Andy Allan has commented on the following diary entries

Post When Comment
Thoughts on the how and where of the OSMF starting to hand out money in the OSM community about 2 months ago

I think it’s worth distinguishing between software that is on the critical path for data (mapper -> editing -> API -> database -> planet and replication), and then everything else. If you remove something on the critical path then OSM stops working. But if you remove something else, such as tileservers or search or routing, then sure mappers will notice but they can still put data in and get data back out again.

That’s how I used to distinguish software and systems when I was on OWG. We had three tiers - the core infrastructure required for the editing API and data distribution (and everything else involved in that, like NFS and DNS and whatnot), then tier two was stuff that would be really impactful for mappers if it wasn’t working (like tileservers and nominatim and the wiki) and then the tier three stuff was things that most mappers wouldn’t even notice if it was missing. Obviously there’s room for debate about this!

OSM the Legal Monster 5 months ago

You make a good point, but then you over-egg the pudding by including unrelated things like the banner policy and the new tile layer policy. I would suggest removing that entire paragraph, your point is stronger without it.

The moderation queue. The first 3000 issues 7 months ago

Thanks for reporting on these statistics! It’s nice to see the feature is proving useful, but of course it would be even nicer if it was unnecessary.

Based on your analysis, what changes to the issues and reports would be the most useful?

OWG Must Be Destroyed 9 months ago

Just to correct a few points - OWG does have policies, including how to join OWG (and the sysadmins group) - see Of course they aren’t perfect or comprehensive but it’s a start. I’m particularly proud of getting agreement for the joining policies because it used to be completely opaque as to what was required.

Also, it’s incorrect to say that nobody has joined OWG since 2011, since Paul Norman joined last year and is active today. I’m not sure if you also meant to exclude Sarah Hoffmann, who was a member of OWG for several years from 2013 to 2017 and is also an active sysadmin today. We also had two probationary members in the last two years, but they didn’t become full voting members.

Sure, I’d rather see 20 other people on the list, and 5 new people every year. But it’s still worth painting an accurate picture.

As for the website and API, developing those aren’t a matter for OWG. Tom does both, but for example I’m no longer on OWG precisely to focus more on the website development. I feel like the development has improved a lot in the last 3 years, but it’s about 5 on a scale of 0 to 100 where 100 is what I’d like to see. And I’ve been on the receiving end of plenty of curt PR comments. It’s not a great experience.

You ask me “Does it really feel okay to you” and of course, no, none of this is good. But I want to work with everyone who is interested in making these situations better, and I want to discourage people from expressing their frustration in a manner that makes things worse.

OWG Must Be Destroyed 9 months ago

I’m not sure that I even want to reply to this, given the (presumably deliberately) outrageous title. Perhaps by responding I’m just encouraging more posts like this in the future? I hope not.

“Destroying” or OWG makes no sense, since it’s there to solve a legitimate purpose. If everyone on it disappeared tomorrow, OSMF would still need those purposes taken care of. The server budgets needs writing. The resource usage (like database disk space) needs forecasting and hardware needs planning. If you really want to “destroy” OWG, then you would need to explain what that stuff is no longer necessary, or suggest which working group should be doing that stuff instead.

You’ve also glossed over whether you want to destroy the sysadmin group, or OWG, or both, but no matter.

So let’s focus on the (slightly) more sensible suggestion, which is to “disband” the group and start again from scratch. Would that really work? Would the incoming people have any idea what needs to be done? Perhaps. Over the last few years we made the hardware site, and wrote a lot of monthly reports, and the chef-repo exists, so perhaps the new people could read all of them and try to get started. But it’s a high-risk strategy to kick everyone off first, instead of adding new people in and keeping those with experience still around to answer questions. I guess the sensible approach wouldn’t generate the dramatic headlines though.

