Yuanls's diary

Recent diary entries

My thoughts on the OGF interface

Posted by Yuanls on 27 March 2020 in English (English)

After the previous diary post, I have decided to compile my thoughts and ideas on interface changes that may help to better introduce and inform new OGF users.

Problem 1: The way OGF presents itself

When a new user visits the OGF site for the first time, a box appears. This box introduces OGF at a conceptual level, but no deeper.

OpenGeofiction is a map of an imaginary world, created by a community of worldbuilders. You can take part in this project too.

You are then presented with two options: to 'start mapping' and immediately sign up and begin, or to 'learn more' and read the FAQ page. The FAQ page, I will address later.

I imagine most people would be overjoyed that they found a free-for-all mapping site. I certainly was. Geofiction is a niche and specific hobby, and I figure most new users would be eager to map asap. The presence of the 'start mapping' button is a literal incentive to start mapping off the bat without consulting any information whatsoever. This is a problem.

So, first suggestion: remove the option to 'start mapping immediately'. Display one option only: 'Learn More'. Every new user needs to be aware of how OGF functions. It is still possible to create an account straight away, but the option is now less desirable and less visible. Fewer people will act out of compulsion.

Problem 2: The FAQ page

This page looks like a fridge instruction manual, or the contract you have to sign before you get a WhatsApp account. Seriously, has nobody thought about restructuring it?

When a new user opens up the FAQ page, they see a wall of text. This doesn't sell OGF very well to new users. 'Getting started' is 7 sections long, and 'Mapping basics' is 18 sections long. What's worse, the actual, useful About OGF page, is contained in another link. Even more reading!

Second suggestion: Merge the 'Getting Started' section of the FAQ page into the 'About OGF' page. Have the 'learn more' button link to the latter. It tells people how OGF works, what the context is, where to map and what the user can expect from OGF. As for the rest of the FAQ page, I'd restructure and condense it. 'Mapping basics' is still 18 sections long. I feel we might need a separate section, or even a separate page, for JOSM questions.


Improving the introductory system has the potential to solve many problems new users have: misplaced expectations of what the site is about, unrealistic and/or incorrectly placed mapping, and simply being dissuaded from mapping in OGF due to some combination of the two. If OGF is not for you, be this because of the rules, or the context, feel free to leave. Those kinds of rule breakers will never set foot on the map. On the flipside, if OGF leaves a good first impression, users would be more willing to stay and be more receptive of advice. You will have a better time if you know what you're in for, even if you do experience setbacks. Ultimately all users should become productive and integrated members of our community.

Feel free to back me up or shoot me down, I'm interested in your thoughts on this. Any input from admins or ex-admins is appreciated. You're the ones who control the site interface, and you're the ones who deal with the new users.

Has OGF been getting bigger?

Posted by Yuanls on 8 November 2019 in English (English)

While mapping today I've noticed something very unusual: every object I've edited before this Wednesday is slightly larger than every edit I have made since. After doing some digging in the XML data, the change seems to have occurred at some point on the 6th of November between 11am and 4pm GMT. After doing some physical measurements I've discovered the dimensions of every line and every area on the OGF map has physically increased in size by between 6.25% and 8%. The size of objects relative to the scale on the bottom left has stayed the same.

How was I able to find such a small change? I scale my edits by using a transparent plastic ruler - this provides an objective and literal yardstick to which I measure all my mapping against. To put this in physical terms, a row of houses I have mapped should be 8cm wide, but now they are about 8.5cm wide on the map.

Why is this important? Ordinarily a change of 6.25% might not seem like much, but if I mapped a row of 16 houses using my existing measurements it results in a house-sized gap at the end of the road. If I started mapping in detail from the opposite sides of the same street, the buildings would be misaligned in the middle.

Does anyone have any idea if this is an OGF-wide change, or is this something my computer has done itself? If it is the latter, is there any way to revert this change?

Remapping Glaster's forests

Posted by Yuanls on 13 August 2019 in English (English)

Yep, last time I did any mapping on the kilometre scale was in perhaps 2016. I was never a fan of large-scale mapping, I could never download anything large on JOSM and so I had to map everything using Potlatch and ID. It wasn't fun. It wasn't my best mapping, it turned out tot be really blobby and it lagged behind as time went by compared to my topographically beautiful neighbours in Wyster, Latania and most recently Avled.

