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Openstreetmap is having a moment (joemorrison.medium.com)
434 points by liotier on Nov 18, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 148 comments

As a long-time OSM contributor (former editing software maintainer, former OSM Foundation board member yadda yadda) I like this piece, because it actually gets the "mutual aid" dynamic between corporate OSM and enthusiast OSM.

The two should not be opposed. Rather, the more people are exposed to OSM via Facebook, Apple and so on, the more enthusiast contributors OSM gets. The more rendering tech that Mapbox releases as open source, the more opportunities OSM enthusiasts have to build cool stuff. And so on.

We get a fair amount of sniffiness from some of the more corporate types, denigrating enthusiast contributions as just early-stages stuff that should now inevitably give way to AI-assisted machine mapping. So to read a more balanced view like this is genuinely refreshing.

_But_ it does require both sides to understand the bargain and play fair, and that doesn't happen as universally as I'd like. There are some among the enthusiast community who are unremittingly hostile to corporate actors beyond what anyone should have to put up with, salaried or not. To some degree that's inevitable when you have a project that attracts single-minded 15-year old Linux geeks, maybe, but that explains rather than excuses.

Conversely, corporate OSM too often acts in its short-term interests without a view to the wider good. Attribution is the most notorious example, where Facebook, among others, is basically flouting OSM's attribution requirements. This breaks the "more eyeballs, more contributors" compact. We also see it where corporate editors steamroller some of the nuance from individual contributors' edits (particularly logistics-driven), and I'll confess I'm not a great fan of Mapbox's recent decision to close the source of the dominant in-app renderer, though that's clearly their right to choose.

If this thoughtful article helps both "sides" realise that they're better working together than against each other, that would be a win.

> As a long-time OSM contributor (former editing software maintainer, former OSM Foundation board member yadda yadda) I like this piece, because it actually gets the "mutual aid" dynamic between corporate OSM and enthusiast OSM.

The phrase 'commoditize your complement' ( https://www.gwern.net/Complement ) is probably better known than 'mutual aid' as a description of why OSM gets all this corporate buyin from Facebook, Apple, etc.

As a long-time OSM contributor (former software creator, creator of OSM Foundation board yadda yadda) I like this piece also.

Hi Richard :-)

Hey Steve! Yeah, you outrank me on the yadda yadda front :)

Out of curiosity, is the Facebook infringement well known in the community, but considered too big an issue to broach, not worth putting time into, etc.?

It is relatively well known. The attribution is imperfect in some places, lacking in other places.

If you'd like an example, examine the map on https://m.facebook.com/Stekerlapatte

Facebook is, in all fairness, contributing to the OSMF's efforts to come up with new, better, clear attribution guidelines, and they are understandably waiting for them to be approved before overhauling things. The current draft would require the actual text to be shown in the example I've shared above.

> Facebook is, in all fairness, contributing to the OSMF's efforts to come up with new, better, clear attribution guidelines

As in, trying to redefine their attribution violation as something acceptable. Attribution guidelines draft was rejected because it tried to describe hiding attribution in places that normal user will never see as acceptable.

Facebook is doing some positive things in OSM ecosystem, but it is not a case here.

The OSMF is currently working on updated Attribution Guidelines, which should go some way to address some of this, and will probably adopt something within the next month or two.

So the situation is currently fluid.

It's not a thing. A few zealots in the OpenStreetMap community want the literal words "OSM Contributors" to appear on any map that uses OpenStreetMap and they complain loudly anytime someone publishes a map that doesn't meet their made-up standard. Facebook maps attribute OpenStreetMap legally.

ODBL license has a clear requirement

> notice associated with the Produced Work reasonably calculated to make any Person that uses, views, accesses, interacts with, or is otherwise exposed to the Produced Work aware that Content was obtained from the Database

Hiding "attribution" in places where typical user will never visit (for example in menus hidden inside barely visible "i" symbol) clearly violates it.

thanks for the contributions to OSM

I'd like to know if there are practical points of conflict between corporations and the community, including but not limited to map consensus discrepancies.

Also, is the openness of OSM in danger in the long term? Could a dependency appear that would close down the body of data generated in the past?


After I did a Show HN about my OSM-powered project (https://trailrouter.com), I saw first hand a little of the positive impact of large corporate involvement in OSM. Two of the very large companies mentioned in the article got in touch with me to find out what what could be done to improve the state of data in OSM useful for pedestrian routing. They were conscious that a disproportionate amount of effort went into supporting motorised vehicles, and wanted to improve the situation.

Of course, they were doing so out of self interest too, and openly acknowledged this. But they openly shared their own datasets and offered resources/advice too.

The OSM data is so powerful (and I don't mean the map - I'm referring to the tags, which are a hidden gem). I'm all for anything that continues to improve this data.

> After I did a Show HN about my OSM-powered project (https://trailrouter.com),

This is just amazing! I immediately bookmarked and sent it to friends. But I'm not a runner myself, I prefer bikes :) Do you perchance know of something similar for bikes?

Though in Sweden, where I live right now, Trail Router would work very well for bikes, too, especially outside cities.

cycle.travel (my site!) is OSM-powered bike routing, including a “n km from start point” feature. Always happy to hear comments and suggestions.


Thank you Richard, https://cycle.travel/ is amazing!

Wow, that's really neat! The suggested routes of a particular length is an awesome feature I've never seen anywhere before.

