Openstreetmap is not

  • Finished
  • Coherent
  • Organized
  • Tagged correctly
  • Following mapfeatures
  • User friendly

This is a feature, but lets say you want change what do you do? Well there are two things that have been done in the past that has worked, both takes quite alot of work.

  1. Compile a list of the tagging and how it should be done. See Mapfeatures (the list of appropriate tagging, for mapping the UK)
  2. Create a tool that is impossible to ignore. See Mapnik (rendering the maps you see on

There were two or three attempts at rules, and a 5-10 map renders written until we got what we have today. Nice isn’t it, knowing that people have done alot of work before you and are still doing it.

Yeah, any larger opensource project seems to be full of conflicts. Sometimes they ultimately result in something better, sometimes it just slows everything down and makes things worse. As long as the first category has a majority then this project is going to some nice sunny place :slight_smile:

I absolutely agrree to that. I often go mapping after work and I try to map small areas systemetically. But it seems that everybody who does it has his own strategy. Do we want to get the roads that can be used by cars in first or also bycicleways? Does it make any sence to tag maxspeed or is that useless for our projekt? POIs seem to be intersting, but which ones? I think we should find out what is important for us and we should also have a layer for our map where you can tell "this area has been accomplished, you dont have to search for any new roads anymore, you can only control if everything is correct.

Anyone you ask will have a different answer to that. I tend to say to new mappers: “just map what you really like to map and leave the rest to others”. Because if you feel you have to map also other things that are not really of any interest to you then there’s a big chance of loosing interest in the project.

So if you’re interested in cycleways in an area that has no roads mapped yet, then I’m perfectly fine in having only the cycleways on the map. I reckon someone else will do the roads some other time. If you are interested in mapping only maxspeeds then I’m fine with that too, because any new information is better then nothing at all.

My nit pick is maping highway=steps + ramp=yes or ramp=no, So I know where it’s easy to go with strollers and bikes… This is something that isn’t available in many maps so just mapping this is useful for me.

I don’t think the amount of possible mapping details is that much of a problem. It does require people to think about what they believe is relevant for a map, but different opinions won’t cause conflicts as long as information can coexist. What is a problem is people redefining tags, rather than only inventing new tags, when they want to add information. I wish mappers would refrain from that as far as possible, as it means you can no longer be sure what someone wanted to tell you with a set of tags. And it causes long and ugly debates … (see talk-de for examples :roll_eyes:)

Maybe you’d like to have a look at the Steps features proposal, now with different ramp types. :wink:

In addition to Tordanik comments: the community is not strict in maintaining their agreed tags either. Today I struggled with Tracktype. Strictly speaking (at least that is what the Wiki says), there is no voted agreement, but many people are using it. If you surf through the Wiki, you also find other approaches. There is a tag highway=path, with a picture, which could easily be tagged as highway=track, tracktype=4.

Further there is a lot of country specific descriptions. The whole of the track tag, is written from a UK perspective, with the rest of the world as an afterthought.

Not sure how to correct that, but may be something the State of the Map conference should pay some attention to.


Yeah well… All of that I can cop.

It is the poor etiquette on the part of one or two self appointed experts is what I am having a hard time with. I have been on the edge of saying “Stuff’ya!” to OSM on more than a few occasions.


Well, OSM can hardly call itself a society of professional cartographers. We are a bunch of amateurs so you cannot expect everyone to have the same opinion because almost none of us followed a proper training in this field. So if two not very well informed camps disagree and both tag like they see fit, which one is acting with poor etiquette?

I don’t interfere much with discussions like this and tend to find my own way around the tagging minefields. Certainly, some things aren’t clear and, sure, some abuse tagging but it doesn’t stop me from keeping adding more information to the map and enjoy it while doing so.

I was not really referring to tagging, but some of the editing in general. I have had an area slaughtered while I was still working on it. Admittedly I uploaded incomplete data with a lot of errors (unconnected ways and the like) out of neccesity (buggy software installs), but everything ended up so bent out of shape by a third party that it was a major effort to put it right. There was a mass deletion of nodes in curves (which ended up as a jaggy mess) with little consideration for the rest of the way… and other stupid stuff. That btw was the origin of my earlier “stuffya” comment… I very quickly lost interest and ceased uploading any further work on that area.
I actually view tagging as valuable and welcome the contribution, but the behaviour of one “tagger” has managed to get my attention. It seemed that he was more interested in boosting his stats than actually offering considered and accurate information.



that is a frustrating story indeed. There will undoubtedly be a few who people in the OSM community who have the wrong attitude. Unfortunately OSM can only work with the help of thousands of people and between those there will be a few with that wrong attitude. Your bad luck to bump into one of those big time. We probably all have those “experiences” and have the inclination to pack it in.
I spent a weekend to repair an originally correct area. Not my idea of fun. But now it is actually looking as it should look. Of the original author, no trace.

