[Tagging] Basic cartography features missing, why?

Anders Torger anders at torger.se
Sat Nov 7 17:53:10 UTC 2020

Thanks for those valuable points.

I'm a layman, watching at OSM form the outside as a casual mapper and 
user. You're an expert on the inside. My perspective is thus limited, 
and also limited is the understanding of technical and infrastructure 

Regarding of comparing to government maps, I'm a bit sorry for putting 
that as a strong focus, it varies very much between countries the 
quality of this data and how it's presented etc. It's just that for me 
it's a central reference tool when making maps, and the OSM tools is 
actually preloaded with some of their maps.

As an amateur mapper I think it's a good idea to look at professional 
cartography to see how naming are solved, and as I currently map 
locations I am very familiar with myself I actually know the names and 
how they are used, so I'm not just copying from the map. I maintain that 
the naming issues the thread started with are very real and relevant, 
and I think it is a problem that they cannot properly be addressed in 
the current infrastructure. If manual placement of point tags with 
manual prominence sorting rather than actual mapping of named areas is 
the better choice in practice, so be it. I'm the layman, you're the 
expert. I just see a problem and want it solved, somehow.

However if the problem is that there is actually no widespread interest 
to improve in these areas or maybe even OSM shouldn't be used in this 
way, then ok. I'll know. A key reason for starting this discussion was 
to feel the pulse where this is going. If OSM is not meant to make 
cartography to the level I desire, and my desire is just seen as a tiny 
niche interest, then I know this is a dead end. It does diminish the 
satisfaction of my own mapping as cartography is one of my driving 
forces, but I cannot pretend that everyone is like me. I just hope that 
there are some other cartography fans out there that also like to see a 
move in this direction.

The thing about falling behind, I'm guilty of that narrative, and I've 
mentioned google maps as one of the main threats (which I think is a 
realistic scenario), but what it's actually about is that I think OSM 
has become a bit too stagnant as does not seem to be able to adapt to 
changed situations and may risk become obsolete in developed countries. 
I put great importance to cartography here, which perhaps is a 
misjudgment (ie maybe just my own personal niche interest), but the 
reason I do it is because I believe many contributing mappers see that 
as important and makes it more pleasing to contribute, and what OSM 
needs is contributions, and especially so in Sweden where we are very 
much behind indeed (not behind Google maps though, which still is kind 
of bad...). I don't want to disrespect or anything like that, it's just 
a genuine worry from someone who wants OSM to succeed and grow and 
become good where I live.

About quickly throwing overboard all values, I think one problem is that 
this community has become so sensitive that every hint of someone 
suggesting that something needs a change is interpreted as a direct 
threat. It's not my intention. I don't think we need to throw overboard 
all values, but I think there is a need to make adjustment due to the 
huge size and diversity of the community and the increased technical 
complexity, and the need to involve and manage more commercial 
interests. I think some centralized elements are required, and OSMF 
board probably need to be somewhat more involved in strategy.

And I don't think we can use a process which takes 4 - 8 years to 
implement basic features, if some of those basic features are still 
missing 16 years into the project. I mean those names that brought up 
all this are hundreds of years old. It's not a new fashionable thing 
that a map needs to have one name for several entities. It's not a new 
thing that hills and valleys of varying sizes have names, etc. Sure 
there are things that are fashion of the day, and it's a good that the 
overall structure is conservative. I just get a sense that regardless of 
suggestion made, someone will immediately say in some way or another 
that change is impossible, and to me that is a bit worrying.


On 2020-11-07 15:34, Christoph Hormann wrote:
> I wanted to quickly comment on two things where a misleading narrative
> seems to be represented in the discussion here so far.
> The first one is the idea that OSM community cartography is being held
> back by the lack of computing power.  It is not.  The resources that
> would be required to run various data preprocessings that have from
> time to time been considered in map style development are absolutely
> negligible compared to the ressources used by the OSMF for rendering
> and tile delivery.
> The problem is process development and maintainance.  I have -
> together with Jochen - from 2015 to 2019 operated
> openstreetmapdata.com where we offered various preprocessed OSM data
> for cartographic applications updated daily and we offered to develop
> additional processes and extend this with additional processed data
> offers in case people were willing to invest in that.  The interest in
> both the existing data sets as well as in developing new ones was
> extremely sparse.
> And any such process needs aintenance obviously - the costs of which
> by far exceed those of the computing infrastructure.
> I have during that time and since then done quite a bit of customized
> cartographic data processing for map producers but none of them was
> ever interested in actually financing open source process development
> in that domain.  Hence the work i have done there stays proprietary
> technology.
> The bottom line is neither in the hobbyist OSM community nor among
> commercial OSM data users is there a substantial interest in investing
> in technologically advancing quality in automated rule based
> cartography based on generic geodata like in OSM.  The bays and
> straits Frederik discusses are a good example.  Both mappers and
> corporate data users seem much more keen in crowd sourcing the drawing
> of labeling polygons to the cheap labor of the mapping community than
> to invest into development and maintenance of open source processes to
> derive importance rating and labeling geometries from bay and strait
> nodes and coastline data.  The irony is that compared to some other
> problems of automated cartography based on OSM data (river networks
> just to mention one) this is not even close to rocket science.  With a
> 10-20k investment you could achieve quite a lot in this field (which
> is already now far less than the sum of work hours at minimum wage
> invested by mappers into drawing and maintaining labeling polygons).
> This is just an example of course - there are many other fields.
> The second thing i want to comment on is the yet again resurfacing
> story that OSM is falling behind compared to <pick your favorite hype
> of the day technology/company/organization/etc.> - in this case
> government mapping.  And therefore we all quickly need to throw
> overboard all values and traditions of the project and urgently become
> more like <Wikipedia/Corporation project X/Anglo-American tech project
> Y>.
> Such calls are universally based on a lack of understanding of what
> OpenStreetMap is and how OSM became what it is today.  Yes,
> OpenStreetMap has deficits it needs to improve on (i discussed one of
> them above) but throwing overboard valuable lessons learned from the
> past and throwing ourselves at what seems to be the hype of the day is
> not going to solve anything.  Focusing on what OSM is good at and what
> has made and makes it successful as a social project, the cooperative
> collection of verifiable local geographic knowledge, is the key.  That
> requires a certain technological, communicative and yes, also
> cartographic context and to be and stay avant-garde in that context.
> But trying to imitate for example what government mapping agencies do
> (who are universally still pretty much stuck in mere 1:1
> digitalization of traditional pre-digital processes), or on other
> fronts:  what big corporate map producers do for cost efficient
> production of mediocre maps for social media platform customers who
> don't care a bit about cartographic quality, is definitely not a long
> term winning strategy to do that.

More information about the Tagging mailing list