[OSM-dev] The future of Potlatch

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Thu May 1 20:14:16 BST 2008


> [warning - long ponderous e-mail follows!]

I don't really see much of a problem with mutliple Flash editors being
available. If they get something done that's better than Potlatch, why
then it's good for all is it not?

In general I have a problem with the built-in "uniqueness" of Potlatch
or anything that might replace it; Potlatch is "the" OSM editor, the
one that comes up if you click "edit" on the main OSM page. Until now
Potlatch has enjoyed this privilege because there was no other
suitable editor. If there are many competing editors - which one will
get the "pole position" on osm.org?

The editor and the features it supports will always very strongly
influence what people map and how they do it. With JOSM, the concept
is reasonably open; anyone can compile and run their own JOSM and make
it available to third parties (as anyone using JOSM will not have
difficulties running a program obtained from somewhere else), and
plugins can be written and distributed. So even if JOSM were the only
editor around, its grip on what people map and how they do it would
not be very strong, since anybody with, say, an interest in turn
restriction relations could provide a plugin that would make them
editable nicely.

Correct me if I'm wrong but Potlatch is, and any AS3 replacemend would
be, a much more controlled environment, where the user has much less
say in what editor and what features they want - you cannot simply run
your own version of the editor against the live API, nor can you have
local plugins or so.

So that's the one doubt I would have - it must not come to CloudMade
dictating what's behind the "Edit" tab on openstreetmap.org. But that
could easily be alleviated by creating a set-up where *anybody* can
operate an OSM editor on their site. In fact I would prefer that even
now; give the user a choice whether his "edit" tab leads to Potlatch on
RichardF's host or to the AS3 flash editor at cloudmade.com or the
100% javascript editor from crschmidt (or maybe even the JOSM applet),
and anybody who thinks their editor is even better may add it to the

If this core issue is resolved - i.e. the osm.org web site does not
specifically endorse one editor and fail to list others - then I'd
really say competition is good for all of us.

I could imagine that if anything suppresses creativity in the current
setup, it is not the fact that you use AS1; it is the fact that
anything anybody wants to do has to be run by you and/or the people
with root at osm and only if you say yes then it gets into "the" editor,
whereas with a project that doesn't depend on integration with the
osm.org site (like Merkaartor or JOSM), you can simply try out
something and offer it to people for immediate live use, even if the
maintainer has completely different plans and doesn't like the

(But then again, look at the one-digit number of developers even with
JOSM and Merkaartor... so don't excpect a boost if you make Potlatch
less monopolistic.)

> 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.

As an OSM community member I would like you to continue with your work
and someone else do an AS3 editor for CloudMade, and then I want them
both available on osm.org so that I can choose the one I like best (or
the one that runs with my hardware/OS best, ot whatever). If you
stopped working on Potlatch altogether, or if you re-did Potlatch in
AS3, then that would leave me (the user) with less choice. Diversity
is good.

If I were in your shoes however, I might go for the $$$. $$$ is also


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"

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