[Talk-ca] About OpenStreetMap

Richard Weait richard at weait.com
Fri Jan 9 22:41:07 GMT 2009

> On 6 Jan 2009, at 18:33, Nyaladzani Nkhwanana wrote:
> > Hi Steve,
> >
> > My name is Nyaladzani Nkhwanana, a Masters student at the university  
> > of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada. I am currently undertaking a  
> > research (Thesis) on assessing credibility on volunteered geographic  
> > information. Im interested in how openstreetmap works, e.g. The  
> > trust algorithms you use ( I see you have classes of users,  
> > administrators, to new users), I want to know how this rankings are  
> > archieved.
> > Also I am interested in how you validate the contributed data, who  
> > has the final say and also how you get to ban users contributing  
> > wrong information. Please if you can prepare this in a document that  
> > will be great, thanks.
> >
> > Basically I am a fan of OpenStreetMap work, Im a citizen of  
> > Botswana, Southern Africa. If you can check it out you will find  
> > that there is very little contributed there. As I complete my  
> > studies end of this year I hope to be of assist for the benefit of  
> > users back home.

Dear Nyaladzani Nkhwanana,

I'm an OpenStreetMap enthusiast in Toronto and I'd be pleased to discuss
this with you in detail on your next trip to Toronto.  

In short, I think that you are wrong about OpenStreetMap user classes
and the existence of a trust algorithm.  All OpenStreetMap data
contributors are equal.  

Some contributors perform additional functions that are not shared, like
administration of mailing lists and servers.  Those tasks require an
additional level of trust.  Those tasks are unrelated to their data

Data is validated by the community and problems with the data can be
raised by any community member.  I'm unaware of any formal organization
to this data validation.  It happens according to the interest and
available effort of individual contributors.  

In OpenStreetMap we like to think that the "final say" is held by what
is observed at the location.  If a street sign is mis-spelled on the
sign, that mis-spelling should be deliberately placed in the OSM data
base.  Our contributors in Germany did this, then reported the
mis-spellings and other anomalies to the municipality, who then
corrected the signs.  

Very few users have been banned from OpenStreetMap.  While not a
hard-and-fast policy, what has happened in past is this.  When unusual
edits are noticed by a community member, they can contact the editor by
email and discuss the unusual edit.  This generally leads to a
discussion of what was intended, and often a newer user is informed of
accepted practises in OpenStreetMap.  Most unusual edits are this sort
of accident, rather than something unsavoury.  "Enforcement" is provided
in the form of peer information.  

Issues that are not resolved satisfactorily by discussion between
community members can be referred to the OpenStreetMap Foundation for
further action.  The Foundation members can recommend banning if

You should stay in touch with the OSM mailing lists when you start
sharing your enthusiasm for OpenStreetMap when you get back home.  In
the interim, why don't you meet with some other local mappers at UNB for
a mapping party?  You'll all learn very quickly from each other, and
enjoy your mapping together.  It looks like you'll be able to make very
noticeable contributions in Fredericton, and even just around campus.  

Best regards,

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