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OpenStreetMap in Realtime (jwestman.net)
336 points by grey_earthling 20 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 68 comments

If you want to show up in there, too, contribute data back to open society or simply make your Sunday walks a bit more engaging, then i can highly recommend the "street complete" Android app [0].

It allows you to contribute by answering simple questions about your surroundings, like how many stories a building has or if a stairs has ramps for bikes or wheelchairs.

And all that with great UX.

[0] https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/StreetComplete

I used to edit OSM quite a bit. It's an odd community though. Some people can get very possessive about "their" regions. I remember once spending a few hours "unbraiding" the intersections on a few major dual carriageway avenues over 20 city blocks or so, which I understand is best practice[1]. Well a day later or so, someone sent me a message very upset and demanding that I revert the changeset that ruined "their" work. I did, and it kind of turned me off from editing. Like, OK fine I won't try to help anymore, jeez.

EDIT: I don't want to dissuade anyone else from trying editing--it's fun. But, beware of the personalities, it can be like editing Wikipedia.

1: https://help.openstreetmap.org/questions/3194/intersecting-d...

Definitely agree about the community, there's all sorts! I've also encountered some very helpful individuals with immense patience.

I noticed during a large urban area mapping on HOTOSM, one person was going around teaching everyone how to map tall buildings, he'd track down each commit and comment there with feedback, it was very nicely done in a non aggressive way. I was quite happy to learn.

It isn't obvious the first time you do it, for tall buildings you need to map the part of the building that intersects with the earth.


OSM is like a bunch of volunteers refurbing a city park, all working different schedules, with no manager. Alice starts sanding off rust on one end of a swingset. Then Bob shows up and starting painting the other end that hasn't yet been sanded; consternation ensues.

There are a lot of attempts to solve this problem with documentation on exactly how things should be done. The wiki, the stackoverflow-style help site, subreddit, tips in the editor software, mailing lists, slack... There are too many and they often don't agree. The information in some places changes quite rapidly, or in other places goes stale over time.

So we're bound to end up with incompatible approaches now and then. I've found it's often (certainly not always!) useful to politely communicate with other mappers. This works both ways -- I've stepped on toes, and I've had toes stepped on.

When you're staring at something ugly in OSM, the last person to work on it might have finished 5 minutes ago, or 5 years. But the tools to find out do exist. As the map gets more and more filled in, I expect that documentation aimed at new mappers will need to focus on communication and cooperation as much as direct editing of the map data.

It makes me wonder if individuals like these should be limited from contributing, because they force a multitude of others out of the total pool of contributors.

Maybe they're doing more damage through their obsessive behavior as compared to a larger group of less enthusiastic members.

At the extreme, people who are outright counterproductive or consistently refuse to collaborate are blocked from contributing.

There's a public log of it: https://www.openstreetmap.org/user_blocks/

Edit: Comment removed, I'm an idiot, the list is paginated.

> There are literally 20 users on that list

It lists 20 per page. The navigation is at the bottom of the page.

There's 230 pages, so that's about 4600 banned users.

It's paginated. There's 20+ pages of multi year blocks.

(There are many instances of a single person having created multiple blocked accounts though)

Mostly it's a lot of effort to be a barely visible vandal, so people just go away.

Why did you revert? It would seem to me that they were in the wrong for being possessive, and assuming your efforts were in good faith, perhaps one could take delight in watching them running and squirming in anger. I would have probably just ignored the message and kept making contributions, but I understand the turn-off.

Speaking from personal experience, being a passive-aggressive asshole doesn't solve any problems.

Neither does being a doormat.

When it is about randoms on the internet I don't care enough. So I would do the same as parent poster.

Standing up for things is mentally expensive so you don't want to stand up for everything in your life, stuff on the internet is not like if someone forced into your living room.

Ignoring assholes, optionally having a laugh at them, and moving on with your life and what you want to do isn't passive-aggressive behavior.