I also like the street name initials concept -- if you're familiar with the cycling routes in an area, you're likely to recognize them.

And if you have a motorbike, there’s kurviger.de that tries to find a nice route with lots of bends.



Immediate comment: replace the km slider with an input field :)

Brouter (brouter.de) is your friend. A lot of options to tune to your preferences and a decent height model for evading ascents.

Thank you!

lot of telemetry

Regarding corporate contributions:

Often the corporations take the route of least resistance - employing dispensable workers who don't live in countries they're mapping [1], and aren't given proper training. It seems that southeast Asia (e.g. Thailand) is the major place for such dubious mapping efforts. [2]

There's also a minor conflict of authority: paid mappers (like all mappers) should defer to the community, but they have a manager who they answer to.

In my opinion not everyone has the skills to contribute, and at least if they're volunteers you can tell them (politely) to fuck off and be more likely to succeed with it (and not be outnumbered by the army of corporate drones).

On-the-ground knowledge is the OSM's gold standard. With megacorps in question routinely spending billions on frivolous stuff, they should have instead equipped the local OSM communities with gear to take 360 photos and GPS loggers to enable those on the ground to survey their local areas.

[1] https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Armchair_mapping

[2] https://forum.openstreetmap.org/viewforum.php?id=46 (AFAIR many of people posting here are Western immigrants to Thailand, so take correction for that).

Isn't it potentially the opposite? If an independent, volunteer mapper contributes a poor edit, someone from the community has to reach out to them individually. This is hard since there's no prior relationship, and no expectation that the person will even take any advice on editing.

Contrast that to a major corporate contributor: the people leading these corporate mapping teams are all talking. Both to each other, and to leaders in the community like prominent volunteers, OpenStreetMap Foundation board members, etc. If a corporate contributor makes a bad edit, one of those _existing relationships_ can be used to help put processes in place that might prevent not just that one individual, but any other contributor paid by that company from making the same error again.

IMO at least, that process scales a lot better. And as OSM continues to grow that will be even more valuable than it already is today.

The energy you put in helping a new volunteer mapper along rewards the project in the long run for those who become long-term (semi) frequent contributors. With a corporate mapper you either hit a wall of misunderstanding due to limited English and, excepting English, no map-local language skills, and any time you invest in that mapper is limited in effect, because retention at such jobs seems low.

Some companies do listen when you provide feedback, and others just have some community manager¹ who doesn't really know anything at a deeper technical level handling all the communication with OSM's volunteer corps of mappers.

There is a company in Minsk that is doing edits worldwide based on the output of a set of slightly outdated linters, and it's disappointing to see that they could get much better feedback and linter input by listening to the remarks made by us volunteers, but that would require the attention of one of the few employees with in-depth knowledge, which they haven't planned for.

1: Another gem of inappropriateness was trying to communicate with the Dutch OSM community via Google Translate mangled Dutch. (The vast majority of us can manage English quite well, thank you.)

The company in question is Rocketdata.io.

You pretty much summed up their incompetent modus operandi, let me just add they're a company that maintains a presence of their clients (e.g. retail) at various online maps and business directories alike.

See also [1]

Having said that, the tool that they use to conflate customers' data with OSM data [2] is interesting, even if it comes with minor performance problems when listing all projects. (Currently returns 502 error, worked fine a few days ago).

[1] https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Organised_Editing/Rocket...

[2] https://osm.rocketdata.io/

I think one can appeal to the morals and desire to be good/useful with a community mapper, but one cannot with a corporation, especially a publicly traded one.

If Facebook decides that the metadata format/style for a particular field should be X because otherwise they'd have to spend $______ of engineering resources on reworking their mobile app and fuck the OSM community which has decided it should be Y, for completely valid reasons that were debated and decided upon by the community....and then all of their hundreds of 10-cents-an-hour drones start submitting changes with the new style...the community is screwed. Especially if it accepts money from Facebook, because there's a power imbalance no matter how much paperwork you have saying "thou shalt not get anything from thy donation."

If you want a great example of how corporate involvement corrupts - look at Firefox, which has been caught not only with its hand in the Collecting User Data cookie jar, but inserted software for the makers of a TV show (Mr. Robot) and software nobody asked for, with no way to disable it (Paper, I think it was/is called?)

Not only did they get caught with their hand in the Collecting User Data cookie jar, but when someone brought it to the public's attention via the bugtracker, the bug was locked almost immediately by a mozilla employee. Then that was reversed. Then the project manager for said project who had previously worked at a data analytics company re-classified the bug as secret/internal-only, and it quietly all disappeared under the rug.

For sure, that's a legitimate concern if/when there's one major corporate contributor that doesn't have to play along with everyone else.

Part of what makes the current OSM situation work is that nobody is bigger than everyone else. If Facebook wants to do their own thing, they're going to be going against Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, and the rest of the community.

We've seen from both the world of capitalism in general and definitely the software world that consolidation eventually happens, so maybe this situation is inherently unstable and doomed to fail. But IMO the OSM community should work to make it last as long as possible.

Data has a way of self-cleansing but somewhat agreed. Garbage in, garbage out.

I can understand why the tech giants are getting involved in mapping. There are some really cool things being built with OSM and other data, like OpenRouteService [1] (Google Maps navigation for OSM), OpenTopoMap [2] (space shuttle topological data overlaid as contours on OSM), ORBIS [3] (Google Maps navigation for the Roman road network), and loads of detailed maps using OSM data directly but with a particular purpose like OpenRailwayMap [4] and OpenInfrastructureMap [5].

