We don't need anonymous notes

Anonymous notes are not a problem at all.

There are many notes from registered users with useless text (opinions, personal data, temporal stuff, ads) and lousy location, even when they have photos or GPX trace (a new StreetComplete option). Therefore, the problem is not whether the note is anonymous or from a registered user; the problem is about its content and how helpful it is to perform a map change to be considered feedback.

Note location cannot be granted as exact. The GPS from mobile devices is approximate, and the mapper who solves notes should be aware of this.

Anonymous notes from a form like OnOSM are good because the map user should have filled in the fields before submitting it. In this case, there was a filter before creating the notes, and it takes time to place the note and then fill in all the fields. And I know the Iranian fork issue (It was me who identified that issue while solving notes in the middle of the ocean), but this is a side issue for OnOSM.

Instead, identifying the application that created the note could give an idea of whether the note was created on the field or remotely (for example, from the armchair mapper computer). Knowing the application could provide an idea about the precision of the note and if the note was just an aerial analysis or a real validation on the ground. I have created GitHub issues on many applications, and they have started to include a hashtag as part of the note creation. However, the bureaucracy of the OSM website and its slow response have yet to include the hashtag. This is a list of notes that its source application can be identified.

  • 1016 - EveryDoor
  • 21 - LocusMap
  • 236 - MapComplete
  • 451041 - Maps.me
  • 24447 - Mapy.cz
  • 452 - msftopenmaps
  • 124273 - OnOSM.org
  • 158 - OnOSM.OSMiranorg
  • 9004 - OrganicMaps
  • 1665 - OsmAnd
  • 446525 - StreetComplete

Forcing a map user to register in OSM to write a note will lead to a drop in the user’s motivation to give us feedback.

One thing in favor of notes from registered users is the ability to write a message to its creator. However, I have yet to see this especially useful. In LatAm, we have prepared a good message as part of the closing notes process, and we have closed thousands of notes, but we have seen just a few reactions to this message. So, this is not a persuasive argument for the non-anonymous notes. OSM internal messaging system is important for the mapper community (all of us who are reading this message), but not the people who use the map (OSM messages are redirected by default to SPAM in main email providers). I have written hundreds of messages to different users for several reasons and received few responses, only from real mappers.

Also, let us remember that creating an OSM account is simple; it just needs an unused username and a real email, but anyone can have multiple email accounts. In any case, this is not a strong filter, and it is prone to vandalism.

The OSM database has the IP of each comment including including the opening one, but this value is not available via API or daily Planet dump. This could help us to find the origin of those wrong notes. However, I wonder why IP should remain secret for all notes. (If there is secrecy, the note can be reported and hidden from the public).

OSM is a flexible map, unlike other commercial or official maps. Anyone can add something to the map; OSM has no contribution levels. This is another reason there are many fundamental issues on OSM, but that is also part of the beauty of this project, and that is why many people have started to contribute (not like the rigorous process of Wikipedia, where contributing is no longer fun) without cartography knowledge.

Another problem is the old notes, no matter if a registered user created the note 10 years ago or if it is anonymous (the registered user could have forgotten the note or does not have access to the email). The problem is if the note is still valid. This isn’t easy to figure out, and each community must make decisions about them; it could be like analyzing them and closing them mechanically. Let us remember that the OSM database also holds POIs dating back ten years ago that are not valid, and no one has complained that much about them (StreetComplete is trying to solve this by adding an extra tag – check_date).

The real issue behind this is the community of mappers (many of us) that still need to process notes of our territories, and many countries have hundreds of thousands of open notes. And we are trying to find a way to get rid of them, even by hiding or removing them.

The real solution to this problem is to try to keep ZERO open notes. That is why in LatAm, we have Notathon sessions, when we gather online to close the notes of our countries, and this has had a beneficial effect; Ecuador and Cuba are significantly reducing their number of open notes with just a few mappers. Another important thing is to monitor its area: Check new notes constantly, check recent changesets, welcome new users, etc.

Let us follow the examples of Chile, Taiwan, or Australia, where a note is processed in less than a month. In Colombia, we are trying to follow their example, but it has not been easy with a couple of mappers, and that is why we always invite to close notes as part of the mapping learning process for new mappers

Location of open notes as of 2023-12-21. Bright red are recent notes; dark red are old notes


We’re trying to save cartographers’ time so that they are engaged in really useful notes.

I can give you an example. Many StreetComplete users leave notes about new shops, while StreetComplete has a Shop overlay where you can add them. Due to the non-anonymity of the users, I was able to contact them and specify this method.