As someone who recently jumped ship from FreedomDroid to WalledGardenOS, is there any similar apps for iOS? There is bunch of suggestions over at https://learnosm.org/en/mobile-mapping/ but seemingly nothing as simple as StreetComplete

Go Map!! Is the best I’ve found for iOS so far.

Thanks for the suggestion! Go Map!! is more of a fully fledged editor though and will be almost impossible for a "normal" user to use without existing knowledge of mapping tools or similar paradigms. What I love about StreetComplete is the almost wizard-like experience that allows people to just pick up the app and start contributing without doing any prior reading or understanding.

I mean, it’s not google maps asking you to add the opening hours, but even though I had no experience with any mapping software before it was fairly obvious where the streets and buildings should go :P

The recommended tags that have autocomplete stuff are pretty much always good enough.

I agree with you that it would be cool to have some piece of software that would just recommend improvements though.

It seems from the way you worded that that you actually preferred Android for the freedom aspect (I do as well). Why did you jump ship, if I may ask?

(I understand wanting to use new iOS-only apps like Clubhouse, and for that I just have a really old test iPhone that i got second hand that I use just for that purpose only until those apps come out with Android versions.)

Was a loyal Moto G user until also those phones got bigger. In the end, found no smaller phones with good hardware. Either large displays and good specs, or smaller displays and shitty specs. So when buying a new phone and holding the iPhone 12 Mini in my hand, it fit much better. Thought I'm should give iOS a try and compare it. I don't think I miss the freedom aspect as much as I miss the UX of Android. iOS has so many glaring UX issues and UI bugs that I'm really questioning how people came to hail Apple for their UX.

The assigned names was mostly tongue in cheek but also of course a bit true :) It's all trade-offs in the end anyway.

Yeah I totally agree on the UX part.

Last time I used an iPhone and took a picture and it didn't show up in the "Files" app. WTF? Reminds me of the times when Apple measured hard drive capacities in "songs" instead of GB.

This isn't poor UX, it's just preferences and assumptions on the part of the user. There's an app called "Photos". It's where Photos go. I'd say UXs don't get much simpler than that.

The majority of users don't think in terms of files, and I'd say a significant fraction don't even know what a "file" is.

That's because you come from a Files based OS to an App based OS.

It's always easy to say 'mine' is better than 'yours'. But both have different philosophies and histories.

Sadly no.

https://github.com/streetcomplete/StreetComplete/issues/1892 - "iOS version"

"So, the estimation for a MVP could be as little as 2 months for UI and 2 months for the core, so in total 4 months."

Found it on F-Droid few days ago and it's amazing, much simpler then actually editing the map while you are unsure what can be done and how. Yet still gives a lot of satisfaction of fixing the map around you.

I now use it on walks, as years ago I used to walk with "Ingress" game.

Is there an iOS app available?

Go Map!! (https://apps.apple.com/ch/app/go-map/id592990211?l=en) is a full fledged editor for OSM on iOS.

Sadly no.

https://github.com/streetcomplete/StreetComplete/issues/1892 - "iOS version"

"So, the estimation for a MVP could be as little as 2 months for UI and 2 months for the core, so in total 4 months."

As much as I don't like Google, this is the kind of app that Apple would block.

Why do you think that?

I remember a similar site, or was it this one, also a 'live'-ish OSM showcase, where it showed the changesets being drawn, or appearing as they were submitted. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Edit: I found it! https://osmlab.github.io/show-me-the-way/

As is typical I couldn't find it until I said that I couldn't find it. There must be a term for this.

> As is typical I couldn't find it until I said that I couldn't find it. There must be a term for this.

Rubber ducking?

“L’esprit de l’escalier” is also similar.

old school shower comeback I see

Fascinating, thanks for the link.

What I don't understand is how the duration each changeset is shown is determined. I got to spend a while watching someone circle individual yurts in Mongolia, but some other places disappeared so quickly that the satellite tiles in the background hadn't even started to show up yet.

