The primary way many people experience OSM is through the main website at osm.org.

Consider what you might have seen, in the map, in 2006. Basically it would be mostly blank with map data here and there where it was available. Incredibly, in the mean time, we’ve built something that looks great today.

But that’s a problem. It looks great.

It’s not great. It’s missing all kinds of address and turn restriction data. Data that is vital to making OSM a true digital map.

It used to be that you saw the worst view of the map, now you see the best view of it. It looks complete. It isn’t!

Here’s what I say we should do: show the worst possible view of the map possible and let others show the best view. When there were big empty spaces in the past people would feel compelled to complete the map. You could see there were blank areas and go fix them.

Now there isn’t that same compulsion. I say bring it back.

How?

By making the map look blank again. Don’t show map data that is fresh. Don’t show roads with no addressing data associated. Don’t show unedited TIGER data.

In reverse order.

TIGER data which has not been edited will have dave_hansen or something as the username. So it’s super easy to filter it. Don’t show that map data at all in our front page rendered map. Or, if you want to, show it in bright angry orange. Call attention to it, or remove it. Create a big incentive for people to edit it. If it doesn’t need editing (and let’s be honest, that’s rare in TIGER data) then we can use the tiger:checked key (or whatever it is) to mark that it is ok.

Address data. If roads have no address data don’t show them. Instantly large chunks of the entire world will go blank. Good! We need a reason for people to collect the data. Or, if you like, show those roads in bright purple. If a road has no addresses on it, mark it as addressing:none. Let the renderer figure out to show roads which have no addressing. Will people add one address point and suddenly the road is visible? Yes! But that’s a good thing. Now up the limit to needing more than one point. And so on. Until it’s marked as ‘complete’.

If data is version 1, that is if it’s been entered by one person, and it’s been sitting on the map for a year then don’t show it. Or show it in bright orange. Force people to go check old v 1.0 data and as above, check that it’s correct in order for it to be rendered.

Instantly you’d have a global map of orange or missing data and thousands of people would plunge in to fixing it all.

Will any of this happen?

No.

Or, at least, I doubt it.

With everyone in charge at OSM nobody is. Innovation, bold innovation, doesn’t happen by committee. Who would give permission for such a bold change in cartography? Who would order it done?

Inherently there would be a gigantic discussion on the mailing lists about the pros and cons by people with nothing better to do. Nobody would feel the authority to make such a striking change, which is (one of the reasons) why we end up with effectively no change in OSM’s user experience. To be clear, I give you permission.

And yes, anyone could go make a map style like this. The point is to make it the default on the main OSM site. You could turn it off if you wanted. There could be a banner saying “Hey, this is a view of our map with all the bugs exposed, here’s how you can help” to manage expectations.

We desperately need those with the keys to the castle to feel both the ability but also the permission to innovate in new and unexpected ways like this to force the project forward.