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Six Days In

Posted by jwolter on 16 June 2007 in English (English)

Six days into my work on OSM. I'm beginning to get a pretty good feel for how to work Potlatch. I've found I like the simplicity of the Potlatch tool versus JOSM. However, I'm finding that Potlatch has some distinct limitations. Hopefully, I'll continue to learn as to tool continues to grow.

First week experiences

Posted by jwolter on 13 June 2007 in English (English)

Technically, I've been part of the community for almost a year. However, I never got around to learning enough to try to upload some data. My recent experiences trying to find a decent commercial mapping product led me to consider OSM again. Basically what I learned was that the leading product on the consumer market had really big problems, like out of date map information, user interface issues, and discontinued support for mobile devices. This product is also acknowledged by reviewers as the best of the bunch! Surely a dedicated open source community could do better.

I live in a vast, uncharted wasteland known as Ohio, at least as far as OSM is concerned. There are a few major roads charted (maybe half a dozen) over the entire state. It is possible that I am the first Ohio resident to contribute to the project!

My first general impression of OSM is that it is a project with a firm foundation, but a weak user experience. I've been working on it for about a week, and I'm just starting to feel comfortable with parts of the process.

I've made a few mistakes along the way. For example, I recorded a new track one day, converted it, uploaded it, and waited for it to appear. The points never showed up, even after the upload was accepted. It was a few days before I realized that I had mixed up file names in the conversion process and managed to upload a duplicate of a previous track file instead of my new one.

Nevertheless, there are a number of quirks in the system. For example, I am using Vito Navigator II on my PDA. The track files are saved as waypoints. I can convert with GPSbabel, but I had to learn through experimentation that I have to convert all waypoints to tracks or the resulting .gpx file is rejected as having 0 tracks. It took me several uploads before I figured it out.

I also found it confusing since all the terminology (and the explanations of it) tend to be UK-centric. For example, a primary road is described in Key:highway as 'For primary roads. Equivalent to the British classification "A road"'. This doesn't help me much in the states. My problem was that in the Beginners Guide 1.4.1 there's a link to both the standardized tagging scheme and the Open Streetmaps Tagging Scheme . The latter includes links to interpretations of the tagging scheme for other countries, while to former does not. Besides mapping, I think I'll put some time into the wiki.

The beginners guide is a little vague in places as well.

All of these problems add up to a fairly steep learning curve for new users. I think the project would do well to ease this process. One way might be to expand the beginners guide into a tutorial.