Newbie Questions - Potlatch Points and How Much Detail

Hiya. I have a GPS, but no way to connect it to my computer. So I can find “exact” coordinates, but cannot upload to create tracks. So I’ve started my contributions in Potlatch.

Question 1: Can I edit a single point in Potlatch to put in the exact coordinates? I’ve figured out how to see the coordinates, but I don’t see any way to edit them. Am I missing something obvious? I can drag and drop, but if I’ve got the GPS data I’d rather just hand enter that to make it correct.

Question 2: Just how detailed do we intend to go? I could easily draw in every residential house and farm in my area, but I’m going to concentrate on roads and major buildings for the moment. If I run out of stuff I can do in easy walking distance, should I start adding houses and such or is that just silly?

Thanks. I’m sure I’ll have more questions, but if I can get help on these now I’ll appreciate it.


1 no. You can use the ‘L’ key to show the current position of the mouse cursor, if it helps.

2 up to you! OSM is “iterative” - but starting with broad-brush stuff and gradually becoming more detailed is a good approach.


1: YES! That helps immensely! I’m going to start marking those coordinates on my next walk, and use the “L” to get as close as possible. Thank you!

2: Good. I’ll start by confirming the TIGER data and getting a few of those way points that I know are off corrected, then I’ll fill in once I’ve got the big street problems sorted out. Thank you, Richard!

Unrelated, did you all see that you made the BBC news with your Haiti efforts?
Congrats on the great work, people!


There is no other way to position a node in Potlatch than using the mouse

  • Turn on the coordinates-display by hitting “L”.
  • Move the cursor and hit “L” to refresh the coordinates-display.
  • When you have found the correct positon dubble-click to create a single node (point).

You can also create the node first and than move the node with the mouse while checking the coordinates by hitting “L”.
JOSM will display the coordinates continuously while moving a node.

  • As far as you like.
  • As far as the data is usefull. (Do we need to know were the trashbins of a house are located?)
  • As far as the data make sense. (Do we need to map every rill beside a path?)
  • As far as the data is “stable”. (Does temporary ways like cross-county-skiing or tidal walking paths have to be mapped?)

Sometimes these informations are usefull sometimes they don’t. Some people will say that this is feature is important some won’t. It’s up to you how detailed you’d like to map. :wink:

Is JOSM something I can use without a GPS that connects to my computer? I may eventually get one, but that’s far enough in the future, and I want to get going now. How much technical expertise do I need for JOSM? I found Potlatch to be easy enough, but I’m worried that the learning curve for JOSM is too high for it to be useful to me at this point.

Very good information. I would argue that house locations are important if the data is ever used by emergency personal or census takers or the like. But I agree that trashbins or even fences that aren’t along ways seem to be a little too much detail. Sidewalks (or lack thereof) may be useful data, especially for folks like me that walk a lot. I like that you mention the stability of the data. I will keep that in mind when looking at features that I may want to add this summer while I’m out walking.

I’ve noticed several streets missing in my general area, and a walking/riding trail completely missing as well. I’ve got enough to keep me busy for some time to come.


JOSM is just an other program to edit Openstreetmap data. Unlike Potlatch it’s a stand alone program written in Java. It supports PlugIns written by other users to make it much more power- and usefull than Potlatch. Potlatch is much more simple and therefor easier for beginners. Have a look at to read more information about JOSM or just install it, read the tutorial and decide which editor meets your requirements. There are also other editors ( which however I’m not familiar with.

Potlatch is also more WYSIWYG, which I find very useful when working with complicated highway junctions.

Potlatch suits my needs right now. I just added a neighborhood that is a fairly new development, using a walk around the neighborhood and the GPS to get exact intersections. I also added postboxes because I could. Each day I go out I’ll hit a new area and get some more data to add or update.

When I have time I’ll examine JOSM and the other editors.


You might be able to make use of to take your transcribed lat/lon points and convert them to GPX. Uploading these to OSM to view and trace (or convert directly to ways) in Potlatch may be easier than trying to get a graphical system to match your data.


Just spent some time playing with it, putting data in from today’s walk. I think I could make this work. Thanks for the link!


Update: Ack! There’s no timestamps visible in my GPS, and it appears that the GPX upload requires timestamps. Why? I’m not sure what to do. Add approx timestamps? I’m walking, not really paying a lot of attention to how much time I’m taking. On the one hand, it would be much easier to upload traces, even if I have to transcribe them, but what do I do if the timestamps don’t exist?