Sunday 29 August 2010

Quiet time filled with toads

I've not been out gathering new OSM data very much in the past few weeks. I have been running through the OS Locator list of street names in Hull. Following it up on the ground means I have found streets I had missed first time around and ones that have been built since I last visited. All of this improves the quality of the map. I've been doing the same sort of thing in the villages and towns around Hull, but the East Riding of Yorkshire still has a large amount to do to get to the same level of completeness.

I have been experimenting with different ways to place markers on a slippy map. This was prompted by trying to display the locations of some statues of toads placed in and around Hull as part of the celebrations remembering the poet Philip Larkin who died 25 years ago. You can see one example of my efforts here.

I decided to document the process. I'm learning a lot about OpenLayers and that, as you might expect, there are various ways to do it. I am considering how to build a prompted process that helps people create a map on a web site with markers on it and how to help them make the markers respond to actions. It is interesting and in due course, if I get anywhere, I'll post more here. Someone might like to see the documentation at least but some kind of prompt-and-use system could be useful.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Lancing the boil

SteveC recently wrote a blog entry about the nuisance factor that a small, noisy number of people can cause and how enough is enough. I agree with him that the OSM email lists are almost unusable, being swamped by a few people who seem to want to bring OSM down rather than see it prosper.

One guy, probably using a stupidly obvious pseudonym, comments on almost every email anyone sends, sometimes with more than one reply to the same email and often replies to his own email. You begin to wonder if he has some kind of disorder that needs some help.

Someone else repeats the same mantra over and over. Repeating the same objection and asking the same question over and over doesn't make you insightful, or right and doesn't make your objection or question any more reasonable, it just makes you someone who repeats yourself.

Another guy it seems is a serial project disrupter, having been ejected from Wikipedia. His stock-in-trade seems to be circular arguments backed up with hollow threats to set something up as an alternative to OSM. Sadly he doesn't follow through and remains in OSM to continue to cause trouble.

Some people don't like the proposed change to the new ODbL licence and the accompanying contributor terms.  One way of reinforcing their argument against this change is to spread FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) about how much of the imported data will have to be removed from OSM because ODbL is not compatible with the imported data. This is, of course, rubbish; why would the sensible, knowledgeable and very hard-working team who have worked on the new licence recommend something that would mean we lose so much? These trouble-makers are free to reject the new licence when they get asked, but they don't want to be Billy Nomates left in an empty space with their data and no prospect of growth, so they want to scare some others into joining them. A pretty despicable tactic if you ask me.

There are other small-time disrupters, people who argue with each other via the email lists, as though a public argument somehow strengthens their point of view. It doesn't of course, it just shows how childish they can be.

The mailing lists are there to ask for help, disseminate information and to discuss ideas and problems. Almost all of this has been swamped by these trolls. Sadly ordinary OSMers get dragged it to this too. Sometimes the mainstream OSMers have tried to engage with the trolls, but that is just what they want. It's like pouring petrol on a fire. The trolls don't back down in the face of reasoned argument or even firm evidence they just go into email overdrive; they would deny the laws of physics just to fill their sad little worlds with their form of entertainment.

Well I say their entertainment has to come to an end. The lists need moderating. When people are deemed to be outside the norms of behaviour they should be privately warned and if they continue they should be suspended from the list for a few days. When they return, if they continue to behave unacceptably they should be asked (or forced) to leave for at least a month. I know this is fraught with difficulties, but OSM is a do-ocracy, so lets just do it and more than that, tell the world we've done it. Lets make it clear that we are about map data, not a home for trolls.

The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, these few must act reasonably or expect a reasonable response from the many. If they feel badly treated, let them form their own mailing list or even their own project, and fill that with as much blather as they like.