[OSM-talk] Actually using OpenStreetMap and the usability of thecurrent maps

Inge Wallin inge at lysator.liu.se
Tue Jul 29 09:29:42 BST 2008

On Tuesday 29 July 2008 00:15:03 Andy Robinson (blackadder-lists) wrote:
> Inge Wallin wrote:
> >Sent: 28 July 2008 10:45 AM
> >To: talk at openstreetmap.org
> >Subject: [OSM-talk] Actually using OpenStreetMap and the usability of
> >thecurrent maps
> >
> >This is a mail that I have been wanting to send for some time, but wanted
> >to
> >think a little more about the subject before I actually did.
> >
> >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.
> >
> >So the question then becomes, is the current renderings good?  For which
> >purposes?
> >
> >Before we can discuss how good the maps are, we have to describe the
> >intended
> >use cases. I will start with my own here, and hope that you will fill in
> >your
> >own ways of using maps in general and OSM in particular.
> >
> >I recently bought a cheap navigator, but before that I often used a
> >commercial
> >Swedish map services to navigate to places when I went there for my work.
> >I'd
> >print out the map on paper on a low zoom level, showing where I would go
> > on large roads. Then I'd print out maps using higher and higher zoom
> > levels closer and closer to my goal so that I can see which intermediate
> > and smaller
> >roads that I'd have to take to reach my goal.
> >
> >So, would OSM work for that usecase? No, I don't think so.  Here is why:
> >
> > * Names!  There are far too few names on the map, especially on low zoom
> >levels. It's difficult to get a feeling for where you are and orient
> >yourself
> >on the map if you cannot find names on the map. The commercial maps show
> >lots
> >and lots of names, and that is a good thing. We should make names appear
> > on the maps earlier.
> >
> >* 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.
> >
> >* Marking important roads. In the map above, you can also see that there
> > is no
> >marking of even the motorway (E4) or primary roads (in this case national
> >roads 34 and 50). This is like names for cities, towns and villages: it
> >makes
> >it more difficult to follow where you are on the map.
> >
> >So, what are other use cases for OSM? Are the current OSM renderings good
> >for
> >those use cases? Do we need more different renderings for different use
> >cases?
> >
> >I think that OSM has reached a state of maturity where we need to start
> >discussing how the default renderings are used in real life.
> >
> >	-Inge
> This is where we will find that there are two schools.
> The first point you make is about "users". Of our 50,000 registered "users"
> only about 11% contribute data each month. Allowing for the fact that some
> users will only contribute irregularly then perhaps at best we might say we
> have an 20/80 split between those that are working for the project by
> contributing data and those that are waiting eagerly to see and use the
> fruits (or are waiting for a simple tool to add their street or POI and
> nothing more). These numbers ignore those that just brose by and never take
> an interest in the project itself.

Well, when I was talking about "users", I actually meant those that only use 
the finished map. The 50,000 users that actually have accounts, I would 
instead call "contributors", even if it turns out that most of them are 
actually just empty accounts. That's probably to be expected, since it's the 
same in many of the large open source projects that I have been part of.

> You ask the question about whether the current renderings are any good.
> Personally it's not something I'm concerned about at this point in time,
> I'm in the "collect data" school. As long as the rendering gives me enough
> to check I mapped it the way I intended then it's done its job. Anything
> more is somewhat icing on the cake.

It seems that I have misunderstood a lot of things in the OSM project.  
However, I don't think that's alltogether my own fault. I have not ever seen 
the above thing seen clearly stated on the web site or in the wiki.

I think that the central people need to make it much clearer what the goal of 
the project is, and what the purpose of various parts of it are. At least 
that the goal of the project is to provide data for other people to 
visualize, and that the current map is just for preview purposes. I think 
many technical aspects are well described and documented, but the more 
strategic aspects are not.

> You seem to be in the "I want a better looking map" school and I'm sure
> with time there will be plenty of individuals and organisations outside of
> OSM that will make very pretty maps with the data. For now what we have
> will do for me and I'm grateful to those that put in the effort to make
> them available.
> The rest of what you say to be quite honest has past me over. Its talking
> about the way to display data, ie the cartographic look and the way data is
> filtered. If you have the data then you can make it look how you want so
> these are your interests and not necessarily the next persons. If the
> project was a cartographic project
> Now I appreciate that you don't want to get into programming to achieve the
> look you want to see, and that's a valid point. Nor do I. Thus in time I
> hope our API will be developed to offer the raw data in different formats
> with different levels of filtering. That's some way off though, let's keep
> the focus on filling up the database for a bit longer, the rest can follow
> along when the focus changes and our need for the raw data diminishes. For
> now I'll give 100% support to the 20%, the 80% should wait some more or
> better still try to do some mapping, somewhere, anywhere!

Heh, here is where you are wrong.  I am very much into programming. For one 
thing, I am one of the maintainers of Marble (http://edu.kde.org/marble) that 
was featured at the SOTM conference. For another, I am seriously thinking of 
setting up a Swedish tile server with the look that I am used to from Swedish 
map books and some other infrastructure, like a forum and similar stuff.


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