I'd go beyond what the article says about OSM being the atlas to Wikipedia's encyclopedia: I'd say it's becoming the spatial knowledge base equivalent to nothing seen before in history. This truly is an awesome, revolutionary tool that has shown its true potential. I look forward to the awesome things we've not even thought of being built with OSM data, and, I hope, all continuing to be free.

[1] https://maps.openrouteservice.org/

[2] https://opentopomap.org/

[3] https://orbis.stanford.edu/

[4] https://www.openrailwaymap.org/

[5] https://openinframap.org/

This may sound silly, but I would use osm + routing more if it had better support for english units (miles/lbs).

I wonder if that's not a slight barrier to entry to participate in the community.

There's lots of different routing engines built with OSM data. The units they expose are an implementation choice.

The routing engines available on https://www.openstreetmap.org/ (click the bendy arrow next to the search box on the upper left) do return km.

I'm not sure why this stalled out, but it looks like much of the implementation is available:


It's interesting that all the big tech companies except Google are invested in OSM, but at the same time none of them bought one of the classic, "traditional" digital map makers - Here Maps formerly Nokia, formerly NavTeq and TomTom formerly TeleAtlas. They would certainly have the budget so I wonder why they weren't interested?

Do they think it's better to pool their resources into one digital map data source? Are the traditional makers using too much legacy tech?

Apple a couple years ago added 16,000 employees in India for its map "update" group - I bet it's pretty easy to guess what they were doing isn't it?

That was a far better investment versus buying a relic from the propreitary vehicle navigation data era who are still surviving selling yearly DVD updates and wondering when the last of their cheese will vanish.....

CarPlay and Android Auto have decimated that business - from a captive reoccurring business model to being completely decimated and gutted. It's another Blockbuster-esque lesson in getting displaced before you know you are being displaced. The smartphone is now your navigation device.

Note: NavTeq, HERE, TomTom, Garmin survivor.

…which is unrelated to whether their maps are any good.

I worked at Nokia in the maps unit around the time that MS tried to leverage OSM and ended up licensing maps from Navteq. Trust me, everybody was very interested in OSM but also very aware of the legalities of that.

Google started building its own maps in response to Nokia first buying Navteq (in 2006, which Google was depending on at the time) and subsequently offering free navigation on the N95 (S60) and later phones.

Right then the obvious move for Google would have been take open street maps (it was already growing quite nicely then) and improve on it. They even created their own community map tool so they obviously liked the idea of crowdsourcing their data. The reason neither Google, MS, and later Apple opted to use OSM is very simple: the OSM license is a problem for their level of ambition. The baseline OSM experience is nice but the differentiation is what you do on top. That would be things like street-view, having lots of POI data, traffic information, public transport maps, 3D buildings, etc. Those are differentiators in the market and key for these companies to attract more users. They're not interested in helping their competitors get their hands on that. Apple at some point fell out with Google and it became crucial for them to take ownership of the map experience: so they ignored OSM and built their own maps. That's expensive and they pulled it off successfully and it's a decent; competitive experience these days. But it was a conscious choice and not some strategic blunder.

The dilemma these companies have is wanting to keep those things proprietary and OSM not really allowing for bundling proprietary and open data. So, you have basically Google and Apple bootstrapping their own maps in the last 10 years and Navteq and Teleatlas surviving as key data suppliers in the hands of Here and Tom Tom.

Each of those spend billions on improving their maps every year; they are competing with each other and with the OSM community; which is impressively good these days as a baseline map experience. The point this article is making is that a lot of companies that are smarter about pooling their resources are rallying around OSM thus making it increasingly competitive with these big proprietary data silos. So even poring billions in Google and Apple Maps may long term be not enough to keep up. OSM makes maps a commodity and bad maps a liability. Making good maps is expensive and unless you have a trillion $ valuation, you probably should use OSM instead of embarking on your own maps project at great expense. Apple and Google are doing well. I'd argue Here maps is a lot less attractive these days then it was when Nokia bought Navteq (which became Here later). It's still alright for car navigation but that's just one niche application of maps these days.

> The dilemma these companies have is wanting to keep those things proprietary and OSM not really allowing for bundling proprietary and open data

Provided you attribute OSM data, you can slice across horizontal layers and country borders. [1]

> I'd argue Here maps is a lot less attractive these days then it was when Nokia bought Navteq (which became Here later). It's still alright for car navigation but that's just one niche application of maps these days.

The silver lining here is that limiting scope lowers the effort needed. Much of OSM edits go beyond road network.

[1] https://wiki.osmfoundation.org/wiki/Licence/Community_Guidel...

Except that both MS (Bing) and Apple use OSM. Not all over the place and not for all purposes, but they do and it isn't a secret.

MS at some poiny had a section with Bing where they provided some OSM but they'd typically disable a lot of stuff that they could not combine with the OSM license.

One of the issues for the traditional map makers is their ability to keep up with updates. It requires a massive infrastructure to quickly discover and submit all the small changes that goes on in the real world all the time. One of the few viable ways is crowdsourcing. So over time, the traditional maps degrades in quality, while OSM continuously gets better.

