Recent diary entries
Rewind two years, September 2012. I'm rather fuzzy on why I stood for the OSMF board in the first place, but I remember at least being annoyed by the treatment of the working groups by the board, experiencing first hand a dress down of one our most respected community members just because he didn't jump when the then chairperson said jump. And yes something didn't feel quite right about the organisation.
To make a long story short, I wasn't expecting to end up being elected the chairperson and further was expecting the fault lines inside the board to be in other places than they turned out to be. Naive me assumed that we would be having heated discussions about the scope of services the OSMF provides and how we delineate what the OSMF does from commercial and other services providers, how to grow the OSMF membership base and how we could best support the wider OSM community. Alas things were not quite ready for that.
My approach was let the past be the past, fix the issues and then move on. The net result was an uphill battle every foot of the way over the last two years and for the moving on part, well that might have happened now.
Why did I step down?
No, I didn't step down because of some flak on the mailing lists. I'm a big boy (well I am kind of small actually) and can easily take the heat. A consequence of exposing yourself and engaging with the community is that you tend to function as a focal point for everything real or just perceived wrong about the organisation you are representing, it simply comes with the territory. But I still think it is necessary out of respect to the OSMF members to be open about what I think and where I believe the sticky issues are, instead of spewing safe political correct canned sound bites or hiding away somewhere.
Steve Coast has decided to stage a come back after two years as chairman emeritus, as board member and chairperson that put me between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand I have to respect our democratic processes and not interfere with the ongoing election, on the other hand I do hold strong opinions on where we should be heading and in what fashion.
To make things clear: I consider it a very silly thing for Steve to do, bad for him, for the OSMF and for the whole project.
As the board member that has driven most of the change over the last two years, I see the danger of old alliances undoing the baby steps towards a more mature organisation we have achieved. An organisation that could actually engage in all the things the current board candidates envision. An organisation that holds a stable course and can function as a trustworthy intermediary between our fantastic community and the rest of the world.
I stepped down to make clear this is not about power, or my personal position, but about what is best for OSM.
Somebody who has been to a recent talk of mine on OSM might remember a slide representing OSMspace, showing some of our fairly complicated interactions and overlaps with the outside world, the OSMF a tiny speck somewhere off centre. Yes the OSMF is just a tiny piece of the puzzle with limited influence on the project as a whole. Most of our contributors will likely never know that it exists, no different than the Wikimedia Foundation. What is different is that OSM is a significant player in a multi-billion dollar market and the outside forces are of a very different nature.
While the OSMF is just that tiny speck in the OSM ocean it does hold the keys to our core product and with control over the foundation it is completely possible to misuse that. Yes, even handed, community control of the OSMF is important for everybody in OSMspace, and it scares me when somebody seriously proposes handing those keys to a Junta, even if it is “only for a year”.
I would like to end for now with thanking everybody that was kind enough to show me support over the last few days it is much appreciated.
More to come .....
A bit over 10 months ago the SOSM board decided that we would try and systematically send a welcome note to every new contributor in Switzerland http://sosm.ch/how-many-mappers-are-there-in-switzerland/. Today I just sent off the 1000th such message, not a big deal, takes a couple of seconds per mail and I typically send them every 2nd day or so. The mail (in 4 languages, really should be in five), tries to be as low key as possible and simply welcomes the new mapper and points out our local and international resources.
- there hasn't been a noticeable increase in SOSM membership signups, on the one hand 10 months is too short term to expect that to happen, and on the other hand we don't actively solicit that in the mail anyway.
- just as above direct feedback is quite rare.
- the "one edit user" seems to be on the way out, most of the users already have more than one changeset by the time we send the mail (nailing that down in hard numbers is a project for another day).
- given that Switzerland is rather small (8 million population), well mapped (as all DACH countries) you wouldn't be surprised to see some indications of saturation after 9 years, but there are no such effects noticeable at all.
If you think this is a good idea and are considering doing something similar yourself, please note:
- in most countries you will want to split the work up and coordinate, swamping new users with mail is likely not a good idea.
