Continuing conversation about blue territories

Posted by Luciano on 8 June 2016 in Korean (한국어)

This diary entry started as comment on Yuanls's recent Commonia diary entry, but I decided to give it its own diary spot, to see what kind of comments it attracts. I think the conversation on that diary entry is very productive and valuable, but I wanted to approach the issues raised there in a slightly different way.

The point of entry for this discussion is: how can we better support new users in a way that leads to higher-quality mapping and less inadvertent vandalism? Just this morning, I had to send admin messages to two new users who clearly did not understand where it is OK to start mapping.

Anyway, I think the thing we need to remember is that not all new users are the same. Some have a vision clear in their minds, and the blank spaces in Commonia are what they need - a place to try to realize their vision. With time, they can learn the tools and do a great job creating a new place out of whole cloth, while a place like Gobrassanya feels restrictive. Other new mappers, however, clearly prefer or need a more detailed framework.

When I arrived at OGF, the blue territories existed but there was no waiting period for a new territory. Thus my first mapping was in my first territory. If forced to, I would have contribued first not to Gobrassanya but in trying to build a completely new town in a "blank" place such as Commonia.

I have frequently thought that returning to a "no waiting period" system might actually work out better. The reason the waiting period was adopted was because it was a lot of work for for admin to assign territories to users who by and large would map a few motorways-to-nowhere and then promptly disappear. But... if we could develop an automated system for assigning free territories... OK, I'm just daydreaming. But I'd like to encourage thinking "out of the box" about what I think of as the "newbie problem."

Just a question for speculation: what if there were no blue territories, and we made them all purple, but with different degrees of management? Gobrassanya is blue, but it has several de facto "managers" including indyroads, isleño, and more recently wangi and Bstn have played excellent roles there. Likewise I have taken that role, to some degree, with Rhododactylia and Drull. Yuanls and Udi have stepped to the plate with Commonia.

What if we changed the "manner of entry" for OGF to one which explicitly required users to seek permission to draw their first bits? For example, imagine an alternate "sign up" path where you choose a territory BEFORE you get a user id and begin mapping. Could this work without being too much of an admin burden? I'm not sure this would be a popular idea, but again, if we could broaden the responsiblity for granting those first permissions to a wider group of users, not just the so-called admins...

Again, it's all speculation and brainstorming. Thoughts? Let's focus on ideas or suggestions for improving the new user experience and lessening the impact of "badly informed" and "uncommitted mappers" (both in blue territories and in badly-mapped claimed and unclaimed territories).

Comment from deltanz on 8 June 2016 at 23:13

I completely agree with your ideas, Luciano! Mainly because recently a lot of large areas have been divided into smaller ones, which would be great for new users and easier to clean up after an absent period (which, in turn, I think that may be easier than keep cleaning giant areas over and over, such as Commonia). I myself would volunteer to work with some of the suggested responsibilities, such as granting permissions or even managing a new purple territory.

Hide this comment

Comment from Ūdilugbulgidħū on 8 June 2016 at 23:30

Without making it clear in the 'mapping window' (i.e. who has responsibility for which part of the map, it is always going to be hard for new mappers to work out where they should map. If it was technically feasible, the ways to control this better would be to block mapping in some areas for some users, or, less effective but perhaps slightly more feasible, to grey out parts of the map where mapping isn't acceptable (with a toggle on/off). But I'm assuming neither of these are technically possible.

So we work from the OGF: Territories map. That being the case, its important for new mappers to be able to find this easily and to understand it at a glance. There are two issues - linking from the territory map to the main map and understanding the territory map.

If there was a way to link through the countries on the territory map (e.g. by including a 'click here' link that takes you to the OGF map), would that help new users understand where the country is on the main map? It might be a bit of work to set up, but I can see a way to do it.

To help understand the territory map, the simplest presentation would be of areas where it is acceptable to map - perhaps green areas - and areas where it isn't acceptable - perhaps red areas. We have something a bit more complicated than that - because it needs a few extra colours where some people can map but others can't (the owned areas). I think we could actually do away with the collaborative areas altogether, on the basis that if people are going to collaborate there has to be a 'manager' of the collaborative project in any case. So these are really owned areas - but there could still be a list of owners looking for collaboration. Community territories - well, I think these are important for some users (including me) to be able to practice things and get away from the rigidity of mapping a single country and culture. I like it that there is no single owner and things change over time. That was one of the things that drew me in to OGF - but I can see that if other things changed they might not always be necessary.

