[OSM-dev] Joe Soap naive user experience.

Nick Hill nick at nickhill.co.uk
Sat Jan 6 15:43:07 GMT 2007

I need to provide a map of Catford to an organisation I volunteer for locally.

Given this is something an ordinary user will attempt, I am approaching this 
from a naive users standpoint, and temporarily forgetting any prior 
openstreetmap knowledge.

So I go to the wiki page, click on the map. I can zoom into my area. Ok, the map 
looks fairly good, but is missing the hall that the meeting will be held in. I 
click edit. Fine, I have discovered I can edit the map, and insert the hall 
where the meeting will be held. Amazingly, the hall is visible on the aerial 

I would now like to print out a picture of the map. Go to the slippy map. Ugh, 
the hall isn't there. Come to think of it, lots of data which I can see in the 
editor isn't on the slippy map. I then determine the slippy map must be out of 
date and tons of stuff has been added since the tiles have been rendered.

After humming and arring, scratching head, I discover many of the maps shown on 
the wiki are made using something called osmarender (something to do with Notre 
Dame?). I also discover that Osmarender needs quasi-XML-modo data to work.

How do I get this quasi-XML-Modo data? Will it actually have the features I see 
in the editor? Will it have the hall I added? Not sure, but let's give it a 
shot. I do some more research and discover an application called Josm is what 
the real users of openstreetmap use, and not that funky applet. I wonder if that 
can give me the XML data I need? So I download Josm. Hmm, needs a bounding box 
to download my local area. OSM doesn;t give me a bounding box but gives me a 
lat/lon and zoom in the URL. I discover pasting the URL from OSM into Josm 
doesn't work, so I spend half an hour with a calculator. I end up with a 
best-guess bounding box. Put this into Josm. Big sigh of relief. Josm shows soe 
representation of my area with the hall I entered with the applet but no aerial 
photo. So I play with Josm for 20 minutes or so, then enable direction arrows on 
segments. I notice the roads ad buildings represented in Josm have arrows all 
going in the same direction. The hall I put in has arrows facing each other and 
it shows green, where other buildings show in blue. Strange. I eventually 
discover ways, that ways which are closed are areas, and buildings are specially 
tagged areas. (I skip an hour finding out about the relevance of tags, and 
finding map-features).

So far, I have learned a great deal about how openstreetmap works (but not 
everything), discover the slippy map is not updated in real time, discover there 
is an underlying XML, discover the applet doesn't show the whole picture, and 
discover Josm, but still haven't got a map.

Now that I have this tool OSM aficionados use, I wonder if this will give me OSM 
data. Go to the Josm file menu select save as. Open the data in a text editor 
and yes, looks like XML data, and has the names of roads in the area there. 
Let's save it as se6.osm and get back to osmarender.

I discover osmarender consists of two files. Neither of which look like programs 
or in any way executable, and two picture files. When is a program not a 
program? So I take a leap of faith, and download these 4 files into the same 
folder as my SE6.osm data. Rename SE6.osm to data.osm. Download another program 
such as xmlstarlet as per instructions. Wow! Looks like this osmarender 
program-oid is doing something. I end up with a file called se6.svg. Open it in 
a text editor and it says it is svg at the top.

Inkscape is recommended as a viewer. I open inkskape, click on the file name. 
Inkscape exits. I try Firefox 2. Initially appears to be doing nothing. So far, 
I have proven patient, so a minute or two's patience here wouldn't become a 
miss. Hey Presto! All the steps I have done do actually result in something... 
but not usable... The roads are tiny, the text is huge. 10 times higher than the 
roads are thick.

I wonder if this is a problem with Firefox. At least the SVG i produced can be 
opened in Firefox, so should theoretically be openable in Inkscape. I go back to 
Josm, select a smaller/different area. Run my XML through osmarender again. Open 
the resulting svg in inkscape. This time, inkscape doesn't crash, but takes my 
machine down in a swapping spiral for an hour. (yes, this happened). Didn't even 
get to ctrl+alt f1 console in time to kill inkscape. Left the machine. 
Eventually, the machine came back. Ok, this time, my map is richer, has my hall 
on, but road names are tiny. Roads are tiny. I want something that looks like 
the slippy map.

 From this, it can be seen there is currently a huge barrier for anyone wanting 
to make usable maps from openstreetmap unless they have substantial specific 
knowledge of openstreetmap and how the systems work.

This is my attempt at approaching openstreetmap as a naive user and following 
path of least resistance/ most obvious path. It is not meant in any way as a 
criticism of any aspect of OSM.

What can/ should we do to make life easier for Joe user to add to and make use 
of openstreetmap?

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