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

Michal Migurski mike at stamen.com
Wed Feb 24 15:47:12 GMT 2010

On Feb 24, 2010, at 6:21 AM, SteveC wrote:

>> You believe that feedback is a good thing, but, it seems, only if the
>> feedback confirms your own ideas. You have railed against the UI,
>> against hard-working volunteer contributors and against anyone who
>> disagrees with you, who's left?
> Oh that's easy - the vast majority of people out there who use the  
> site every day.

Steve, you keep saying some variation of this, but at some point  
you're going to need to Show Us The Newbies. These disembodied,  
confused masses have to be given their own voice, because I don't  
think that the way you invoke their opinions here is particularly  
credible. You're summarizing their opinions when I think a much more  
effective way to make your point might be to come back with specific  
things about the site they found confusing, and what they were trying  
to do when they got confused, and *whether people who try to do those  
things are the audience that OpenStreetMap is built to serve*.

If you don't do this, it will continue to seem like you're  
paraphrasing phantom newbies to support what's basically a turf war  
here on the list.

> And I don't think I particularly railed against the volunteers, it's  
> almost exclusively about the crappy UI. And it is crappy. I don't  
> know why everyone has such a hard time admitting that, the sooner we  
> do, the sooner we can fix it.

You're definitely railing against volunteers. I don't get involved on  
this list much, but I read it when I can and I've honestly been  
shocked at your combative and frankly rude tone. Fix it, get help,  
whatever, but do it soon.

On Feb 24, 2010, at 6:41 AM, SteveC wrote:

> So, note everyone, Andy agrees but we just disagree on the  
> implementation. I think we need a step change as PL1 has been  
> sitting around for multiple years, things like a freeze to make sure  
> it happens. Andy believes the softly softly approach.

PL1 has visibly improved in the years that I've been using it. It's  
got problems, sure, but the plain dumb fact of the matter is that  
editing vectors and tending metadata is a *complicated and difficult  
interface problem*. Adobe Illustrator has a similar basic feature set  
to what a general purpose OSM editor needs, and it takes designers  
months if not years to learn how to use it. OSM layers on the  
additional complication of negotiated key/value metadata that's  
frequently invisible. Vector editing is hard. Metadata is hard. OSM is  

It seems clear to me that another general purpose editor is not going  
to solve the newbie editing problem. It also seems clear to me that  
Potlatch fills an important niche in the project, in that there's  
nothing else at a comparable level of completeness that I can use in a  
web browser.

It also seems clear to me that segmenting the audience into consumers  
of the map and producers of the map is worthwhile, so I appreciate  
your work with the Peruvian designer who simplified the design of the  
site. The reason people here are questioning that proposal is that  
it's not exactly clear what specific deficiencies it's addressing -  
it's just kinda simpler, closer in appearance to maps.google.com, maps.bing.com 
, and maps.yahoo.com.

So, here's a constructive suggestion on how to move forward. You need  
to expose the newbie voice directly, and you need to communicate which  
newbie activities are the ones you would like for OSM to support. I  
think there's a path in OSM, from using the map (e.g. Haiti), to  
fixing a problem (e.g. bumping into Potlatch for the first time when  
you see a street name is wrong), to proactive involvement.

If you can articulate what it is that all these people get hung up on,  
then you will engage specific feedback. Right now, all I'm hearing is  
"Potlatch sucks" invoking the difficulty of the codebase and problems  
getting Richard to work on what you want. This is all back office  
stuff, nobody in the outside world cares and AS3 or version control!  
Make a case for improvements to the UI of Potlatch.

I'll close with this excerpt from a recent conversation I had with  
Stamen's creative director Eric, about his time working on a mountain  
climbing project at the late 90's sports website Quokka.com:

	"We had people in for user testing, under two scenarios. The first,  
the event was just getting started, we brought them in cold, showed  
them the stuff, asked them what we could do better. They tore it  
apart: the text was too small, the expectations weren't clear, they  
didn't know what to click on. To a person all of them said they'd  
never come back to visit.

	The second scenario, we paid people $5/day to visit the site, the  
event was already going on, and asked them to come in after a week.  
After asking them a few basic questions to verify that they'd actually  
visited the site, we asked them what we could do better. The  
suggestions were constructive, delightful, helpful. When asked whether  
they'd come back, basically all of them said yes that they'd be back  
every day to check in until the summit had been reached."


michal migurski- mike at stamen.com

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