I worked on this ages ago :). It's replaying the last minute's edits, and since all of the editing tools just file a changeset (like a commit) all at once, it has to reconstruct what it looked like to draw those features. That timing is just based on a fixed count of seconds it should take to draw a line, a point, etc. The code's here:


Hello there, nice work. I like how relaxing it is... Watching someone somewhere contributing. I'm going to leave this running on my 2nd monitor full screen.

I think the duration for each changeset just depends on the number of map elements it touches. Every map element gets 1.5 seconds. Every individual yurt is a map element so that changeset gets a lot of "airtime", but a changeset that just adds one building is only visible for 1.5 seconds.

There's also a number, top left, which is counting down as each change occurs. It doesn't seem related to one place. I can't tell what it is.

The element ID for it is "queuesize". I think it just fetches a batch of recent changes then queues them up. When the queue gets empty enough it fetches a new batch, and the number still in the queue is what you see.

That is kind of fun to watch. Thanks for this. It might make an interesting screensaver.

Any reason why North America has such little activity compared to Europe?

One reason of probably many: a lot of Europe has been mapped by cyclists. Much of Europe has distances that are relatively small enough that people can often go on some pretty productive mapping expeditions from a city. In the US there is less leisure cycling culture (people who do get out on bikes are often aiming for speed and exercise, not quietly spending a whole day out doing something), and the distances are much vaster so one cannot get to some places from the city and return in the same day.

If you notice, even in Europe the completeness and up-to-dateness of OSM data starts to break down in areas (e.g. Lapland) where distances and remoteness approach that of North America.

Nah, cycling is virtually nonexistent outside of the Netherlands and Denmark. E.g. Finland sees it as a hobby more than a transportation method, Germany doesn't see it at all. A train station just across the border in a town where most people work in the next city over (namely where that train goes) has three loops as their main bike parking and on a regular working day there is an average 0.5 bikes making use of it.

From what I see and hear about being your kids' taxi until they get a driver's license (at 16yo already), I'd assume the difference is pedestrians. I'm nearly 30 and never owned a car, coming from a village and living in a town. Shops are walking distance, I take the bus to work (non-covid times) for environmental reasons, and I think a small majority of people I know do the same (most of my friends/acquaintances are in NL).

Germany is already quite car-centric by my standards, yet they have the most contributors. There's still a lot of pedestrian traffic for the short distances inside of towns and cities, just no medium-distance cycling traffic. So why do they have the most contributors?

Living in Germany, the mentality is different. I have been trying unsuccessfully for three years to find a good definition or concise explanation. There's something that drives use of Threema (paid), PGP and Linux (relatively hard to use), and OpenStreetMap (when sugar daddy Google gives you free maps already). Certainly Google's map here is worse than in their home market, but it's not bad either.

Everyone in Germany will tell you that by the end of secondary education, they're just so done with the whole hitler thing. It's a huge topic throughout the educational system. So I guess morals and things like why privacy matters gets ingrained as well? But that doesn't hold for other European countries, in NL the Linux/Threema/OSM/PGP usage is similar to what I hear on HN.

So a combination of factors, with as biggest common denominator probably pedestrians, plus the mindset in Germany, and maybe a tiny fraction the cyclists (which is literally everyone in NL, by the way, it's not a subgroup but a state of being, or at least I learned that "cyclists" is a laden term in North America from someone who is from there and moved here, but anyway OSM contributorship in NL isn't that huge).

As a german that enjoys all of it (Threema, OSM editing, linux, etc) my points for contributing are:

Pedantry (maybe the wrong term but): Things must be in order. It's really nice to see white areas vanish on the map (I started ten years ago) or just to complete and correct stuff, translate osmand etc. Lots of tourist locations have german editors btw., myself included. "This intersection is wrong!" Lets edit this feature or at least leave a note on the map :-)

Control. Having something that cannot be taken away from me feels great (applies to linux, osm, osmand, f-droid). Take it and use it at my discretion. The ability to contribute.

