Notes

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A note added by an anonymous visitor, with details which allow a more experienced OSMer to make map improvements

Notes is a core feature of the OpenStreetMap.org website for placing shared notes on the map to assist in mapping/editing OpenStreetMap. It is not intended for general discussion or storing information not otherwise used in OpenStreetMap; for example, "I was here on Saturday" or "There was a crime at this location".

Notes allow for two way communication, with the ability for a mapper to ask for more details if necessary. Although it is not necessary to be logged in to submit (or comment on) a note, it is beneficial to do so. Logged-in users will receive an email if comments are added to a note or the issue is resolved.

Using notes

Yes check.svg Do s
  • Use this feature to report an error in the data or to give some additional information, for instance the name of a street or an address etc.
No-Symbol.svg Don't s
  • Don't copy from other sources such as other maps, even if they do not cost money or are from the government (there are only a few exceptions).
  • Don't argue. If you have something to discuss, please use some other contact channel (a personal message, a mailing list, the forum, or a face-to-face meet-up).
  • Don't post general comments. A note should relate to the map data at a specific location. If you want to contact the community about something more general, please use a more appropriate contact channel.
  • Don't use notes for yourself in a way which is useless to others. Although you can use notes as a reminder to yourself, you are also inviting others to look at it. Descriptions must make sense to other people.
  • Don't create automated notes. Notes should be a human-to-human communication. Also avoid noting lots of data bugs which are already reported by automated Quality Assurance tools.

The notes feature of OpenStreetMap allows both registered users and the wider public to quickly indicate where there are errors or omissions in the OpenStreetMap data, and for contributors to OpenStreetMap to know where their support is needed.

Adding notes

To add a note, click the bottom tool bar button on the right side of the main OSM map.

Add a note screenshot.png

Move the marker to the correct position (as accurately as you can). Leave a short message for contributors to Openstreetmap to tell them what's wrong or missing.

Be clear in your message, for example consider that "path wrong" says very little of use, but "The east-west path on map does not exist on the ground" is very clear.

AddingNotes.JPG

If you have an OpenStreetMap account, you should login first to have your note associated with your username, but casual visitors can easily add a note too. If you want to be more than a casual visitor, create an account.

Viewing notes

To view all the current notes for an area go to the openstreetmap.org main map display, click the 'layer picker' control on the top right of the map, and select the 'Notes' checkbox (see image).

ViewingNotes.JPG

The note markers have the varying styles shown in the image below:

Notes map symbols
Icon Description
New note marker.png
New note location (while being added)
Open note marker.png
Unresolved note location
Closed note marker.png
Resolved note location (older such notes will not be shown)

If you are logged in you can comment on existing notes, ask the contributor questions (if they were logged in when adding the note), and also mark a note as 'resolved' (by which you are indicating that the error/omission has been corrected, or that the note isn't useful).

Using notes by mappers

The following action are available for signed in users:

Resolving notes

Notes that no longer have unhandled reports about OSM data problems should be marked as resolved. They are marked as resolved, not removed or deleted, with the data being retained for future reference.

It includes:

  • Notes reporting issue that was resolved
  • Invalid notes not indicating any problem with OSM data
  • Notes duplicating other open notes

Valid notes describing unfixed problems should not be closed. Once resolved notes have aged for a small while, they no longer appear on the map view. This limit is currently set to seven days.

Creating notes

Some notes are created by mappers. For example one may be aware that OSM data is wrong but unable to immediately make an OSM edit. For example a media report about changing street name is a good reason to create note. It is perfectly fine to create notes for issues that given editor intends to fix, as long as report in note is usable also by others.

Reporting notes

Using the »Report this note« link below the first comment, a mapper can contact the moderators about a note and request them to hide it. After clicking the link, the mapper files a form stating the reasons for the report of this note. Reasons for hiding notes include:

  • notes used as spam
  • notes containing personal data
  • abusive or illegal content in notes
  • sensitive or confidential information in notes

Moderators are able to get back to the reporting user and ask for further details if needed.

The data working group can decide on hiding notes so they will not be accessible anymore for both not logged-in users and normal users. A report may lead to further investigations on other activities of the user who created the content reported.

More advanced use of notes

To create a (perma)link which displays the map with notes already turned on (while not changing other layer selections) use the URL parameter notes=yes (for example openstreetmap.org?notes=yes).

Viewing notes by user

If a user was logged in while creating or commenting on a note, the note or comment is marked as being posted by that user. You can see all of the notes and comments written by a user on the page www.openstreetmap.org/user/xyz/notes (where xyz is their user name).


If you want to see only unresolved notes for one (or more) users, you use 3rd party service at my-notes.osm-hr.org (GitHub source)

Viewing notes by area (via RSS feed)

You can view and subscribe to an RSS feed of all the note activity in your area. This allows you to keep an overview of the things reported in your area you map in. The URL for the RSS feed is

https://www.openstreetmap.org/api/0.6/notes/feed?bbox=smaller_longitude,smaller_latitude,larger_longitude,larger_latitude

You can easily find the longitude and latitude values by clicking on 'Export' on OSM and then click on the link "Manually select a different area". Then you can drag the corners of the area you want covered in your RSS feed. The values in the left and right boxes (in the 'Export' area on the left) represent the longitude values, the values in the top and bottom boxes represent the latitude values.