But in any case, diary entries like this can become a damaging self-fulfilling prophecy. What member of the community wants to get involved, if the only public attention you get is posts like this? Why would any sensible person join any working group, if prominent and well-respected former OSMF Board members write posts like this? Try to imagine what being on the receiving end of this would be like. Try to realise what you are doing here, and why there will be even fewer working group members (or even board candidates) in future. You’re creating an environment where even paid contractors won’t want to get involved.

There’s definitely problems in this working group, and they definitely need fixing. But this kind of post does more harm than good.

For anyone who is reading this and wants a more practical set of suggestions from a former OWG member, feel free to read for some ideas, or if you want any other suggestions for improving OWG feel free to ask me any of your questions directly.

The OSM community deserves a better 10 months ago

It’s great to see discussion like this, and I share a lot of your feelings about the site. To say there’s room for improvement would be an understatement! I particularly note the lack of user search, and the rest of the underdeveloped ‘community’ parts of the site. I think it is illustrative that we have the ability to “browse relations” and “node history” but no way to find other community members. (I prefer thinking in terms of ‘community support features’ rather than ‘social networking’ since that term has a lot of negative connotations).

However, there’s no shortage of idea or wishes to improve what we have. What we are really missing are the people who are willing and able to do the coding, design, and other development work. Whether those people are volunteers or paid for doesn’t matter to me, but at the moment we just don’t have enough people involved. So progress is slow.

I’ve spent the last three years relentlessly working on making it easier to contribute to the development. You can read more on my personal blog if you are interested. My own todo list will keep me busy for at least the next 5 years, never mind all the big ideas that are out there.

So I encourage you to get involved in the issue tracker to get more familiar with what’s going on, and get familiar with what will be needed to make a impact on our progress. And again, I think it’s the lack of contributors, not the lack of ideas, that is the most important thing here.

Reflections on OSMF 10 months ago

You mentioned a Community Map of ‘channels’ which i am not aware of - could you provide a link?

I suspect the map is , which is built using

How to highlight high-precision GPX traces? over 1 year ago

All OSM data is in WGS84. There are no local datums in OSM.

Turned off to make you aware of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market protests … wtf? over 1 year ago

You might not like it, but EU laws do affect OpenStreetMap. It would be nice to think that you are unaffected since you aren’t from the EU, but the servers are in the EU, the OSMF is based in the EU, the license is based on EU laws and so on. So if you like OpenStreetMap, then you have an interest in these EU laws, whether you’d like to or not.

Of course, no users of OSM, whether in the EU or not, can directly change these proposed laws. But they can contact their representatives, and this is what this action is designed to encourage. As a Canadian you also have a representative to the EU - you could contact them to explain the problem too.

Are we still English? over 1 year ago

The iD editor uses locale information from your OSM account settings. It treats ‘en’ as ‘en-US’ by default, so you need to specify ‘en-GB’ to get the British translations.

If you have anything set in the Preferred Languages setting in your OpenStreetMap account, then check that carefully to make sure that ‘en-GB’ appears, and that it’s before ‘en’ or ‘en-US’. If you remove everything from that field, it will be re-populated with the language preferences that your browser sends (and the same rules apply about putting ‘en-GB’ first).

You mention ‘en-UK’ - I’m not sure if that’s a mistake or not, but it’s not the right thing - you need ‘en-GB’.

I’d never noticed until now, but my browser was sending ‘Accept-Language: en-GB,en;q=0.8,fr;q=0.5,de;q=0.3’ (which is approximately correct) but I had just ‘en’ in my OSM account settings from goodness knows how long ago. So I blanked that setting out, pressed save, and now my settings are ‘en-GB en fr de’ and iD now shows the British translations. Which is great!

I-285 NOT a tunnel where the Hartsfield-Jackson runway bridge goes over over 1 year ago

@Warin61 I think you are being too strict on your definitions, and as @althio says, you seem to be a bit selective in your reading.

However, I’d like to hear your opinion on since there is no earth on either side, or on top, and it was not built by boring or mining through the ground. I think many people would consider this to be a tunnel, do you?