- Pascal Neis provides a RSS with new users on a country by country base here: http://resultmaps.neis-one.org/newestosmlist
- users signing up to OSM don't have to agree to receiving unsolicited mail, matter of fact there is currently no way that they can opt-in at all. This implies that you should consider the legal implications in whatever jurisdiction you are and be careful how you word your mails. I haven't heard of any problems, but you never know.
As a final note: most old timers know about or have participated in the reoccurring discussions on why people sign up for an OSM account and then never edit (there is currently no way of getting zero edits sign ups per region, so you can't contact those). I'm personally fairly sure that we have quite a good conversion rate, there are simply no comparable numbers from other projects available to prove that, others disagree. But as this example shows http://www.openstreetmap.org/user/user_4682 in the end we get them all :-).
PS: I should point out that by no way this is particularly original, we have had users doing this for a long time, it should be seen more as a reminder that this can be done.
I've updated the statistics that I regularly produce from our changeset dump, see stats page on wiki.openstreetmap.org, to the end of Q3 2014 numbers.
The well known trends continue with continuous growth in every category with a total of 447'883 contributors. Of special note is
showing that at the end of the third quarter we have already had slightly more active contributors than in the full year 2013.
August 2014 showed the 2nd highest increase in contributors in the history of the project with over 10'700 new mappers joining OpenStreetMap. It is not unwarranted speculation that this was due to the tenth anniversary celebrations.
Vespucci 0.9.5 is now very near the feature freeze for the 0.9.5 release, numerous tasks that have either been been requested by users for a long time or have been on my personal to do list have been completed and there are only one or two left to do.
Some of the more interesting new functionality
- On device help and some usability improvements
- JOSM compatible OSM file reading and saving
- Auto download
- Fast address tags adding with house number prediction
- Import and upload of GPS tracks
- Function to add node at current GPS position
- Support for external GPS sources (for example RTKLIB)
- Basic conflict resolution
- and numerous "under the hood" changes
If you want to give the beta version a spin, it can be downloaded from
While I was fairly sure that the numbers were correct, I did know that I hadn't taken one potential systematic problem in to account: users that had signed up and produced only empty changesets. Now it could be argued that such users at least tried to contribute and should be counted, but opinions may differ on that. It was clear that any effect on current trends would be minimal, all modern editors will typically only allow you to save if you have actually changed something, implying that an empty changeset is something that can only happen in an error situation (for example an editing conflict, or a crash of the application).
Here are the corrected graphs:
The effect of removing the empty changesets lowers the overall number by roughly 25'000 users, however as expected does not effect the general trend. End of June 2014 we had an accumulated total of 421'701 contributors, increasing at a rate of around 8'000 per month.
The following graphs compared to the previous ones show that most of the effect of the change is in 2009, which as we know is the year changesets were introduced in, so some issues there are not quite unexpected.
In mid-2014 we have already had more than 90'000 active contributors, we can expect a substantial increase in the year total if the trend continues.
Back to the empty changesets, when and how much of an effect did removing them from the numbers have:
and the same relative to the new contributors per month:
(note: the above is the difference between the old numbers with zero edit changesets and the new ones, in some cases this simply caused users to be counted one month later, which explains the single negative month)
As already mentioned all changesets before May 2009 were generated when changests were introduced. I haven't been able to determine what caused the large numbers from May to November 2009, however the changesets in question do not have a created_by tag and I suspect that they were created after the fact, by some kind of mechanical process. Nobody that I asked can remember, maybe a reader can shed some light on this.
After November 2009 most of the empty changesets were created by Potlatch 1 and a well founded suspicion is that they were caused by P1 live mode. This continues up to April 2011 when Potlatch 2 was made the default editor and the absolute numbers have remained stable in the 100-200 users per month range since then.
Now it is important to remind ourselves what we are looking at: the numbers are new users that signed up, tried to edit, failed and never had a successful edit after that.
In other words, users that wanted to participate that we lost (the total number of empty changesets is far higher, however for now I'll assume that regular contributors are more tolerant of things going wrong than first-timers).
Done deeds are done deeds and there is nothing we can do about users that we have already lost, however what we can do is try and improve the situation going forward.
