues.
I like that idea that there might be an instrument to measure the motion – the velocity – of people’s understanding of place
Investigating the consequences of ambiguity in geography has never been so terrifying.
Yes No Fix is not a perfect solution but our hope is that it will at least make things a little better than they were yesterday.
Mapzen should always be Consumer Zero (of Mapzen services).
If you’re not from New York you may not appreciate just how wrong the current data for the Gowanus Canal is. … This sort of discrepancy is exactly what the spelunker was built to uncover.
Mapzen is building a gazetteer of places. Not quite all the places in the world but a whole lot of them and, we hope, the kinds of places that we mostly share in common. You might want to get a cup of coffee or maybe a drink if you’ve been thinking about this sort of thing for as long as we have (or maybe longer).