Monthly Archives: November 2014

State Of The Map – Thanks

Last week the OpenStreetMap community came together for their annual conference “State Of The Map”

We need to say a huge thank you to all the people involved in organising this year’s conference, including Henk Hoff, Gonzalo Gabriel Perez, Fernando Sanz, and Nicolás Alvarez. They battled various problems, and came out with a triumphant success!

A big thanks also to this year’s State Of The Map Sponsors:

sponsor logos

As it has been in previous years, the conference was wonderful meeting of OpenStreetMap friends, a showcase of diverse modes of map use/contribution, and a melting pot of ideas to take the project forwards. Another big thank you to all those who presented. We will be aiming to publish videos of the talks (always more easily said than done) [update Videos starting to appear here There are already some photos on the ‘sotm14’ flickr tag. The program on the SOTM 2014 wiki page links off to various wiki-editable session sub-pages. Please feel free to edit these pages to add links to slide-decks and other coverage.

Besides the general buzz and exciting talks, there were a couple of important extra things coming out of the conference:

OpenStreetMap Foundation Election Results

As has been the the norm in the past, we held the OpenStreetMap Foundation Annual General Meeting during the SOTM conference, and this included electing a new board. Frederik Ramm was re-elected, and we elected Kathleen Danielson and Paul Norman replacing Matt Amos and Simon Poole who were stepping down.

Congratulations to the new board, and thanks to all the candidates and organisers of this election. More election details on the wiki

New feature ‘?’

As has also been the norm at past conferences, OpenStreetMap developers have prepared a little something special as a new feature to be launched on the weekend of the conference. This year they’ve added a new ‘?’ button on the right hand side of the front page. Didn’t notice? Give it a try! More details coming soon.

New OpenStreetMap Latin America

Also during the conference there was a meeting of the brand new OpenStreetMap Latin America group. They have recently established themselves with a new ‘talk-latam’ mailing list and they are planning a “State Of The Map Latin America” conference, to join the set of local spin-off conferences held around the world.

This is fantastic news, and a great result to come out of our visit to Buenos Aires. We have aimed to organise the annual conference in a variety continents, to help spread OpenStreetMap enthusiasm to different corners of the globe. So this kind of group-forming and general boost is exactly what we are aiming for. But in fact the OpenStreetMap community of South America has always been quite impressive, so it’s only fair that the conference came there this year. And what a joy it was! Buenos Aires is a beautiful city, and the Argentinean OpenStreetMap contributors were wonderful hosts for State Of The Map 2014.

Introducing Changeset Discussions

Community and communication are key to the success of OpenStreetMap project, yet discussions about individual edits have always been clumsy and awkward. In this post, I’ll describe Changeset Discussions, a new feature of the OSM website which allows people to have public discussions around changesets.

Before Changeset Discussions

Before the introduction of Changeset Discussions, the only way to communicate about a changeset was either to use an out-of-band communication medium, such as mailing lists or forums, or to communicate directly with the author of the changeset by OSM message. Both of these methods are clumsy.

The result is that it was often difficult to discuss changesets. New users rarely received any positive feedback or helpful instructions, and controversial edits were often handed off to the DWG instead of being able to have an public discussion about them.

Introducing Changeset Discussions

Changeset Discussions address this problem by letting users have a discussion about a changeset directly on osm associated with that changeset. This discussion is public, which allows for contributor collaboration.

This feature works similarly to the comments placed on an OSM Note, where users may discuss a note publicly, for example to ask for more information from the note submitter.

Leaving a Comment on a Changetset

Changeset discussions now part of the OSM website. To use them, on the changeset page, on the left hand side, you can enter a comment:

Adding changeset comment

Then click submit, and the comment appears:

Changeset Comment Committed

Once Harry replies, as he’s done here:

Harry replies to my comment

…I receive an email notification.

Subscribing/Unsubscribing from a discussion

Once you have made a comment to a changeset, you will receive notifcations about new comments placed on the changeset, keeping you in the loop and part of the discussion. You may also choose to watch a changeset discussion without participating in it, by using the
Subscribe button.

Subscribing to a changeset

If you don’t want to continue to watch the changeset, just press the Unsubscribe and you will no longer receive alerts of new comments.

 Use Cases for Changeset Discussions

  • Welcoming New Users

It’s been pointed out before that OSM has a problem in communicating with our new users. Changeset discussions can be a perfect place to congratulate on their first edit.It can also be an opportunity to help new users by giving them specific feedback where they might not have been as strong, giving them specific feedback on tagging, for example.

  • Leaving Positive Feedback

As a community, we don’t reciveve much positive feedback on our edits. With changeset discussions, you can leave a positive comment on a changeset expressing your thanks.

  • Asking Questions About Controversial Edits

If you have a question about an edit, such as why a name was changed, or a road was reclassified, you might want to ask the user why they made the change. Putting that question directly on the changeset gives the original author to receive feeback from you, but to respond to that feedback in a public forum. This should result in more open, public discussions and hopefully fewer conflicts.

There’s an API

Changeset Discussions also have an API component, which will be documented on the wiki, which will allow this feature to be integrated into OSM editing software directly, further connecting the editing process with the communication/community process.

Special Thanks

Changeset Discussions came into OSM by way of Google Summer of Code, specifically by our student Lukasz Gurdek, who I had the pleasure of mentoring. His work was of absolutely Grade A calibre and it was a pleasure working with him.

Also, a huge debt of gratitude to Tom Hughes, who worked with myself and Luksaz to get this code merged into the codebase. Without his hard work, this feature branch might have never made it into the website.

And of course I want to thank Google for their Google Summer of Code project, which made this possible