I've produced some numbers on which editors the users were using and nearly all (yes including JOSM) turn up, however the majority of the users effected are using iD (which is not a surprise given that it is the default editor) and, big surprise, "Go Map!" at nearly the same level. Given that "Go Map!" has a far lower user base than iD (editor stats), this indicates that there may be a real problem with the app this has in the mean time been resolved. Naturally given that iD is what is usually used by potential new contributors, further investigation is warranted too.
Anybody that has spent any amount of time fixing TIGER data in the US has seen all the artifacts that we have all come to love, over- and underruns in corners, lost fixes after being inside, wiggles where the surveyors stopped to read road signs, crosscountry non-existing residenials and so on. Today I saw one thing I hadn't before:
(blue is the corrected version)
[As always this is just my own, personal, opinion, and is no way an official statement by anybody]
Yesterday I had a short exchange of tweets with somebody that was surprised that http://opendata-hackday.de/ was using google maps instead of OSM. Given that it is rather a convoluted subject, explaining why this in fact is not surprising was a bit difficult in 140 letters and is what prompted me to create this post.
It is probably just natural that outsiders, even members of both the OSM community and the Open Data movement, simply assume that these are essentially the same and have a large overlap in motives and goals. Numerous OSM contributors are active in the Open Data movement and undoubtedly we are a very large consumer of open data in various forms.
However this apparent overlap shouldn't hide the fact that both our goals and motives are in large parts completely different. The Open Data movement is about liberating, accessing and exploiting data that is already there, and, please don't take this negative, about improving the bottom line of the companies involved. One of the major arguments used in prying data out of the hands of government is that it will have a beneficial net effect for our economies and the involved companies and I don't have an argument with that. On top of that, the “we have already paid for it” justification is surely, at least in some ways, correct.
The OpenStreetMap project is very different, it is all about producing free and open geo-data and while we do utilize open sources, we are clearly at our best when the data has been surveyed and curated by mappers on the ground. Our goal is, in the end, to produce the best “map” of the world that is at the same time freely usable and re-reusable. Yes, some of the economic arguments apply just as well to the OSM ecosystem as they do to the same in the Open Data movement. I think we should be all be proud of the enlightened view the OSM community has had on commercial re-use of our data from the beginning.
But it has to be very clear: the OSM community created and owns the OSM data, and we control the terms on which it can be used, we have not been “already paid for it”.
Hopping off the soap box, I believe it is now understandable why complete alignment of goals cannot be expected. For “joe open data” google is a just as valid member of the open data community as OSM. google may even fit the open data model better: consumes and produces non-open products from it. We are just the crazies that spend our own time producing something free.
It seems, even though it has been available for quite a while, that the fixthemap page on openstreetmap.org is still not particularly well known. If you have an OSM based project and you don't want to create your own page for this purpose (as for example Mapbox has done now too) please provide a link to the page with a suitable text. You can provide coordinates with the URL (best probably the center of the map the user is viewing) and if the user chooses to add a note it will be positioned correctly.
An example of how to do this is for example the SOSM run osm.ch site: http://www.osm.ch/#13/47.2095/8.5237
Vespucci Release 0.9.4 Highlights
This release contains a lot of “under the hood” improvements and some work on making the UI more consistent and easier to use. In particular the following changes have been made
- selectable overlay layer.
- support for multiple simultaneous presets.
- added find action to lookup location with nominatim.
- add per zoom level imagery offsets with support for querying and saving to the imagery offset database or manual entry.
- added support for name suggestions and auto preset setting.
- added goto current GPS location.
- added action to arrange nodes of a closed way in a circle.
- limited support for geo: URIs and JOSM style remote control.
- add action to directly set position of node by entering coordinates.
- major rework of imagery provider configuration, now based on https://github.com/osmlab/editor-imagery-index .
- make https API default.
- major refactoring of projection code.
- lots of bug fixes and stability improvements.
The full change log is available here http://code.google.com/p/osmeditor4android/source/list
We will be updating the documentation to include the new features as soon as possible.