I-285 NOT a tunnel where the Hartsfield-Jackson runway bridge goes over over 1 year ago

Personally, I think it’s reasonable to tag these as four parallel tunnels. From what I see, I would have mapped them as tunnels because each of the lower sections are much, much longer than they are wide, and that’s one of my rules of thumb for ambiguous situations. The first and fourth tunnels indeed have dirt beside them. Having a tunnel wall between two tunnels doesn’t stop them from being a tunnel, so the central pair could be considered tunnels too, even without dirt beside them.

It doesn’t really matter how they were built. Think about all the subway tunnels in London (and elsewhere) that have been constructed by digging a trench and building a platform (or really extensive ‘bridge’) over the top to take roads, parks, buildings etc. The construction methods don’t really matter, they are still considered tunnels.

But most importantly, it’s better to discuss the situation with other mappers, and come to an agreement! Perhaps this is one situation where it’s fine to have both tags? You could talk through it on one of the mailing lists or at a local meetup and see what other people think.

The moderation queue. The first 1000 issues almost 2 years ago

Thanks mavl for posting these statistics! It’s great to see that the system is being well used - it certainly took a lot of development work, by a lot of different people, in order to get it fully working and deployed.

Rob - there’s already spam detection and filtering in the website, but there’s always room for improvement. Perhaps these reports and issues can be used to help improve the filters? If anyone is interested in doing this, then they could contact the DWG, who currently handle most of the moderation tasks.

When OpenStreetMap met Mapbox-GL : 🍚IDLY-GL over 2 years ago

@Andy Allan: as you’re mentioning this point: the pull request to remove those remaining slow parts in the map call is already out there, waiting to be reviewed, merged and deployed:

That PR is unrelated to what I’ve described above. Sure, it speeds the map call up, but it doesn’t make it any more cacheable that now.

When OpenStreetMap met Mapbox-GL : 🍚IDLY-GL over 2 years ago

@Komяpa Of course it would be great if we could support unlimited requests on the /map call. But since that’s not the case today then I think it’s nicer to give an early warning rather than a potential bigger problem later on!

As I’m sure you’re aware, but for the benefit of others who might be interested, the /map API call is hard to scale for two reasons. Firstly, it works like a WMS service with arbitrary extents, rather than like tiles with fixed extents. Secondly, it’s crucial for all editing software that it provides read-after-write consistency, so that when a changeset is saved, the next /map request is guaranteed to contain that fresh data. So both these reasons make it hard to cache responses and without any caching it’s hard to scale.

There have been proposals to fix both of these over the last few years. This would be by making map calls tiled, and by providing a “not-before-changeset” parameter or similar for the consistency issue. Then we could cache responses without breaking the editing workflow, and support more use of the /map call. But like many things, we need more people coding, and more community support for those who are already coding. Suggesting that we should deliberately violate the policy, and “break OSM” so that “someone pays attention” would not be the best approach! :-)

... and so it begins over 2 years ago

Good luck with your project! We also provide development versions of the main OpenStreetMap website, so if you’d like to add loads of notes without cluttering up the real OSM database, then please use one of them. For example, the “master” option is the same code as on but with a test database.

When OpenStreetMap met Mapbox-GL : 🍚IDLY-GL over 2 years ago

Nice project! However, it violates the API Usage Policy. The API is only provided for editing OpenStreetMap data. If you want to display OSM data then you need to get that data via or a service that is built on top of the planet feeds.

Not Yours, OpenStreetMap over 2 years ago

The second part of my response is focussed on two projects mentioned here that I’m closely involved in. Perhaps unlike other core contributors, almost all of the work I do is not as a means to the end, but instead as a means to get more people involved, to lower barriers to entry, and to speed up future development.

The first is the cartography.

Then it was converted to CartoCSS, made prettier, and contributors started flocking in.