My joy comes from going round (on my bike) and collecting data and get them right in the OSM database. The issue I run into is in the “right”. As the majority of Dutch roads are more or less done, we are collecting detailed data and the clarity on how to deal with that is to say the least vague. I would hope some more global discussion on the various topics and a better description in the Wiki. Now many of the conclusions only find their way to the forum and the talk-pages and are untraceable for future users.

Success mapping and keep the spirit, Hugo

It sucks having your work destroyed, but arguments and edit wars are actually good if they force people to discuss the tagging issues.

Parhaps people won’t find docs/discussions here or on the mailinglist, but forum discussions are by necessity long and not very conclusive. That’s both good and bad, it’s bad because it’s harder for people to see what is what but also you get a more nuanced view of what a tag means to someone.

I am not sure that edit wars would serve any useful purpose. Generally speaking, people are more likely to be pi**ed off when indulging in this sort of behaviour and civil discussion is about the last thing that they would have on their minds.

I didn’t even know there were lists out there… I didn’t think to look and there is no mention on the Wiki front page. To be perfectly honest I dislike lists (clumsy things they are) and believe that in community orientated projects the “community” part is best presented in a “user friendly” forum. There lies the rub for me. OSM does not broadcast their lists, let alone this (or any other) forum and I see that as an impediment to communication. In a community based project this is seriously unforgivable.

A lot of problems could be avoided with adequate communication.

All that it would take is two links on their page templates… “Lists” and “Forum”


Curiously I was on the email lists long before I discovered there was a forum. How did you discover the forum existed? I think I stumbled across a mention somewhere either on an email list or in the wiki somewhere, or perhaps Google found the answer to something I was looking for here. I forget now.

That would be simpler. The Forum and the Lists (and IRC channel) get mentioned here:
which I found by following “Beginner’s Guide” and “in various places” from the home page.

Ah. Easier still, just click “Help” and they’re mentioned there too.
and the “Help” link is already on every page.



I found the forum by searching for it using Google after looking at the wiki none to exhaustively because normally these things are apparent. I figured there was a forum somewhere. Look three posts up to find out how I found out the lists existed but I had never actually considered looking for them because as mentioned I dislike lists and generally avoid them - Google again to find them. I use IRC a fair bit so it would have taken me about 10s to find.

Not sure what you are getting at in the second part of your post.

JMO, a community based project should have the community front and centre, not buried behind one or two links on a wiki. Honestly, for a project with the magnitude of OSM, I would have expected a proportional volume of posts through the forums (or lists), but it is decidedly quiet around here.


It needs to be said that IRC and the mailinglistst were the first communication channels for OSM as the early adopters were mostly technically skilled people and forums tend to receive more noob visitors (no pun intended at all!).

I felt the need to provide a forum to lower the access for newbies and found out that DaveL already had a private test forum that that he called OSM forum, but somehow it became known to other people and it started to be used. Due to the many spam messages he closed it down until I took it over and converted it to PunBB. The forum is run and maintained completely outside the UCL scope (only the domain is maintained by the central OSM admins).

When the new forum was up and running I polled the IRC to see if there were others who would welcome a forum and have it linked from the main website, their response was mostly negative:

  • there are more then enough communications channels
  • if the forum gets a prominent link on the website then all other comm chanels should be promoted as well
  • a forum is inferior to mailinglists and IRC (and other highly personal opinions)
    The result from this discussion is that all comm channels are listed under ‘Help’ and that’s it.

It may be fairly quite in the International forums but e.g. the German community forum is bristling with active topics. There are around 3000 unique visitors each day.

The forum is linked on the German “Main Page” translation and on That probably helps.

Personally, I think that Forum+ML should be accessible from with at most two clicks, and the first of these should be on something obvious, not the generic “Help & Wiki”. But apparently it’s more important to include that useless “News Blog”. :roll_eyes:

Maybe the Germans are really into this stuff and the rest of the world isn’t, but the german site at least has a link to push them in the right direction - thanks Tordanik. Is Germany an anomoly or is there something in that one prominent link titled “Community” on their OSM main page?


Edit: After a bit of a look around it seems that I am just rehashing something that has already been covered elsewhere. It may have been a bit of a stretch to put this particular topic into emj’s “user friendly” category anyway (might be slightly out of context), so I’ll leave it there. I think everyone would have an idea of my position by now.

Forums are now linked from a new “Community Contact Channels” box on the wiki ‘Main Page’. So I guess you may start to see more traffic on here, although the link is not all that prominent.

Thanks Harry, it is a step in the right direction. Cheers