Upgrading from previous Versions
There are a few points that you may want to consider when upgrading from previous versions of Vespucci:
- some of the new features may cause degraded performance on older phones, see http://code.google.com/p/osmeditor4android/wiki/FAQ#Running_Vespucci_on_%22old_and_small%22_devices
- 0.9.4 uses a new configuration file format for imagery as mentioned above. As a consequence the internal identifiers for the background tile providers have changed with the exception of the “standard” mapnik tiles and Bing imagery. If you have extensively used any other sources you will be left with unused tiles using space on your device. You can delete unneeded directories and tiles by navigating to the andnav2/tiles directory on your system (where exactly the directory is located depends on the device and Android version, but it will be in the same place as the vespucci directory) and simply deleting the directories with the exception of BING and MAPNIK.
- some of the defaults for preferences have changed in 0.9.4, your old values will continue to remain the same, however the new defaults seem to make much more sense. See http://code.google.com/p/osmeditor4android/wiki/Tutorial
Last weekend I had a short discussion with a well-respected OSM community member on some aspects of the ODbL and it ended more or less on a question, "then when does share alike kick in?" Given that it was 2am my answer wasn't particularly good and so I thought I should expand it a bit in writing. Particularly because I may have given the impression that it is a fairly complex matter, when in reality it is fairly simple.
Disclaimer: this is the personal opinion of a non-lawyer and it is neither an official policy statement by the LWG nor the OSMF. There are a handful of grey areas that I will not touch on, on some of them the LWG is preparing clarifications for discussion that will be available soon, in other words I am staying on safe ground.
Further it is well known that I'm not particularly in love with the ODbL, but on the other hand I do think it is a lot better than it is made out to be.
The ODbL has 3 concepts that are relevant to triggering share alike (verbatim quotes from the ODbL text):
"Derivative Database" - – Means a database based upon the Database, and includes any translation, adaptation, arrangement, modification, or any other alteration of the Database or of a Substantial part of the Contents. This includes, but is not limited to, Extracting or Re-utilising the whole or a Substantial part of the Contents in a new Database.
"Collective Database" - Means this Database in unmodified form as part of a collection of independent databases in themselves that together are assembled into a collective whole. A work that constitutes a Collective Database will not be considered a Derivative Database.
"“Publicly” – means to Persons other than You or under Your control by either more than 50% ownership or by the power to direct their activities (such as contracting with an independent consultant).
Starting with the last concept, share alike only kicks in when you "Publicly Use" a derivative database see (ODbL 1.0: 4.4(a) and 4.5(c)) , in house use, use by a contractor on your behalf and similar all do not trigger share alike and are not of interest. For the rest of this discussion please assume that whatever we are discussing, we are discussing it in the context of publicly using whatever you have created.
You are now probably already jumping up and down and shouting "And what about Produced Works?". Produced Works are only relevant to share alike in that if you "Publicly Use" a Produced Work (ODbL 1.0: 4.4(c)) any derivative database that was used in producing the Produce Work is considered "Publicly Used". Given that we already are assuming that, we do not need to consider Produced Works at all for the purpose of this discussion. Seems as if we have already considerably simplified the matter at hand.
If you read the ODbL *Derivative Databases" is what in the end share alike is attached to, original OSM data, extracts and modifications to such are all datasets that are, no surprise, subject to mandatory ODbL licensing. But what happens if you are using other data together with OSM derived datasets? Going back to the definitions, we see that such use creates a Collective Database.
How does share alike apply to a Collective Database? Well according to 4.5(a) "For the avoidance of doubt, You are not required to license Collective Databases under this License if You incorporate this Database or a Derivative Database in the collection, but this License still applies to this Database or a Derivative Database as a part of the Collective Database;".
In other words if you simply lump together one or more datasets with data derived from OSM, you are only required to licence the OSM part of the Collective Database under the ODbL or a compatible licence.
Example: assume that you have a proprietary global database of waste bins and want to use that data together with OSM data. No problem, you can use your data together with OSM without any issue and there is no need to publish your proprietary dataset on ODbL terms.
Grey area alert: while the example is clear, there are some kinds of "lumping together" that need clarification.