Privacy: you can have a complete offline experience via osmand if you want to. BigCorps or the state can leave me alone and let me do my stuff, plz

Share: i really enjoy it when my work is useful to others

To contradict your suggestion that Germany does not see any bike usage at all: In a somewhat recent survey (2019) 44% of people claimed that they were using their bicycle as a transportation method more than once a week (up from 38% in 2015). 61% were using their car as a transportation method more than once a week (70% in 2015). There were more sales of bicycles last year than diesel cars.

Would you say showering is common if 44% of people claimed they do it more than once a week? It's clearly not a regular thing, even for this 44%.

The bike sales stat includes MTBs that aren't commonly used for actually getting somewhere. From my colleagues, I know that two cycle and one basically takes the car to go cycling somewhere and doesn't use their bike any other time.

Heck, I'm Dutch and I don't cycle here. The roads inside this town are very dangerous and I'd feel obnoxious sticking to the rules and bothering the much faster car traffic. Then, cycling between towns usually means driving on what is a highway in the Netherlands (100km/h). The drivers there have murder in their eyes when they have to crawl behind you waiting for a safe moment to pass, or squeeze past at high speeds. And I don't blame them, it'd be the same in NL if you cycle in the car lane on one of our 80 roads.

I'm happy that the stat is going up, it's healthier and more sustainable, but it's just not yet commonplace to cycle to any type of regular destination (work, supermarket, family, friends, city center, pick anything people go to on a regular basis) for any population subgroup except students without driver's licenses, let alone common for the population and set of destinations as a whole.

There is no need to paint such a bleak picture. You might have made life choices that makes bicycling harder, that's pretty common but if you look at the population as a whole it's an extreme view. Commuting 35km one way everyday by bicycle is very possible, when I dropped off the kids at school about 20% of the parent commute with bicycle 15km to the city center all year through winter etc. Which reflects official stats with a 12%-20% modal share in Sweden.


This is far from my experience! People in Bayern are crazy for bikes, they do long rides on the weekend to lakes and pre-Alps: there are a lot of bike shops, and possibilities for any kind of budget.

People go by bike also in these days, while the temperature is way below 0.

Also in Italy there is quite a culture, especially outside the big cities. All the Alps area has amazing tracks, also cross countries

Yeah, see, cycling on tracks in the Alps or going cycling for a weekend is kind of my point: then it's a hobby, like I saw it was in Finland, and not a common mode of transportation. There will be a minority of people that enjoy it in the first place, and of that minority, not everyone does it every day. You'll find very few people actually owning usable bikes for daily city trips (fenders, generator-powered lights, chain and skirt guards, sitting upright... the stuff that makes cycling practical and not a special thing you dress for).

Where I'm from, a third of people say that cycling is their most common mode of transport (according to Wikipedia). That's different from taking your bike out, even if you'd do it every evening, to go ride in the (indeed very beautiful) Alps.

It might seem "huge" to you, but check a nearby bus or train station. If there's not even a few percent of people arriving there by bicycle, which for a typical bus or train station is at least a hundred bikes¹, then practically nobody cycles. Now take a slightly busier-seeming station near where I live today (don't have stats handy), in Germany, and there's zero to one bikes there. Or the main bus station, hundreds or thousands of people travel on my line alone (most buses are filled and they go every 15 minutes), but the number of bikes parked there can be counted on one hand. And this is just across the border, there is Dutch vla, stroopwafels, kroketten, all available in a regular supermarket, sporting Dutch flags (but tasting slightly different, clearly made for this market :p). The influence is clear, but cycling is near zero. We won't have the highest cycling stats I'm sure, but I do think it's representative of Germany.

¹ On the quietest train station I know of in the Netherlands, Diemen (typically I'd see a handful of people on the platform), stats say that in 2019, 3300 people enter or exit there daily, so even if only one in twenty people would get there by bike, that's 165 bikes that should be parked there.

OSM mapping in Britain has been absolutely driven by enthusiast cyclists and walkers. That’s not to say cycling is a mainstream mode of transport on Britain - if only - but there is a very high correlation between OSM mapping and cycling.

