About 6 weeks ago, I signed up to (OSM) to map my contact’s addresses and my public transport routes. My thinking was that adding these details will mean I will use OSM based apps everyday. When I add new contacts in the future, I will add their addresses to OSM too.

Of course, the first address I added was my home address and then the addresses on my street. I posted my initial impressions of OSM in my diary and people commented about my diary entry. I read their comments and their diary’s. I learnt from their diary’s that addresses can be automatically imported to OSM from government data sources as long as OSM have permission to use those data sources. I didn’t want to be doing work that could be automated, so I checked to see if my government offered open data that listed all the addresses in Australia. I learnt that such data existed and that another OSM mapper was requesting the appropriate government permissions to automatically import this data to OSM. I also learnt that with a powerful computer and AI software that buildings can be mapped too. I felt quite disillusioned and decided to take a break.

I came back with the idea of recording GPS traces of my public transport routes, but then I learnt that the GPS on my Nokia 6.2 has a known issue with accuracy.

Then I decided I would add nodes for local businesses, which is based on local knowledge and will not be automated for many years to come!! Initially, I thought I could map those businesses off the top of my head having passed them for years. As soon as I sat down at my PC to add those businesses I realised I couldn’t remember some businesses.

So, I went down the street, mentally recording the sequence of the businesses. I returned to type in the business names and their addresses. OSM made me really look at my surroundings and there were things I didn’t notice in my neighbourhood. That’s when I got hooked on adding more information about these businesses to OSM.

I noticed that certain business categories were really good at providing their contact details and their trading hours, while other businesses didn’t provide that information at all. Restaurants and Cafes don’t even provide their contact details on their menus!! I also noticed that most businesses have their trading hours on an open door which is easily missed, while a much better place is to have the trading hours on the shop front window near the door.

Then I started to revisit businesses when I decided to capture another piece of information. I also realised I was collecting so much information about a business I couldn’t keep it in my head anymore. So, I decided to take landscape photo’s of the businesses from across the street so that I would know the sequence of the businesses. When I started adding that information to OSM I realised I should instead take portrait photos of the businesses so that I capture the building levels of the business too. I noticed that businesses that print their trading hours on their shop windows comes up in the portrait photos, but those businesses that use “cardboard trading hours” are blurry in the photo. In future, I will zoom in taking a landscape photo of the business trading hours after the portrait photo of that business. Of course, those businesses that have their trading hours on their door will miss out!!

I was thinking of uploading the photos to Mapillary for armchair mappers but I decided not to with Mapillary’s takeover by Facebook. Besides the GPS coordinates on my photos are wrong anyway. My phone is under warranty and I do intend to return it, but I can’t be bothered with the hassle right now.

While I was mapping these businesses I came across indoor and 3D mapping instructions. When I further looked into indoor and 3D mapping I realised these mappings are still in development outside OSM. Personally, I would prefer that the indoor plan of a building fill the map when I click on an entrance of the building as that is a better reflection of reality. This method also means its easy to distinguish the businesses that are street facing from those businesses indoor. I won’t be adding the businesses of my local multi-level shopping mall until indoor mapping fully matures in OSM.

The 3D mapping looks impressive, but I don’t think it adds any more value than 2D maps.

One of the most frustrating aspects of mapping is finding the correct name for a feature. I spent ages trying to find street light which ended up being street lamp; electric pole was power pole; drinking fountain is an amenity called drinking water. I think a possible solution to this problem would be if the iD editor walkthrough used an area that was fully mapped and had more complex feature examples such as public transport and possible indoor mapping. Its the perfect place to find how to map a feature and practice.

Comment from Warin61 on 30 May 2021 at 07:18


For remembering shops along a road I take photos - saves trying to remember how they are spelt, the sequence .. If you do it ‘after hours’ (sunday?) then the doors are closed.

For OSM tags the OSM wiki can be used. amenity=drinking_water is not specific - could be a river with good water. man_made=drinking_fountain is very specific. See

Comment from Fiftyfour on 6 June 2021 at 08:10

Hi Warin61,

I don’t specifically go mapping. If I’m out to get something from the shops, then I’ll take a photo for OSM use later.