Does OSM continuously get better faster than it gets worse? A few years ago I started contributing heavily to OSM and found that a lot of the data was out of date or missing. I made some really good maps of my local area but now a few years later a lot of that data is out of date and no one will bother to update it.

Google and Apple maps have the advantage that businesses will go and update their own data because its in their own interest to make sure those maps are up to date.

And there are a lot more businesses than there are OSM enthusiasts, so actually Google maps get much more crowdsourced data.

When businesses realize people actually use OSM and updates are 10x easier, they will make sure to keep it up to date, for the same reasons. OSM actually needs less popularity to stay up to date, it's just not there (yet).

Do people really use OSM for POI data on any meaningful scale? I tried really hard to use OSM but all the apps were really bad. OSMAnd seemed like the best one but it was super slow rendering on my phone while everything else was snappy.

The only use I have seen for OSM data is in 3rd party apps like strava where you only really need street data which is pretty accurate on OSM. Or other specialized cases where you mostly provide your own data.

There are two great app that use OSM data that I see a lot of people use.

* Maps.me - I used it a lot when travelling last year in Southeast Asia. And I noticed many other travellers were using it too. It was basically expected that people use Maps.me there. I guess it helps that it's also integrated with booking.com data so you have a lot of hostels there if you are looking for a place to stay in new cit. However it's a shame that it's not actual POI data from OSM. I had situations where there were two hostels on map, one from OSM and one from booking.com. booking.com was usually wrong by couple of meters, I guess because only owner with booking.com accound could change it...

* Mapy.cz - I mostly dumped masp.me for this app (it has good website too https://en.mapy.cz/). This app is also using OSM data, but shows information more helpful for tourist/biker. Bike paths are superbly displayed, hiking trails often have proper colors (I still need to check if it's OSM tag's data). I highly recommend it.

I tried OSMAnd and IMO this is really mainly for "OSM enthusiasts", not for causal "normal" users that just want to have good map and know where to walk or bike to.

maps.me became big esp for its superb offline mode. i never used the booking or uber integration.

> Do people really use OSM for POI data on any meaningful scale?

I've tried but IME this is where OSM isn't great and I find myself using google maps. I hope it improves but I wonder if this is the sort of thing that goes to the core of what sort of product it is. OSM is fantastic at maps, if I want to navigate around my immediate area that's what I'll use. Google maps is a fantastic location database, if I'm trying to find something I'll use it but the maps suck.

It's a chicken-egg thing.

If OpenStreetMap was a useful location database, there would be plenty enough people interested in keeping it up to date (businesses would do so, visitors to businesses would do so, etc). But in many areas at the moment, there's barely any locations, so it is hard to use.

Rather than contribute heavily and then walk away for years, it would make more sense to pace yourself and do a little bit every month or so.

I was very interested a while ago and then the magic wore off after I realized the problem was not the lack of data but the lack of good apps for using the data and I don't have the time or skills for app development.

I'd like to add a note here that fully self hosted openstreetmap is a powerful tool.

The vector graphic data sets exist freely for anyone to mirror for their own use. The full tool chain of software needed to build your own tile server is available and not very difficult to implement.

I'm aware of more than one ISP using openstreetmap for NOC monitoring of outages, individual customer premises endpoint status, and so on.

Any good tutorials on this? What are the required specs? I assume the dataset is huge?




It's small enough that I have a self hosted test tile server in my home office with about 8TB of storage, on a WD hard drive that was shucked out of a USB3 enclosure.


I had a look at self-hosting Nominatim, but got scared away by the hardware requirements. I only have a spare 2015 MacBook Pro 13" with 16 GB of RAM and 2 TB of SSD. I only need small countries (New Zealand, Taiwan, Switzerland), but I'm not sure whether this will reduce the system requirements.

"A minimum of 2GB of RAM is required or installation will fail. For a full planet import 64GB of RAM or more are strongly recommended. Do not report out of memory problems if you have less than 64GB RAM. For a full planet install you will need at least 800GB of hard disk space (take into account that the OSM database is growing fast). SSD disks will help considerably to speed up import and queries. Even on a well configured machine the import of a full planet takes at least 2 days. Without SSDs 7-8 days are more realistic." [0]

I'd also like to render tiles in the OSM Bright theme. The default OpenStreetMap just looks kind of unattractive to me.

In the end I just use an old version of Galileo Offline Maps (now Guru Maps) with tiles scraped from Google using MOBAC. [1]. I made MOBAC profiles for every country [2] so I can just re-scrape them when I have a fast Internet connection.

[0] https://nominatim.org/release-docs/latest/admin/Installation...

[1] https://mobac.sourceforge.io/

[2] https://github.com/peterburk/mobacProfiles

Photon is good for self-hosting - it’s the pre-compiled Nominatim index (you can download a dump) with an autocomplete-friendly Elasticsearch interface.

Thanks for telling me about Photon! I see that it's provided by Graphhopper, who in my experience have been absolutely excellent with technical support about Map Matching. I wish I could choose a subset instead of 53GB for the whole world so I could run it on my phone, but it's certainly realistic to run on my laptop.


If all you want to host is a "slippy map" tile server for maps, but no search features, it's considerably less.

In my case, it's not hard for me to create an off-laptop VM as a resource... I would not want to attempt self hosting OSM on my own laptop. No matter how powerful it is.

