Archiving of help.openstreetmap.org - 1st March 2024

The OpenStreetMap Operations Team have taken the decision to archive the help.openstreetmap.org site from the 1st of March 2024.

community.openstreetmap.org is a great place to ask your openstreetmap related questions.

From the 1st of March 2024 you will no longer be able to login to the help.openstreetmap.org website and you will no longer be able to post questions or answers, or vote on any entries.

The site will be converted to a static HTML site.

The help.openstreetmap.org contents will not be imported to community.openstreetmap.org

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Assume somebody will be updating the OSM Help page: OpenStreetMap ?

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Noted. Remove help.openstreetmap.org from /help · Issue #4497 · openstreetmap/openstreetmap-website · GitHub

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Is there any hope of the Q&A plugin on this site maturing to the point where it is on par with the old help site by that point?

If it is being made static, will there be some sort of indexing available to work around the lack of search function, or will that be preserved?

Will some means be provided for users to export and archive of their contributions for their own reference?

Regarding the search function, Could we not rely on standard Internet
search engines to crawl the site once static?

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Sadly, no. The Q&A plugin has numerous flaws which cause the social dynamics of a Q&A format to break down, and I see no reason to assume that this will noticeably improve in just one month.

I regularly observe threads in Help and support which are conducted like any other thread, i.e. as sequential conversations (which then get confusingly reordered on the occasion that people do use the voting as intended).

Part of the reason is that this mechanism is part of a larger site with very different conversational norms, and people appear to have a hard time switching to a different mode of interaction from one thread to the next. But of course, this is made significantly worse by the plugin’s limitations. In particular, because we cannot convert between answers and comments, or between Q&A threads and normal threads, moderators cannot meaningfully step in when people fail to use the features as designed. The plugin’s other shortcomings (e.g. the co-existence of thumbs-up/thumbs-down and upvote/downvote, incomplete translation integration, etc.) only make things worse.

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I would note that at least on paper you have the legal right to get a copy of all your content in a machine readable format. But given there is no mechanism to provide that that I know of, not to mention for other bits and pieces of OSM infrastructure, lets not venture there.

+1, add the annoyance that replies to amswers by email get rejected without meaningful references.

For completeness this post explains how to identify when post voting is turned on and how to reply by email in a way that won’t be rejected.

It’s possible to sort threads by “Votes” or by “Activity”:

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I agree. I this plugin isn’t very good and I think it should be removed. Rather than providing value it is a net negative to this forum.

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If we were to do that we’d need to find another, different, piece of software to replace OSQA. What do you suggest?

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How about just not doing that?

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In my opinion, the Help and support category worked fine with the Solution option before we enabled the Q&A plugin. I understand that upvoting and downvoting appeals to folks who are used to the old OSQA site, but we kind of have that functionality anyways in the (dispassionate) :+1: and :-1: reactions and, ultimately, polls.

The Q&A plugin would be serviceable, even with its technical flaws, except that it doesn’t fit how we actually communicate here. More often than not, the question doesn’t have a straightforward answer or there are multiple correct answers. Especially in Tagging help & support, the initial “answers” are merely the opening salvos in a long-ranging language design discussion – what should the right answer be?

The plugin tries to accommodate these tangents by allowing us to comment on answers, but that’s the equivalent of breaking up a meeting’s participants into small-group discussions and expecting the groups to hammer out a consensus without talking to one another. And the lack of quoting functionality just makes things worse, because folks have figured out how to use the normal quoting functionality in separate answers.

In my limited experience with the old OSQA site, the only reason that site didn’t have the same problem was that there wasn’t as much activity there. If we somehow found a way to graft this Q&A plugin onto the tagging mailing list, it would suffer the same problems.

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No, we don’t - that’s something completely different. The idea of StackOverflow-style sites is that the best answer is at the top, and other answers are below, based on voting. This works well when people understand how this sort of site works, but a glance at https://help.openstreetmap.org shows that clearly not everyone does - people asking questions sometimes “answer” their own questions with followup questions rather than commenting on answers or asking new questions.

However, it seems a bit daft to turn the feature off just because a few people don’t know how to use it - especially when the creator of every single new topic can decide whether to enable the Q&A format for it.

It’s certainly clear that people want to have those sorts of discussions (this one is a perfect example of where that makes sense) - and there is literally nothing stopping people creating that sort of non-post-voting topic anywhere they want - even where post voting is currently enabled by default. The UI to turn it on and off is “classic Discourse” (completely impenetrable until you’ve had it explained to you) but it does exist.

That’s not a fair comparison. The tagging mailing list (and some of the longer tagging threads here) are basically the B Ark of OSM - a great place to chat about stuff; not so great for “How do I do X?” questions.

It is indeed a shame that some of the functionality in answers isn’t available in comments (and that’s true, by design, in Stackoverflow too), but the ability to comment on replies is extra functionality to the basic site - complaining that it doesn’t do X is a bit like saying that you don’t like the new bike that you got for Christmas because it’s the wrong colour :slight_smile:

I’ve chosen the conventional forum format for the help topics I’ve opened, but I’m not confident that users notice it easily enough – especially new users who are encountering both OSM and Discourse for the first time. Unfortunately, there’s no way to convert a Q&A topic back to a forum topic after the fact, after it has gone off the rails.

If you can stomach another loosely fitting analogy, the situation reminds me of wiki talk pages. It can be made to work, but only with enough handholding to leave a poor first impression. That said, I appreciate that the Q&A plugin encourages us to stay on topic, albeit in a strange way. If sunsetting the OSQA site comes with some additional discipline on our part, maybe it will go more smoothly than we’re expecting.

IMHO the two things missing are:

  • pinned FAQ on how the help category works (how is somebody even to know how the voting is supposed to work?)

  • moderation that enforces the Q&A style, for example by (re-)moving non-questions and non-answers

that technically the plugin is slightly underwhelming is undisputed, but it is what we have.

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To be clear - it’s not just the help category, it’s “post voting” anywhere in the forum, which is turned on by default in the help category, but can be turned on anywhere. There’s nothing on “post voting” in https://community.openstreetmap.org/t/how-to-use-this-forum-for-new-users/314 or the usually more useful https://community.openstreetmap.org/t/osm-forum-auf-discourse-tipps-und-tricks-fur-neue-user/3264 yet.

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These ideas do seem like they could make a difference. Do you and the other moderators of @mods-support need some kind of assistance from the governance team in that regard? I can’t promise that we can always help, especially if it involves upstream changes, but please let us know in any case.

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I presume that the ‘Account Removal’ option promised in the Privacy Policy will remain available here as well:

  • “Wiki and forum accounts will be renamed to a pseudo-anonymous name, but otherwise will remain as is.”

It would be advisable to ensure that after an ‘Account Removal’ request, the user’s OSM edits and help forum entries, activities, can no longer be linked.
In other words, they should not receive the same user_USERID ( pseudo-anonymous name ) globally, even if the email addresses for the 2 accounts are the same.

And I assume that the help forum’s email->username database will remain forever because how else could a user prove they are not trying to delete someone else’s data?