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

Dermot McNally dermotm at gmail.com
Wed Feb 24 16:58:24 GMT 2010

On 24 February 2010 16:19, David Earl <david at frankieandshadow.com> wrote:
> 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
> project.

This issue is basically our main holy way. And while I can see why you
take this view, I disagree with you. It comes back to the issue of
users - who they (mostly) are and whether they are like "us".

When OSM was mostly a lot of spidery lines and even more empty space,
it would probably have been a mistake to have a front door that
invited users to see us as a Google Maps wannabe that just happened to
have crappy maps. Far better to fess up to the fact that we're trying
to build something and that you'd better be prepared to get your hands
dirty if you want to be involved.

I think, and I know many will disagree, that in a lot of the world we
now have a much better story to tell the kind of people that don't
want dirty hands. These people measure our offering feature for
feature against what they already have from Google. Most of the things
they care about aren't that difficult to deliver, we just need to
decide as a community that we should be delivering them in the first

Any web site should optimise its top level for the kinds of people it
wants to appeal to. Up until now, we've only catered to people broadly
like ourselves that will help us to grow the map
_in_the_ways_we've_grown_it_to_date_. And I think we have broad
agreement that people of that sort need to have an attention span long
enough to linger on the site, read bits of the wiki, register and so

So the proposition is that we find a way on the home page to funnel
the curious geeks into the hardcore area of the site - something quite
like what we have now, but even for this target group there is surely
plenty we can improve. This I would see in the form of a teaser -
"constantly evolving map: you can help!" or similar.

But the home page real-estate should otherwise be utterly devoted to
user-level features of the sort that non-expert users enjoy elsewhere.
User waypoints. User lines and areas. .kml overlays, tracklog imports
- we can argue over what these user applications are and which will
serve our purpose best, but our goal is first to hook users on our
maps and demonstrate that they can be used to solve their actual
problems. Because if we don't establish this value, then these users
will never feed us their missing street names or mark their local post
box or fast food joint.

It will seem a shame to us that we're letting people assume that the
map _is_ the Mapnik layer or that routing can only be as good as
whatever engine we decide to make default. But the fact is that, if we
want the world using our map rather than others, way less than 1% of
our users will ever render a custom map or crack open a full-features
map editor.

Our challenge, summarised into two simple points:

All those people who, having visited today's site, become
contributors: make sure they quickly find the good stuff we already

The much larger group of people who spend 2 minutes (if that long)
trying to work out why they should use OSM rather than Google: show
them why.


Iren sind menschlich

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