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

Mike Harris mikh43 at googlemail.com
Thu Feb 25 15:32:59 GMT 2010

I think I am in the same camp as Kai / Randy / Vic ...

I regard myself as not-quite-a-newbie-any-more (i.e. somewhere between 
Kai's 'Geek' and his 'Joe the Plumber'. I enjoy contributing to OSM as a 
mapper - both recording the GPX and editing it in JOSM (with 
not-nearly-so-intuitive-and-often-counter-intuitive Potlatch for quick 
minor tweaks). I am on a few mailing lists (and sometimes contribute), 
read bits of the wiki from time to time (and occasionally contribute to 
it), etc. I mention all this only so that others can judge my comments 
in context.

In (partially) following this thread about OSM design I have in fact 
discovered several external sites of which I was completely unaware and 
which are going greatly to add to my fun with / use of OSM e.g. Mapzen 
and MapOsmatic. Sites like this will also help me 'sell' OSM to friends 
and colleagues who think I am a bit mad wandering around with a GPS 
receiver and a digital voice recorder!

In fact, all I would suggest - at least as a first (but hugely 
beneficial) step is putting a bunch of links (and a couple of good maps 
- one urban and one rural) on the front page. This isn't rocket science 
but I think it would pay back in spades just as others have argued in 
this thread. I don't think we need to become more of an end-user site 
ourselves (and probably should not because of reasons of support etc. 
and dilution of the primary purpose as a mapping site that accumulates 
good data).

In support of my argument I would cite the recent sterling efforts made 
by OSM mappers in responding to the Haiti earthquake emergency. Our 
value was the data we had and could accumulate. But what the end users 
in the field needed were (mostly) up-to-the-minute maps they could use 
e.g. on hand-held GPS receivers. We could - and did - provide the data. 
Other implementations made it available in user-friendly form. This 
seems about the right model also for less dramatic everyday use.

Just my thoughts for what they are worth from a not-quite-a-newbie!


On 19:59, Kai Krueger wrote:
> On -10/01/37 20:59, Randy wrote:
>> Vic Morgan wrote:
> ...
>> I think Vic has very nearly placed his finger on the issue. Many of the
>> older OSMers are deeply entrenched in the ideology of "OSM is not a map,
>> but a database of the world" and there is absolutely nothing wrong with
>> that. But, this approach is only useful to a second tier of developers,
>> such as the Cloudmades of the world who take the data and create useful
>> products from it. There is a certain class of people, i.e. many of those
>> on this list, for whom collecting the data is in and of itself an
>> intriguing and useful activity.
>> However, I am not really one of those. I came to OSM, because I was
>> tired of the crappy maps, either out of date or in error, that were
>> available for my areas of interest and I was told about this project
>> that would let me actually fix the maps myself. I suspect the casual OSM
>> visitors, hopefully users, hopefully contributors, initially get to the
>> website for about the same reason. There needs to be something to
>> immediately engage these casual visitors and draw them in.
> I too think that Vic and Randy have some valid points.
> Perhaps (and without numbers it remains speculation), an even bigger 
> usability problem to the "casual newbie" than the difficult to use 
> editors and particularly the layout of the main page, is the usability 
> of the data. I.e. what can they actually do with OpenStreetMap data? 
> Why, other than idealistic reasons, should they contribute to 
> OpenStreetMap? Many people will work for free, as in without money. 
> But few people are truly altruistic, i.e work with out expecting some 
> form of reward. So we need to offer them something. If we want to 
> attract "Geeks", Cartographers, GIS professionals and programmers as 
> mappers, then vector data is just fine as a reward. If we want to 
> attract "Joe the plumber", and I think we do, then most likely we need 
> to offer him something else that he actually finds useful.
> If there is a good enough reason to contribute, then there are 
> sufficient number of "newbies" who will get through the main page or 
> editor usability issues. Wikipedia, I think is a good example for 
> that. It is the 6th biggest site on the entire internet and has 
> collected vast amounts of knowledge with a large number of non-techy 
> people contributing to it. Never-the-less their usability "sucks", as 
> SteveC would put it so friendly. Think about all those various 
> combinations of double and triple brackets, nested templates, stars, 
> equal signs and what else that has been arbitrarily mapped onto markup 
> meanings. OpenStreetMap's editor usability and tagging system can't be 
> that much worse. Yet loads of people contribute to it. Possibly 
> because end users find it a valuable resource and end users see a 
> reason to put in all this effort to jump and climb over the barrier of 
> entry to get to the party...
> Given, that I too see OpenStreetMap _primarily_ as a map data provider 
> and not a mapping site, I don't think all of the end user 
> functionality necessarily has to be "in house" (although probably more 
> than we have at the moment). But it has to be reached very easily and 
> quickly by new people and not strewed arbitrarily and difficult to 
> find on hundreds of different servers. The Openstreetmap.de 
> "Schaufenster" ( http://www.openstreetmap.de/schaufenster/index.html ) 
> I think is a good starting point for that.
> In many ways, we do indeed already have a lot of the necessary end 
> user tools. Like the garmin maps, like the various routing providers, 
> like the examples of how to embed OSM into your own website, like 
> navigation tools for many other mobile platforms, useful utilities 
> somewhere in our SVN repository... What we probably are lacking is a 
> good integrated experience so that "newbies" can find these resources, 
> start using OSM data and eventually they will hopefully become mappers 
> if they notice issues in the data while using it.
> All that said, I am definitely not saying we don't have a need or 
> shouldn't improve our editing tools to lower the barrier of entry. 
> There is definitely room and need for improvement, but perhaps we 
> shouldn't forget this other side of "usability" as an additional option.
> Kai
> P.S. one thing that has to be kept in mind though if we would push 
> additionally more towards an "end user" site, is, do we have the 
> technical and financial resources to support that? Running a large end 
> user site requires a lot of resources and we might end up needing a 
> "yearly donation drive" like Wikipedia. Do we really want to get into 
> that (already)?

*/Mike Harris/*
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