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

Michal Migurski mike at stamen.com
Wed Feb 24 22:30:13 GMT 2010

On Feb 24, 2010, at 1:36 PM, SteveC wrote:

> On Feb 24, 2010, at 8:47, Michal Migurski <mike at stamen.com> wrote:
>> 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.
> Mike it seems obvious to me. I've run more mapping parties than  
> anyone and been to more conferences. Through the CM ambassadors it  
> was the same story.
> It was as I recall your basic and longstandig set of complaints, do  
> you remember?

No, I believe you, and I totally sympathize with the point that the  
newbie experienced should be improved. But in what direction? Tell us  
something specific that these newbies said! Actually, re-read the very  
end of my last mail, where I quote Eric's experience with asking  
people what they think of something the first time they see it.  
Negative reactions are a normal first response to surprise, and they  
may not be the response that teaches us anything. Getting a second or  
third response, recording it and making it public here or on the wiki  
are important - it gives people someplace to hang their hat when  
discussing the many problems of newbies.

My two biggest problems with OSM when I first joined have been  
basically addressed in the intervening years: I didn't like that the  
Mapnik layer took multiple days to reflect updates, and I thought  
Potlatch kinda sucked. Both of those things have been improved, the  
former through mod_tile (or something) and the latter through effort  
on Richard's end as well as my own growing familiarity with how it  
works. Turns out that spending a bit of time with the thing is  

> But if it's really not credible then let's do it and get people just  
> to add a big and you can see how hard it is.

Sorry, add a big what?

> Mike you conveniently concentrated on my responses, did you bother  
> to read all the emails where I'm called a shit and a tosser etc? Are  
> they ok? Or is that all soley my fault too? I'll happily point you  
> at all the times I was flamed when not even doing anything bad, and  
> then we can look at how people like dhh and linus have to communiate  
> too.

I'm sorry you've been called a shit and a tosser. I haven't done so.

>> 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 think I've gone further in actually building something and  
> sidestepping PL entirely. How you of all people can't see that a  
> simple feedback form is a step forward I don't know.

There's nothing actually wrong with the feedback form, it's totally  
fine. It's not where I'd expect to send problems with the map data  
itself, but people who aren't familiar with the project might have all  
kinds of ideas about what they can or can't do. It's basically the  
same kind of thing as Google's "report a problem" link, another  
slightly clumsy but totally adequate way to address the issue of bad  

The form is not relevant to the question of the editor, however. Right  
now, I'm looking at the mockups in your post, and trying to understand  
why you're mixing in all this talk of problems with Potlatch with the  
front page design. What else is going to go behind that second tab? I  
think we're still left with the problem I identified in my mail, which  
is that vector and metadata editing are two unbelievably difficult UI  
problems and I'm thankful that the people behind Potlatch and JOSM  
have dealt with them in a their own ways.

I've taken MapZen for a test drive, and it's actually pretty damn  
good. It's a full-on general editor, which I think makes it ineligible  
for the newbie conversation, but it doesn't suck and I see that you've  
just pointed out the GPL license. Good for Cloudmade!

>>   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."
> I guess I'm genuinely surprised we really need to go to such  
> lengths, but hey.

It seems sane to me. I'm willing to put up my own money to fund  
something like this. I think it could be done via Craigslist in a few  
communities to get real human beings to respond. I think it will also  
handle the Show Us The Newbies concern that I brought up, because it  
will create a pool of new users who might not otherwise come to a  
mapping party but can be given an incentive to spend a bit of time  
with the project for a few days.


michal migurski- mike at stamen.com

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