But correlation is not causation :)

It's plausible, perhaps you might say probable, but I don't think it unlikely that it's just that kind of person (open data contributor about the outside world) that also chooses to get a zero emissions vehicle and go outside, rather than that the cycling causes them to contribute to OSM.

If it were causal, I'd expect many more contributions in the Netherlands compared to other European countries. Looking up the populations of Germany, France, UK, and Poland and taking yesterday's OSM contributor count stats from neis-one, all outrank NL's contributors per population (todo: someone with more time could do a proper analysis also with more than one day's worth of data - I didn't see a button to get an overview of contributors per week/month/year). It's not only cycling that causes mappers, or at least that's not the driving force.

You might wanna tell the people of Oulu that Finns don't see cycling as a means of transportation: https://youtu.be/Uhx-26GfCBU

You don't maintain extensive bike infrastructure during harsh winters just for a few leisure cyclists. Although I agree that no one comes close to the Dutch, the situation in Germany is not as grim as you describe it. The quality of cycling infrastructure varies from city to city and I guess it's safe to say that infrastructure is the main driving force in getting people on the bike. Münster isn't famous for nothing, right?

I watched that video already :). It's really cool, I didn't know it could work that well. My two months in Finland were during the late summer and more southern (relative to Oulu, still far away from the south of Finland). There is a very acceptable infrastructure for cyclists, and in the city there's simply a ton of space (so much green, big buildings, big roads, so much space still available! Amazing place) so you aren't bothering car traffic there either most of the time, but I was told by locals at the hacker space that come winter, most of that bike usage would disappear.

As for my exaggerating about the situation in Germany: perhaps, that's of course a matter of how it comes across and what your reference frame is. I wrote it how it seems to me; to you, it might seem different, and as you say, it's additionally regional. I do think that where I live is probably representative for Germany though (reasons given in a sibling comment, ctrl+f my threads page for stroopwafel).

Noticed that too. I just signed up and added a few points of interest here in North America. Was surprised that I could create an account and see my updates appear on the realtime map moments later.

Welcome to the club! :D

Right now, it's evening in Europe, meaning that those who have been out collecting data during the day have now come home, had a shower (or brushed the snow off, in my case), relaxed a bit, downloaded their GPX tracks to their computers, and started editing. In the US, those doing boots-on-the-ground mapping are still out.

Mostly just less contributors.

Also time of day.

Why there are less contributors is a harder question.

Maybe the early massive Tiger db drop into osm prevented the formation of a bigger community? I remember this being discussed years ago.


I assume because Google Maps and Apple Maps are good enough in the US, and Americans have less of an objection to using products from big American tech companies.

My guess is historically North America has had better coverage from Google Maps and the lie, so less incentive to build a crowdsourced alternative.

As someone who recently started one of those "Can I walk every street in my city?" endeavors, I've become much more aware of how OSM works, and have gained a lot of respect for it.

This literally shows crowdsourcing of updates in action, and makes me want to contribute more where I can.

Any advice on apps that facilitate the "Walk Every Street in my city" thing? Ideally just something where I could mark that I've walked a street, or perhaps better can mark that I have walked it, or biked it, and so on.

I use Strava to track walks, then import the data into the CityStrides website. They work well together.

Route planning is tough, even with automated helpers like Every Street Challenge (http://www.everystreetchallenge.com/). Automated ones don't take into account things like being able to cut through a park as a short cut.

Usually for route planning I pick a chunk of streets bound north and south, east and west by some primary streets, then print it out and hand-optimize the route.

Cool. A derivative thought: If we observe the dots versus time of the day at that location, it might give us interesting patterns of engagement.

For example, for few minutes I ran, I saw more contributions from Saturday evening locations compared to Saturday morning.

Its fun to see causation of common life patterns via data.

Damn, Canadians and Aussies are allergic to open data apparently.

10am in Vancouver, 5am in Syndey, I wouldn't read too much into that. Map of all OSM nodes, it's somewhat close to population density https://twitter.com/phil_osophie/status/1357728257316126722

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