So, here's a proposal for a simpler '3 colour' system. The green 'free' countries (which are actually currently 'reserved until approved') could all become free to map in. The grey countries, would all stay 'reserved for future use'. Orange countries would be 'owned'. Add in yellow if countries are due to be re-assigned. I'd also suggest that some collaborative countries could be opened to new users - if the owners are willing to supervise what goes on in them, to some extent. They would then be green countries. Green countries could become orange when they were claimed - this is when admin would need to change the map, if it was requested. Maybe with all the free space to edit in we'd see a few different developments, but whether it would result in 'better' mapping and less admin work, I'm not sure.

The waiting period probably does keep 'uncommited mappers' in check in some ways. And it was obviously the right thing to do to re-assign undeveloped 'owned' countries. But this hasn't happened for a while, and is probably overdue. Things have definitely moved on since I first came to OGF, and the neglected countries have become more obvious as mapping has progressed elsewhere. There is a case to be made for the poor quality mapping in unclaimed territories to be deleted - in community territories too, of course.

In terms of an automated process for assigning countries - firstly, do we need to assign countries? Is there a way this could be self-policing? If there is a long list of 'free' countries, could new users just pick a country off the list themselves. So a new user begins mapping, declares an interest in a free country, and is then allowed to claim this country after a week or so. By the time they've been able to work out how to use the ogf:status and ogf:owner fields, they can claim the country, exclusively (so maybe longer than a week for me), - which means no-one else will map there without their permission, and they can remove previous 'bad mapping'. And I would suggest also that in this hypothetical 'requests for countries' table/list there could be a comments field where, if they wanted to, new users could write a short sentence or two on how they see their country developing - and get feedback from the rest of the community before they set off.

Hide this comment

Comment from dryerlint on 9 June 2016 at 11:08

Would it be possible to modify the OSM program on our servers? I don't fully understand how OGF works, but as far as I can tell, we're just running a "copy" of the OSM servers, right?

So would it be possible to add functionality that checks if a user has been editing for seven days... and if they have not, it stops them from uploading changes to other people's territories?

It would be a simple check: 1) Is user younger than 7 days? 2) Is user uploading outside of a set range of coordinates? 3) If both are true, then block the upload request.

Again, I don't know how OGF works, so this is just a suggestion.

Hide this comment

Comment from isleño on 9 June 2016 at 20:47

I have 3 ideas for lessening the impact of "badly informed" and "uncommitted mappers":

First, require new users to answer a few questions when they click the "SIGN UP" button, maybe something like this:

This will ensure that everyone understands how things work before they even make a single edit. With such a check in place, I don't see anything wrong with continuing the current system largely unchanged.

Second, make sure that all blue territories are small and well-developed, but still with ample space to build new towns and cities — much like Gobrassanya. As enticing as Commonia is for many new users, I don't think anyone actually benefits from the millions of empty km² there. Why? Because OGF isn't about expressing yourself on a big blank canvas in the most unrestricted way possible, and I don't think that's a mindset we want to encourage. New users are better contributors when they understand that OGF is all about small scale detail, high quality mapping, and careful attention to realism and coherence. Small, well-developed blue territories force new users to accept those realities before they ever claim a territory of their own, in a way that Commonia will never be able to replicate.

And third, change the initial instructions from "spend your first 7 days editing in the blue countries" to "spend your first 7 days building a small town in one of the blue countries." That would give new users a good small project to focus on during their waiting period, instead of just mapping randomly all over.

Hide this comment

Comment from compdude on 9 June 2016 at 20:55

@isleño, when I registered on this site, I believe I had to do a little quiz like that (but it didn't have the third question). And I believe somewhere in the registration/signup process, it suggested starting out building a town, which is what I did. I didn't find any of that excessive or annoying; it seemed pretty reasonable.

Hide this comment

Comment from isleño on 9 June 2016 at 20:57

I've suggested a similar idea in the past... maybe Thilo implemented it without telling me?

Hide this comment

Comment from Luciano on 9 June 2016 at 22:07

@Isleño - I guess this is familiar ground, given we've discussed it all many times before in our "admin channel." What I'm really looking for is perspective from the rest of the community, to see if maybe opening it up a little bit can give some insights or lead to some ideas that hadn't occurred to any of us, and because there seemed to be an undercurrent of broader dissatisfaction in some of the discussion about Commonia.

After reading @compdude's comment, I took a moment and "sockpuppeted" myself, creating a new user id - which I've never actually done since I came here 2 and half years ago. After getting my confirmation email and following the link, I got this landing screen.


I know this didn't exist when I landed so long ago, so @compdude's recollection is half-correct - it doesn't follow the "quiz" format @Isleño suggests, but it does make it much more clear than it used to be. So indeed Thilo must have made some changes in response to earlier conversations, which some of us didn't realize.