Now given that OSM has a lot of waste bins already, the result might contain a lot of duplicates that you would like to remove. Again no problem, you can simply remove all waste bins from the OSM dataset. Now the resulting OSM data is clearly a Derivative Database and is subject to the share alike terms in the ODbL (as it was before), but it does not change the status of the collective whole which can still have different licences for its individual parts and the whole.
Grey area alert: this kind of Derivative Database (reduced and extracted unmodified OSM data) triggers a number of obligations that essentially nobody is adhering to.
This is the point I was in discussion at 2am and when the question "then when does share alike kick in? " was posed.
Well the answer is: "when you modify OSM data". The simplest example: you improve the position of a POI by changing the coordinates or you add further information to the POI, then you have to make the resulting dataset available on ODbL terms. Don't forget we are always assuming that you are Publicly Using the data.
A more interesting example: assume you have a proprietary database containing road geometry and associated with that geometry, road surface information and further that you have permission to integrate the surface information into OSM. You add surface tags to the OSM roads in your copy of the OSM data: yes you have to publish the improved OSM data on ODbL terms.
The important thing to note is that it does not effect your original proprietary database, there is no infection or tainting of that dataset, you simply cannot keep the changes to the OSM data to yourself.
And what about the other way around? Assume you notice that OSM has some surface data that is better than that in your proprietary database and you replace the original information with that? Then the resulting dataset is subject to share alike and you need to make it available on ODbL terms.
To sum it up: When does share alike kick in? When you modify OSM data or apply modifications from OSM to third party data and use the results publicly.
That's it really.
We will be meeting in Zürich tomorrow for the fifthiest Zürich OSM meetup, if you have time please feel free to join us.
The iD editor has used the name suggestion index for quite a while and it was something that I wanted to support in vespucci in the upcoming release. The one thing you do want to reduce in a mobile app is typing.
Basically the idea is to suggest correct spelling (and tagging) for some of the more prominent chains of restaurants and shops to the mapper. The way it works in vespucci now is slightly different from the current implementation in iD and at least some aspects might be worthwhile supporting there too.
Using the name as a short cut for tagging
If you are creating a new object, or adding tags to an object that previously didn't have relevant tags you can use the name as an "Ersatz"-preset (note vespucci supports normal JOSM-style presets too, and I may expand this functionality to automatically add further tags from the presets):
Enter the name tag
Start typing and get the auto-complete list
Further typing refines the list
Selecting the correct item set the name and the corresponding tags
Adding the name to a "pre-tagged" object
In the example the building has already been pre-tagged with amenity=restaurant, which while not really wrong is not the best tagging for a fast food restaurant.
Enter the name tag
Start typing and get the auto-complete list
This includes suggestions not just for amenity=restaurant but for potenially further refined tagging.
Select the correct name after further refinement
Vespucci now asks for confirmation if the old tags should be replaced.
The new functionality is available in the vespucci test builds.
Over the last couple of weeks I've done a substantial amount of work on vespucci the OSM editor for Android http://code.google.com/p/osmeditor4android/, with the goal of a new release 0.9.4 some time in March. While a lot of the work is under the hood, there are a couple of new features that will make editing with vespucci a lot easier
- support for overlays (for example the OSM GPS tracks)
- imagery configuration from OSM imagery index hopefully making it easier to keep the available imagery updated
- support for imagery offsets
- multiple simultaneously active presets (vespucci uses JOSM presets)
- support for accessing the API with https and OAuth
and not to forget, you can now zoom out completly without getting sea sick :-).
One of the issues the OSM site has had, is that we have been missing a trivial "Report a problem" / "Fix the map" landing page on openstreetmap.org. Not that it was in any way difficult to do, we just had never added one. I suspect that the absence of such a page is one of the reasons why the OSMF board now and then gets complaints about things missing on the map to its e-mail addresses and even more times the DCMA take down form is misused for such purposes.
Now, with the redesign live and google making the concept popular the time was ripe to add one at last, nothing fancy, but linking to OSM in the fashion below is a lot better than simply dumping people on our main page:
(a zoom parameter will work too).
Why is it that getting users of our data to attribute OpenStreetMap correctly seems to be such an uphill battle? This is not something new, browsing the wiki, mailing lists and forums show that this has been an issue from day one.