If it's for any sort of for-profit company use (like the ISPs using openstreetmap for network monitoring maps I mentioned in the same thread), fairly powerful used 16-core, 1U and 2U rackmount servers with 128GB of RAM (dell r620, r720, etc) are available used for $430. Then add a couple of 1TB SATA3 SSDs.

My laptop is better than what the company can provide! Just because I work at a "for-profit" startup doesn't mean they actually make a profit. I even had to transition our servers from AWS to DigitalOcean just to save on server costs.

I'll probably first look into running it on a dedicated SSD on the spare laptop, and if that goes well, move some subset onto my main laptop (2014 MacBook Pro 15" with 4TB SSD).

For a "slippy map", I use Leaflet with some scraped MOBAC tiles. https://github.com/peterburk/bamb

Search/geocode is missing though, and that's what would really make it more useful. Particularly if I can cut down the geographic range to squeeze it onto my 64GB phone.

I'd suggest you figure out how to source or render your map tiles from somewhere else before you get a nastygram from the big G.

I have not used it in many many years but I'd point you towards https://mapserver.org/ At one point I was one of many responsible for rending cache tile sets for all of NZ to 1:500. Sadly the whole system was scraped for a propriety solution mostly due to front-end issues, that funnily enough the propriety solution only multiplied.

Google has some pretty aggressive terms when it comes to mapping: if you obtain data from any of their routing APIs, you are literally forbidden from displaying that route on an OSM map, it can only be displayed on a Google Map.

I’ve always found that a bit mean and not really in the spirit of interoperability.

"If you’ve ever ... peaked at the dash of your obnoxious neighbor’s new Tesla…you’ve used OSM."

1. peeked, not peaked

2. Teslas do not use OSM for the on-screen maps. They use Google maps. Tesla only uses OSM for the data regarding parking lot layouts for the automatic parking features, nothing else.

I've heard that claimed. But on several occasions tesla owners have found a problem with nav, found the error on OSM, fixed it, and 1-2 months later the Tesla picks up change. From what I can tell Tesla pays some 3rd party to help improve their maps, and apparently on of the data feeds the 3rd party uses is OSM.

Ah ha! Thanks, I will make a note of it.

yes there's a google watermark on all maps displayed

This post inspired me to look around the neighborhood and fix up all the broken stores. Tools have improved greatly since I was here... 10 years ago!

If you have Android and you are interested in occasional mapping then I really recommend StreetComplete.

Registering for OSM account is the biggest hurdle, mapping with this app requires no tutorials/learning how to use it etc.

dislaimer: this is partialy autopromotion, this app is allowing to make some predefined edits adding detail - it is not a full scale editor

One minor nitpick: measuring the output of a mapper is hard to do on the basis of the number of edits. Local mappers appear to have larger edits where many details in a neighbourhood or some topical regional updates are performed. I think corporate editors focus on fixing bugs and weirdness reported by linters, which are much smaller in scale in terms of changeset size.

Not always, I guess.

If you count raw number of features edited, it's way easier to crank up the number by drawing some buildings, forests, lakes, landuse from satellite/aerial imagery.

Whereas things like points of interest (shops, services, tourist-related stuff) won't get you a high number, but arguably are more important.

Corporate editors in under-mapped countries certainly can add much more data than average mappers do.

Not a nitpick at all--interesting observation. Can you think of a better metric by which to measure contributions? (I'm truly asking out of ignorance)

Hmm, tough question. You might get a more representative number by adjusting a bit for changeset size, although I'm not sure if this is easily available in bulk data. It would give a more reliable metric at least.

On the whole it's hard to measure the impact someone has on the project though. Some people tirelessly keep the documentation wiki up-to-date, or paint bikesheds on the tagging mailinglist. Some fix bugs in JOSM, Carto, and anywhere that comes along their path. Some manage to get governments to agree to license valuable data sources for use in OSM (this one is potentially huge), and again others write JOSM plugins to unlock such data or to scratch a common itch improving the efficiency of hundreds of mappers.¹

There is one mapper in the Netherlands who welcomes all new mappers starting of in the Netherlands: that's an invaluable service hard to quantify in data!

1: Or in my case, build a plugin that a dozen or so folk seem to use once a month. :P

You may have a look at http://hdyc.neis-one.org/?Stereo to try and find metrics relevant to you (example profile, to retain privacy profiles are hidden behind an OSM account login-wall, unless said user links to that page in their OSM profile site, which this example user did)

One great metric is mapping days (distinct calendar days in which the user was active) which sort of abstracts the fact that different people tend to have a different idea how much work warrants a single changeset.

I feel like somebody's watching me :p

The "How did you contribute" dashboard from Pascal Neis [0] is a good place to explore some possible metrics. IMO some good predictors of mapping quality are:

- Focus on specific regions

- Both creation and deletion of map features, but more creation than deletion

- Unique and descriptive changeset comments

- Engagement in changeset comment discussions, both of your own and others' changes

[0] https://hdyc.neis-one.org/

Any metric will have big problems. It is like attempting to measure output of programmer by counting number of commits, added lines, deleted lines, modified lines or time spend in office.

I made edits changing one tag that were far more useful and time-consuming than my other edits that added 9 000 objects.

It seems that tile hosting is a large business. Apple, Mapbox, Mapzen, Google? all offer free tiers for their tiles that cost big $$$$ once you go over the limit.

