[OSGeo-Discuss] Representing Places With Intelligent URLs

Landon Blake lblake at ksninc.com
Tue Oct 5 16:45:44 PDT 2010

A talk at the recent Location Business Summit and some reading I've done
about the semantic web and microformats lately got me to thinking about
a standard way to represent places, place names, place data on the web.
(I must admit I'm a desktop software guy, not a web programmer.)

I thought it would be awesome if there was a way to create a unique URL
for places that was somewhat intelligent to humans. If this URL could
point to a folder on a server with some basic information about a place,
that would be even better.

So I took a stab at creating this type of URL for my city, the City of
Stockton. Here it is:


You can see the URL follows a logical hierarchy, and it would be easy to
determine what the URL for the City of Sacramento, San Joaquin County,
or Victory Park in the City of Stockton would be. Obviously the
continent/country/state/county/city/location URL pattern would have to
change for other parts of the world.

I put a very simple HTML file with data about the City of Stockton here:


The current info.html file is just a skeleton. It's more of a place
holder right now than anything else.

My thought was to also put a WKT file (place.wkt) representing the
location of the place and a simple text file (data.txt) with facts about
the place at this same URL:


Now, if someone wanted to write content about the City of Stockton, they
could simply do something like this:


If everyone that was putting web content about Stockton online did the
same thing, search engine and other tools would be able to link data
from this web content to a single location.

This becomes even more powerful if we come up with some rules for the
content of the info.html file, place.wkt file, and the data text file.
Here are some examples: 

(1) Specify that the place.wkt file have both a point and a polygon WKT
representation, or a linestring representation, of the place when

(2) Specify that the info.html file use a list with alternate place
names. This list would be identified with an html class value of

(3) Specify that the data.txt file contain a relationships section that
can contain an optional relationship in the form of: City is the County
Seat of County. (Stockton is the County Seat of San Joaquin County.)

(4) Standardize the way common place facts are stored in the data.txt
file. Population and area are examples.

I realize there are some problems with this overall scheme. How do you
store a city that straddles a state boundary, for example? Or what if
you want to have a URL for the location of the Pacific Garbage Patch?

However, I think we could use this system to uniquely identify and
describe a lot of places in the world. We could then work on how to
handle the edge cases.

Is anyone else interested in ironing out the kinks for a system like
this? Is there already a system like this in place? (If so, I have just
revealed my great ignorance to everyone on this mailing list.) 

I'm interested in setting something up that could be maintained by a
group of geospatial professionals, and not by any one company.

I'm not sure how this system I describe would tie in with geonames. My
first reaction when I stumbled on geonames is I couldn't find a unique
and human understandable URL for a place.

Still, I'm interested in microformats and place names, and I'd like to
see a system like this that was "open" and non-proprietary.

Let me know what you think.

The Sunburned Surveyor

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