With anonymous users, however, I see the opposite. You can’t ban a user, nor can you suggest using the editor. I’ve already mentioned a user leaving incorrect data from dubious sources and notes from onosm, which if there are a lot of them, there are not enough hands to handle.

Here's another one:

Anonymous user left a hundred of similar notes about missed POIs around the city. Useful information? Yes. Is it convenient to enter them? No. Will anyone want to process them? Unlikely. But the user could just open a normal editor and enter the POIs himself.

By the way, it brought to mind an interesting idea: we can strongly limit the number of notes per IP (up to five for example) and offer the user to log in.

However, I have doubts that all such mass notes are made from osm.org and not, for example, from OsmAnd.

Speaking of new mappers for solving notes. We don’t have normal editors working with notes.

How did you get this data? According to StreetComplete, this seems to be data for all time. At the same time, #organicmaps is contained in ~37 thousand notes

Not sure if ContributionReviewer | OpenStreetMap will eventually clear them out or not?

So far, this account only touches on a very small and specific portion of the notes

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One comment on GitHub opened my eyes. The very name of the “Add a note to the map button” is confusing and encourages misuse of notes.

Made it into a separate issue: Rename the "Add a note to the map button" to "Report an error on map" · Issue #4446 · openstreetmap/openstreetmap-website · GitHub

Is there consensus that notes are only for map errors?

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IMO no

more characters needed :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

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And let’s take it a step further: how do you make your notes more informative?

Let’s take a look at our competitor, Yandex Maps:

They sort notes already at the creation stage!

They even have something you can draw on right away.
But the main thing is that they understand what the note is about, whether it is important, how to process it…

What it might look like for us

(just a mockup in five minutes in the browser console)


Something I’d also like to see is extra detail for included supporting photos.

Currently you see Notes created & people have included a photo, but you don’t know where it’s been taken from, or what direction they’re facing at the time.

It would be nice to include “add a photo”, which then asks “where was the photo taken from” & drops a camera icon on that spot, together with “what direction were you facing” which shows a direction arrow from that camera icon.

Edit for typo


I get this data by analyzing the text from a database thanks to OSM-Notes-profile (A project I am working on).

I am querying the whole Note’s history, and trying to get the application on which they were created.

Regarding organicMaps, I had a mistake because I was only looking at the notes that included the mobile platform (#organicmaps android, #organicmaps ios) but there are other notes that just included the app name (#organicmaps).

  • 1697 - “#organicmaps ios”
  • 7307 - “#organicmaps android”
  • 9004 - organicmaps (platform specified)
  • 28097 - “#organicmaps” (platform not specified)
  • 37101 - “#organicmaps%” (any)
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Most notes with photos tend to be made by StreetComplete and that is quite a handy feature so I definitively support the idea of an official way to include photos for nodes.


From my personal experience, I think that anonymous notes can be a good way to attract new mappers. At least for me that was how I got into OpenStreetMap in the first place: I started to report some errors anonymously - I probably wouldnt have bothered to do so if I had had to sign up first. After observing these notes for several months and realizing that nobody was resolving them, I finally signed up to fix the errors myself. So, I think that without anonymous notes I wouldn’t have startet to contribute to OSM.


Would it help if we did show the IP address for anonymous notes? It might make it clearer who is abusing the system and give a clear way to flag things to mods.

Wikipedia has always had a warning that editing while logged out will publish your IP and they seem to be able to make use of this for less tech savvy trolls.

To be clear: I mean for new comments, not retroactively showing an IP when the user wasn’t warned ahead of time.

And due to privacy and other reasons, Wikipedia is considering replacing those IPs for anonymous users with other identifiable features. Another reason being that the IPv4 address that is being used, when it’s blocked for various reasons, it affects genuine anonymous users who happen to obtain at a later time that same IP address.
Can’t find currently the talk pages where this was discussed, but I remember seeing that last year.


Wikipedia has long warned logged-out users about their IP address being exposed, but apparently this isn’t enough to be compliant:

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10 posts were merged into an existing topic: Hashing to track contributors of notes

3 posts were split to a new topic: Hashing to track contributors of notes

A post was merged into an existing topic: Hashing to track contributors of notes

Why have discussions on how to group comments by contributor without breaking anonymity been removed from the discussion on whether we can continue to allow anonymous contributions?

Muting spam/abusers while retaining more productive anonymous notes seems to be central to this thread.

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