I have thought about making a generic API for centering a map, adding a marker, etc that would map (pun intended) the instructions onto the respective JS Api (Mapbox.js, MapKit JS, ...) allowing you to rotate between the services on each page load as to not exhaust the free tier as fast.

You'll get a slightly different UI each time, but I think people generally know how to use a slippy map.

Does this exist? Is anyone interested in something like this?

Leaflet JS is a generic library that works with mapbox and other tileserver apis. So yes you actually could do this trivially right now.

The API to tileservers is trivial, you provide a URL template and request the tile with the x/y/zoom you want and the tileserver responds with either a cached tile or it will render it on demand.

Good point. Leaflet could be another implementation option since Mapbox free tier gives you 50,000 loads of their JS client (unlimited tiles per load) and 750,000 raster tiles. [1]

So you could alternate loading Mapbox JS and loading Leaflet with Mapbox tiles.

[1] https://www.mapbox.com/pricing/

It isn't a big business by many orders of magnitude.

The only businesses that over the years have been able to offer tile hosting as a sustainable business are very small mum and pop shops.

The large players are naturally not interested directly in the money aspect of providing the service, but in synergies with other, actually profitable, parts of their business.

And those in between are always in between pivots.

You'd increase the "free tier" a bit but with the trade-off of much more complex coding. I'm not really sure if I'd be worth it.

The consumer of this "library" would just configure their Mapbox, Mapzen, Apple API keys and do something like:

  map.center(23.12, -156.12)
  map.placeMarker(23.12, -156.12)
This would in turn load and display a location marker using either a Google Map, Apple Map, Mapbox, etc on each subsequent load. The complexity would be in implementing it, but using it would be simple.

Historically this existed a _long_ time ago, as in about 12 years or so. It was called Mapstraction.

I wish those corporate giants would invest into some fresh satellite data for the whole world. With date tags on it.

It's really hard to work on remote areas of the planet while it's where I currently have the most fun exploring but sometimes it's just impossible to judge which satellite data provider has the freshest material and even if you find out it's more than often really badly outdated.

Unfortunately those big guys probably have no business interest in some backwater districts of Kazakhstan.

There's still low hanging fruit in OSM. There are still areas with official government GIS data that hasn't been imported to OSM. For example Irvine County in CA. I wanted to try it but I don't have the GIS skills. It would be nice if someone created a tutorial to teach the bare minimum GIS skills to do an import that is up to OSM standards. Importing whole counties would be a huge boost.

Skills are not a real barrier. Data quality and license are. When you look at official datasets, you find ways to screw up you never thought were possible

People in USA still complain about the botched TIGER import [1].

It may sound flippant, but I'd rather not have such end-to-end tutorial geared towards imports be made. It'd lower the barrier too much. People who self-taught GIS (it's possible) can be trusted to be marginally more responsible (not fully, though).

[1] TL;DR the OSM road networks in USA was initially imported from TIGER dataset. However the importing mappers didn't know TIGER was being updated, state by state. Hence, the quality of imported data is not great in many places.

Love it. I hope they make their tile servers a little more torrent like.

I'd love to chip in but the requirements are just out of my league.

Symetrical gigabit sure...but 30TB a month. Don't think my ISP is buying that as residential use.

So I'll just stick to seeding linux ISOs...

The beta testing of torrents for planet dumps was actually announced just minutes ago: https://twitter.com/OSM_Tech/status/1329182062516051970

Awesome. Thanks for highlighting this.

I hope OSM does well, and I've heard that in some areas (Germany? Various areas in smaller countries that are less well covered? Bike trails and walking trails?) it's notably better than Google Maps. That said, in my neighborhood of San Francisco (the Mission), its business listings are basically straight garbage, and I'm reminded of that every time I use any service that's based on OSM.

Lazy Bear is a two Michelin starred restaurant that's been in its current location since 2014. By any reasonable measure it's a significant business in the area. OSM still thinks it's the barbeque place that used to be there. Within a two block radius I count maybe 5-6 places that OSM promotes to having a label on the map that have been closed for over a year.

I used to work on business listings in mapping products so I have some idea of how difficult keeping business listings up to date is, but OSM is so bad that it wrecks my motivation to fix the data because I just can't fathom ever using it in my local area.

In US, I find that OSM maps are the best when it comes to backcountry. Google maps have the major hiking trails, for example - but when you see the same area in OSM, there's a lot more connecting trails etc, and it also marks swamps and other terrain features.

(Apple and Bing maps are even worse than Google in that regard.)

> Google maps have the major hiking trails, for example - but when you see the same area in OSM, there's a lot more connecting trails etc

Same in Europe for the locations I've checked.

Maybe just do 1 a week or something? Establish a little bit of momentum in the right direction without investing too much in something might not amount to anything.

>For instance: I work for a company called Azavea that, among many noble efforts, maintains Cicero. It’s a database of elected officials and legislative districts in several countries around the world that gets updated daily. You can imagine that this should be a public good — like, doesn’t the government already have this information? Turns out…nah. Cicero requires ceaseless, grueling work to keep updated, and that means serious investment of time and money.

FWIW there is a crowd-sourced database of politicians on WikiData,[0] if anyone wants to take part in that project.

[0] https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Wikidata:WikiProject_every_pol...

Interesting, I wasn't aware of this! I'm sure my colleagues on the Cicero team are, though.

One of my favourite mapping apps is iOverlander. Basically an offline first wiki build on top of OSM, which I believe contributes back to OSM. Which I guess makes it an OSM client of sorts.

