[OSM-dev] [OSM-talk] The future of Potlatch

80n 80n80n at gmail.com
Thu May 1 19:48:07 BST 2008

This is an interesting dilemma.  First you should be proud of the fact that
Potlatch is such a well regarded part of OSM.  In some strange way it is
flattery that CloudMade want to do this.

Everybody knows how hard you have worked on Potlatch, and it is a very
emotional thing to have someone want to take your baby away.

If there is room for two editors within the OSM project, then there's
probably room for three.  You might find that it gives you the opportunity
to take Potlatch in a slightly different direction.

Try to see it as a positive thing.  More editors means more competition,
which will surely result in more innovation and better tools for everyone.


On Thu, May 1, 2008 at 6:35 PM, Richard Fairhurst <richard at systemed.net>

> [warning - long ponderous e-mail follows!]
> Hi all,
> A fairly weighty issue concerning the future of Potlatch has arisen,
> and I'm completely baffled as to what to do - so I thought I'd "ask the
> community" for thoughts and advice.
> CloudMade (Steve and Nick's VC-funded company set up to commercialise
> OSM data, www.cloudmade.com) wants to commission a new online Flash
> editor for OSM. It would, I believe, probably be written by developers
> from Stamen Design (www.stamen.com): some of you will remember that
> Stamen's Tom Carden wrote OSM's early Java editing applet, and they've
> also written a slippy map in Flash called Modest Maps.
> As you can imagine, this has taken me aback a bit.
> As I understand it, their main issue is a technical one. Potlatch is
> written in ActionScript 1, which is the same language as JavaScript,
> but for Flash. The latest version is ActionScript 3, which is much more
> like Java for Flash. The end user doesn't notice a difference, but the
> programming style is very different.
> CloudMade believes this is holding back the development of OSM: that if
> the editor were written in the latest version of the language, more
> Flash designers would come to work on it, resulting in a better editor.
> Steve cites OSM's move from pure Ruby to Ruby on Rails as an example of
> how a contemporary language encourages more people to contribute. And
> they're also worried that if I were run over by a bus then no-one would
> be able to speak ActionScript 1 and maintain Potlatch.
> I'm not so sure. I think people are beginning to contribute code to
> Potlatch; that as essentially JavaScript it's approachable enough; and
> that the problems of attracting developers is symptomatic of core OSM
> in general (as per http://trac.openstreetmap.org/log/sites/rails_port).
> I hope that Potlatch, as something maintained by an active community
> participant _for_ the community, has demonstrated a pretty rapid rate
> of improvement anyway. It's meant to be small and compact, of course,
> not a a bells-and-whistles editor like JOSM: nonetheless, in the last
> few months, for example: it's become the only editor yet to offer
> revert/history, gained very good relations support, background layers,
> flexible GPX import, etc. And there's a lot of stuff on the way, mostly
> focusing on usability - from a generic 'undo' and pop-up help panel to
> a new, super-user-friendly tagging panel with draggable POI icons and
> things like that. It's got faults, everything has, but it's come a long
> way in the last year. For what it's worth I think it's the best thing
> I've ever coded.
> For most purposes AS3 probably is a better language - except for the
> fairly major proviso there's no open-source player even in development.
> Indeed, if I were starting all over again I'd probably do it in AS3,
> and in a couple of years I may well migrate Potlatch to AS3 (or 4, or
> whatever) anyway. But right now it's more important to spend time
> improving usability for mappers, given that - like most people here - I
> do have a full-time job which isn't OSM (which isn't computer-related
> at all, in fact) and consequently time is not unlimited.
> So I really don't know what to do.
> Part of me thinks that the most important thing is that Potlatch is
> still available and users are offered the choice. Part of me thinks,
> well, if there's going to be a new Flash editor, there's no point in me
> doing any development on Potlatch from today forward. Part of me wants
> to say "well, screw you" and walk away. And part of me wants to take
> CloudMade up on its OSM Grants scheme (http://blog.cloudmade.com/) and
> say, ok then, I'll announce a medium-term feature freeze, take a few
> weeks' holiday, learn AS3 and recode it for a large amount of $$$. I'm
> utterly stumped and would welcome suggestions.
> Thanks for reading. :)
> cheers
> Richard
> _______________________________________________
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> talk at openstreetmap.org
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