I took a spontaneous decision to change it this week. I got the final product down in about forty minutes, and I'm pretty satisfied with the overall thing. However, something bugs me about how disconnected the forests are in the south though, although I'm not sure how or even if I should rectify it. The blank areas to the south will be filled in in due time as well. It depends on how quickly, if at all, I can get my first sketch mapped using JOSM.

Glaster and Agarderia currently, vs my sketch

So, is there anything I could improve to my sketch before I start mapping? What do I need to pay attention to when I'm mapping it all out? Please let me know if you have any thoughts!

Happy mapping


Useful resource for UK mappers

Posted by Yuanls on 13 July 2019 in English (English)

I had a website I'd neglected to check for about 2 years sitting in my 'read later' folder in my bookmarks bar.

Turns out I had good reason to save it: it's a comprehensive overview of British geographical environments, using Yorkshire as a case study. It details the evolution of urban structure and its characteristic features, including amenities, landuses, street patterning and how they have developed over time from as far back the 17th century up to now.

Rural environments, suburban, inner city, suburbanised villages, you name it, the website has it all. As well as text descriptions, there are aerial and street-level photographs and historical map overlays, which are very interesting not just from a cartographic but a historical point of view.

Due to age some of the location links have stopped working, but they are quite easily supplemented and the website is still incredibly useful without them. I strongly recommend this website to anyone who does mapping inspired or derived from locations in the UK.

Mapping in Commonia, I'm bored

Posted by Yuanls on 24 February 2019 in English (English)

I need a change of scenery, as I've been mapping literally house to house in Thoole for the past week and it's getting dreary. I plan to take an island in Commonia and map it to the best of my ability.

For this cartographical 'holiday' I choose Lauguar Island because it is a sizeable, defined chunk landmass that is relatively unmapped. I've done a large scale sketch of the area here.

I see it as your run of the mill, Commonian island. A very agrarian tropical island, medium living standards, ruled by a National-Bolshevist milita with links to West Commonia, with a small AN observation base in the south. I'm a bit in the dark about language, however, as I am reluctant to map in English for this case but...what other options are there?

Before I begin, does anybody have any advice or objections, or would like to rip me to shreds for attempting to map well in Commonia?

Happy mapping!


Rural mapping

Posted by Yuanls on 22 November 2018 in English (English)

I am now at a stage of mapping the rural areas outside Ellmouth. Is there anything I am missing or could improve my mapping? I am not particularly experienced in rural mapping.

Does anyone have a list of special amenities such as sewage disposals, landfills and power transformers I should consider putting in? For most of my mapping I've operated on a basis of 'if I haven't mapped it yet it must be somewhere else'. I'm running out of the 'somewhere else' space now.


Redeveloping Ellmouth

Posted by Yuanls on 20 October 2018 in English (English)

Through the last six months I've redeveloped Ellmouth, a British based city and the first city I mapped in Glaster around 3 years ago. A bit of zooming out is required, as the city is at the awkward stage of being too big or too small to appropriately fit a scale level.

A comparison of old Ellmouth and new Ellmouth can be found here. (Imgur is inaccessible at the moment)

I still need to finish mapping Ellmouth's centre in high detail, and somehow map the large scale of countryside around Ellmouth. I'm a bit hesitant to begin that proper, however. I am able to map rural environments effectively but the vast scale and having no place to start and finish at is a major deterrent for me. Any tips?

If anything looks out of place or illogical, that means it's probably still in the development process. Particularly in central Ellmouth mapping is subject to change, but don't be hesitant to point things out!

Happy mapping


Redeveloping Ellmouth

Posted by Yuanls on 29 June 2018 in English (English)

A few months ago I decided to wipe my first city in Glaster, Ellmouth, clean straight off the map. It was simply too outdated in relation to my current mapping style, so I deleted the entire thing. Being a very sentimental person, I decided to keep the original Ellmouth as an OSM file, as well as leaving some places or landmarks tagged as 'line=yes', just as a testament for what was once there. It would be useful to re-render the old Ellmouth and lay it over my current work. Old screenshots of Ellmouth do exist, but they are all at either a too low or too high zoom level to be useful at the current time. Is there any way of rendering the OSM data without uploading it to OGF?

Mappingwise I've taken a break from Plowford and have started rebuilding Ellmouth now, mostly here, although my progress has somewhat ground to a halt. I don't exactly know where to go with my mapping now. I feel like I should do something significantly interesting to the place, rather than normal, everyday kind of interesting I am accustomed to mapping. Any suggestions?

