OpenStreetMap Damage

The on-going, but soon to be completed, change to the OpenStreetMap licence has caused the project more damage that intended. Firstly there was the break-up of a once solid community with in-fighting between the two licence groups. Next there has been a move to start to re-map areas where the contributors have not accepted the new Contributor Terms. Unfortunately the process has been hap-hazard and damaging with novice mappers trying to map areas that they do not know. OpenStreetMap has benefited from local knowledge and the ability of being able to add local value to the global map. Mappers outside an area do not have that detailed local information and they certainly cannot make judgements from either aerial images or Ordnance Survey open data sources such as the StreetView mapping. The latter is often inaccurate either deliberately (in the case of easter eggs – errors deliberately drawn on the maps) or by mistake (perhaps a road name is misspelt). The following images illustrate the issue. The image shows damage done by removing the road names (and more) and their specific category. Maps are copyright OpenStreetMap and contributors CC-BY-SA.

Poor editing destroys maps

Edits have been reverted.

In the scrabble to re-map detailed maps, many with relations and other useful attributes, are destroyed. A relation is essentially a way to create a geographic relationship between one or more geographical elements. An example of a relation is a bus route, where several roads are grouped together for the precise route of the bus line. Once these are destroyed there are many hours of work to re-create them. The OpenStreetMap has been damaged by less advanced mappers wishing to “do good” but not appreciating quite what they are doing. Some illustrations accompany this thought: maps are copyright OpenStreetMap and contributors CC-BY-SA.

Damaged bus route relations

Here relations for bus routes have been destroyed.


About mappedit

Geographical practitioner with an interest in climate change, open mapping, sustainability, the transition movement, transport and many other things.
This entry was posted in Data Quality, Geography, Mapping, OpenStreetMap and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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