OpenStreetMap

The past year and a half in review

Posted by skquinn on 16 December 2014 in English (English)

The vast majority of my changesets have still been in and around Houston. I've made various other fixes around the country, sometimes related to notes, sometimes at random, and in a few cases from a trip I made to/from greater Columbus, OH.

With the help of others, a sizable amount of the traffic signals are now mapped in and around Houston. I've also found a few roads that should be tertiary or better that had been left as residential or unclassified. My focus has shifted between road features themselves to building outlines, points of interest (POIs), address data, and occasionally land use if I can see a large parcel of land with e.g. nothing but trees on it. Occasionally I'll map stop signs if I know the area well enough but it can be a considerable pain due to the direction tag required.

I'm now serious enough about mapping that I've switched to JOSM for the vast majority of my editing. I still use iD for the occasional simple edits or when I'm on a computer without JOSM installed, or sometimes to edit turn restrictions. Dualizing roads in iD was a real chore. Actually, it's extremely difficult with iD by itself; usually I would switch to Potlatch 2 at least to add the actual parallel way. The only reason I stuck with the online editors is that my first experience with JOSM was on a computer I had no business trying it on (an old PC with an 800MHz Celeron CPU and a whopping 256M (0.25G) of RAM) with predictable results. The nice things about JOSM that I consider most notable are:

  1. It's Java, so it runs on just about any computer regardless of operating system (one less reason to dread ditching Windows).
  2. You can add plugins to make certain tasks easier (I have one specifically to speed drawing rectangular building outlines).
  3. JOSM has tons of additional features that wouldn't be possible or practical in an online editor.
  4. The parallel ways tool is much easier to use than the one in Potlatch 2 and makes a more complete copy of the way (nodes with traffic signals, crosswalks, etc. are tagged on the new way). Note: this is mostly good but there are cases where it can be a problem as well.
  5. The response time of JOSM is much faster than iD ever will be on the same hardware. This is especially true when editing areas like downtown Houston.
  6. JOSM has search and replace functionality. If, for example, someone added a bunch of McDonald's locations, and misspelled it MacDonnold's or something equally hideous, it's easier to fix and your chances of swearing while doing it are at least a factor of 10 less. Also good for finding and replacing non-conforming highway references (say, the lone SH 6 when everything around it for miles is TX 6) and for quickly de-abbreviating streets (search for "W 1st Street", edit name tag to "West 1st Street" once even if split into 20+ ways aka "road chop suey").

That said, iD and Potlatch 2 have specific roles that they are best at filling. There will always be people who don't want to learn JOSM and are happy using iD (or even Potlatch 2). That's fine, and I believe in having choices so that each mapper can decide for him/herself.

Location: Hawthorne Place, Houston, Harris County, Texas, 77076, USA

Comment from Hjart on 30 December 2014 at 04:08

One thing JOSM has that I consider indispensible and which I use practically all the time when editing, is the "Improve Way Accuracy" mode.

Apparently lots of JOSM users have no idea about this mode and many even questions it's usability when they first hear about it. Big mistake. You have no idea how much more efficient this mode will make you as a general mapper (once you've learned to use it of course). Give it a try please.

There's a short video explaining it here.

Happy Mapping

Comment from skquinn on 30 December 2014 at 04:17

I have come to appreciate this mode myself. It has made a few highway and path re-alignments a lot less painful. It even works on closed ways like water and buildings, which I have used it for a couple of times.

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