I’ve refined my process since I posted to my diary. I still take portrait photos from across the street. Taking landscape photos of a business’s opening hours from across the street appeared as a blur. So, I take photo’s of business hours signs on this side of the street now.

Comment from LivingWithDragons on 6 June 2021 at 10:57

I understand what you suggest about the iD walk through having a more complex or fully mapped area, but nowhere has every type of feature and lots of features could overwhelm beginners. What I usually suggest is that people look at areas near them, or the next village/city/area to them. It’s more likely to ha e similar features and you might discover something you hadn’t thought to record or map.

Also a good place to learn about things to map is the upcoming State of the Map conference. Occasionally we get a talk from a newcommer and it’s really insightful (so different to my experience as a 15+ years OSMer). You might want to consider submitting a lighting talk to share your experience.

Comment from team2019alpaca on 6 June 2021 at 11:26

You might enjoy using the StreetComplete app. I find it perfect for quickly mapping shops and their trading hours when I’m out running errands.

It sounds like you’re really enjoying how OSM helps you notice things in your neighbourhood and Street Complete can further enhance this. There are a wide variety in quests in the app to complete and all answers are fed back into OSM.

Comment from stevea on 6 June 2021 at 19:17

It appears Fiftyfour is experiencing the absolute wonder of the multi-forked process of learning what is interesting about “citizen cartography” thanks to OSM. It might be architecture, trends in local or regional land use, the many challenges of keeping a business district well-updated with specifics about opening_hours and similar tags…an infinity of possibilities exists. Every volunteer in OSM is rewarded with a “first-time experience” like this, and then the refinements and choices of particular directions begin to manifest in one’s mind how the project will unfold for them. It is wonderfully plastic and like “wet cement” or “clay to be shaped into sculpture,” a beautiful human artwork of mapping: for each of us it is a unique experience.

Sometimes these discoveries along the way lead to frustration. Sometimes they lead to a rich vein of yet-untapped opportunity to either add new data, develop a new scheme to do so, or even both. Sometimes quirkiness and specific history of how these came to be are found to be ridiculous (but true) or difficult to put into practice without frequent referral to instructions in our wiki or slow-on-the-uptake and painstaking rote memorization of what seem like silly tags or schemes that are (at first) nonsensical.

But, it’s all worth it. The OSM ecosystem matures, the number of volunteer mappers continues to grow, and even better, mappers ourselves grow in our ability to better map, better communicate among each other as we develop our mapping skills and the quality of the map keeps going up and up.

I like that even as a new mapper, Fiftyfour has strong opinions about 3D mapping and indoor mapping, two still-as-yet-less-developed aspects of OSM. But, these continue to grow into our future and attract people who develop them, maybe even “flipping the script” for others, making these truly interesting, challenging and fertile ground for yet more detail in OSM.

OSM: what a fantastic project!

Comment from Fiftyfour on 8 June 2021 at 05:15

Thanks for all your comments.

@LivingWithDragons you make a valid comment that having every feature in iD walkthrough mapped would overwhelm beginners. It would probably be better to have one example of each feature mapped in the walkthrough, e.g. one street light, one drinking fountain, one power pole. An indoor map of a train station would map indoors and public transport at the same time. One train track could be mapped as a public transport route.

@team2019alpaca I find streetcomplete an excellent little mobile app too. I never knew you could choose your quests by zooming in until you mentioned you just added opening hours. I just completed quests in the random order they were presented to me. Thanks for the tip.

@stevea, I wish I had described my mapping experience as eloquently as you did, but I guess I am too new to see the forest for the trees. I didn’t realise until you mentioned it, that I do have strong opinions about indoor mapping and 3D mapping for such a new mapper. Upon reflection, I realise these opinions were formed over time from apps that I used prior to OSM. I preferred the map apps that clicked on an entrance to a building to reveal an indoor map. I found the 3D map apps frustrating because the 3D skyscrapers would hide my routing. Once I started mapping those opinions became even stronger.

Comment from Britzz on 8 June 2021 at 18:39

Thank you for the share of your first steps in OSM.

“I spent ages trying to find street light which ended up being street lamp; electric pole was power pole; drinking fountain is an amenity called drinking water”… then think about non english-speaking persons ;-)

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