[Talk-us] (Second attempt) Potential data source: Adirondack Park Freshwater Wetlands

Kevin Kenny kkenny2 at nycap.rr.com
Mon Feb 29 04:42:53 UTC 2016

Oops: Just realized I originally sent this reply privately: meant to 
send to the list.

On 02/27/2016 05:18 PM, Frederik Ramm wrote:
> An import is great if it enables a community to go further, or forms the
> basis of solid work in the future. An import is great if it is one
> ingredient that makes OSM the best map of the region. But it sounds to
> me as if your proposed import is hardly more than a small time saver for
> people who want to make maps of the Adirondack - they *could* go to the
> original source at any time, and the likelihood of OSM hydrography being
> *better* than the official data is very low.
> In my view, a good import is a catalyst for future OSM data improvement.
> But you seem to say quite clearly that such is unlikely to happen with
> the data you are planning to import. Your main point is that it'll look
> better on the map, which for me isn't good enough.
> Can you point to areas where your import would encourage mappers,
> including yourself, to add more knowledge and surveyed data to OSM?
My personal interest is mostly from the standpoint of improving OSM as a 
resource for hikers - and recruiting citizen mappers to the task. 
Available databases of hiking trail alignments are pretty poor. The USGS 
maps, once stellar, have not been updated since the first Bush 
administration, and keeping them up to date is no longer in the USGS's 
charter. They have neither the mission nor the funding to map hiking 
trails, shelters, campsites, privies, viewpoints, and similar amenities. 
Mapping them falls on the shoulders of private companies such as 
National Geographic, and they are happy to sell us maps - even ones in 
electronic format if we are extremely fortunate - of obsolete data of 
the most popular areas. The less popular areas are entirely neglected. 
If trail data are to be collected, it will have to be citizen mappers 
that do it, and OSM is an obvious repository for it. And none of that 
data is what I propose to import.

Why, then, should I import what I don't plan to improve substantially? 
When I've tried to recruit my contacts in the hiking community to 
mapping for OSM, when they see the state of the tiles at 
openstreetmap.org, they are put off immediately. "Why should I bother?" 
they say, "there's nothing there!" Particularly before the import of 
lakes and ponds was done - an import to which your argument equally 
applies - this entire area simply appeared entirely featureless, with no 
hope of using OSM to produce a map that could be helpful for anyone.

When, on the other hand, I show them 
, they see a map that's already useful for navigating the region, 
although deeply flawed in many ways. I can point out that trails shown 
in magenta with their names in UPPER CASE are from a State data set that 
is digitized at an inappropriately large scale (and for that reason 
alone, even before license concerns, I wouldn't propose importing it). I 
can point out that a good many of the trail shelters, privies, parking 
areas, register kiosks, viewpoints and similar amenities are missing. I 
can tell hikers that they can improve OSM by capturing that information. 
I can point out that if enough of us do it as a community, we'll have 
up-to-date maps that we can maintain as a community.

The approach has worked for me. For instance, I was able to persuade a 
contact who was hiking the route shown with the overlay in 
to capture GPS data and contribute it. (The uploads show my ID because I 
handled conflating it, simplifying the tracks, vetting alignment against 
orthophotos, and similar administrative tasks.)

OSM is really the only place where the data about trails and associated 
amenities can be assembled properly, as far as I can tell. The 
government agencies in the US have not had the funding or authority to 
collate those data in over twenty years. Web sites like alltrails.com 
are great for sharing your experience with a single route, but don't 
really make any effort at all to assemble a map. And the companies like 
National Geographic and DeLorme are more than happy to sell our own data 
back to us at a premium price, burden it with usage restrictions, and 
make it available in formats that we cannot annotate and improve.

I don't have a good way to address your argument that data whose 
authoritiative source is not OSM should not be imported
into OSM - and frankly, I mostly agree with it. I tend to believe that 
the underlying problem is not what we choose to import or not to import, 
but what we show to newcomers. I believe that the maps we present to the 
public would be improved if they included (at least optionally) layers 
derived from government data sources that we taxpayers have the right to 
use. You can see in the maps that I've presented that I'm also using 
(and do NOT propose to import) National Land Cover Database, National 
Elevation Dataset, USFWS National Wetlands Inventory, and layers from 
the GIS departments of several states. I'm also using National 
Hydrographic Dataset - which has been imported with some degree of 
success in regions other than mine. All of these data sources fall in 
your hated category of "stuff that OSM mappers can't readily maintain, 
for which some other source will likely be more authoritiative."

Without these external layers, what we present in the tiles is so sparse 
in some areas that I, at least, find it nearly impossible to explain the 
value of OSM.

I chose the idea of pursuing an import because I haven't very much hope 
of convincing anyone that our public face might include non-OSM data 
sources. At least there is precedent for importing government data into 
OSM; there is none for non-OSM-derived layers on our tiles.

About the best argument that I can make about the specific data is that 
the import should be "mostly harmless", because physiography in a 
wilderness area is so slow to change. With the exception that 
settlements, roads, railroads, farms and mines have been reclaimed by 
nature, bridges have fallen, and trails have been built and abandoned, a 
topographic map of the region from 1916 would be nearly as useful as one 
from 2016. This is an area where "Man is a visitor who does not remain."

73 de ke9tv/2, Kevin

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