It’s been a few months since my first humble OpenStreetMap edit. I wrote a diary post for that occasion, and was pleased to have received a nice welcome as well as some tips. After that, I didn’t do any edits for quite a while. Just recently, I’ve been adding details to the area near where I grew up.
Why was there such a gap? Largely, it was was my hesitation to use the editing tools. Reading diaries and user pages and what-have-you on the OSM site, I see a lot of suggestions for others to JOSM. It’s “powerful,” the “best way,” etc. I could tell by looking that JOSM is loaded with functionality, but I felt overwhelmed. The screen just showed me too much I wasn’t ready for. I did use it for my very first edit -- I changed some tags on a local business. But adding something new was, and still is, something I feel I’ll have to work up to.
Time passed, and I decided to try Potlatch 2. It looked much friendlier to a beginning like myself, but I had problems with it. I didn’t find the editing mode that would have let me add tags that weren’t built into the interface. Potlatch’s suggestion to “Add new points by dragging them onto the map” sounds clear enough, but I must not have noticed that at the time. My instinct wanted me to click the icons and then click the map where I wanted to add that feature. Oops. I also had trouble with how the mouse worked: I kept accidentally drawing red lines all over the place, which would make the panel icons disappear. I think I discovered that escape or enter worked, but then I’d have to delete the way I accidentally created. This was frustrating.
I can’t explain what changed, but now in Potlatch I feel more competent. I understand dragging icons, and I discovered how to add my own tags with advanced editing mode, got better at not accidentally starting to add nodes or draw ways. The “source” key is still a minor cause for confusion. I read that “survey:YYYY-MM-DD” is recommended for data added via GPS, and that “Bing” is recommended when tracing from Bing. Sometimes, according to the Bing imagery underneath and the shape/location of my GPS data, it’s clear that trees or buildings or something messed with my readings, and I make a guess at the location. For that I’ve been putting something like “survey:2012-10-25 with Bing correction” - hopefully that works. In essence, I wanted to make the point that I’ve been there in person and am not tracing far-away places. When I traced a basketball court, it bothered me a little to use “Bing” as the source. I felt I wasn’t clearly making the statement: “I WAS HERE.”
I can imagine my future self becoming a whiz with JOSM, wanting to show off how OpenStreetMap editing works, and scaring some poor stiff away from ever trying to edit OpenStreetMap. It recalls some friends of mine and their reactions whenever Ubuntu comes up in conversation: horror at the thought that they might someday be forced to frantically type commands in a little black box. I’ve decided that, for the sake of my helping future OpenStreetmap contributors, I will become proficient with Potlatch, and won’t show JOSM to anybody until I’m sure they can handle it.
Yesterday I bicycled and walked around a university campus where nothing but buildings were mapped. using OSMTracker-Android I started logging benches (one of my favorite features - I love getting outside and reading in a new environment) and footpaths, but ran into some hardships. First of all, the GPS traces I’ve made didn’t line up with the aerials very well, and all the cyan lines indicating where I’d been made it hard to concentrate on the map underneath. I was dogged by the feeling that I was doing the footpaths wrong. Are the paths I’ve already put on OSM something wheelchair users could depend on to route themselves around? I doubt it, but I don’t know how to check. Added complication: lots of stairs on the campus. I logged their locations, but don’t know how to tie the steps in with the footpaths. That’s what relations are for, right? I think I have lots of reading to do before I’m able to do it right. So I’ll be sitting on my footpath and stairs data until I figure that out, with some anxiety that somebody will beat me to it. If that does happen, I’ll probably experience some mixture of annoyance and relief.
Ideally I would meet some local person who knows what they’re doing with this, and we could have a nice discussion and swap ideas and they’d say “Oh, ways and relations are easy! You just ...” But there don’t appear to be too many fellow OSM contributors near me. The only people I see appear inactive or have made no edits, and people in this area are an insular bunch. To generalize, they divide their time between work, family, and solo hobbies which they hope to monetize. I’ll write to the nearby people, but I don’t have high hopes.
I’d be delighted to hear your comments and feedback. You may have noticed I asked some questions here as well... Until next time, happy mapping!