[Talk-us] Standard (mapnik) toolchain/processes: can we teach these better?

stevea steveaOSM at softworkers.com
Sun May 25 19:46:49 UTC 2014

Simon Poole wrote:
>It has been pointed out in numerous places before, but just in case you
>missed it: there is an ongoing effort (since months) to remove all
>"catch alls" from the standard style.
>This implies that stuff you thought was rendered might vanish, but in
>fact it was just accidental that it was shown in the first place. If
>there is a feature that you feel strongly should be displayed with the
>standard style, then you should submit a feature request.

Thanks to the talk-us community for entertaining my grumpiness about 
this, but I truly believe there is a direct connection between asking 
OSMers to "map well" and the visual feedback (rewards? yes, I think 
so) we get by doing so.  Sure, it's great that beaches (and many 
other mapped objects, usually named polygons that describe an area, 
like a beach, shopping center or many other "things") can be easily 
found from OSM's main map via a simply-type-it-in Nominatim search: 
that IS good.  But when we see rendered labels disappearing, even 
when this is explained by the reason given, it can be disheartening. 
I DID "miss that" news/memo about this "since months" effort.  Where 
might I have learned this?

I am (slowly, even after being an OSM volunteer for over five years) 
discovering there are ways to effect how our map looks (carto-issues 
bug reporting, the potential to enter a mapnik feature request -- 
where?).  But I do think it would be helpful if these "assumed to be 
known by everybody" facts (they aren't!) were better promulgated. 
Either in our wiki somewhere, or with a link from the main page, or 
some other relatively easily findable method.  I conscientiously read 
(and contribute to) our wiki pages, I follow talk-us, I explore code 
in github, I play around with rendering tools...yet about the 
machinations that make our map look and behave the way it does, on a 
day-to-day basis -- AND the changes that happen to it -- I seem to 
learn absolutely nothing.  Until after the fact.

Let's say I were to carefully consider that I DO think beaches (a 
polygon with tags natural=beach and name=*) should render in mapnik. 
What else?  Polygons tagged landuse=commercial that also have a 
name=Shopping Center tag?  (Maybe).  And a hundred other potential 
things that used to (accidentally) render, but are now not being 
rendered in the interests of not rendering "catch alls."  Do I enter 
a feature request for each and every one of them?  Maybe, as that 
means I considered each and every one of them.  But how do WE 
consider each and every one of them?  Do we even do that?  I ask 
sincerely.  It seems many mapnik render decisions on an ongoing basis 
are made in a vacuum.  That doesn't feel very OSM to me.

In short:  how might intermediate mappers like me better learn how 
our map is built and the processes which influence and effect changes 
within it?  We should all have a stake in participating in these 
processes, should we wish to do so.  That starts with better learning 
about them in the first place.  I don't mean for it to seem like I 
think OSM's inner machinations are some big secret, I'm just asking 
for a bit of light to be shined along a path I can find this stuff 
out largely by myself.

I'm pretty smart and resourceful, and can easily be pointed to the 
right places and told "Go."  But I don't know a whole heck of a lot 
of what and where are these resources.  Thanks in advance for a wide 
swath of pointers to get me (us) started.

With my best attempt to remove any residual grumpiness,


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