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

Randy rwtnospam-newsgp at yahoo.com
Sun Feb 28 22:13:39 GMT 2010

Nick Whitelegg wrote:

>I ran a mapping party in Fareham, Hampshire, UK in which three newbies
>came, back at the start of November. These three newbies, who were
>reasonably adept at using computers but not "geeks", if you get what I
>mean, were able to successfully use JOSM - something harder than Potlatch,
>perhaps - to add street names to unnamed streets in Fareham. So I'm not
>sure that either editor is that hard to use given a proper


The users that you mention as an example, have already made an initial 
commitment to OSM by even being at a mapping party. The people I'm 
thinking of are those who haven't had, nor are likely to have the 
opportunity for that type of initial experience. In the US, propably 90%+ 
of the area (although granted not 90% of the mappable objects) are in 
areas where there are no active user organizations, or possibly any 
current active mappers. Potential newbies need to see something that will 
tweak their interest, and that they can interact with from a cold start, 
with no human assistance, probably based on a defect/omission that they 
have seen in OSM or one of the commercial maps.

I'm not sure if anyone is thinking along the lines of allowing a user to 
immediately make changes, without signing up for an account. There are 
pros and cons to that. I'm neutral on the issue, as long as proper 
precautions are taken. If the capability to make changes without an 
account were provided, then I certainy agree that the edits should be 
limited to only adding POIs and street names. Even changing names 
shouldn't be allowed, since that opens the vandalism can of worms much 
more. And, if the changes are anonimous (i.e., without an account), they 
should include a unique "newbie" user tag, so that any time an experienced 
user wants to take a look at the newbie changes to see if a vandal has 
been at work, it will be easy to do. And, reversion of changes under that 
tag, should require minimum coordination.

If an account is required, then I think providing something like a "dumbed 
down" Potlatch would be more appropriate. I really do believe that a 
simple clean interface to making changes at "the next level", whatever 
that is, would be appropriate. Obviously the allowed features list is 
debatable. I would like to see a little more than Roy wants, but 
significantly less than full Potlatch. I'm sure there are many different 
opinions, all with some level of validity. And, I think I agree with Roy 
to some extent, in that it would be better to err on the lower capability 
side than the higher to start with. If experience shows that the initial 
level of capabability is not leading to significant mapping problems, and 
the newbies think it is too restrictive, then adding a considered 
increment in capability would be merited. That is one advantage of basing 
the limited editor on a full fledged editor. It would be easier to shift 
capability from one level to the other, in either direction.

I have to admit that I only took a cursory look at an early Potlatch 2 
development, but will certainly give it another look. I typically use 
JOSM. Probably because I just feel more confortable working off line, and 
the variety of plug-ins attracts me. But, I do use Potlatch occasionally 
for doing the quick simple things that are rarely much more than I think 
appropriate for the "intermediate newbie". With some optional interactive 
instructions ("you have placed that way node on or near another way, 
should they be connected?"). I think Potlatch's templates could easily be 
used in a restrictive manner that only allows a limited selectable subset 
of attributes with no free text entry, except for names.

Yes, I agree with whoever suggested it (Liz?) that a wiki for allowed 
newbie features and other design suggestions would be a great idea. There 
have been some good ideas thrown out, and it's too hard to capture and 
organize them in talk.

(Hmm. My talk messages continue to be way too long!)


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