Happy mapping!


Transect of Plowford

Posted by Yuanls on 6 December 2017 in English (English)

Through my time working on the town of Plowford (Though recently more erratic), I've happened to have developed a sort of transect from the town centre, going outwards to its edges. I'm on its very latest stages now, on the rural-urban fringe (for my more rural mapping, look to the east). This is pretty much a summary of what the rest of my mapping in Plowford will look like for the foreseeable future. This is the stage I ask, while I still can, what there is to improve.

Transect along Harcourt Road (zooming in required)

Thank you and good day


Mysterious shortcuts in ID Editor

Posted by Yuanls on 17 November 2017 in English (English)

I have rediscovered some shortcuts I found a few months ago. I had forgot what they were until now. Here are 3 undocumented tools on the ID editor I found through chance. They seem to be little known and inaccessible without these shortcuts; I have not seen them mentioned elsewhere on OGF, or on the wider internet.

Navigable map

Bring up a small map of your surrounding area on the top left of the screen. It can be used to jump large distances by dragging the map. This can be activated by pressing the forwards slash (/) key.

Wireframe view:

Does what it says on the tin. Press the W key.

Information box:

Select an object and a tab appears in the bottom right of the screen. This gives the object's ID, and its length if it is a line, and the object's perimeter and area if it is an area. Press Ctrl+I.

I hope this makes ID a bit more bearable for its users.

EDIT: All 3 functions are listed on the 'shortcuts' page of the OSM wiki. They are quite easy to miss and are not separated from the standard functions, however.

State Emblem for Agarderia

Posted by Yuanls on 11 August 2017 in English (English)

During a lull in my mapping work, I've redesigned the state emblem of Agarderia during the communist period (1946-1985). Although it is better than the old emblem, it still looks a bit dodgy, although I can't put my finger on exactly what the problem is. Does anybody have any ideas?

Farmland disappearing

Posted by Yuanls on 24 July 2017 in English (English)

I woke up today to behold the disappearance of all the areas I've mapped as farmland. For some reason, I have only seen this is only in Agarderia and Glaster, and not anywhere else. As far as I know, it is not a problem on my end, as the areas are properly tagged, closed and still exist and I have not modified most of them for weeks. The farmland on OSM shows up normally. It has only happened in Agarderia and Glaster, since I cannot find any other country with this problem.

What exactly is going on?

UPDATE: I have seemed to found a way to resolve the issue-by deleting the tag and retagging it as farmland. On ID, the difference appears to be that the old farmland is missing the 'produce' tag. Without the 'produce' tag, the farmland does not appear. I am not sure why.

Road junction at Wyndham

Posted by Yuanls on 16 July 2017 in English (English)

I've felt that I've dug myself a very large hole, starting from my previous mapping ventures in Wyndham early last year. The roads in Wyndham are questionable, and somehow I decided to make roads based on what looked nice, rather than what was realistic. I have to say that I've fixed the majority of the mess I drew beforehand, but following sentiments and similar feelings, the problem in Wyndham has not gone away completely. I've increasingly having to resort to thinking of reasons and excuses why xyz is like the way they are.

The junction here is possibly the epitome of my troubles in Wyndham. (Technically the outer parts of Wyndham deserve that title, but I have not mapped them intensively and so I have room to delete them as and when it is required.) I have made it more realistic than before, as you can see from my Bliki special. It is rather long and rather dreary, and it is more for my own musings and for the sake of recording information, rather than something that is designed for other people to read. The relevant sections are sections 1, 4 (for historical context) and 5.

If you have read my bliki entry and looked at my mapping, you will see that I still have quite a few troubles with this junction, even though it is somehow better than it is before. Wyndham itself is supposed to be a general reflection on a city beginning its transition from more ageing, brutalist structures built during the 60s and 70s to more modernist, more open structures. Something maybe like Birmingham in the early 2000s.

So, in conclusion, does anybody have any suggestions on how on earth I fix this mess???

'What was' and 'What could have been'

Posted by Yuanls on 5 June 2017 in English (English)

Does anyone else wonder what a particular place had/had not been constructed would look like? Sort of like 'alternate history'. Or how a place looked in the past. I covered the latter of the two some time ago in a previous diary entry of mine. Initially it was a one-off project but I'm considering doing more of these in the future.

