I'm minded to post a fairly strong criticism (in the form of a question) of what I see as the very poor quality of some of the the datasets offered as open data by the Ordnance Survey of Great Britain. My question would be aimed at discovering how other users of this data feel about its quality, scope and on how it could be improved.

Would this be a reasonable question to ask on Stack Exchange GIS?

  • on Meta yes - though OpenData from Ordnance Survey is derived from it's commercial products (generalized) - it better than other countries - VectorMap District is the most vaulable with Codepoint Open - both exist in OpenStreetMap - wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/… – Mapperz Jul 16 '12 at 16:41
  • 1
    Just a clarification, lest the previous comment be misunderstood: Meta is not a dumping ground for off-topic questions; it's for questions about this site. As such, the current question is on topic here in Meta (it's about the kinds of questions acceptable on our main site), but the proposed question (aimed at eliciting information about a source of data) would not be on topic here on Meta, no matter how carefully it might be formulated. – whuber Jul 16 '12 at 17:42

It sounds like you're on track toward formulating your question in a constructive way. You are correct in (implicitly) suspecting that an open rant against a data provider would be closed, but that a question designed to elicit well supported, authoritative, useful information about obtaining, using, and improving such data might be well received.

  • Well, I think of the Survey as being data withholders rather than providers. But on reflection, posting a question of this sort on Stack Exchange GIS might not be that good an idea. It might "encourage discussion" ;) Don't know where else I can go to find out what users think of OS OpenData though. Nick. – nhopton Jul 16 '12 at 17:58
  • 3
    Nick, one approach is to think about what would constitute a great answer: the one you would definitely accept as the best. I imagine a lot of your frustration is that the data are something you would like to use but where limitations exist, limitations in accessibility, usability, quality, or whatever. So you might say "I need data of such-and-such a region of such-and-such quality, currency, etc, for the following purposes... It seems that the OS data fall short of this for the following reasons.. Can people suggest how I could effectively obtain/use/improve these data for my purposes?" – whuber Jul 16 '12 at 18:02
  • 1
    Thanks Bill (it is Bill, isn't it?). I think I'll be stuck with writing a closely-reasoned letter to the DG of the Survey, much good may it do me. Or perhaps the politicians might be a better bet, we'll see. Nick. – nhopton Jul 16 '12 at 18:12

I think that this is a topic worthy of discussion/debate. However, given the GB-centric nature of the question it is probably best posted in the data.gov.uk forums. Perhaps the General Discussion forum where open data matters are discussed?


You could ask a more general question about the distribution of topographic data. Ask for examples of good and bad practice.

Its not really a matter of quality but of how well designed the products are. Data can be highly accurate but not meet user expectations. How should topographic data be distributed to GIS users?


Questions seeking discussion by the GIS community are always welcome in the GIS Chat Room.

Your stated intent of:

My question would be aimed at discovering how other users of this data feel about its quality, scope and on how it could be improved.

seems to make it off-topic for the Main GIS SE site.

If your motivation for asking the question is “I would like to participate in a discussion about ______”, then you should not be asking here.


I think the problem is that you can get exceptionally good quality products from OS, but it expects you to pay for it. Even a raster image of 10Km sq at 10000:1 would cost over £50 with the vector versions considerably more. It seems all wrong really as it is funded by tax payers and then expects tax payer to buy the data back. It even charges other Government departments for the privilege too.

That's why the 'free' version is poor quality.

  • Thanks to all for the comments. I still haven't decided where to go with this. There is a long-term thread running on Stack Exchange GIS calling for examples seriously bad maps, so I think I might post one of the OS Vector Map District rasters there. These are truly shameful. N. – nhopton Aug 2 '12 at 7:25

The OS are slowly opening up free access to their data. The PSMA, Public Sector Mapping Agreement, makes OS data free to many Public Sector (in the UK) bodies that used to have to pay for it. It is this availability of free OS Data that has got me interested and involved with QGIS. I know that PSMA does not go as far as many would want but it is a step in the right direction. The PSMA has been funded, for the next 10 years I believe, by the UK government.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .