Category Archives: Uncategorized

Project of the Week: Add a Trail to OpenStreetMap

Your multi-use trail might provide a path for school children with
less vehicle traffic. It might provide a measured distance for
runners to exercise. It might provide educational access to a
protected environmental area or a place to go with the family for some
fresh air and a picnic.

Your multi-use path adds character to your neighbourhood and to the
map. One of the most fundamental contributions that you can make to
OpenStreetMap is to add a new trail, path or road. The Project of the
Week is to add a Trail to OpenStreetMap.

Find details on how to participate in this Project of the Week see the wiki

Newer OpenStreetMap contributors can find a tutorial on how to add a
trail to OpenStreetMap, along with other tutorials, here

This is your Project of the Week. Make suggestions. Inspire other mappers.

Other Projects of the Week / Humanitarian Mapping
Humanitarian emergencies continue. If you can provide some additional
remote mapping time please consider helping.

Trail photo by Mostaque Chowdhury is licensed CC-By.

Happy Anniversary OpenStreetMap


OpenStreetMap turns six today, so Happy Anniversary and / or Happy
Birthday. Celebrations around the world range from quiet reflection
of individual mappers to raucous demonstrations of mass cartography.
Also, there are sweets.

Congratulations, OpenStreetMap, and here is to many more!

Image of the Week: British Isles, six years later

Six years after OSM was started, the British Isles are finally
starting to look mapped

This is a Featured image, which means that it has been identified as
one of the best examples of OpenStreetMap mapping, or that it provides
a useful illustration of the OpenStreetMap project.

If you know another image of similar quality, you can nominate it on

Project of the Week: Russian Fires


Wildfires, fed by drought and high temperatures, continue in Russia.……

The Project of the Week is to mark burned areas on the map using
updated satellite imagery. This Project of the Week requires
familiarity with interpreting low-resolution aerial images and
advanced OSM tools and techniques and may not be suitable for newer
mappers. OSM contributors Komzpa and andrewsh have provided some
background and instructions for advanced mappers.

The original instructions, in Russian, are here.

Flooding continues in Pakistan

Flooding, displacement and casualties continue in the monsoon flooding
in Pakistan. Consider continuing to assist with mapping in the flood
affected areas.

Firefighter photo ©AFP

OSM License Upgrade – Stage Two Begins

News from Mike Collinson, Chair of the OSMF License Working Group:

As promised, and long awaited, the next phase of the OSM License
Upgrade has arrived. Phase 2 – Existing Contributor Voluntary
Re-licensing [1] has begun, and you may indicate your acceptance of
the new Contributor Terms for your existing OSM API account. To
accept the terms visit, (you may
be asked to login first), or your user settings page.

Please note that OpenStreetMap is not changing the license on any
published data at this point. Existing contributors are being asked
to permit re-licensing of their data in the future when it makes sense
to do so.

There is no decline button, and no obligation to answer yet. Existing
Contributor Voluntary Re-licensing is for those who wish to accept the
terms and get on with mapping.

We’ll be publishing which users have accepted so that we can all see
the progress in terms of users and re-licensed data.

We hope that you will accept the new Contributor Terms [2] and ODbL
for each of your user accounts if you have more than one.

** Why are we doing it like this? **

What ifs, what ifs. The key is clearly to reduce these. Those that
simply want to get on mapping and accept that we won’t doing anything
daft, can sign up. Those that are worried about data loss and that
the OSMF will make a stupid decision, can wait and see. We’ll show
how much of the database is potentially covered by the ODbL. We’ve got
some help on modelling that, and we’ll aim for at least a weekly
update if not daily. We’ll also make all the data available needed to
calculate that, so if you want to try a different metric or just see
what is happening in your local area, everything will be transparent.

If you support the share-alike concept, I urge you to accept the new
Contributor Terms which provides for a coherent Attribution,
Share-Alike license written especially for databases. If you are a
Public Domain license supporter, we are divided as a community on
which is best and I do urge you to give this one a good try. The
Contributor Terms are expressly written to allow us to come back in
future years and see what is best without all this fuss about
procedure. And if you’d just really like all this hoo-haa to go away
and get back to mapping, well, please say yes.

** Some supporting notes: **

() The key thing is that there are about 12,500 contributors who have
contributed over 98% of the pre-May data.

() I personally really, really want to get a coherent license in place
so that my mapping efforts are more widely used. I also really, really
don’t want us as a community to shoot ourselves in the head and
divide. I pledge to continue working with *both* objectives in mind.

() The License Working Group will not recommend switching over the
license if data loss is unreasonable [3]. We will issue a formal
statement to that effect and are attempting to define better what
“unreasonable” means. A totally quantitative criteria is extremely
difficult to define ahead of actually seeing what specific problems
may arise. But I understand the concern that we are tempted to do
something wild.

() The License Working Group will ask the OSMF board to issue a
similar statement.

() We are working to create a process whereby we can model on a
regular basis how much of the OSM database is covered by ODbL and how
much not. We will make all the data needed to do that public so that
anyone can analyse using their own metrics. Work on this is active and
being discussed on the dev mailing list. You will need:

– An ordinary planet dump.
– Access to history data. A public 18GB “history dump” is available
The intent is to make this available on a regular basis with difffs. A
full re-generation takes several days.
– A list of userids of who has and has not accepted the license. Work
in progress.

() A final vote on whether to switch or not remains an option. But let
us see first if “data loss” really is an issue and what the specific
problems might be.

Regards to all,
License Working Group


[2] The new Contributor Terms: – Summary – Full
text and links to translations

[3] License
Working Group minutes, see Item 7

BDFL & Moderation

Despite the discussion resulting from my post yesterday, there continue to be individuals on the talk@ mailing list disrupting the community.

I would personally like to reach out to John Smith as one of the people who seems to have cooled off, and thank you.

I have posted Andy’s draft etiquette to the wiki

Specifically, I point to the basics of mailing list etiquette:

Mailing Lists
• Assume good faith
• Stay on topic
• No conspiracy theories
• No grandstanding
• If you’ve made your point already, you don’t need to tell us all again
• Nitpicking doesn’t help you or anyone else
• Learn to live with the reply-to setting. We’re not changing it, no matter what your opinion is and so on.

Having had deep discussions with many key people in OSM, asked for their advice and direction, I reluctantly appoint myself Benevolent Dictator For Life.

As BDFL, I hereby give warning that in 24 hours time I will begin enforcing these etiquette guidelines. Specifically, anyone who continuously and deliberately breaks the guidelines, despite warnings, will be moderated off the list for a 24 hour ‘cooling off’ period. If after this cooling off period, further continuous and deliberate breaches occur, despite warnings, additional cooling off periods will be enacted growing exponentially with each time. For example, 24 hours cooling off, then further breaches, then 48 hours cooling off, then further breaches, then 96 hours and so on.

This is not about squashing dissent. If you disagree with others license opinions, legal-talk is there for you. If you want to join a Working Group, you still can. If you want to create a PD OSM project, you have all the source and mailing lists are freely available around the web.

This is purely about restoring the mutual respect and balance of the talk@ mailing list, and not allowing a few to disrupt the main channel of communication to the point where the vast majority no longer find discussion worthwhile.

I plan only to moderate people (for 24 hours) after taking a poll of key people including Andy Allan, Matt Amos, Katie Filbert, Tom Hughes, Emilie Laffray, Frederik Ramm, Ivan Sanchez, Grant Slater and Richard Weait. If you think more than these would be good then let me know. Any moderation will be announced to those people I just mentioned, and not publicly. Why not publicly? On balance, it seems better to not call out individuals publicly which might only make things worse and make them feel more upset, which is not the purpose of a ‘cooling off’ period. Any one of those people I announce it to could announce it publicly if they want to.

I am happy to listen to a different panel, if one constitutes itself. If I have full confidence in said panel, I’ll consider handing over the power and stepping back.

As BDFL I still have limits upon my power. You can vote me out of the OSMF. You can convince the server team to change the mailman password so I can no longer moderate. I am also imposing a self-limiting, four week (28 day) period starting from when this warning period ends (in 24 hours) whereby, if I don’t exercise my BDFL powers during that time, I will step back.
So, please, have a think about what and where you are posting, and lets make talk@ a nice place to be again.


Enough is enough: disinfecting OSM from poisonous people

OSM is mostly a consensus-based community, or a do-ocracy. It was never a benevolent dictatorship, and I have given up (as far as I know, anyway) all power I have in OSM. I used to write the code, own the domain names, run the mailing list(s), run the servers, evangelize, talk to the press and so on. I’ve successively and successfully given up those rights to very capable individuals. However this has led to a power vacuum when it comes to making some key decisions because nobody, for example and in a sense, is “in charge” of everything. For the most part I’ve enjoyed giving up control and seeing the project blossom, because it wouldn’t have if I hadn’t.

However, things break down in a consensus-based community if you don’t have a way to deal with malcontents.

As background to the topic of this post, there is a nice video on how open source projects can survive poisonous people on youtube here:


It’s about an hour long so I’ve provided a summary I made while watching it again at the bottom of this post. It’s thesis is that you need to understand the problem of poisonous people, fortify your project against them, identify who they are and ultimately remove them.

The talk above identifies people who are poisonous as those who appear with traits (amongst others) of obviousness that they will suck and drain your time, use silly nicknames/email addresses, are hostile, make demands and blackmail threats, make sweeping claims, refuse to acknowledge reasoned argument, make accusations of conspiracy and reopen topics continuously.

One quote from the talk in particular comes to mind: “it’s a technique that poisonous people can use to derail a consensus-based community from actually achieving consensus. You have this noisy minority make a lot of noise and people look and say ‘oh wow there is no agreement on this’ and if you look carefull the ‘no agreement’ comes from one person while seven or eight people actually agree”

With that in mind, take a quick look at the recent discussions on the main mailing list link. I won’t point to an individual thread or post, it’s easy enough to figure out:

Without discussing the individuals or the topics of the conversations, it is clear to me we are infected by poisonous people. This is bad because as the talk above specifies in the ‘comprehension of the problem’ section, such people distract, drain, paralyze, slow cause needless infighting and destroy the attention and focus of a community.

I know this first hand. Many (if not most or all) of the key people in OSM are feeling drained, distracted and upset. Some are talking of hiatus or resign. These are the key people who write code, build things, maintain things and run our working groups.

There is a tipping point between which our working groups and individuals have the time and patience to deal with poisonous people and the work they cherish doing, which are the things that make OSM work every day.

The discussions have spilled over now from poisonous people merely making life difficult on the mailing list, to paralyzing the project and even systematically corrupting the data we serve out using bots. This is not to say there are not good points in the discussion, good points being dealt with by the License Working Group or others either in meetings or on the mailing lists, but these are being buried by poisonous people on the mailing list and elsewhere. Personal communication from multiple people, public discussion, phone calls and more have been tried without effect.

This destroys consensus-baesd community.

So we are at a point now in OSM, I believe, where a few poisonous people are wrecking the time, focus and goodwill of the majority of contributors, creating dissent out of nothing and even purposefully breaking our data. And we don’t have a clear process to deal with all the factors. The Data Working Group is one piece of the puzzle, but is not responsible for curtailing the mailing list going in infinite circles.

Worse – it’s giving the project a bad air to outsiders, both newbies and those outside the project. It’s stopping people from becoming more involved.

Thus we need some kind of process for calling timeout on people in the project, blocking them for a limited time. This could range from electing individual mailing list admins with a remit of when to shut down discussions (much like an IRC chat admin(s)), to more clear and actioned policies on list etiquette (like forcibly keeping legal discussion to the legal list), to an ejection committee to me just appointing myself benevolent dictator and blocking people for a limited time out cooling off period based on advice from the community (a worst case option I’d like to avoid).

Let’s be clear – we’ve tried all the nice things. We’ve sent nice emails. We’ve sent nice emails privately. We’ve offered phone calls. We’ve offered every rational debate and community consensus tool we have. We just have poisonous people that either need to cool off or be forcibly blocked for a time.

We need to restore the balance of healthy debate over important issues, restore the time and focus of existing contributors and restore the positive view outsiders and newbies of the project are used to.

I’m posting this to three places on purpose with different audiences: opengeodata, osmf-talk@ and talk@. I will undoubtedly be flamed here for being authoritarian but at the end of the day someone has to do it, and begin this process. I’ve purposefully left out individual names, details and links to keep this discussion to the key thing – how and why should we block people. If you want those details, just reply to this post and someone will probably tell you publicly or privately.

What are your ideas? How should we block people? For how long? What process should it be? What are the best practices from other projects you’re involved in?

Summary of the poisonous people talk:

comprehension – understand the problem of poisonous people
– you need to protect the attention focus of community – limited amount of time
– poisonous people
– distract
– emotionally drain
– cause needless infighting
– slow you down
– either on purpose on by accident

fortification – protect project from poisonous people
– in a project you need politeness, respect, humility, trust
– have a mission, with examples
– have a scope, limit the mission
– do not let people reopen old discussions
– don’t reply to _every_ message in a thread, summarise
– poisnous people derail discussion:
“it’s a technique that poisonous people can use to derail a consensus-based
community from actually achieving consensus. You have this noisy minority
make a lot of noise and people look and say ‘oh wow there is no agreement
on this’ and if you look carefull the ‘no agreement’ comes from one person
while seven or eight people actually agree”
– document your projects history for future use to point people to
– have code collaboration guidelines
– email review, reasonably sized patches
– increase the bus factor so if someone drops out, others can take over
– have well defined processes for
– releasing software
– test / release cycles
– admitting new core people
– voting is a last resort in a healthy community
– everything else should be tried before a vote

identification – who are the poisonous people?
– it’s usually obvious who will suck and drain your time
– usually use silly nicknames
– use CAPITAL LETTERS, !!!?!?!one!!, WTFLOLOMG
– hostility, demands help, blackmail, rile people deliberately
– accusations of conspiracy
– conceit, refuse to acknowledge arguments
– sweeping claims, reopen topics continuously
– lack of cooperation

disinfection – removing the poisonous people
– assess the damage
– how are they affecting your attention and focus?
– are they distracting / paralysing the project?
– _dont_
– feed the troll
– give jerks a purpose/purchase
– get emotional (stick to the facts)
– _do_
– pay attention to newcomers, even if annoying
– look for the fact under the emotion
– extract real bug report / action
– know when to give up and ignore
– know when to boot from community


Image of the Week: Sinj Croatia tourist map


Jhabjan’s map of Sinj, Croatia, printed for tourism office. Aerial
images were donated by local aerial club.

This is a Featured image, which means that it has been identified as
one of the best examples of OpenStreetMap mapping, or that it provides
a useful illustration of the OpenStreetMap project.

If you know another image of similar quality, you can nominate it on