About making OSM's messaging features more efficient

My recollection is that the project to add changeset discussions was run by a former DWG member, and was a “Google Summer of Code” project. I seem to remember that the original idea was that notifications would work in the same way as other OSM messages, but lack of time prevented that from being complete before the end of the project.

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Here’s the relevant GitHub issue: Add pop-up or other obvious notification for getting a message or changeset comment · Issue #3182 · openstreetmap/openstreetmap-website · GitHub

Looks like the OSM website maintainers are open to a more comprehensive notification system getting built, but no one has been motivated enough to work on it yet.


There was Google Summer of Code/2020/Project ideas - OpenStreetMap Wiki which is based on a similar proposal from 2018 and points to the github issues on the topic. But the pain point has been around since changeset discussion became available as @SomeoneElse has pointed out.

The main issue is that while quick fix would be possible a real solution would be preferable. It is just the kind of project nobody has volunteered to do for a long time for the website and there haven’t even been contractors willing to do the work for money for similar sized projects.,


If a feature like this has been outstanding for years, why not evaluating a solution that doesn’t involve create and maintain a message system and rely on an existing and well-maintained one?

For example, I’m thinking that these very forums have a PM system with a good notification flow, as well as a very solid API to interact with. It should take less time to connect PMs through discourse API, than developing a new system and maintaining on it own.

While my suggestion might look provocative, I think it’s good to reflect on what’s realistic in the short-medium term, even if it’s not my suggestion.


To be clear nobody was suggesting adding significant more capabilities to the existing messaging system. A MVP would be, IMHO, a) allow system generated messages to go to the internal messaging system, b) allow other notification channels for messages than just to the registered e-mail address.

Interfacing to discourse would seem to imply doing roughly the same (and a potential notification channel could be to a users discourse account).

PS: if you want to make this site more popular I would point to acting on https://community.openstreetmap.org/t/access-to-migrated-forums/97320

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Do they? Personally I don’t get notified when a message in one of the forums that I’m a moderator for is flagged; I only know about it when I manually log into c.osm.org and see an unexpected icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen. That may be a user setting set by (or not yet set by) me, of course.

More generally, how would sending notifications to Discourse help with the issues raised above? Is it easier for OSM editors to poll or be notified about OSM messages in Discourse than it is to emulate what JOSM does now for OSM messages? How would it work if an OSM users is not yet a Discourse user?

Maybe a proof of concept of some sort would help. Not necessarily a modified version of iD, just something that could show the retrieval of Discourse messages, and of course something to send test messages into Discourse (“pretending to be OSM”).

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I think some of them would improve, specially the ones about better user experience replying, but my main point was about not being blocked by having to develop/improve our own system (that might take an unknown number of years to happen) but finding other alternatives we can plug into (discourse PM and API might or might not be a good one).

I absolutely agree with that bit, hence my suggestion of a proof of concept :slight_smile:

Having been in a conversation about the highlighting of ‘too many changes’ in ID Editor, doubling lines with each refresh, I’d think that colouring the message counter box red e.g. when the counter is not zero with a email icon before (if there are messages) as “SekeRob 1” in standard grey does not really signal anything, would be kind of flick of the wrist for the maintainers, but maybe not. Just give me some bright, if not flashy colour to attract attention. (no, the email box is only opened once a day and from a revert actions taken today some barely seem to be able to wait a few hours on nothing that is breaking bad routing)


Do you mean this:

Screenshot 2023-06-13 124349

If so, then that’s not really part of iD; it’s part of the website that iD is built into.

It really makes no difference whether in history view or in edit mode, I get this frame in Vivaldi


(Could not remember if the counter was left or right of the member handle.)

You are illustrating nicely why “fixing” these things is nearly never a “flick of the wrist” particularly UI related changes that should work on a wide range of devices and browsers.

self quote “… but maybe not”

If it works on Chromium it’s like working on the bulk of all browsers, even MS Edge I think to have read uses it, and yes, the about box… " This browser is made possible by the Chromium open source project and other open source software."

Somehow got the impression all these modern web development packages did much of this Browser A, B, C coding substantially on their own.

Anyway, me thinketh, throw it out there, maybe it’s a low hanging fruit, where ID is a high percent starter kit (wild guess) in which phase you’d want the novice contributor to read.

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I think the simplest solution is what Andy suggested on the Github issue that I created a while ago Add pop-up or other obvious notification for getting a message or changeset comment · Issue #3182 · openstreetmap/openstreetmap-website · GitHub – to automatically generate an OSM message for a changeset comment, and also to make the notification that you have a message more obvious – maybe red with a little mail icon or something so it’s clear what the number means. And perhaps just the first time so you don’t get a message each time you get a changeset comment. (Or maybe allow the user to opt out of automatic changeset messages.)

The issue, in my opinion, is that people don’t know they’re getting messages, even if you tell them, or aren’t checking their emails while they are mapping, because they are focused on mapping and not switching to another program to randomly check periodically if they got messages. I’ve been to a lot of mapathons with new people and often they ignore the little gray 1 next to their username, even if you explain it and demonstrate that you might get a message. I think either they don’t notice or think it’s some kind of not urgent thing, rather than something probably specifically related to their mapping. And they almost never notice that they got a changeset comment, because the only notification comes to their email. It’s a recognition vs. recall issue if you think about it in UI terms, rather than have to explain “you may receive messages, here is where they are, click this to see them” or explain that they need to switch to their email periodically (recall) versus make it recognizable that you got a message.

And not knowing they are getting messages or changeset comments is a problem, especially when other mappers or the DWG are trying to get a person to answer a question or be aware of something like an incorrect edit or doubt or policy problem. DWG blocks people for not responding to changeset comments, which is good, but I think making people more aware that they are getting comments would save their time, and also ultimately result in better data and a more active community too. It might even help with mapper retention, if folks get (polite) messages they might be more likely to engage and continue mapping.


I’m in favor of more integration. But I also understand it’s not always easy to make these changes. But I have only received 2 messages in the entire time I have been using OSM (since July 2020). Since there are other platforms people use for communicating, people tend to use those as opposed to messages. But maybe in other regions people use messages more.

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Incidentally, even if it’s unavoidable that he/she doesn’t check the message or reply when he/she sees it, it would be nice to at least have an indication that he/she has read it.
Would this be technically difficult?

None of this is “difficult” in any reasonable sense of the word, but it is still work and in some cases painful.

For example because of privacy concerns, you can’t simply indicate if an user has read a message or not, that functionality needs to be opt in (by the receiving user) on a per message base and all of that needs an UI.


Thanks for the feedback.
Email also has a message receipt feature, but I’m not sure if it’s against the law in some countries to just indicate that you’ve received a message.
However, the OSM Direct Message feature has a “Mark as unread” feature, which I believe means that the server can see if the other person has already read the message or not, and can make changes.

Also, I don’t know what UI you’re referring to, but I’m not sure if a single checkbox indicating that the other person has read the message is that difficult to do in the UI.
I’m wondering if there is a technical issue that I’m not aware of.

Not true - there is no way for a sender to tell if somebody has read a message.

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However, the OSM Direct Message feature has a “Mark as unread” feature, which I believe means that the server can see if the other person has already read the message or not, and can make changes.

I always thought “mark as unread” was a feature for the recipient, to mark an email for later reading…