Perspective from a new mapper

I would like to add for those who don’t know me (yet) personally that as a recently new (and highly motivated) OSM mapper I may have a different perspective compared to those who have been here for a long time:

  • I did not see any general instructions/guidance when I started mapping (including a link to this forum or the Thailand wiki)
  • I see inconsistencies everywhere, even on the most basic tags, leading to confusion on how to do things
  • The global/country guidelines don’t seem to be followed or enforced
  • No one ever commented on my first changesets after I requested a review.
  • Some of my local additions were wrongly reclassified by non-local mappers (e.g Grab) and my changesets comments were never answered

For these reasons and probably like most other new mappers, I was demotivated and I eventually stopped using OSM.

Like in any open-source software project, I believe the more consistency and the higher quality you see, the happier mappers will be, new ones will stay and make maps better which is in turn good for the whole community.

On the opposite, when quality reviews are inexistent, guidelines are incomplete, or when mappers are allowed to not follow them and rely on their own interpretation, you create a toxic environment where instead of contributing for the community you do it just for yourself.

Yes, part of my mapping is motivated by my own activities (enduro) and some tags are important to me (surface, source, motorcycle) but I have no intention to “map for the renderer” and I prefer to do things rather by the book, again for the community and not for myself.

As a software and data engineer, I thought I could use my experience, skills, and time to improve guidelines, so that we could reduce inconsistencies and improve the overall quality, to make it a friendlier environment for new mappers.

Simply looking at the OSM maps and guidelines in developed countries tells you that while it may take many years it’s definitely possible to reach.

In the last few months, I have spent quite some effort coming up with guidelines for minor road classification to counter Grab’s obsessive residential tagging. It was not a success but in the end my reviews, messages definitely helped reduce mistagging.

I have also reviewed changesets in my area and provided guidance to new mappers and I have seen positive feedback and changes.

However, I have learned recently the hard way that some mappers, including long-term contributors, refuse to follow guidelines or any general consensus agreed in the past, and I was told that there is nothing we can do about it. The current policy being that guidelines in Thailand could be seen as mere suggestions and simply cannot be enforced.

I felt very disappointed because this policy means that all efforts I have spent on improving guidelines were pointless.

Hence this long message and this simple question:

Are you happy with the current policies and so feel my philosophy or intentions do not fit with the local community?

If not, what could be improved and in which priority? e.g.

  • improving and simplifying guidelines
  • cleanup conflicting tags
  • welcoming message with important links for new mappers
  • invoking Data Working Group when mappers refuse to follow guidelines / general consensus


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First off I want to commend you for your good energy and intentions. I also have fallen into a sort of funk in my OSM mapping for some of the same reasons you mentioned in this post. I live in Alaska and Thailand and therefore much of my mapping effort has been in these places. Lately, however, when working on small mapping projects I was inspired to take up because I read about an interesting geographical feature or historical location, my first issue is dealing with sloppy or incorrect mapping by those that went before me. Sometimes the task at hand, to add details to a nature refuge, for example, must be preceded with a cleanup of what’s already been mapped. Sometimes too, the cleanup effort has taken more time than my original task. It gets very frustrating to say the least.

I also have a scientific and programming background and perhaps because of that my mapping personality tends toward being overly meticulous. I also worked as a librarian for a number of years where the idea of creating your own subject tags was considered blasphemous because it led to confusion and hobbled one’s ability to search for a topic. The correct subject tag for anything having to do with World War II, for example, is World War, 1939-1945, not WWII or World War 2, or World War II. These guidelines are strictly enforced system-wide which means that no matter where you are in the U.S. libraries universally use the same “tags”. Unfortunately, OSM doesn’t work that way.

In OSM there is no way to control or limit people from implementing their own tags, in fact, it’s considered by many to be part of the beauty of the system. However, it can also lead to chaos, as you’ve discovered. Short of some sort of rigorous training or sandboxing of new members, the way Wikipedia does it, there seems to be no way out of this. As for people responding to your requests for help when you were starting out, be aware that checking other people’s work can be frustrating and is very time consuming. Most OSM mappers are probably still working daily jobs and simply can’t spare the time. I did some of this myself but quickly decided that I didn’t want to continue because it required so much work that it took away from my own OSM projects.

