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

David Earl david at frankieandshadow.com
Wed Feb 24 16:19:45 GMT 2010

I'd like to say a few words on the home page and editor.

1. Home Page: while I think Steve's proposal addresses some of the 
criticisms of the way the home page functions, I don't think it takes a 
holistic view of the project. What someone coming to it will initially 
see is essentially a "me too" for Google maps: it offers a service not a 

I do think it is essential to have _a_ map on the home page, but I don't 
think it need take up the whole page. It need only be a representative 
map, and for the first time visitor well zoomed out area, so detail is 
low and it doesn't need to be that big. Once someone searches, clicks on 
the map, drags, presses the relevant button or whatever, we could go to 
a page like Steve's where you can also get search results and other 
direct services like export. But I think on the home page we would do 
better to have a smaller map and more information visible without 
clicking tabs links or buttons
- a (brief) introduction to the project and link to more,
- how to get involved + link,
- especially links to all the services, products, projects and 
innovative ways people have based things around the project that aren't 
hosted on the site as well as those that are,
- contact info for who can help provide services based around OSM (or at 
least an indication that there are such people and a link to where you 
can find out about them),
- and space for a prominent "Report a problem" button.

At the moment, Mapnik rendering *is* OpenStreetMap as far as the casual 
visitor is concerned, and I'd rather see that dominance reduced (not 
taken away, as it is a really good showcase for the outcome of the 
project, but it is only one), not emphasised even more.

2. Editor: Potlatch (and JOSM) address a different market from a 
feedback system, OpenStreetBugs or whatever. The latter only works if 
there is enough context on the map to make an observation about the 
content. If you're starting on virgin territory, that's not nearly 
enough. There's a place for both kinds and both kinds need to be 
improved. I find it hard to envisage a system for near-virgin territory 
editing which doesn't need at least some of the kind of graphics 
manipulation you need in products like Adobe Illustrator; but that's far 
too hard for someone who just notices an error in a well mapped area, so 
an alternative "point and say" type interface is definitely needed for 
these people. Off the main stage, I think it would be helpful for those 
who are acting on the information such a system provides to have a means 
of seeing and tracking it, which can be more complex than the reporting UI.

OpenStreetBugs corrections in my area seem to fall into three 
categories: 1. "my street/village is not there" which is usually not 
helpful as it hasn't been surveyed yet, 2. incorrect changes: someone 
goes down a street every day and thinks the map is wrong. But they 
haven't actually gone and looked for the purpose, or they don't 
understand the signs, 3. helpful, valuable corrections. Sometimes 2 and 
3 are hard to distinguish and need a visit. If someone new does make a 
change in my area, I usually make a point of checking it if I'm doubtful 
about it - and many times it does turn out it was my error, but very 
often not: the original survey was looking in detail and that often 
beats someone's casual memory.

But then OSB is a rarely used tool as no one really knows it is there.

I also think a feedback system needs at least the option of someone 
providing a contact or for them to receive info back - either a thank 
you, we've corrected the problem (so they get a nice fuizzy feeling of 
contribution) and/or a question to clarify their contribution (which 
I've needed more often than not for OSB contributions but have no way to 
do for anonymous entries, which is most because that's the default). 
Formal registration is way OTT though.


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