Grants:IEG/Wikimaps Atlas/Midpoint

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Welcome to this project's midpoint report! This report shares progress and learnings from the Individual Engagement Grantee's first 3 months.


  • Successfully converted essential parts of the mapmaking workflow to automation scripts[1]
  • Homepage[2], github repository[3]
  • Discussions with the Wikimaps developer community on future scope and convergence [4]

Methods and activities[edit]

Physical co-working[edit]

As part of the project it was decided to work together physically at the start to be able to synchronize our thoughts and division of responsibilities on the project. User:Yug was with User:Planemad in Dharamshala, India for a period of 1 month where the core work was done.

Division of responsibilities[edit]

In India, better understanding each others' skillsets, interests and availability resulted in breaking the entire project into areas for which one of the team member takes leadership. This was to ensure that work can be done seamlessly with reduced conflicts and management overhead.

  • User:Yug will be in charge of map automation workflow, cartography guidelines and community engagement
  • User:Planemad will be in charge of front and back end development, user experience design and project documentation.

Project environment[edit]

  • Github repository for code
  • Project homepage using jekyll, blog for documentation
  • Twitter stream for community engagement

Data sources[edit]

  • Natural Earth Data for administrative boundaries (CC0)
  • NASA SRTM digital elevation mesh for topgraphy (CC0)
  • NOAA ETOPO1 for bathymetry (CC0)
  • OpenStreetMap for cultural layers (ODbL)

Technical details and license[edit]

  • Python was chosen as the primary programming language due to ease of learning, since neither team member has a programming background.
  • Postgres with PostGIS was chosen for the database for its spatial capabilities.
  • CC-by-sa for media, GPLv2 for code, ODbL for resulting geodatabases (This was derieved from Wikimedia and Openstreetmap projects)

Project Milestones[edit]

  • Create automation scripts that can create political and topographic maps for a given territory using open data
  • Synchronize ideas with the larger wikimaps development community

Community engagement[edit]

Regular updates on the project is fed into our twitter stream[5] which has allowed us to connect with notable individuals and user groups in the field of web gis, open data and data visualization. Tweets from those interested in the project has also been useful in getting new ideas and leads.

A scholarship for the team to attend the Zurich hackathon 2014 was an important opportunity to network with the developer community. Maps and geodata was one of the primary tracks in the hackathon and the interactions there helped everyone synchronize ideas on the future roadmap of geodata on Wikimedia. Here, the atlas project gained recognition as one fulfilling a genuine need for accessible open geodata vectors which will be an important resource for future map projects to build upon.

Midpoint outcomes[edit]

What are the results of your project or any experiments you’ve worked on so far?

Please discuss anything you have created or changed (organized, built, grown, etc) as a result of your project to date.

  • Automation of topography visualization from SRTM mesh [6]
  • Hillshade composting using imagemagick for better contrast in terrain [7]
  • Generation of administrative and topographic svg maps using D3 [8]
  • Generation of region wise topojson files from naturalearth data shapefiles


The significant expense so far has been User:Yug's travel to India, which was as budgeted. There are no deviations from the budget expected currently.


What are the challenges[edit]

What challenges or obstacles have you encountered? What will you do differently going forward? Please list these as short bullet points.

  • The biggest obstacle faced so far is sticking to our original timeline. Due to personal engagements, the project began 20 days after the planned start and we had to re prioritize tasks in preparation for the Zurich hackathon, and now possibly for Wikimania. Our strategy is now to do the harder tasks of development which require learning first, and then complete the tasks related with research of cartographic principles on which the team has prior experience.
  • Remote working has definitely been less productive than working from a single location. The bulk of the work in the past 3 months took place in the 25 days that both Yug and Planemad were in India. Synchronizing online over multiple timezones has so far not worked as expected, slowing down the pace of work. A commitment to stick to a regular update schedule needs to be worked out by both the members.

What is working well[edit]

Next steps and opportunities[edit]

What are the next steps and opportunities you’ll be focusing on for the second half of your project? Please list these as short bullet points. If you're considering applying for a 6-month renewal of this IEG at the end of your project, please also mention this here.

  • Design and develop an interactive atlas map browser
  • Launching the public beta of the website to the community at Wikimania London 2014
  • Draft an updated wiki cartographic guidelines document based on our learnings
  • Depending on the success of the atlas website, there is also a possibility of documenting the findings as a research paper on web GIS
  • Based on the interest in the project so far and the potential impact, the team feels it will be worthwhile to pursue a grant renewal

Grantee reflection[edit]

One of the most rich experiences of the project so far has been for Yug and Planemad to work together from Dharamshala, India. The physical location of being in a rural mountain village provided an ideal environment to think, learn and make. Anticipating future issues with working remotely, the brainstorming and synchronizing on a unified project vision greatly helped both of us to self manage our work with minimum conflicts.

The exercise so far has also been a great boost to one's self confidence in being able undertake self guided projects even with limited practical experience for execution. Regular check ins from WMF and community support helps to reassure oneself that nothing is impossible when help is at hand.

Speaking publicly about the project at community events has opened many doors of opportunities by sparking off discussions and ideas for the future. The repeated validation from others that this is a useful project has been instrumental in keeping the team motivated to achieve its goal.