I used to contribute to Wikipedia but when they tightened up their requirements for data entry and sources to the extent they have, it became such a daunting process that I’ve pretty much given up on it. It would be nice if there were some middle ground between what they demand and what OSM might consider but for now, OSM is what it is. Any damn fool can come in and, either out of carelessness or ignorance, alter or even destroy work that others have labored over for weeks or months.

My mapping is at a lower ebb than it used to be. I’ve picked up a new pastime, bird photography, that now occupies much of the time that OSM has for the past nine or ten years but a big part of that decline is for the reasons mentioned. Dealing with nooby errors, trying to reason with people who use OSM for their own “custom” or specialized versions (including Grab, Amazon, etc.), of the OSM data, have exhausted me. I watch the messages on this thread go by and I don’t take any action on most of them.

I’m sorry I haven’t really answered your questions but I did want to offer some encouragement. I’m grateful that you have taken such an interest in the OSM project, which is IMO a very useful and wonderful way to spend time and, while I hear your frustration, I encourage you to keep going. OSM needs more mappers like you.

Keep up the good work,



In answer to at least one of your questions, I’m not entirely happy with the current policies but I have no problem at all with your philosophy. I can only offer encouragement.

I appreciate your intention and effort to clean things up and make OSM data more consistent. I want to tell you that your decision-making tree and guidelines revision work is great. It improved things, as you mentioned that it helped reduce mistagging.
You may be disappointed to discover that there are currently only a few OSM mappers in Thailand, compared to many years ago, and especially in compared to other developed countries. This resulted in some problems, such as not having enough people to discuss and vote on any issue in order to reach a consensus.
As a new mapper in comparison to many others in this community, I would encourage you to continue your work with, as OSM stated, “any tags you like” and perhaps provide some guidelines as well, as possible.

I agree on all of these points, but reaching a consensus may take some time.


Well, Julien, things are not easy…
When you have no previous mapping experience, then starting with Thailand is a … problematic choice. Originally, it was rather a project of “farangs” mapping in Thailand, without a real local mapper community. And unfortunately, many farang mappers seem to have little experience with mapping in their - generally well mapped - home countries. I am sure that many road classification issues would not exist if many of us just looked at the classification in their home countries. I saw many an “unclassified” road in Thailand with much higher technical standards, performance, and importance in the road network than some “secondary” in Germany (a country said to have one of the best road networks in the world…).
Later on, more people without previous mapping experience added a lot of data, e.g. paid by Facebook. They learned from the bad mapping before, and - without any experience with the possible conflicts of imagery and ground truth - added really problematic data…
I am not content with the current situation. I try to get the best out of the data, by creating my own maps, rather than getting involved in edit wars. We lost a very productive mapper who drove around in the Thai province where he lives and collected enormous amounts of ground truth data after an edit war.
In the end, you may interpret my position as some kind of resignation. After the many years, …

Everyone: thank you for your valuable feedback, insights, and encouragement!

This conflict made me realize that I should lower my expectations, avoid unnecessary distractions and refocus on my initial goal: improving the off-road network in northern Thailand.

This will take some time, but if it works I will be able to use my experience and shift my attention to other areas of improvement.

Best, Julien

18 months into actively mapping with OSM, and two recent topics are puzzling me:

A) I have been digging recently into old forum posts and I realized the same exact conflicting topics show up every few years (Grab, minor road classification, offroad guidelines…). I missed those, because the forum search function is not user-friendly, it took me a few times to figure you must scroll down to select Thailand forum after entering keywords.

Some people stopped participating in the topics, some new ones joined (like me) but essentially the content has been the same.
Some decisions were taken, a few may have been moved to the wiki, other topics were stalled.
The process seems to be repeated over and over, and I find this very unproductive.

How could we avoid this again in the future ?

  • Let’s move important decisions to the wiki.
  • Let’s make important and ongoing topics sticky.

Here is what I think are important ongoing topics that should stay sticky:

Do you agree? If yes, what other topics would you want to remain sticky ?

B) While the number of active participants in the forum is low, the number of views generated by topics is very unusually high.
FluxBB, the underlying website generator, confirmed to me that a view is incremented each time a topic page is loaded.
This could mean a lot of users are actively looking at forum but never or rarely participate. Or simply bots like search engines are obsessively crawling the pages.

Any ideas ?

If we can reach some preliminary agreement, it should, in my opinion, be documented in the wiki. And if it needs to be changed in the future, we can do so.

For those two topics, I agree to keep it sticky.