OpenStreetMap

Visited Birthplace of OSM; not impressed

Posted by Chaos99 on 14 June 2010 in English (English)

I've just returned from my trip to the birth country of OSM, the UK.

Lets first remark that my OSM powered eTrex guided me and my rental car along the way for the whole trip. I found every POI (pre-extracted from google) I wanted to go in decent time.

But I was not as impressed by the quality of the map as I anticipated to be.

Unlike my last trip to Denmark, where most minor roads were just missing in the area I visited, it wasn't missing roads in the UK.
While the roads were there, there lacked a lot of information vital to car routing (turn restrictions, oneway streets, beeing a dual carriageway or not) and POIs (Petrol Stations, Supermakets, ATM machines).

I won't hold this against osm. It's clear that osm always has insufficiencies and needs time to get better (and it certainly will).

I just start wondering why it is so much better in other areas? I had no problems in New Zealand, as well as in Scotland and here at home in Germany?
It can't be imports of official data: while NZ and SCO has them, GER has not and ENG has them too. It can't be because of the rural areas I normally travel to. SCO and NZ are just as rural as ENG (I went to Cornwall) and even the area around my hometown in GER is. So it must be mappers. But I suppouse there are more mappers in the UK than here in GER. And they started earlier. And what I get through the website is they are even better organised (a lot more mapping parties). Even the yahoo images are far better in the UK than in GER, where they can be only used as indicators for landuse or waterways. It leaves me puzzled.

My only explanation so far is, that it's a thing of perception. Probably you just don't notice errors in your home area that much because you can easily fix them and tend to travel on the same routes over and over again. On vacation on the other hand you get far too less 'sample data' to make up a fair opinion on the quality. Even if you travel some thousand(s of) miles. And errors feel worse 'cause you suffer from them more in a non-familiar environment.

Conclusion: Travel more, fix errors there, go unfamiliar ways around your hometown.

Comment from randomjunk on 14 June 2010 at 15:31

The South West of England doesn't seem to attract many mappers. Much of the editing has been from out of copyright maps and tourists. ie: not very comprehensive or detailed.

Anyway, there actually aren't more mappers in the UK than Germany. And Cornwall almost certainly has no Yahoo imagery available (it's very patchy outside of the London area).

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Comment from Richard on 14 June 2010 at 16:36

This is OSM. You're meant to fix the missing areas. We look forward to your edits. :)

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Comment from amm on 14 June 2010 at 17:46

Germany is a rather unique case within OSM with by far the biggest and most active community. According to recent statistics ( http://neis-one.org/2010/06/12/wo-erfolgen-die-meisten-edits-in-osm-de/ ) 34% of all worldwide mappers map in Germany. In comparison in the UK (i.e. England, Scotland and Wales), there are only about 7% of worldwide mappers (the two numbers are computed in different intervals and via different methods, so not directly comparable but give a rough picture) So yes, the level of detail especially outside of cities is much lower in the UK than in Germany. With the UK still one of the more active countries though, I would guess that the picture isn't much better in most other countries either, although I can't say anything about New Zealand.

Why some countries are so much more successful in recruiting mappers than others I don't think is known. But it is imho clear that we still need to attract a lot more mappers in most countries to get to the level OSM aims for and what can be seen in the better mapped areas around the world.

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Comment from Chaos99 on 14 June 2010 at 19:35

I'm actually pretty successful in finding new users of OSM. It's just that users are not mappers. Mostly all I get out of them is there gpx tracks for me to track. And the drive to go on map myself so they don't come back complaining.

I of course will also add my gpx tracks of Cornwall and will correct all mistakes and missing things I can remember. But as this was not a OSM holiday (as long as OSM doesn't pay for it and gives me more free days it will never be), I don't have much of data. I usually don't take pictures of street name signs while on holiday.

It's still to complicated to make quality edits for the masses. But maybe smart phones (off which I own none) will come to the rescue quite soon. The two tier editing process (first collect data in the wild, then edit later) is a show stopper for most casual users. Especially the second part. For me it's the other way around. Collecting data is the more time consuming and tedious part.

On why Germans seem to be more attracted to OSM? Well I have my theories, but that's probably material for one or two theses for some social scientists. Maybe in Cornwall the pride of heritage can be used as a leverage to get more people to map? Tourists are not useful for this purpose. At least not enough.

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Comment from Chaos99 on 14 June 2010 at 19:37

I'm actually pretty successful in finding new users of OSM. It's just that users are not mappers. Mostly all I get out of them is there gpx tracks for me to track. And the drive to go on map myself so they don't come back complaining.

I of course will also add my gpx tracks of Cornwall and will correct all mistakes and missing things I can remember. But as this was not a OSM holiday (as long as OSM doesn't pay for it and gives me more free days it will never be), I don't have much of data. I usually don't take pictures of street name signs while on holiday.

It's still to complicated to make quality edits for the masses. But maybe smart phones (off which I own none) will come to the rescue quite soon. The two tier editing process (first collect data in the wild, then edit later) is a show stopper for most casual users. Especially the second part. For me it's the other way around. Collecting data is the more time consuming and tedious part.

On why Germans seem to be more attracted to OSM? Well I have my theories, but that's probably material for one or two theses for some social scientists. Maybe in Cornwall the pride of heritage can be used as a leverage to get more people to map? Tourists are not useful for this purpose. At least not enough.

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