Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thank goodness for Geograph

When I upgraded up web-site recently I left reviewing the Local Authority Directory for a later date. This is a very large section of the site, which covers all local authorities giving the LA web-site and contact details for housing related information. As there are now so many pictures in the rest of the site, I decided it would be nice to put a picture for every page showing an aspect of the LA concerned. However there is one problem here. I have not visited every borough in the country.

Having got the upgrade out of the way, the directory needed to be tackled. But what to do about the pictures? It would be a bit expensive to buy them in, and I was unhappy about just lifting them from the internet. However, I did a trawl via Google images to see what I could find. What I found, was Geograph.

This is an amazing site, sponsored by the Ordnance Survey. Its aim is to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometer of Great Britain and Ireland. The pictures are donated by ordinary people who load them up to the site, where they can be viewed online. What is more, they can be reproduced under the creative commons license on web-sites! Voila, my problem solved!

I have decided that, in accordance with the spirit of the Geograph site, I will only use their images in my 'open access' Local Authority Directory, and will rely on my own and purchased images for the commercial part of the site. There is a fantastic selection of pictures to use, many of them of superb quality! Mind you, artistically speaking, there are also a lot of rubbish quality photos, but good show all the same. It has made the otherwise tedious business of reviewing and updating my directory, fascinating.

So, after doing a few amendments to my template (some of you may have noticed that the amended entries have the H1 orange heading, and the unamended entries still have the blue H3 heading), and checking the housing information from the LA web-site, I can then turn to the more interesting business of looking for a suitable picture on Geograph. This of course has the added bonus that I get to find out where the local authority actually is. This may sound silly, but many authorities have names which give no indication (to the average person) of their location. I now know for example that Allerdale is Cumbria, Broxtowe is in Nottinghamshire, and Calderdale is around Halifax.

It is interesting to see what pictures have been loaded up on geograph. It is clear that many of the photographers are keen railway buffs, as there are a lot of rail tracks, steam engines and the like (I have used one of them for Bury). There are also a lot of very nice pictures of canals and canal boats (eg Charnwood), and of course castles, and countryside.

Some of the pictures I have chosen for the site are city scenes, such as Brent and Bromley, others are of special buildings, such as in Cambridge and Canterbury, or show a well known scene in different weather conditions - Looe in winter, and Exmouth beach before a storm, plus a nice sunset for Brighton. There are also a few statutes, such as in Cannock Chase and (my favourite) Cheltenham. Some, such as Dover and Ely could only have one subject. As you can see, it has been fun.

A condition of using the photos under the creative commons license is that the photographer must be credited, and the fact that it is published under the creative commons license must be acknowledged. I have done this in the alt text, which you can see by hovering your mouse over the image, as well as mentioning it in the notes which will go (eventually) on every directory page.

At the time of writing this blog entry I am part way through the E’s so I have quite a lot of work still to do! Mind you, not all the LA Directory pictures are geograph ones, but most of them are.

As a grateful user of Geograph images, I have loaded up some of my own pictures to the site, and will continue to do so, so I can give back as well as take. I hope that some of you readers will also visit Geograph and find it as interesting as I have.

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Penny said...

Unfortunately, hovering over the images with my mouse shows me nothing in my Firefox or Opera browsers. I see it does work in ie6 but I prefer not to use that. I expect Barry Hunter can tell you how to make it work in other browsers.

barryhunter said...

Nicely done, and thanks for the mention.

As a small point you mention you have put the contributor name in the 'alt' text. However this doesnt always result in a 'tooltip', so it isnt visible to people with some browsers. Is it easy for you to duplicate the current text in a 'title' tag too? [img alt="bla" title="bla"]


Geograph Developer

Tessa said...

OK, thats not a problem. I have just done it for Harrogate (which is where I have got up to), and will include this for all the rest. I will try to go back and add it for the ones already done when I can.