Beginners Guide 1.1

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Get help About OpenStreetMap Browsing How to contribute Contribute map data Editors Glossary Beginners' guide

Sources of information

Mapping requires information. There are a variety of information sources. Here is an overview.

  1. Your memory
    • Recent survey/walk/journey - the best source of data
    • Local knowledge - second best source of data is when you simply happen to know the area very well, and thus for example the names of the roads, which shops or buildings there are, the local traffic rules and restrictions, or what ever else you might want to add to OpenStreetMap. If the basic road layout is already present, you often don't need any technical devices and can start straight away. But your memory is limited and may contain outdated information about our ever changing world
    • Knowledge - common knowledge about something
  2. Aerial imagery is available to OSM for tracing but it may be outdated for several years(!). This means that by tracing outdated imagery you may enter non-existent objects in database. Please check how old imagery in area you want to edit and act correspondingly. Contact local mappers how to check this.
  3. Digital or textual data collected by you while surveying. (photos, videos, notes, GPS tracelogs, geotagged media, etc).
  4. Public GPS tracelogs that were collected by others are available for you to use.

Don't use copyrighted information

Most information that you find on the web is copyrighted, including "free" maps like Google Maps. You may never use copyrighted resources because it can cause a lot of trouble to OSM. As a rule of thumb, use no external resources except those available in the editors. If you think you found a non-copyrighted resource that isn't available in the editors, please discuss it first with local mappers using contact channels.

What data to add

There is a lot of data that can be gathered and put into OSM: from common things such as street names right down to fine details which includes things like parks, postboxes, hedgerows, and cairns. Different people find different things more important, usually influenced by their main method of transport. If you feel it helps people find their way, then map it! A nice selection of some of the most commonly mapped features and the way to describe them in OSM can be found on the map features page. But remember you aren't limited to what is listed there, so be creative and map what is important to you!

Commonly, mappers increase the detail as they go on, but start with the basics. So the main road network tends to be a good starting point, and lesser things such as footways, or postboxes are among the final bits to be added. Again this varies greatly for different people so there is no 'one way' that it should be done.

Next step