Menu

Post-irony and Open Mapping Tools, Together at Last

The City of Melbourne strategised and planned in the 1980s and '90s looking for ways to encourage life in the central area after business hours. One of the best outcomes is the laneway culture - the wide, main roads mostly hold large retailers and tourist traps.

Most of the interesting cafes, bars and shops are mysteries wrapped in alleys, wrapped in narrow passageways. But how to find these hidden gems?

Thus, the Hipster Map of Melbourne was born! It was created on the back of a frivolous idea by a bunch of volunteers. We wanted to see what we could achieve in an evening using nothing but open source technology and enthusiasm. If you’re a wannabe hipster, this might be a good place to start - some have even suggested this map as a diagnostic tool.

It was also a great excuse to get the group playing with unfamiliar tools, and build confidence to join open projects as contributors. We happened to have learned a thing or two about colour schemes and fonts along the way - that’s nice too. The darker the colour, the denser the hipsterage. Public transport routes and bike paths are the first to load, then laneways, then in the final zoom you get the main roads - we figure the audience is more interested in that data. The current brownwash colour scheme is a bit hideous, but nothing is too low when you’re making fun of yourself.

The underlying basemap is TileMill, an interactive open source mapping tool that uses OpenStreetMap data. Anyone can edit OpenStreetMap and add their favourite places - it’s a great open source project. In many countries it provides better coverage than GoogleMaps.

The hipster placemarkers are served from CartoDB, another open source interactive mapping resource. The whole lot sits on a web server hosted at hipstermelbourne.org that loads both the base map and the placemarkers.

There are a few problems with this map. Firstly, it’s quite kitsch; we’re well aware of that. We experimented with a few different typefaces, too - it all got a bit silly.

The map is also incomplete, of course - any day now it’ll become the post-hipster map, what with everyone finding out those hole in the wall places that only hold three customers at once and are too cool to advertise their name. There’s always the suggestion box!

Join us. This datahack was an Open Knowledge Foundation event, supported by ThoughtWorks. The Open Knowledge Foundation organises lots of big and and little datahacks, open to the general public. We encourage anyone to show up and learn how to use new technology or do something interesting with open data. The next big event coming up is GovHack, a national weekend hackathon that encourages re-use of open government data.

ThoughtWorks is a major OKFN and GovHack sponsor.