[OSM-talk] Actually using OpenStreetMap and the usabilityof the current maps

Tom Chance tom at acrewoods.net
Mon Jul 28 14:47:44 BST 2008


I have a lot of sympathy with Inge's frustration; I think there are soem
useful points made. I also sympathise with the people maintaining the
stylesheets, having spent a fair bit of time customising the OSM stylesheet
for map.oneplanetsutton.org

We could get better at showing more place names, which touches on:
 * Mapnik's error collision
 * Importance of names (population, physical size, political/cultural/etc.

I raised the issue of pubs and other POIs on the default layer recently, I
think there's room to refine the defaults and allow people to customise it
a little more on the main OSM map, especially for exports. (My issue was
that pubs aren't very nice for a professional map in a charity's report)

We'll never resolve issues to do with road names and which roads you show
in one layer, simply because of transport modes. As a cyclist I don't much
care about primary road refs, but I do like zooming out and seeing all the
roads in context. As a public transport user, I like seeing where the
railway lines go, in fact it would be fun to find creative ways of
visualising rail connections. The only solution is to create your own
tileset and hope it's popular enough to get onto the OSM main page, as per
the cycling layer.

On Mon, 28 Jul 2008 11:48:56 +0100, Richard Fairhurst
<richard at systemeD.net> wrote:
> Inge Wallin wrote:
>> * Distinctions between roads. In opposition to the case for names, there
> are
>> too many roads on the large scale maps.  Here is what the current map
> looks
>> like around my home city:
>> http://www.openstreetmap.com/?lat=58.33&lon=15.408&zoom=10&layers=0B0FTF
>> There is too little distinction between the motorway, the few primary
>> highways and the secondary.  I don't think the tertiary highways should
> even
>> be on that map. Once they are all mapped they will provide a messy
> background
>> making the important roads even more difficult to see.
> Some interesting points.
> We are, in a way, a victim of our own success: the balance on the maps
> looked absolutely perfect about six months ago. Now that we have many
> more roads, some zoom levels can look a bit different - and it may be
> time to remove highway=tertiary from z10 on Mapnik, for example.
> (Personally I think it'd be better if people just used
> highway=tertiary less but I may be in a minority on that one. ;) )
> That said, "usable clear maps" is not the only metric we should work
> by. "Showing off our coverage and completeness" is another one -
> indeed, if you follow Frederik's argument (which I have a lot of
> sympathy with), you could argue that it's the main one. So it could
> sometimes be considered useful to have a slightly more cluttered map
> than would otherwise be the case, simply to show off how much stuff we
> have - and, in other areas, how far we have to go.
> I know very little about the Osmarender layer, but certainly, Steve
> Chilton revises the Mapnik layer constantly:
> http://trac.openstreetmap.org/log/applications/rendering/mapnik/osm.xml
> and I'm sure would be receptive to suggestions. Bear in mind, of
> course, that there are certain technical issues with all the renderers
> - label placement is the bugbear for any automated cartography.
> On a related issue, I think you underestimate the usefulness of the
> "alternative" maps with this:
>> The topic is how the maps of OpenStreetMap are actually used by
>> ordinary users. I know that the data of OSM is supposed to be used
>> in new exciting ways like the cycle maps, but the majority of the
>> users are just going to use what the programmers have made available
>> to them.
> I don't use OSM for planning car trips. It's not quite good enough in
> the UK[1]: the usability isn't sufficiently better than Google Maps,
> and the completeness isn't there, yet.
> But I _do_ use OSM for cycling, because there, our map is streets
> ahead of anything else available. There is no better map of the (UK)
> National Cycle Network, full stop. Ok, ours isn't complete for all
> areas, but it is for many; the site is fast; the data's accurate; you
> can put it on a GPS. This isn't true of any other NCN map. And unlike
> the car trips, you can't use the NCN without a map: I could find my
> way from Charlbury to, I dunno, Llanwrtyd Wells by car without a map -
> road signs take care of that - but Charlbury to nearby Banbury on the
> NCN is really hard unless you have a map, because the signs are erratic.
> This isn't just my opinion. It's quite telling that if you look on the
> UK roadgeek site, www.sabre-roads.org.uk (dominated by motorists),
> they don't quite get OSM: they just whinge about lack of completeness.
> But the cyclists love it - I've seen very positive reviews on
> uk.rec.cycling, forums.ctc.org.uk, sustransrangers.org.uk. Right now,
> "the majority of the users" for whom OSM is _the_ _best_ _map_
> _available_ are exactly those who are using the "new and exciting"
> layers.
> cheers
> Richard
> [1] This argument is quite different in the Netherlands, of course!
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