In fact, though, this insight leaves me feeling even more disturbed... because, now, even with this much more clear "landing screen," just yesterday I found 3 new users editing in unauthorized places. How is this happening? Is the landing screen just a "wall of text" to be ignored and clicked past? I suspect so.

Hide this comment

Comment from Ūdilugbulgidħū on 9 June 2016 at 22:27

I remember some questions when I signed up last year, so I think that that is what must have happened : your suggestion was implemented - It was a good one! I'm not sure if the third one was implemented too - I don't remember exactly whether 'creating a town' was specifically suggested. It probably wasn't, since I didn't build a town then, or for around another 6 months (unless I tried, but didn't manage it in 7 days, quite possible). Perhaps 'in your first 7 days, focus on building a village or small town' would be a better way to phrase it.

You realise I think Commonia is a good place to edit first for some users. To explain why, in the simplest way possible, it isn't constrained. By that, I mean you don't have to fit into the theme and the mapping language of a well-developed country and you don't have to worry about whether you're mapping is rubbish or not. And some people, like me, learn by making mistakes. If you aren't allowed to make mistakes, you just give up. So a bit of 'rubbish mapping' should be acceptable - and it can always be rubbed out later. I concede that if what you're mapping really is rubbish, and its huge, then there is a problem. You're suggesting that the mappers who come to OGF and start off in Commonia would come to OGF anyway, and map somewhere else instead. I've thought about that - and I agree, it could certainly happen - Commonia isn't really any special attraction in itself. After all, the waiting period is only 7 days (at the moment) and then you can get into your own country. So yes, smaller blue countries could work just as well, and we wouldn't have some of the issues we have in Commonia. However, I don't think new users creating big new features has been a problem in Commonia for a while now. A bigger issue is that there is some fairly low quality mapping there (perhaps some of which I'm responsible for!) which hasn't been sorted out or moved to 'owned' territories. This 'legacy' mapping could be cleaned up fairly easily, but it takes some time and effort (maybe a Luciano challenge to sort out the blue countries is needed!). Because it now has quite a lot of 'scaled' features in it, I think Commonia is maybe easier to map in than it once was. You may not agree. On the other hand, the issue of ongoing 'bad mapping' in the blue countries is something only admin can sort out. That mapping - if it isn't to be re-mapped - could be slightly hidden from new users if it was shifted out of the blue (or if the blue was turned another colour, I reluctantly accept).

Hide this comment

Comment from Ūdilugbulgidħū on 9 June 2016 at 22:36

Well - perhaps I am mis-remembering! ... Or maybe the landing screen has changed some time recently.

Hide this comment

Comment from isleño on 10 June 2016 at 00:19

@Luciano — haha, I did the same thing: created a dummy account, logged in, and then deleted the account. To me the "quiz" format is essential because the vast majority of people won't read text unless they absolutely need to.

@Udi — I understand your points; I just disagree. By its very nature, OGF is a highly constrained project. It demands small scale work with careful attention to detail, realism and coherence... and I think a lot of the 'bad mapping' you mention happens when people are unaware of these constraints.

To put it another way, we're better mappers when we do have to think about whether our mapping is rubbish or not, and I think smaller blue countries help encourage that mindset. That's not to say that mistakes aren't allowed; of course they are... people can and do make mistakes in Gobrassanya all the time. But because they're in close proximity to other mappers and other mapping, they realize and learn from those mistakes much faster than they would in the empty wilds of Commonia.

Besides, the 7-day waiting period isn't designed for new users to pursue their ultimate vision or express themselves without limitations. The purpose of the waiting period is for new users to show that they intend to stick around for more than a few days, and to give them some time to familiarize themselves with the project and its tools (and yes, its constraints!) before making a commitment. Anyone who knows enough to edit in the blue areas, also knows that they can apply for a blank country after 7 days to pursue their own unique vision.

Hide this comment

Comment from Ūdilugbulgidħū on 10 June 2016 at 01:02

Well - we might disagree, but I can be persuaded. It is true what you say about the project always being constrained. Actually, I didn't even know if I would be granted a territory, it said something like 'a significant mount of mapping' and I didn't know what that meant. So I only hoped I'd be given a territory, but I practised things I might want to put in that territory if I got it. Of course I didn't realise that 7 days is a very short time in OGF. The 7 days (or was it 6) went on for a long while. For the first 3, 4, months in OGF I don't think I learnt anything much from other people. I just tried things out, failed, and tried again. Built a wall (in Tara) and mapped behind the wall. Nobody said 'you're doing that in a funny way - try this instead'. So I suppose I constrained myself, and ended up on a remote island (which was quite nice). Different people learn in different ways. I don't know if I'd have learnt faster in Gobrassanya - maybe - but I don't think I'd have enjoyed it, and I probably wouldn't have stayed in OGF. We can put the 'blue countries' issue to one side, because I think it is actually a bit tangential. I do think smaller areas encourage focus. So, thinking outside the box, would it be an idea to try and get brand new mappers to focus on small, pre-defined areas? Like the territory map, but much smaller (e.g the size of a town). That could eliminate a whole heap of issues.