Why is it so difficult for us to get the only compensation we ask for, when at the same time nobody has issues attributing google? Matter of fact it is not rare to see google attribution on OpenStreetMap derived content, to add insult to injury.
Why do OSS projects that would go ballistic if somebody violated their licence take such a cavalier attitude to our requirements?
Why do third party services based on our data go out of their way with smartass attribution links and buttons, just designed to hide the fact that their maps are OpenStreetMap derived?
The OSMF board at their last meeting laid down the law (again) http://wiki.osmfoundation.org/wiki/Board_Meeting_Minutes_2013-12-10
Googles says on the same topic "Without exception, we require attribution when Content is shown. Please do not ask to negotiate this requirement." .
Please don't treat OpenStreetMap worse than mega-corporations!
Updated for the full year 2013
In May (2013) I produced a set of graphs and numbers on our contributor growth based on analysing the regular changeset dumps. Given that this was half a year ago I believe it is time for an update.
Our total contributor number has continued to grow at something around 7'000 per month giving a total of 391'367 at the end of December:
The number of active contributors per month continues to show a slight upward trend: The jump in April 2009 coincides with anonymous edits no longer being allowed.
Which reflects itself in the number of active contributors per year too (the year end number for 2013 is 129'000).
The above graph also shows that the number of contributors that contributed in a previous year is showing growth too. Note the lack of "old" editors going from 2008 to 2009 is likely due to anonymous edits going away in 2009. This is likely also the reason for other low counts in the early years.
And while it is a bit too speculative to state reasons, we do see, compared to active contributor growth, over proportional growth in the number of changesets. Going over 500'000 per month for the first time in September of this year:
You may have noticed that the 0.9 Vespucci release (see http://code.google.com/p/osmeditor4android/downloads/list and on the google Play Store rsn) has an experimental geo-referenced photograph overlay:
this is already very helpful, you can walk around surveying then sit down in peace and quite, enter the information that you have collected and upload right there. Vespucci does not support taking photographs directly (yet?) so I'm doing this with osmtracker. Now and then it isn't really clear in which direction the photograph was taken and it would be helpful to have that information available too.
Most mobile phones today can measure magnetic fileds and have what used to be called a compass :-), however there don't seem to be any (or at least none that are well known) apps that add this information to the picture EXIF information (there are a couple of Android "features" that need to worked around to be able to do this). In any case I hacked together a modified version of osmtracker that actually does this today and made the necessary changes to be able to read the information in Vespucci and this is the result: the rotated camera icon is pointing due east in the direction I took the photograph (of some grass so I'm not showing -that- here :-)).
There is still some work to do to make the actual photographing more robust, for example rotating the mobile phone into landscape mode will mess the compass reading up in the current modified osmtracker version, but the concept seems to have some merit.
We've moved the translation mangement to transifex (the same platform used for iD): https://www.transifex.com/projects/p/vespucci/ .... the sooner we hve at least the major languages complete the faster we can release.
We are nearly ready for a release of Vespucci 0.9, the translations have to be updated and, more important, some more testing needs to be done. Head over to Vespucci Home for the current beta build.
Here's a short video showing the new features.
Maybe some can remember that I produced some statistics on per country address counts end of March this year. I've rerun the scripts twice since then see http://qa.poole.ch/addresses/ .
What is naturally interesting is not so much the absolute number of addresses we have in the database (we know that we are just at the beginning of collecting addresses), but how fast are we adding them.
The full numbers can be seen on the website linked above, but for a quick comparison here are the overall numbers, Germany and the USA (which has had some address imports lately).
2013-03-27 2013-05-03 2013-07-13 Increase since March Total 20'168'470 21'072'447 22'939'124 13.74% Germany 3'659'043 3'836'410 4'144'198 13.26% USA 2'090'893 2'122'662 2'277'269 8.91%
While obviously the numbers are still quite small (the number for Germany is roughly 10% of all addresses there) I believe it is encouraging that we are adding substantial amounts even without large scale imports and do not depend solely on addresses becoming available as open data (which will not happen everywhere).