Here's my current work, which is an alternate scenario when a primary road had been built through a gap I left in the work I did. It was intended to form a a part of Glaster's road building project of the late 1970s and early 80s, which left many roads and projects unfinished. Hence this gap has remained unfilled. The picture on the left is what it looks like now, compared to what it may have looked like had it been built. Has anybody else thought of doing this kind of thing or is it just me only?

Coping with Glastian irrelevancy

Posted by Yuanls on 29 May 2017 in English (English)

I'm not sure how pessimistic or how strange I sound in this entry; my intention is to be purely realistic.

Basically, Glaster is irrelevant. Yes you heard me right. Glaster is irrelevant. It never was a superpower. It never had a place on the world stage. It's like one of those countries that, outside its region, you know only by name, or by a few facts from a Wikipedia entry. Glaster never had an outstanding economy or some special cultural hotspot. The only famous people are dead and confined to the knowledge of historians, or have moved abroad to some more prosperous location.

While this might sound very depressing, here is some of my reasoning (skip to the tl;dr if this section is too long):

  • Glaster is very small. It has slightly larger than real-world Brunei and a population of around 1 million (subject to change). It's not in a very advantageous position, considering that its much larger neighbours were at odds with Glaster until the end of the 20th century.
  • Glaster's small size and advantageous position (at a maritime bottleneck) has meant that it has exploited and suppressed, first by Wyster, then by Ingerland, then Commonia, then by the communist nations surrounding it.
  • Glaster has no deposits of major resources. Iron and coal deposits exist but they are not substantial enough to profit from. Tourism is also out of the question. There's nothing really to see or do in Glaster, and the weather is not great either according to the climatic map.
  • Glaster only reached its level of development by funding from Ingerland to prop it up against communist influence. Now its unsustainable and Glaster is currently in economic decline. It has not been able to modernise its economy sufficiently after Ingerish South Glaster had its unification with less-developed North Glaster.

Tl;dr: Glaster is bad because its economy cannot keep up with its level of development, it has been exploited and controlled since the 19th century and because it has nothing to make money from.

That, however doesn't hinder me from good mapping, or interesting wiki articles. Check around Glaster, particularly look at Harcourt and Plowford for my latest work. Moral of the story: your country doesn't need to be prosperous or successful for you to display good signs of mapsmanship (if there ever was such a thing)!

However, one of my largest concerns is my mapping style. Initially it was supposed to be based around England, for the basis that Glaster was former colony. My mapping style has devolved into pretty much a high-quality English clone, something that is satisfactory in itself but isn't entirely realistic given on the geographical location. Does anyone have any ideas on how to change this into a more believable design that I can still map in detail?

Location: Scotwood Road, Harcourt, Harcourt and Scotwood, Glaster

Historical and geographical curiosities

Posted by Yuanls on 11 May 2017 in English (English)

Are there any interesting or strange events and locations in your country? It would be cool to see some oddities here!

For Agarderia, there was an unrecognised microstate Free Republic of Zimna Forest declared for exactly a month in 1986 but then annexed by the Agarderian government. Partially satirising 'countries' such as Sealand and Liberland (and possibly the libertarian right), partially the product of boredom and unwillingness to map.

It's on my sandbox page for the time being because I'd say it's a case of overwikification, as the actual village currently looks like this. I'll consider moving the article to a proper wiki page once Agarderia is mapped more intensively and after I've polished up the page and photos.

Does anyone else have any quirky features they'd like to share?

Road system in Plowford

Posted by Yuanls on 29 April 2017 in English (English)

Hi everyone:

I have been furthering my work on Plowford but I have noticed that the road system in central and northern Plowford looks a I'm not exactly sure how to describe it but it doesn't look right. Any suggestions on what to do? Bear in mind that I have only mapped the main roads and the preexisting roads. Roads built during urbanisation have not been included.

If you can give me any advice on what you think is wrong, please tell me below. Any other queries or suggestions are welcome!



Location: Stonor Road, Plowford, Decton and Plowford, Glaster

Lodken-Mapper's Challenge

Posted by Yuanls on 26 March 2017 in English (English)

This month for Luciano's challenge, I decided to use this opportunity to do some serious mapping work in Agarderia, an area that I seemed to have neglected for some while now. I decided to start afresh, making a new town named Lodken.

