[Tagging] Public WLAN boxes

bkil bkil.hu+Aq at gmail.com
Tue Dec 31 11:47:27 UTC 2019

"If someone wants to map them they can. Not up to you or me to dictate
what can go into OSM."

Sorry, but actually that's not the case. I can't decide to spam the
database with an enormous number of entities without discussing with
the local & global community. I regularly see reverts for much smaller
things if they go against local or global customs and for a good

Please pay attention to my wording. I did not use the phrase "public
property" on purpose. Schools buildings and training centers can also
be private, but still serve public interest. Because OSM is a finite
resource, we must constrain ourselves in what we add to it. We do not
map the interiors of our own private houses over here (like corridors,
doors, light bulbs, rugs, fridges, nails in the wall, individual
bricks, etc), because the only person that can be of interest is me
and my guests. I myself already know how to find these within my
place, and I'd gladly show my guests where they can find what without
referring to a global map.

OpenStreetMap is a public map made for serving the public. What you
need to think about is to who will this be useful to? I may decide to
map how many bars are there on each fence, but if the only one in the
world who needs or uses this information is me or my company, hence it
is selfish to clutter such a global database with this. Surely as
demand changes over time, mapping the number of bars may become the
norm one day (similarly to how some count the number of steps in
staircases, although not each individual step _yet_).

Always keep in mind that a map is an abstraction - a reduction of
reality to make it more manageable. The reduction is driven by demand
and public utility, while keeping an eye on verifiable and
maintainability as well.

Let me link to a section of text has been recently deleted in a
copy-edit, maybe out of mistake:
"Places where internet access is only for members or private persons,
and not offered to the general public. This includes your personal
home DSL, LAN, WLAN, any internal networks of companies etc. Also
internet access only for students (e.g., WLAN hotspots on the campus)
should not be tagged, because this is not a public service and the
people who have access rights already know about it. We know the
internet is everywhere (or should be), but this tag's aim is to
indicate locations where you can get online access just by paying some
amount of money (or nothing), with no further efforts needed."

So Telekom/FON users for example have an offline app that they can
install to see the coverage, hence those who have access already know
about it, while it is not useful for others to know (for example, most
people I know don't have Telekom or FON at home, so they can't
access). As FON is ran through end users at many places around the
world, this also brings up problems with verifying ground truth. If I
visit a given location and I don't see a FON there, was it fake, is my
phone antenna too weak (maybe the mapper used an external one), or is
the owner simply sleeping and having turned the router off for the
night (for example via timers, many have this feature in their
settings as well)?

If we trusted the providers (who sometimes fake their maps to inflate
their perceived user base), it would be a must to cooperate with them
to properly maintain such a huge data set of millions of routers,
otherwise it will bit rot pretty quickly due to churn and moving. This
needs permission, an import and regular sync. I doubt that we have the
capacity to keep it up to date by manual mapping - we can barely
follow up on house numbers, still missing in most places with non-open
governments. Maybe we could deploy a scanning app that automatically
updates survey_date, but that sounds like a lot of work, especially
that many people are against tagging BSSID (and that it can change due
to various reasons).

Another problem with usability is that customer premises equipment is
usually ill placed, far from windows and on higher floors or deep
within buildings, and hence may not be reliably accessible from the
ground. They also limit the number of concurrent connections to a low
number like 2-3, and if you found a lone AP on the map then you may
not be able to gain access due to everyone singling it out. So mapping
the subscribers can turn out to produce a lot of false positives.

Public phone boxes with visible antennas, especially if they are
marked is a bit different case and is considered verifiable, although
they don't exist around here. But what about providers who only use
home devices, like UPC, should we also endorse mapping that?

Again, I'm all for mapping wireless stuff as it is so much fun and I
do have private databases for these as well, but the above is the
interpretation of what aspects you need to keep in mind from the side
of the community when mapping things within OpenStreetMap. I think
I've also read a few mailing list threads, forum topics, FAQ entries
and whatnot in the past about just this, just ping me if you'd like to
refer to some of them and I'll try to find them for you.

So to sum it up, you may map whatever you desire until you follow
(additional to the usual best practices):
* use abstraction
* honor public interest
* allow maintainability
* don't clash with others
* don't disappoint users
* discuss with the community

On Mon, Dec 30, 2019 at 10:40 PM Warin <61sundowner at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 30/12/19 21:31, bkil wrote:
> > We have similar services to those, but I wouldn't map those. If you
> > subscribe for a high enough tier of Telekom Internet, you get access
> > to FON. If you subscribe to UPC and enable it on your modem, you get
> > access to UPC Wi-Free.
> >
> > We must not map these because these are not hotspots of public interest.
> If someone wants to map them they can. Not up to you or me to dictate
> what can go into OSM.
> It it easy enough to find some of them here .. most public phone boxes
> have them together with visual signs to let you know of the service.
> If you have meet the requirements then having the information in OSM
> enables you to make your own map of the service.
> Some think mapping private swimming pools should not be done. Yet in my
> country these are used to fight fires and as such form a usefull public
> emergency resource.
> I suppose you don't map private houses, private farms, private roads
> (driveways) etc etc...
> There  many 'private' things already present in OSM.
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