[OSM-talk] Thoughts on OSM design, and looking forward and back

SteveC steve at asklater.com
Wed Feb 24 00:00:33 GMT 2010

On Feb 23, 2010, at 4:27 PM, Frederik Ramm wrote:

> Steve,
>   it would be easier for me if you could fragment your ideas more and then propose them in digestible 20-line blocks or so. And then distribute this over a few weeks instead of creating a flurry every half year. Do you have an uservoice page where I could submit that idea and let others vote on it?

haha :-)

It can be bursty, sorry :-)

> But really, whatever issues I might have with OSM - lack of participants is not one of them at this time.

You're central point Frederik seems to be "keep the status quo because we're overloaded already" and also that lack of people is not a problem, perhaps another way of saying the same thing. Let me try and reason why that's wrong:

* We will hopefully always have the problem that we are growing too quickly, therefore when we actually try to improve something won't matter
* An increase in certain types of new users doesn't necessarily mean an increase in (editing, say) resources to match. For example a forum might lead to a lot more discussion than editing. Or perhaps the same editing - but better quality
* Lack of participants outside of Germany is a very big problem. In Germany you have amazing maps - like the one someone just posted about mapping areas as roads etc. Amazing. Here in Colorado it is hard to build participatory community for a number of reasons, having better tools vastly helps.
* A new class of users able to contribute map bugs easily may not in fact require much resources at all, compared to the existing resources in the existing disparate bug systems
* We should be seen as responsive. The number one complaint I hear is that it's hard to use, site design is bad and so on. We should at least be seen to be trying to fix those problems, even if they are hard.
* Having too many users is a good problem. You never know that waze, map maker or something may take those users away because they are responsive and more easy and that would give us a bad problem - too few users.

Taking a step back for a second like I tried to in my long post - it's fundamentally a question of whether we look backward, stay static or move forward. Andy in his post just now was making a big case for not doing anything, as are you, I think. I know that a lot of people would love me to either stay out of it or act as the 'great leader' and say little. But I prefer to try and drive that change and it will be messy however I do it. Even when I think I'm doing the most benign positive thing in OSM I get flamed like whoever it was that went bonkers about the logo competition. So I may as well try and push forward.

You're right about your point about all the backend scaling that's happened and that everyone is busy. I agree, it's awesome. But from the view of outsiders we have remained very static and it's time we changed that. Or lets put it another way - it's worked well for a while but we really should update it.

Matt just mentioned to me that we need facts - maybe we really should pull in people off the street to find out how hard it is to get things done. We could shortcut that by interviewing the ex-CloudMade ambassadors about their experiences trying to teach people though.

Yours &c.


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