[OSM-talk] Q&A site update from Ops (was: our Q&A site help.openstreetmap.org is dying)

Michal Migurski mike at teczno.com
Sat Jul 4 05:35:09 UTC 2020

Hi Everyone,

Since Tobias Wrede started this thread in May, the Ops group has discussed the Help site during our regular meetings. We understand the importance of the Q&A site and acknowledge that the software running it is old and under-maintained.

In addition to the possibility of moving the site to a new platform like the ones mentioned in this thread, we’ve also verified that all past Q&A content can be archived [1] regardless of future platform and talked about potential underlying causes of the frontend script problems some users have experienced [2]. Currently, the Ops group has two initial conclusions:

1) We aren’t able to confirm the extent of the Javascript problems described in this thread because we lack a front-end monitoring that would provide this information. Our existing monitoring extensively covers the underlying server, shenron [3], alongside superficial uptime measurements [4].

2) The Q&A server is shared by Trac and SVN services which are being deprecated over the next month [5]. Deprecating Trac and SVN will allow us to better isolate and observe problems that Q&A is experiencing, and perhaps solve them by removing these competing services on one of OSM’s older pieces of hardware.

Over the next two months, I’ll be watching the thread [2] for reports of new failures. If these continue past August when SVN and Trac have been deprecated, we’ll add monitoring to better understand their cause and determine what work may be needed to fix or migrate OSM’s Q&A site.


1. https://ops.pads.ccc.de/meeting-202006-A (archiving report starts at line 173)
2. https://help.openstreetmap.org/questions/74831/why-does-the-add-a-new-comment-button-sometimes-not-work? 
3. https://munin.openstreetmap.org/openstreetmap.org/shenron.openstreetmap.org/index.html 
4. https://uptime.openstreetmap.org  
5. https://lists.openstreetmap.org/pipermail/dev/2020-July/030958.html 

Ops Meeting Minutes:
- https://ops.pads.ccc.de/meeting-202005-B (July 1)
- https://ops.pads.ccc.de/meeting-202006-A (June 4)
- https://ops.pads.ccc.de/meeting-202007-A (May 22)

> On May 20, 2020, at 12:28 AM, Tobias Wrede <list at tobias-wrede.de> wrote:
> Hi,
> we have several channels in OSM to facilitate discussions and support. First touch point for new users is often help.openstreetmap.org. Questions relating to mapping in general, tagging, editors, development, OSM based applications are asked there and get answered in most cases.
> The site is based on OSQA, a software which has not been maintained in some time. Some application errors have surface in the past but had to be ignored since no fixes are coming from OSQA any more. Until now we could live with that. They were annoying but not critical. There are open tickets on OSM github to move the help site to some other framework (https://github.com/openstreetmap/operations/issues/149, https://github.com/openstreetmap/operations/issues/377) but there isn't exactly an abundance of volunteers to take care of that.
> Usability of help.openstreetmap.org has now seriously worsened over the past few days with some js error popping up for longer and longer times (https://help.openstreetmap.org/questions/74831/why-does-the-add-a-new-comment-button-sometimes-not-work). Buttons to support formatting questions and answers are gone, comments cannot be added and moderation functions (reporting, converting questions to comments etc.) are not working anymore.
> If this continuous we can shut down the site soon. Even if this problem got resolved somehow it's only a matter of time until a new problem arises. The site provides a low entry hurdles place to ask questions that can be solved by simple answers. I'd hate so see it gone.
> I'm neither a programmer who could help out on the technical side nor am I involved in OSM organization and politics to have an idea on how this could be sorted out. Question around: Can we find someone to take care of the technical side? Can we involve any of the OSM organizations to find, maybe pay, someone? Does the community even find it worthwhile keeping the site?
> cheers,
> Tobias
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michal migurski- contact info and pgp key:
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