We spend a lot of time talking about the amazing map our users are producing, but perhaps not enough about the technology that enables it all. But it’s worth shouting about: from the reliable Ruby code that puts stuff into our super-efficient Postgres database setup, to the speedy hardcore cgimap code that sends it out to editors, to the wizardry of Mapnik that makes it all into beautiful maps… like the swan, there’s a lot of effort underneath the surface, but it all seems serene above water.
In fact, there’s a constant stream of changes aimed at making OpenStreetMap easier to use – big ones, yes, but also “little things that mean a lot”. So, for example, in the last month we’ve improved the “users near you” map (thanks to Martijn van Exel) and fixed potential security issues (thanks, as ever, to Tom Hughes). We’re also finishing up a move to Rails 3, which will help us make more user interface improvements, and keep the code clean. We’ll tell you more about these changes as they happen.
Our Potlatch 2 editor has also had a whole bunch of improvements. It’s now much easier to draw shapes with holes (“multipolygons”), the GPS track handling is cleverer, and we have a clever feature where you can replace a node with a whole new one (select the old one and press O). We’ve incorporated a number of suggestions from usability research, and there’s still more to come.
If you’re a developer, we’d love to have your help with OpenStreetMap. There’s so much to do! You can find out about our codebase at http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Rails, and join the rails-dev mailing list to bounce ideas off other developers. Or if you’d like to help with Potlatch 2, see http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Potlatch and the potlatch-dev mailing list.