Hide this comment

Comment from Ernestpcosby on 10 June 2016 at 03:41

Guys, I have one idea for Commonia that could act as a working compromise for new users, if we are to leave it as a blue country.

In the past, I had suggested splitting Commonia up into smaller territories until the admins explained to me that it would be a bad idea. However, what if we were to leave it one large blue country, but divide it into much smaller, more organized "states"? This way, each new user would have free reign over a "territory" to practice in, but they'd be small enough for them to get the right idea and to have to stay organized. Experienced mappers could maybe develop a few of the "states", maybe in some sort of autonomous attached country called "Examplia" or something, so the new mappers have obvious places to look at as examples of good mapping. Then, newer mappers can work based off examples and have the guidance that comes with somewhere like Gobrassanya but the freedom of someplace like Commonia in small "territories" that can be easily fixed.

If we needed an in-world explanation for such organized territories in a country so disorganized maybe we could say something like it was an Assembly of Nations mandate to reduce unruly-ness among various groups within the country. Or it could have a more established but very very loose government like that under the Articles of Confederation in American history in real life, where each "state" has its own government.

Hide this comment

Comment from Luciano on 10 June 2016 at 04:08

@Ernest - just short note, but in fact Commonia is already divided (I also published this to the diary a while back). So perhaps what you mean is to somehow communicate this more effectively? That's really the focus of my question, here - how do we communicate more effectively with users?

Hide this comment

Comment from Ernestpcosby on 10 June 2016 at 04:45

I guess that is largely what I mean. Thank you for showing me the link to the diary entry. I wonder if new Commonian mappers pay any attention to the borders, and if there's a better way to make them pay attention to them. I suppose upgrading the boundaries to country borders and making a Commonian federation of the little blue territories so the divisions are more obvious to new mappers but I'm not sure how that would work.

Perhaps after the text landing or quiz, there should be a page that says something in large print near the top of the page like "As a new mapper, you have options!", followed by a sort of infographic showing the different blue countries with direct links to that part of the map and a brief explanation of how their mapping should be for that country (for example, the page could explain the benefits of each country). I imagine something like the mapping a realistic country page, except for new mappers, that catches their eyes right after the initial page or on that initial page. That's about the best idea that comes to mind, because I've noticed that sometimes people are quicker to pay attention if it's a cool looking infographic and sounds like something beneficial to them than if it looks or sounds like a list of guidelines, no matter how reasonable they may be.

The only other thing that pops to mind is if instead of the initial site landing page just being the map that it would lead to a dashboard similar to the wiki Main Page, with a leaflet showing the main map, the About section, and sections about how to properly map. It could even have links to a couple of the "making a realistic _____" pages.

I personally also joined before the new landing page, and I know I had started off in the wrong place myself. I guess for me it was being open to learning and taking constructive criticism, but I know that my initial mistakes probably caused some issues too. I'll continue to see if I can think of anything.

Hide this comment

Comment from thilo on 10 June 2016 at 09:10

To solve the mystery of the landing screen: it changed in early 2014 when I moved OGF to a new server and did an upgrade of the OSM software. It's basically the standard landing screen for new OSM users (as it was at the time) with some text adaptations and the "Before you start" block inserted.

@Luciano, isleño: when you created your sockpuppet accounts, did you check that the "about" and "overview map" links still point to the correct place?

Hide this comment

Comment from Luciano on 10 June 2016 at 10:21

@Thilo - the "overview map" linked correctly, but the "about" was to the old page:

Hide this comment

Comment from No Way on 10 June 2016 at 17:09

I say leave it as is.

Hide this comment

Comment from skquinn on 20 June 2016 at 14:21

As long as the managers are not restrictive about allowing new mappers in the formerly blue territories, I am on board with the idea. I would not mind being one of the managers of Rhododactylia were this idea to come to fruition. I have been seeing new mappers there and have had to clean up a lot of mistakes (mostly areas being drawn which share a boundary with a road; the way of a road is supposed to be the center line, not an edge).

Hide this comment

Leave a comment

Parsed with Markdown

  • Headings

    # Heading
    ## Subheading

  • Unordered list

    * First item
    * Second item

  • Ordered list

    1. First item
    2. Second item

  • Link

  • Image

    ![Alt text](URL)

Login to leave a comment