[Openstreetmap] The bigger picture
reviews at pacific-rim.net
Tue Feb 14 01:29:55 GMT 2006
Firstly let me get in my apologies and disclaimer, lest I cause offence. I
have no technical expertise whatsoever, and am in awe of all of the
individuals involved in the development of the OpenStreetMap project. It's
late in the evening and I may be appear blunter than I mean to be. You all
have my greatest respect.
I can't now remember how I first came across the project, but I remember
being attracted by two things:
1 - the stated aims " OpenStreetMap is a project aimed squarely at creating
and providing free geographic data such as street maps to anyone who wants
them. This is because most maps you might think of as free actually have
legal or technical restrictions on their use, holding back people from all
walks of life who would like to use a map for one reason or another."
2- the technical aspect of being able to upload GPS tracks and seeing these
transferred into lines on screen.
As a consequence I went out and brought a GPS, and have been uploading a few
tracks to OSM, and then editing them via the online editor.
Most of the discussions on this mailing list seem to revolve around bugs,
wish lists etc, and perhaps that is to be expected from the state of
development that the project is in. That is to say they are mostly geared
around discussions of those of us uploading data and editing it in one way
There seems very little in the way of what the goal of the project is. I
realise that until there is a useable amount of data in the project that
talking about its use may seem premature, but I do think its a good idea to
continually review what is trying to be achieved.
To that end is the project:
i - something to demonstrate the technical ability of the contributors, or
ii - something of use to the wider community.
If the answer is something of use to the wider community then that prompts a
number of questions:
1 - how are the wider community to use the data that is in the project. It
seems to me that at present there is very little, other than grabbing a
screenshot, that it is possible to do with the data, especially if you
consider that most people want to be spoon fed information.
2 - is there a value to what the project is providing. The answer would seem
to be yes, and as such maybe it is not unrealistic to expect some
contribution from the users of the data. In an ideal world this would not
be necessary, but even if we ignore the value of all the technical expertise
in the project it has become clear that the provision of an IT
infrastructure capable of supporting the limited number of users at present,
let alone what might be necessary if the project really takes off, is not
With the best will in the world I do not see donations from those of us
contributing to the data as being a way forward. Neither do I see the
selling of prints or other paper based maps being anything other than a
minor source of income.
To this end I believe that even if the basic data remains free there needs
to be a way of charging for something.
I work as a web designer, and it is surprising how many web sites either
require, or could be improved by, a map. At present in the UK we are
limited to offerings from the Ordnance Survey, Multimap, or Streetmap, all
of which either require you to link to a page full of extraneous data and
links, or require a substantial fee. What would really be nice would be a
simple image of the relevant area that could be downloaded, maybe with a
choice of background colour, that I could then annotate as I required with
no licensing restrictions. I'd willing pay at least £10 for that. Multiply
that £10 by the number of people in a similar position to me and you start
to pay for your IT infrastructure.
To sum up:
give me something I can use; and
ask me to pay someting towards it.
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