I love it because it’s super basic, no monetisation, no bullshit.

Without OSM, these things can not exist.

(Note the website version isn’t great, but on iOS is works perfectly)


Knowing that more corporate / larger entities are utilising OSM makes me want to contribute more. Primarily because I know my contribution will then be useful in the products I, and my community, use. Unlike google maps, which enables “offering suggestions” of which I can only assume nothing happens (into the black hole of google)

iOverlander is a proprietary app. Its database is not freely available outside the app, and fairly little of the information added there makes its way into OpenStreetMap. Also, iOverlander requires Google Play Services, so it isn’t usable on Android distributions that are more privacy-respecting, like LineageOS.

As a cycle tourer myself, I agree that iOverlander’s wealth of detail on certain routes is useful, but I really hope it gets superseded by a more libre alternative.

I have questions about OSM:

1. Is there any decent OSM app for Windows10 (good UI and offline capabilities is a must-have)

2. How can I display Russian/Chinese/Arabic city names in English?

3. If I create an OSM account will I be able to save routes and addresses?

Edit: Thanks for answers.

1. Not currently, the only semi-decent offline OSM map for desktop OS is Gnome Maps. [0]

2. You can't configure the way maps appear on openstreetmap.org. You (or someone) will have to render the map tiles to display all names in English instead of the local language. [1]

3. If you mean keeping a personal list of map and route bookmarks, no. The primary reason to create an OSM account is to contribute data to the map.

[0] https://wiki.gnome.org/Apps/Maps

[1] https://help.openstreetmap.org/questions/60673/display-names...

GNOME Maps isn't offline like OsmAnd is though, you can't download new tiles, search, navigate etc without network.

You're quite correct, I should not have described GNOME maps as offline, and my edit window has expired. Rats.

OsmAnd+ (or the free OsmAnd~ version available on FDroid) is definitely the primo consumer-facing OSM-powered map. I haven't tried getting it running on desktop via Android emulation but that might be workable.

Another desktop app worth mentioning is Garmin's Basecamp, a free download (Windows and Mac) for managing Garmin GPS units. It also functions as a desktop map viewer that supports search and routing, though the interface is a little awkward. You can buy maps from Garmin, but you can also convert OSM data into a Basecamp-compatible format. This is very offline -- for any updates you'll have to pull fresh data, reconvert, reinstall. Or you can find someone else who's done the work for you. See https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/OSM_Map_On_Garmin

I really wish OsmAnd~ had a Linux or cross-platform version.

I believe a common misconception about OSM (which is also somewhat reflected in the article) is that it "is" the map on osm.org. Actually the main OSM "product" is the map database, which can for example be used for drawing maps, as is demonstrated on osm.org.

Creating maps or apps where you can customise display, save routes etc is really up to other players.

2: The base map on openstreetmap.org renders the local name (endonym), but places above a certain size tend to have English names or romanisations tagged in the data as well. You could try one of the many apps or alternative websites. Remember that OSM is just the database; the data can be rendered in many ways.

3: No, that is a feature you can find in some of the many OSM clients. Osmand is popular I believe.

Any recommendation for an OSM viewer/querier on linux? Bonus for lightweight and maybe cli stuff. Every couple years i try some of the software listed on the wiki [#] but i'm never convinced.

edit: trying foxtrotgps right now, might be the current best

edit2: can't get foxtrotgps to build, but gpxsee is an ok viewer. It doesn't seem to have any graphopper search or anything tho, so again, not really convincing.

[#] https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Software/Desktop

FTR: FoxtrotGPS needs someone to help migrate it away from Glade and GTK 2, otherwise it is going to disappear from Linux distros in the next few years.

Also Maps.me, but tricky to build.

Do you mean https://github.com/mapsme/omim? It seems like it's a mobile app. Or maybe you run it in anbox?


I just wish somebody made a desktop port of OsmAnd. I'd pay for that.

That's the only one I'm aware of, as well, but it's hardly feature-complete compared to OsmAnd mobile apps, and there are no new releases for well over a year.

As someone who has been editing OSM for over 4 years now with thousands of edits in my hometown, its really interesting to have now big players come in and contribute to this project. Almost always otherwise the situation is reversed. They build a competing product and extend that version only. Here they are contributing together because the competition aka Google maps is still far ahead in terms of names and addresses and buildings and stuff. Still, I do my bit so yeah

When I spoke at the Open Source Conference Albania[1], I met a dozen Albanian young adults for whom OSM was an important bridge to developing professional technology skills. Kudos to OSM for providing a wonderful platform for personal growth in communities where it is desperately needed.

[1] https://oscal.openlabs.cc

OSCAL is a fantastic conference indeed, and the OSM crowd in Albania is a lot of fun. I hope that it will soon be possible to travel there again.

Are there any services or open source tools or components centered on using OSM data for games (especially for so-called GPS RPGs like Ingress)?

Yes, via Mapbox's partnership with Unity https://www.mapbox.com/unity

> OSM is to Wikipedia as an atlas is to an encyclopedia.


OSM is to an atlas as Wikipedia is to an encyclopedia.


That makes no difference:

     OSM    <-----> Wikipedia

      ^                 ^
      |                 |
      |                 |
      v                 v

     Atlas  <-----> Encyclopedia

It's just which parallels of the commutativity diagram do you focus on. The map-versus-text operator (left to right), or the digital-versus-dead-tree operator (top down).

