Published by breki on 20 Oct 2010 at 07:06 pm
Justin O’Beirne wrote a couple of blog posts about his “outside” view on OpenStreetMap Web maps (Mapnik layer, basically). When I say “outside” view, I mean that he talks about how and what data is presented on the map from the point of a visitor to the OSM site, and not from the point of someone who is an active OSM mapper and knows the root causes of these problems.
And this is just the point: a well intentioned criticism from someone outside of the community should be received as such. I think the OSM community is more and more becoming self-centered and disregards some basic issues about why this project exists in the first place. Why should Justin (or anybody else) care what “Mapnik” or “Osmarender” means? Why should he care about the tagging mess which resulted from the anarchical way the project is (not) being led? Not everyone wants to become a mapper – most of people just want to find something on the map.
Reading through various OSM mailing lists and forums, one gets the feeling there is very little concern about how the data that is being collected by hardworking individuals will be useful in a practical way. I see two main problems here:
- Inconsistency of how things are tagged. And the project’s inability to set some strict quality guidelines for tagging. The “everybody can tag the way she likes” slogan starts to wear off once you want to use such data for something more than just displaying it on the OSM web map.
- High barrier to entry if you want to access the data. Sorry, but not everyone has the technical means and knowledge to import 12 GB of zipped planet.osm XML file into a database and then run queries just so he can access the latest data for his local area. OSMXAPI is great, but it’s unstable and has a limit of how much data can be retrieved. Country extracts help, but the problem is that they are country-oriented. What if I do not want my data to be cut along the border? Some time ago I suggested providing grid extracts instead of country ones – the user would choose which grid cells to download and then merge the data himself.
Anyway, enough ranting… Going back to coding.