New User Edits

Posted by Glassman on 26 November 2016 in English (English)

One of my goals is to increase the number of mappers in Washington State by contacting them after their first edit with suggestions to help them get involved. My message was taken from the Brussels community. I can’t say it helps keep people mapping but it certainly doesn’t hurt. At least no one has asked me not to send them messages. (Most just ignore me.)

Because my process is manual, I look at every first edit and fix many of them. Those first edits often have common quality errors. I don’t believe they are from bad users, but from a process that could use improvement. We could insist that new users complete a course before they are allowed to edit. But that isn’t going to get us new mappers. Having existing mappers validate new users edits takes time away from their normal mapping.

When I do fix an edit, I include the change in the Welcome message. Occasionally I’ll leave a changeset message when I’m not sure what they were intending. Originally I was leaving a message and not fixing them, but after realizing that many didn’t go back to fix the problem I just started to do it myself.

I tried to look at this from a quality improvement perspective. First collect data then define the problem and finally look at solutions. My new mapper process has been running for over a year. While I haven’t done a proper job of documenting errors, something I’d like to do, some just keep reoccurring. Today I’m just focusing one one.

Problem Statement

New users edits do not include the lack of a tag to describe the business. For example, someone added an insurance office. The tag included the name, address, and phone number. Occasionally they will add a tag keyword to indicate what the business does. But no office=insurance. To the editor, this looks a good edit.

The developers did fix the problem of tags with just name=. It now notifies the user that they need to enter more information. We now need to take this to the next level.

Below are two possible solutions. The solutions are for iD since that is the editor most new users use.


  1. If the object is an area, provide two name fields, a building name and a business name. The text field should have appropriate tools tips to help the user select the right box for the name. If the business name is populated, then the user should be prompted to add an appropriate tag to the feature (besides the address.) Address point objects should not have a name field. Name fields should be only be provided with objects that have names such as businesses, places, etc.
  2. is a website to add businesses to OSM. The process doesn’t actually add businesses to OSM but leaves a note for a mapper to add the business. The code is on github. I’d like to see the user interface enhanced to help select the correct tags for the business with a version of iD to have the user actually add the business. To move the website out of obscurity, include add business under the edit menu on the main website.

How you can help

  1. Look at new editors in your area. Determine the common errors in their edits.
  2. Is the problem correctly stated?
  3. What other improvements to the process would help?
  4. Are you or your company willing to fund development to improve the process?
  5. What would be a good tool to capture new edit quality errors?

Clifford Snow

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