History of Lodken

Since history is so important in this month's challenge, it would be wise to give an overview of Lodken and its surroundings for historical context.

The area was historically the border between Karamsk and the Kingdom of Both Glasters, then the newly independent Agarderia after the former country was defeated by the Ingerish in 1803. I have not quite decided why the border was not immediately at the River Taka, but instead slightly to the west of it. However, to the south of Lodken, the border was defined as 'being in the middle of the River Taka'.

I have not exactly decided why Lodken exists, or why it exists that the place it does. But I assume that it was a border village that relied much on trade coming in and out of Agarderia into Karamsk. During the 20th Century, specifically the 1930s, relations between Agarderia and Karasmk soured, leading to both Karamsk and Agarderia building border fortifications on the border. The Agarderian fortifications have not been mapped yet, as they are somewhat weaker and so less preserved. It is also to the east of the river, which forms a natural defense itself. The defenses on Karamsk's side were heavily mined and booby trapped. At this point, Lodken was still a small village, which sat in the middle of no-man's land.

When war eventually did break out in 1936, the area was put under Agarderian control entirely, with the former border reduced to a provincial division. The border to the south of Lodken was frozen, leading to its current, misaligned state in relation to the river. The area was again heavily fortified in the 1940s from fear of an annexation by Karamsk. However, the fortifications were never used when Karamsk eventually attacked in 1946 during the Agardirian Civil War, owing to the fact that Agarderia capitulated before Lodken could be reached.

Lodken was under subsequent control by the Democratic Republic of Agarderia. After the area had been cleared of munitions and mines, the defenses were used as a training ground for soldiers. The area was reactivated as a war zone in 1998, at the outbreak of the Second Civil War. New mines were layed and defenses constructed to protect the region from Karamskan separatists. As of yet they have not been removed, and so the area surrounding Lodken has been cordoned off by the army.

My mapping

In terms of history, I tend not to focus on grand ruins or exquisite monuments, but rather on the mundane and everyday aspect of things. Things like war cemetries, gun bunkers and military checkpoints.

I am also aware that I have written tons of history for Lodken. This is only the surface, and some untold elements can be inferred from my mapping, while most of it is untold, as I will not bore you with excessive detail.

For Lodken, I have mapped in much lower quality than I have for anywhere else in Glaster. I am still beginning to develop my mapping style when mapping in non-British fashion. I am also relatively unfamiliar with creating languages. Most of the languages I know are inapplicable to Agarderia. As a result, most of the objects are unnamed. If anyone has any advice on what to do about this or how I can improve my mapping, please comment below. I really feel like mapping in a foreign style is an aspect worth developing for me.

On a slightly lighter note:

Progress on Plowford

Posted by Yuanls on 25 January 2017 in English (English)

I've been working on Plowford since October now, and I am very pleased with my mapping. Absolutely everything street-level is mapped out (or will be*) mapped out.

*Postboxes, trees, bus shelters etc will come when/if I finish the town

Because of the enormity of this task at hand, does anyone have anything to say about improvements I can make? This is basically the last stage where I can go back and correct all of my work, as the more I map, the more difficult it gets. At later stages, I will only be able to rectify small areas, as any changes will have to be implemented to the entire city.

I tend to do my mapping with some historical context-but not with larger and more obvious features such as castles or manors. The historical context is a lot more physical and infrastructure-related than that. See if you can spot anything!

Happy mapping!


Mapping Agarderia

Posted by Yuanls on 19 December 2016 in English (English)

I'm going to start mapping in Agarderia. However, I have no idea what to map there. I have completed the basic layout of the country, having mapped the locations of rivers, forest cover, roads, railways and settlements. I am unsure where to progress after this. It would be best for Agarderia to have an eastern European feel to it, much like its neighbours Karamsk and Latania. Does anyone have any suggestions on how I should progress or what I should start mapping first?

Context for Agarderia:

  1. Agarderia is a developing nation. It has an HDI of 0.732.
  2. Agarderia has been in a civil war since 1998. However, fighting has been isolated and rare since 2010. A largely unrecognised breakaway nation, the Social Republic of Glastian Agarderia, lies to the east of Agarderia.
  3. Agarderia was a communist nation before 1986, and a fascist nation from 1936 to 1946.
  4. The most populated regions of Agarderia lie to the south, near the coastline. Most of Agarderian industry is found here.

The Agarderian wiki page is found here.

Older Entries | Newer Entries