Author Archives: Steve Coast

The importance of timing to feedback

Short feedback cycles are important.

If you edit in openstreetmap you pretty much instantly see your data up there. You can download it again, as can others. It’s instantly integrated. Some things lag a little, you may have to wait a minute for the tiles to be rerendered correctly and maybe your browser cache needs a flush, but we’re about there.

When you have a short feedback cycle, it means that your users get a little drop of serotonin. That makes them happy. It’s simple action and reaction. You get frustrated with your phone when it freezes momentarily because you’re losing the feedback you expect. When you get feedback in a creative process like making a map it makes you want to map more. It’s addictive.

Consider then the antithesis. I just got an email from Wolfram Alpha, a very fun site, about feedback I gave about a year ago.

Google Maps is similar. If you click the little ‘report problem’ button then you might get an email in 3-6 months that it’s been fixed. Perhaps that’s why Google has recently decided to hire 300 people – to close that loop a bit.

I say that’s dumb. Get the hell out of my way. I don’t need an appointed faceless employee somewhere to tell me what a good job I did 3 months after I did it. That falls on deaf ears if for no other reason than I’ve totally forgotten about it. Of course, if I get feedback quickly from a real human being then that can be very powerful.

Mahalo does this. Or at least used to. If you sign up then multiple hip, perky 20-somethings will ‘friend’ you very quickly and tell you how to get more involved. That comes across as either automated (and thus fake) and too much too soon (and thus fake).

So you need a balance in terms of timing, depth and breadth of feedback.

Waze and Google MapMaker introduce a few layers to try and help. Instead of submitting to an anonymous employee, you submit to a faintly anonymous area manager. This sidesteps the cost issue but not really the feedback issue. They take just as long to respond and don’t have the same incentive to be nice to you that an employee might.

Planet file now at 10 GB

Frederik writes:

For the first time, this week’s .osm.bz2 planet has an eleven-digit size (10026036818 bytes). That’s up 20% from beginning of the year. In 2007, we had an 88% increase in the same time span; in 2008 it was 36%, and in 2009 it was 19%. Of course these numbers say little since we had numerous large imports, format changes, and even changed the bz2 implementation along the way.

The uncompressed XML file ist just a few bytes short of 150 GB.

New users have to sign up to the ODbL

After several thousand man years of effort by the License Working Group and a bit of help by TomH, the new contributor terms and license are up and to be agreed to by new users.

Signing up here in OSM:

will take you here:

where essentially you are signing up to the existing CCBYSA plus the ODbL (Open Database License).

This is one step along the long path to moving to the ODbL. For all your fun ODbL needs, check out the wiki page:

Why is this step being taken? Basically, it bounds the problem of moving to a license which actually protects and clarifies the uses of OSMs data. Otherwise, the number of people who have to move grows every day. From now on, it is a bounded problem of only the users before today. Several further steps will need to be taken to actually move to the ODbL.

I’d like to thank all those involved in the ODbL and the LWG for all their hard work over the last two or so years in making this small step happen.

And, remember, if you have any concerns or objections then they’ve likely already to have been discussed at the above wiki page(s), or you’re welcome to be involved with the change process by joining the legal mailing list and/or joining the LWG calls.

GITA Panel: Not your father’s approach to geodata creation and sharing

I was on a fun panel at GITA with Ron Lake, James Fee, Andrew Turner, Peter Batty running it:

[vimeo w=500&h=283]

Here’s Peter’s blog post:…

And a writeup on directions mag:…