It's logically equivalent, but it seems much easier to parse that OSM [is digital version of] an atlas vs OSM [is a map instead of text like] Wikipedia

I don't agree; to me, it looks like the the atlas <-> encyclopedia operator is a more complex, nuanced relationship than dead-tree <-> digital.

So that is to say, it's more interesting to focus on that relationship and look for analogies of it elsewhere.

More concretely, this equation seems to me to be mildly weird and interesting to try to solve for X:

     Bicycle  <----->   X 

      ^                 ^
      |                 |
      |                 |
      v                 v

     Atlas  <-----> Encyclopedia

This one doesn't seem to invite erudite thought:

      X  <----->    Wikipedia

      ^                 ^
      |                 |
      |                 |
      v                 v

     Fish <-----> Encyclopedia
This is because the difference between the Wikipedia and Encyclopedia is narrowly defined: one is digital, online and massively edited all the time. That tends to narrowly restrict the thinking to be along the lines of what is like a fish, but digital, online and massively edited? And that quickly fizzles out.

Another angle on it is that atlas + encyclopedia form a parcel; they are artifacts of the pre-digital world. Historically, people had an instance of each in their library, often on the same bookshelf. The original sentence preserves this encapsulation:

  digital: {X, wikipedia}  <--->  pre-digital: {atlas, encyclopedia}
What is X? Oh, possibly OSM. OSM is to Wikipedia as atlas is to encyclopedia.

The big divide is between pre-digital and digital. Users that use Wikipedia don't reach for a paper atlas. Users of paper atlases probably still use encyclopedias too.

The only way in which it might be confusing is that the encyclopedia and wikipedia seem to be a red herring. There is no need to bring them in at all simply to ask "what is the modern, digital equivalent of an atlas?" But, ah, this is not so because that loses a sublety. The digital equivalent of an atlas can be something quite different from OSM, such as the proprietary firmware and map data installed in a navigator. Like the Wikipedia, The OSM is (1) online, and freely accessible everywhere by anyone, and (2) editable by its users. The analogy to the relationship between an encyclopedia and Wikipedia is entirely relevant.

Thanks for the feedback, I updated it.

Do you think the other version is clearer, though? I think he’s right. I will probably update it.

I had to re-read the original sentence a time or two, but never thought it was outright wrong. I do think OSM : Atlas :: Wikipedia : Encyclopedia is slightly more clear, though.

OSM:wikipedia :: atlas : ?

- vs -

OSM:atlas :: wikipedia: ?

Both seem about the same to me(both clear).

sighs and resets the It Has Been ... Days Since Someone Brought Up Category Theory On HN counter

Hello, HN. On the rare occasion my writing has appeared on the front page, the tone of some anonymous commenters has left me feeling indignant. Last time, someone called me a dog.

Please keep in mind that a fellow human wrote this piece! You don't have to be nice, but at least be constructive.

The internet is the birth place and death place of lots of people's hopes and dreams for making humanity better :)


In 2004 when that was published it had already been true since, in my opinion, at least 1996...

Ahhahah, yes I completely agree, the moment my opinions are even plausibly associated to my name and people are watching, then I become the politest person possible

Let me assure you that, in general, dogs are way better people than humans.

Surely they were just making a wild assumption, because I've been informed that on the internet, no one knows you're a dog.

They made an educated guess—-and they were right.

Hi. I didn't read this. I don't go on medium.com. please consider another content distribution method.

I did read it. But Medium.com doesn't seem to support RSS feeds at all. I would have liked to add a feed for your articles so I could read them even when they don't make the front page of HN.

Here is a dynamic feed [0] as generated by rss-proxy [1]. Hope that does the job for you.

[0] https://rssproxy.migor.org/api/feed?url=https%3A%2F%2Fjoemor...

[1] https://gitlab.com/damoeb/rss-proxy

Is there a tl;dr? This article is far too meandering.

lol, you should make one! That might be nice for people who feel similarly.

I had to look up "having a moment" in American.

In British English it means being distracted, having a brain-fade, being a bit down. I think this article probably means the opposite...

It's interesting because as an American I'd find "having its/their/etc. moment" more common than "having a moment"

The original title was "WTF is Happening to OpenStreetMap" but I decided it was too clickbait-y. Interesting to learn that I used a uniquely American idiom--didn't realize that.

As a AmEng speaker, I think of "having a moment" as being a fairly recent idiom, maybe from the past decade or so. My personal classification of it is that it's used by the same generation that uses "bae", "cray", "totes", "YOLO", and terms of similar vintage.

I have no idea if that's true or I'm just out of touch, but that's my impression of the phrase. Basically I feel like I tend to see it in titles of thinkpieces about newly popular things from people who are around 30.

In American English it can mean either. Usually the use you mentioned would be if you said "I'm having a moment" or something along those lines.

I think it just means something different than the norm. "I'm having a moment" can be something positive in certain contexts.

"Needing a moment" or "I need a moment" in American English is the negative version.

"I'm having a moment" (I'm being dumb, I was being thoughtless, I am confused) and "I need a moment" mean two different negative things to this American.

Good to know, thanks. Maybe I'm pre-conditioned to look for idiom-bending uses in blog post titles!

I think OSM should some how connect to Android devices to get better output;

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