Beyond First Edits!

Posted by dhrasmus on 26 October 2012 in English (English)

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!

Location: 4th Street Northeast, Cedar Rapids, Linn County, Iowa, 52401, United States of America

Comment from Sanderd17 on 26 October 2012 at 21:03

I agree with your views on JOSM, I only recommend it to users who are used to OSM, but need more power, or to users who are used to gis.

And I never considered the source tag as important. I don't add it. Bing doesn't obligate us to add it, and if it's my own work, I'm not obligated either.

How did you map those steps? If they are just lines, you can just connect them as they were a footpath. If they are areas, I don't think there is a default yet.

btw, to edit custom tags in Potlatch, you need to go in advanced mode.

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Comment from Rovastar on 27 October 2012 at 01:16

I had a quick look it seems that you have not joined the footpath lines to anything.

Join them to the roads, etc then routing will work correctly.

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Comment from Sanderd17 on 27 October 2012 at 09:05

A way with highway=steps is not really different from any other kind of highway.

The only difference are the implied access values.

highway=motorway has implied access as

  • agricultural=no

  • vehicle=yes

  • foot=no

  • etc (depending on your country laws)

A highway=footway has implied access tags as

  • vehicle=no

  • horse=no

  • foot=yes

  • wheelchair=yes

  • etc (again depending on your country)

and higway=steps have access tags as

  • foot=yes

  • vehicle=no

  • wheelchair=no

So those are the only differences between footways and steps.

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Comment from Anna_AG on 30 October 2012 at 19:17

JOSM does have a learning curve you are right, but it isn't that steep especially if you stick to straightforward edits initially. It is incredibly powerful, very stable and since BING imagery ( though we had yahoo before ) very very useful.

I guess an analogy would be the difference between using webmail and an mail client, significantly faster much more application tools and endless methods to customize it should you wish.

Working in urban areas can seem a little daunting to a beginner, so make test edits where it is quiet or no activity and get used to it Also, work in your own area, which you know well. The great this is that the render engine now workd in minutes rather than every wednesday so you don't have to wait a week too see your edits on the web so get some for of feedback.

Also you will find that your first edits with JOSM, especially if you work on areas you know well, you will tend to return to and make even nicer as you become more proficient. So don't worry about making poor edits, you will repair them in due course.

Good luck drop me a mail if you need some assistance

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Comment from skorasaurus on 31 October 2012 at 21:50


Awesome to see such enthusiasm to OSM ! Just to briefly answer some of your questions:

 If I upload GPS traces as "public", will people besides me edit them, or is it usually just the uploader doing it?  
  • your gps traces are available to all other users to see but they cannot edit the timestamps or any tags that you applied to them when you upload them

I also osmtracker on my android, and like other gps devices, you're GPS signal is not perfect, you'll notice there's a little 'accuracy 5m' on the top of the main screen of osmtracker, which means that there's up to an error up to 5m of your current location. Even if your signal isn't perfect (I usually get no better than 2-3m; usually it's 5-10m), for example 10m, it's still accepted to upload that trace.

“survey:2012-10-25 with Bing correction” in the source tag is quite acceptable. If you don't remember the exactly survey date, for example, I've seen other users just put survey or what I just personally do, is put a brief note of what I edited and its source, like "[personal visit, bing]" in the comment before I Upload my changes to the server (called a changeset) I haven't used potlatch much so I don't know if making a changeset comment is any different.

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Comment from dhrasmus on 1 November 2012 at 01:03

Hello all, thanks for your ideas and explanations! Following are my responses.

To Sanderd17: Thanks for explaining implied access values! I mapped the stairs by creating a POI at the top of the stairs and at the bottom, and extra if the stairs wind around and I went on them. Some of the stairs were long and had several platforms in the middle. I'll probably mark those as "stairs" even though they're flat, because nobody will get to those platforms unless they're some kind of renegades who cut through college campuses on the grass... :)

To Rovastar: So if there's a footpath that runs smack into a road for automobiles, and the footpath continues across the street: I simply join both sections of footpath to the road and it'd work fine? How does OSM/routing software know it's a road going straight through and that pedestrians and bicyclists must cross the street, and not a footpath that automobiles must be careful of? Does everything assume automobiles have priority?

What if the footpath had been elevated to go above the road, or a tunnel dug so the footpath can go under it? This is not hypothetical - I've got some cycling routes to add and improve :)

To skorasaurus: Nice disc golf map! I'm planning to map the nearest course, and discovered that disc golf courses don't really get rendered on the map.

I see I phrased my GPS trace question oddly... I realize traces themselves are static, and once uploaded they sit there until deleted. What I meant was: if Paul uploads "Identifiable" GPS traces, will people besides Paul add items to the map, or is that something that doesn't (usually) happen? Do people mostly stick to their own GPS traces when adding and editing OSM, Or does Identifiable mean something more like "hey everybody, have at it" ?

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Comment from skorasaurus on 15 November 2012 at 17:12

Hey dan,

Thanks for the compliment, it is far from done =)

I didn't get a notice on your comment until you sent me the mail. I realized that a user isn't notified when someone else comments on a diary entry after you do, so I made a ticket for it.

Regardless if Paul uploads GPS traces as 'public' 'identifiable', etc, they are available for anyone to use and will be visible with.

This wiki page gives a good description on the difference between public, private, identifiable GPS traces

Once you upload them, anyone else can view them and then create a road by tracing over your GPS trace.

Some people stick to areas that they've visited themselves but it is encouraged and okay to edit an area that you've never been to and relying on the aerial imagery and others gps traces (this is known as armchair mapping). Others, they map everywhere.

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Comment from malenki on 1 December 2012 at 12:52

Just a hint: for your example with the basketball court I would had used source=survey; Bing Aerial Imagery

Regards malenki

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