[OSM-talk] Addressing SIG

Steve Coast steve at stevecoast.com
Tue Nov 5 18:37:18 UTC 2019


Maps have three basic components: Display (does it look nice?), Routing (Can I get from a to b?) and Geocoding (Where is this address?).

OSM is extremely good at the first one, and pretty good at the second one. But it’s pretty deficient in the third area: address data.

The question is, how can we fix this? Addresses are a big, big problem in terms of how much data we need to go collect. There are a few ways forward with outside commercial or government data, but they tend to be difficult because the data is patchy or licensed in ways that aren’t very compatible with OSM.

It seems like it would be a good idea to think about this from the bottom up in a community way, and this doesn’t really exist in OSM right now. It seems like we need better feedback loops to:

  1.  Community can see where the address data is (and isn’t), because it’s not very obvious today when using osm.org
  2.  Make the tools to add address data better so that it’s easier to fix.

To that end, here’s a tile server that highlights address data:


It shows roads with address data normally and kind-of hides other roads, to make it obvious that “something is wrong with this map”. We could have a tag (maybe it exists already) that says “this road doesn’t have addresses” and/or a tag that says “this road is complete”. (right now it’s just got Colorado and Utah in it).

When OSM started, the map looked very broken and incomplete because there was missing data all over the place. This created a large incentive to go fix the map. The idea with this tileserver is to do the same thing and make the map look broken to create a large incentive to fix it. If we, one day, switched the main osm.org site to using this rendering then it would create an urgent need to find all the addresses in the places where they exist. It could also be done on a temporary basis for a few weeks, or on a per-country basis or some other slow introduction to see if it worked. It’s just an idea.

On the tools side, there’s much that can be done to make collecting and entering addresses easier. I’ve been collecting UI/UX changes to tools (e.g. iD or Go Map!) that would make addresses better:


It also seems worthwhile to create a group of people interested in addressing in OSM (an address special interest group or working group) to push these ideas forward so that we can “finish” OSM by getting all the addresses done.

What do you think?



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