Thursday 8 October 2009

Royal Mail, postcode data and what you can do

With the recent takedown of the postcode geocoding API provided by Ernest Marples Ltd, there has been discussion of other ways to get hold of postcode data without paying prohibitive licence fees to Royal Mail. One solution is to collect the data from scratch, without using existing sources that are derived from the Royal Mail licensed database. This has at least some chance of avoiding the infringement of Royal Mail’s intellectual property rights.

There are several such projects already in existence. The oldest is Free The Postcode which invites visitors to collect the location of a postcode by visiting a location and recording the latitude and longitude of its postcode using a GPS. There are simple mobile applications to automate this process for the iPhone and other GPS-enabled devices.

If you don’t have a GPS, it might be worth heading over to the New Popular Edition Maps site to explore some out of copyright Ordnance Survey maps. This project collects data by allowing people to pinpoint a postcode on these maps. These data are less accurate because of the way the old maps are presented, but you don’t need a GPS to contribute, and the site has managed to collect an impressive number of postcodes this way.

Another project that has recently popped up is the Open Postcode DataBase, which is more ambitious, aiming to capture street and town names as well as postcode data.

Lastly, the Locating Postboxes site is using information collected, ironically, from an FOI request to the Royal mail concerning the location of these postboxes, and asks users to pinpoint the postboxes on a map.

These projects are placing their results into the public domain. At the moment they only provide data equivalent to a small fraction of those that the Royal Mail makes available (NPEMaps has around 45,000 postcodes, whereas Royal Mail will give you around 1.8 million). For many applications, however, where only area/district accuracy is required, they are already useful sources. Free The Postcode and NPEmaps allow download of the complete data, for individual postcodes, and averaged over postcode prefixes and sectors, and NPEmaps offers a basic geocoding API suitable for low traffic sites.

I am currently involved in both Free The Postcode and the New Popular Edition maps, and we’re interested in making these data sets more accurate and readily available. We would welcome offers of help from developers who are interested in making this happen, and of course more contributions of data!

This post is Copyright 2009 by Dominic Hargreaves, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales licence and originally appeared at Liberal Democrat Voice.

Posted by Dominic at 23:33 | Comments (2)

Thursday 11 December 2008

Dear Vodafone customer care

I've just had cause to write the following lengthy message to Vodafone:

Continue reading "Dear Vodafone customer care"
Posted by Dominic at 18:15

Commenting problems on this blog

Sorry to those who recently attempted to comment on my entries. It appears that there is a problem with my blog setup which prevents this. Until I am able to fix this, please feel free to comment on my livejournal syndicated feed instead.

Posted by Dominic at 18:13

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Shopping with the Oxford Bach Choir

Perhaps rather foolishly, I recently volunteered to look after a redesign of the Oxford Bach Choir website which I recently completed. The site is now using the Drupal CMS and (I hope) is an improvement on what was there before.

I hope to be able to post more fully my experience with Drupal in the future, because although there were some definite pitfalls, I found it an interesting experience.

One of the things I ended up playing with was the Amazon Associate API, which allows us to embed Amazon product details into our pages. I've added a 'recommended recording' metadata field to our concerts, which automatically retrieves cover art and provides a link to the product on the Amazon web site (you can see an example on the page for our March concert).

The nice thing about this is that we also take a cut of the profits on any product purchased via a link from our site (even indirectly). I also added a link at the bottom of every page as a 'support OBC' style link to Amazon.

I also set up a redirect so that goes straight to Amazon as a referral from us, which meant that I could advertise it as part of the weekly email bulletin to members. So far (probably mostly as a result of that advertisement to members) we've earned a fee on 18 ordered items, with another 10 or so not yet dispatched). We'll have to see how much this makes over the course of the year, but at that rate we'll pay for the hosting, which would be nice!

The Oxford Bach Choir, for those who don't know, puts on two main concerts a year with professional orchestras, in the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford. The cost of these concerts can be around the GBP20,000 mark, sometimes more, and with the capacity of the Sheldonian it's generally impossible to break even on ticket sales alone. So we rely largely on charitable donations, membership subscriptions, and other income. So whether or not you've been to a concert in the past, if you shop on Amazon, do consider bookmarking our shop URL and support us with very little extra effort (as well of coming to our concerts, of course).

