[OSM-talk] will we be nuked from orbit?

Robert (Jamie) Munro rjmunro at arjam.net
Wed Jul 25 13:30:29 BST 2007

Hash: SHA1

Steve Coast wrote:
> Wikipedia didn't have two commercial competitors, but we now do.

Depends what you mean, but there is Encyclopaedia Britannica, OED, ODNB,
 DMOZ, CDDB, IMDB, Everything2, H2G2 etc. which are all compete with
Wikipedia in one way or another, are all commercial (to some degree),
and all (apart possibly from Britannica) accept volunteer contributions
of one kind or another (but moderate them).

But yet again, the wikipedia comparison doesn't work, and the
Musicbrainz comparison does. Musicbrainz, CDDB, and AllMusic are all
doing almost exactly the same thing, but MusicBrainz is the only
non-commercial one.

> We're simply outclassed in budget and the number of surveyors from  
> both efforts. That's just a fact. What we rely on to be the 'better'  
> map are our community and the license. This could change any time  
> from within or without. On the one hand, our flamewars could get a  
> bit too hot and the community fragments or the license problem blows  
> up. On the other, if Google or TT change course a bit they could  
> license CC or start to think about communities. I don't think either  
> company will really care about killing OSM. And why should they? If  
> they release data in a useful way like we try to, then they have  
> completed our aims for us.
> And of course, in theory, we could pull in their data to OSM.
> I don't know what any of this means yet, but I do think it's worth  
> thinking about. Perhaps worrying about. What do you think?

There's also The People's map, which I wouldn't dismiss totally out of hand.

> 18 or 24 months ago Tom Carden said to me that OSM could be shut down  
> and we could start all over again with relative, /relative/, ease. I  
> still think he's right. If we started again today, it would not take  
> 3 years to get 9,000 people, or design JOSM, or the code, and so on.  
> All of the tools are there, we would just have to restart with a  
> better idea about the license. Or perhaps restart with two separate  
> licensed projects. If OSM restarted today, how would you run it?

Obviously, I have huge benefits of hindsight, and if I didn't have the
mistakes of OSM for reference, I wouldn't have thought of many of these

* I would use PostGreSQL :-)

* I wouldn't use ruby or rails
  - it uses way too much resources server side (the file should be able
to stream to the user and not be pre-built in RAM at all on the server -
Rails seems to use several times the size of the output file RAM to
serve the file)
  - it disconnects you from the benefits of a real database (triggers etc.).

* I would import all the data I could find with just attribution into a
central database, and make a system to browse it giving credit where
needed (like how google maps gives credit). I.e. Tiger, Canada's data etc.

* I would make a system that let users edit data into another "layer"
from the above (including letting them mark things that replace things
from the other layer, without actually removing them from the other
layer), but I would make those users assign rights to the project.

* I would probably have a nodes/segments/[groups of segments] model,
where groups of segments are tagged - so all segments of motorway would
be in one group, all segments of bridge in another group, all segments
making up "My Street" would be a group etc., and I'd allow groups to be
used to mark relationships like turn restrictions (I'm not sure
/exactly/ how to do that)

* I'd make segments bezier curves (It's too obvious for the 'patent' to
be valid)

* I would release the data under multiple licenses, and I would put
effort into getting commercial users to use the data and pay for it.

Robert (Jamie) Munro
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