[Tagging] Basic cartography features missing, why?

Anders Torger anders at torger.se
Sat Nov 7 16:45:08 UTC 2020

A move to prioritize cartography is probably not easy and there are lots 
of challenges. But I think it can be much better than it is today.

I'm not too surprised that people in general would prefer google map 
with less information. The thing with cartography designed for paper is 
that it's extremely dense as you need to present all the information you 
can on a single page (you can't zoom), and being used to zoomable map 
seeing a map designed for paper can be a bit of a shock. Many of these 
government maps which are zoomable like your beautiful 
https://map.geo.admin.ch example is not actually a single map, but all 
the purpose-made maps at different scales, so each zoom level is meant 
to be used on its own, printed on paper.

Probably that is not how OSM should work, and here in Sweden the 
government maps are now starting to appear in zoomable vector format and 
they work a bit differently, and look a bit less dense. The information 
is there though. Personally I like the art of cartography so I like the 
look of those traditional dense maps, but I also understand that a 
digital map may need to be a bit different.

Here's an example of vector maps for Norway, Sweden and Finland as 
presented by a popular Swedish address lookup service:


They use government-provided data for all three countries. If you ask me 
I think it's a small step back compared to traditional cartography, 
example of that here:


But I understand it's a matter of taste, and in any case the less 
designed and more automatic vector maps is the future, and it's also 
more suitable presentation format for the OSM data.

However, if the community actually don't see that there is any problem 
with how the current OSM data is presented and do not want any change, 
so be it. I'm just a tiny part of the OSM community and I'm not here to 
tell what we as a whole should do, just voicing some opinions.

I am however a bit afraid that the community due to its size has become 
unable to make strategic decisions, and I do believe that if OSM 
continues to be stagnant (which to me as a semi-outsider it appears to 
be), it will lose its position and fall into being a niche product at 
least in the developed countries. I think for example that Google Maps 
will develop quite significantly in the coming decade, both in data 
density and presentation. I think there's a very real risk that they 
will replace OSM in many places OSM is strong today. That would be sad, 
but end users don't really care if it's an open license or Google owns 
it, as long it's "free" to them they go for the best map.

Locally here in Sweden we have the problem that OSM data is lacking in 
large parts of the country, combined with some strongly varying quality 
imports (imports is a whole other subject...), so we have a lot of 
mapping and fixing to do before we have a reasonable baseline, so it 
doesn't have a strong position today. OSM is still being used here as a 
side effect of international services using OSM, like facebook and 
various routing tools.

I personally use plotaroute for my bike rides, and that was actually how 
I got into being a mapper, I needed to fix the maps to be able to draw 
the route, I also like the fact that I can add off-road tracks which 
aren't really available in normal maps, plus responding immediately to 
rebuilds in the city (which happens a lot during recent years). But 
noone here uses OSM for car navigation, the map is not good enough and 
there are other maps that provide that with 100% coverage. 10 years ago 
good map data was very expensive here in Sweden, nowadays it's not the 
case (except for some special uses), so regular users just choose the 
best map, cost is not an issue. And the result has become that OSM is 
normally only chosen if it's the only map a specific service uses, and 
one needs to use that particular service. Or if one like me is a mapper, 
but I consider that to be a niche. I don't know anyone except myself 
that contribute to OSM here. With my ~10 days active per year I'm top 15 
mapper in the country, which says that OSM is not a huge thing here.

In other words, I look at OSM from a perspective where it does not have 
a strong position today, and that it's free with open license 
unfortunately doesn't mean much here. The only thing that means 
something is the product the end user sees.


On 2020-11-07 12:47, Tomas Straupis wrote:
> 2020-11-07, št, 13:24 Anders Torger rašė:
>> However, and this is a big however, I think that the face of
>> openstreetmap really need to be a cartographic sound map.
>   During personal meetings as well as during different presentations
> in conferences I've been showing people two maps (one was google,
> another one was swiss topo https://map.geo.admin.ch). Google is one of
> the worst (from cartographic perspective) and Swiss topo is one of the
> best (Generalisation book of Swiss cartographers is like a magic
> book). And surprisingly (or not) a lot of people still prefer google
> style maps (at least for on-screen maps where you can zoom). In this
> year's SOTM Baltic the audience was split roughly 50/50 between
> google/swiss topo. So it is not clear which is better even if we do
> not think about technical difficulties.
>> And howcome did I not even know about this cartographic project of 
>> yours?
>   Because it only covers Lithuania, because it is done as part of
> Lithuanian fellowship of cartographers, not international.
>> I assume that many, perhaps most, casual mappers use the web editor.
>   Most edits are done with the main OSM editor which is - JOSM.
>> I'm
>> really impressed with the web editor, it's great and is mostly
>> user-friendly,
>   And is very prone to damage good data. We (in Lithuania) encourage
> everybody to switch away from iD as soon as possible.
>   Also note that cartographic style needs even more stuff, not only
> hardware and ideas (most generalisation tasks are not solved because
> algorithms are not designed/crystalised, coding is the least of the
> problems). In order to do good cartography you would have to agree on
> a much stricter use of tags and sometimes push some things into
> tagging which a lot of participants of this mailing list could
> disagree - for example road network hierarchy. Fuzzy features (like
> continents, mountain ranges, bays etc. should probably be moved to a
> separate database).

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