Lastly, I note that Amazon has launched a DRM-free digital downloads service, which arguably marks the end of the DRM-obsessed era for music downloads.

Posted by Dominic at 12:59

Sunday 6 July 2008


I'm now on Librarything and am cataloguing my (rather modest) book collection. Let me know if you're on there too!

Posted by Dominic at 01:31 | Comments (0)

Glasto summary

Ben Folds, Fun Lovin' Criminals, Estelle, Operator Please, The Duke Spirit, Edwyn Collins, Franz Ferdinand, Shakin' Stevens, Martha Wainright, Elbow, Hot Chip, Massive Attack, Joan Armatrading, Seth Lakeman, Flame Oz, Goldfrapp, Leonard Cohen, The Zutons, Groove Armada, Portico Quartet, Balkan Beat Box, Jeremy Hardy, The Blessing, to list only a small selection of the things I saw at Glastonbury Festival this year.

Photos? here, but Art's are much more worthwhile.

Best moment? Too many to choose from, but Flame Oz were fantastic.

Best gig? Probably Franz Ferdinand, despite having people stepping on my feet.

And yes, it hardly rained!

Posted by Dominic at 01:13 | Comments (0)

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Okay, you win

Everyone who nagged me to go and buy a Glasto ticket once registration re-opened, I hope you're happy - I give in and bought one :)

In other news, I suppose I may as well blow my own trumpet about this post about my Movable Type packages. It really is overstating things, but it's nice to be appreciated.

Posted by Dominic at 23:16 | Comments (1)

Monday 21 January 2008

Year in review

It's been a while; I keep on meaning to write entries about various things, but never do, like many bloggers I suppose. Still, I'm determined to write down a few key facts about the past year.

Obviously we got married (I mentioned that already). We went on honeymoon to South Africa, and were greeted on arrival by rose petals. The relatively uninteresting set of photos is here.

I also, a couple of weeks later, started work at OUCS (I also mentioned that briefly). Working at OUCS is very different to Black Cat, unsurprisingly, but generally good fun. It's good to be able to leave the office at the end of the day.

Only a few weeks after joining, I persuaded OUCS to pay for me to go to Debconf up in Edinburgh, followed by a train journey from Edinburgh to Castle Cary, and then onwards to Glastonbury 2007, my second. It was, of course, a muddy one, made somewhat worse by the idea of having to queue for a bus back to the station for two hours in the rain, at the end of the weekend. The sight of all the mud on the train (a specially laid on HST stopping only at Castle Cary, Reading and Padddington!) was very surreal.

Talking of rain... well the other main feature of 2007 was being flooded out of our house in July (again, see previous posts). We were very kindly housed by Wadham College, and then, once the students came back, David, whilst we waited for our management agents to sort the place out (mainly get a dehumidifier in, wait a long time, and redecorate). We waited, and waited, and waited, and finally, after the work slipped into October, we gave up waiting, and found a nice house in Summertown (or "Posh North Oxford", as it has been known). It's quite similar in many ways, and overall we're very happy with it. We finally had a housewarming party last weekend.

Christmas was again spent up in Glagow with the Hamnett tribe; although this year much of the time was spent looking after unwell people... there followed the tour of my parents through the rest of Christmas and New Year.

Here's a (very) belated Happy 2008, for anyone reading this who I haven't already spoken to! And no, I'm not going to make it a New Year's resolution to post more here, because my life seems to be far too full up to keep such a resolution, but expect to me to pop up just when you thought I'd given up for years to come..

Posted by Dominic at 00:44 | Comments (0)

Wednesday 25 July 2007


Sadly our house got flooded at around 8.45am this morning. We're fine, most of our stuff is upstairs or on high shelves, and we're staying with friends for a couple of days until we can get the management company to sort us out.

Photos at

(Update 2007-08-02: moved photos to my normal photo albums)

Posted by Dominic at 17:17 | Comments (0)

Monday 23 July 2007

Flooding in Oxford

I went on a tour of South Oxford and took some photos of the flooding.

We're fine at the moment, and it sounds like the water's going down now.

Posted by Dominic at 23:38 | Comments (0)

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