[OSGeo-Discuss] RE: Representing Places With Intelligent URLs

Michael P. Gerlek mpg at lizardtech.com
Tue Oct 5 17:03:14 PDT 2010

> ...it would be easy to determine what the URL for...

Alas, it is not clear to me that, even within the US, there is a universally recognized canonicalization of the place name hierarchy, much less the names themselves.

For example, you refer to "california", as opposed to "state_of_california", and yet you refer to "city of stockton" as opposed to "stockton".  Further, strictly speaking certain states actually commonwealths (and, similarly, counties are parishes).  And let's not talk about geographic entities that the post office recognizes but the local government does not.

The mind, alas, boggles.

(But maybe I'm reading more into your proposal than you meant, or I'm taking your example too literally?)


-----Original Message-----
From: discuss-bounces at lists.osgeo.org [mailto:discuss-bounces at lists.osgeo.org] On Behalf Of Landon Blake
Sent: Tuesday, October 05, 2010 4:46 PM
To: OSGeo Discussions
Subject: [OSGeo-Discuss] Representing Places With Intelligent URLs

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 appropriate. 

(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 "alternate_place_names".

(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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