I think I did the right thing here, do you agree? That the conversion was the correct thing to do? I deliberately added 6 more maintainers and gave them all the same power and authority as I had. But you go on to say that it’s become bleak, that nobody knows what to do, and in your eyes the project is a failure. So I would like to hear from anyone what I did wrong, and what I should have done differently? Should I have stayed as the only maintainer? Or something different? Clearly some mistakes must have been made, and I’d like to hear about them.

The second is the website:

Two guardians do not let through any unconventional change: it’s like amidst a crumbling world we must hold on to what we already have. They don’t see that the power of their grip is what crumbles their world.

Well, I’m one of those unnamed “guardians” I guess. But I’ve never considered what I do there as clinging to power, or preventing changes, or anything of the sort - but obviously you think differently. I’d like to hear more about your point of view. I’ve worked hard to refactor the code for the last two years, I’ve put in hundreds of hours on getting the moderation branch ready, and I’ve reviewed and dealt with lots of issues and pull requests, many of which have been outstanding for years. All of this is focussed on getting more people involved, not fewer.

I haven’t made many big user-facing changes since that’s not what I think is the most pressing problem that I can solve. Like with the stylesheets - I didn’t redesign the map from scratch, I took the moribund project, made some technical changes to make it easier for others to get involved, and opened it up to the community. I’m trying to do the same thing for the website, taking the existing project, making technical changes to make it easier for others to get involved. I hope someday soon to add another half dozen maintainers to that project, and move on to the next most pressing project in OSM.

That’s my point of view. But it’s clear that you disagree fundamentally with two of the largest projects that I’m involved in - there’s no harm in that, everyone has their own views. I’d like to know more details on what you believe I’m doing wrong, and what I should be doing instead, to reinvigorate OpenStreetMap, since what I’ve been doing for the last few years apparently isn’t working.

Not Yours, OpenStreetMap over 2 years ago

I’m going to divide my response into two parts, in separate comments.

First, my response to the general theme. I agree it often feels like OSM is missing a certain spark that existed years ago - a willingness to bump API versions, or reconfigure everything, or rewrite code or prose from scratch - but that’s not my point. My point is to ask the rhetorical question - what could be done to snuff out these sparks? What could be done to make sure nothing ever changes again? What could be done to drive out the passion, the creativity, the resourcefulness and the enthusiasm from everyone involved?

Posts like yours, that’s what. Posts like Serge’s. Posts that do nothing other than berate everyone for being shit, that provide no solutions, and that just bring everyone down.

This isn’t a 1500 word essay that encourages contributors. This isn’t a 1500 word essay that makes anyone think “you know what, I’m going to help with this”. This isn’t a 1500 word essay that highlights something good that has been done and encourages more good things to happen.

If there’s any grand problem in OpenStreetMap, it’s that the loudest talkers are the ones who are bemoaning the lack of work that everyone else is doing. It’s a great shame. It’s so discouraging.

But it feeds into the wider point. The sort of people who put up with this environment are rare, so we have few core contributors. Those who are here are generally thick-skinned, battle-hardened, stubborn - or all of the above. So it should come as no surprise that change is infrequent, risks are not taken, the status quo is maintained. The irony is that the very act of complaining about the status quo drives more people away, and reinforces the status quo further.

So if you want to see change, don’t moan about the lack of it. That approach has been done repeatedly, and we can all see the damage that it does.

Focus instead on what you like. Celebrate the successes. Cheer on the progress, however little you might find. You have a rare gift for writing and communicating ideas in OpenStreetMap, so use it to encourage the bright future that we all want to see.

Motorway Junction Node Placement over 2 years ago

I’d much prefer option 2, since it more accurately represents what exists on the ground. Options 1 and 3 start introducing angles and corners (“Warning! Sharp bend ahead!”) that don’t exist.

Option 2 is the best approximation of the route that a fully informed driver will take, namely a straight line from the point of lane departure to the exit. Imagine instead that drivers follow option 3 - 45 degree turns just before the gore? I don’t think that would be right.