If you do not want to generate the bounding box manually you can use this OSM Quality Assurance Tool: http://tyrasd.github.io/osm-qa-feeds/

GPX export of notes

You can export a file (in GPX format) of notes within a bounding box using a link like this:

https://api.openstreetmap.org/api/0.6/notes.gpx?bbox=24.149,56.911,24.3476,56.9665

(where the bounding box for the export is as so: bbox=[smaller_longitude],[smaller_latitude],[larger_longitude],[larger_latitude] )

Technically - this provides gpx waypoints where the note number is the name of the waypoint, and the comments are the waypoint description.

Subscribing to a note

There is yet no option to simply subscribe to a specific note's discussion. One option would be a RSS feed of a small area around the note, but this may also contain other notes later. A different option would be to resolve and reopen the note immediately afterwards, but this may flaw the statistics. Thirdly, one could post a comment containing of a space only on a note. The last two options may annoy other mappers subscribed to the discussion as they will be notified of these void-like actions.

Notes API

The Notes API is described on the main API page API v0.6#Map Notes API

It is OK for third party sites or apps that use OpenStreetMap data to include notes functionality through the API. This feature will however, only be useful if the quality of reports are high. Therefore it is important that the issue reports include sufficient information and detail for an experienced mapper to be able to fix the issue. Also, it is important that you make your users aware that this is to be used only for commenting on map data issues and not general aspects of your site or app.

Furthermore, it is important to remember, that this functionality is intended for humans to communicate with other humans (mappers). It is not a place to dump automated error checking.

Notes dump

As of August 2014, the entire notes database is downloadable from https://planet.openstreetmap.org/notes/. The dump file contains notes text, status fields, and all comments, but no hidden notes. As of June 2018, there were over 1,400,000 notes with a compressed file size (using bzip2) of 92 MB. Compared to August 2014 with 200,000 notes, 400,000 comments and a compressed size of only 13 MB. The notes dumps are produced using https://github.com/iandees/planet-notes-dump.

An archive of this dump file is also available on the Internet Archive on a daily basis. This is particularly useful if you are researching for notes made for a certain date. Archives are available since December 17, 2014.

Analysis

Stats

Statistics for the number of note actions (open, closed, reopen, comment) filterable by country: http://resultmaps.neis-one.org/osm-notes

Development

You may recognise "notes" as a similar concept to OpenStreetBugs, which ran as a separate website and database. Integration of OpenStreetBugs into the main website had been discussed ever since OpenStreetBugs first appeared. The launch of "notes" brings this integration along with enhanced email contact features. OpenStreetBugs has now been phased out - congratulations to all involved in the transition!

Being part of the website, the code and issues list can be found under OpenStreetMap website on GitHub.

Applications using notes

  • JOSM supports these actions for notes: Download in area, search, create new, comment, close or reopen. See the notes dialog help.
  • OsmAnd's latest versions support opening, commenting on, and closing Map Notes (also through a plugin that you need to activate through the app settings). See: OsmAnd > Features > OSM Editing plugin
  • OSM Note (live): a mobile web interface for dropping notes
  • HSL Navigator prototype (live): a mobile web app using OSM data and OpenTripPlanner
  • onosm.org encourages its users to add business listings, with the fields placed within a note.
  • Locus, a mobile app, can show and create notes and you can comment on them.
  • Mapbox OSM comments system created by Mapbox (and used by their data team) can track and filter notes as well as changeset discussions. Read more on the blog
  • Vespucci, a mobile app, has supported Notes creation, viewing and creation since version 0.9.0 released in August 2013, replacing the previous OSM Bugs support.
  • StreetComplete, a mobile app allowing you to create notes. This app is also allowing users to indirectly edit OSM by answering to simple questions - answering using note is available in situation where due to unexpected or outdated OSM data question makes no sense. For example user asked about opening hours of shop that does no longer exists may create note "Shop Foobar is no longer existing".
  • Download OSM Notes as GPX file from a boundingbox using a tool by richlv in perl, or a tool by SomeoneElse in java (which can also get "fixmes"). The website tool on netzwolf.info seems to no longer exist. The Notes #Notes API also supports GPX format directly.
  • Download OSM Notes as KML file via http://harrywood.co.uk/maps/notes/kml/ (e.g. for MAPS.ME bookmarks)
  • NotesReview: a web interface for searching notes by a keyword

Common errors

Craigslist notes

Many notes in the USA are from craigslist.org which uses OSM data in their maps. Unfortunately, many of these notes are not applicable to OpenStreetMap because the error described in the note is a result of craigslist's separate geocoder and/or rendered tileset. Feel free to close the note if you're confident that the note only applies to craigslist.

A craigslist note is always anonymous and the description is as follows:

bounds: (xmin,ymin,xmax,ymax) https://www.openstreetmap.org/?box=yes&notes=yes&bbox=xmin%2ymin%2xmax%2ymax brief sentence from the user stating: for example: "the map is wrong," "the address does not appear on my map", "address is in wrong location", "the map placed me in the incorrect city;"

An example note:

bounds: (26.2924, -98.2023, -26.2881, -98.1919) https://www.openstreetmap.org/?box=yes&notes=yes&bbox=-98.2023%2C26.2881%2C-98.1919%2C26.2924 Map is showing wrong data here. no aparese en el mapa

The URL's box=yes parameter is not used.

Maps.Me notes

Maps.Me, a mobile app, uses OSM data and allows users to report problems as OSM notes. These notes will contain the phrases "This is an auto-generated note from MAPS.ME application" and "#mapsme".

While these notes are often valuable, they are sometimes based on misunderstandings or old data, so should be treated with caution. See Maps.Me/Questionable OSM Edits for details.

Use of notes for adding a marker for personal use

OpenStreetMap notes are sometimes used by people familiar with other mapping services, mistakenly believing that they are designed for personal or publicity purposes. The following simple explanation of the notes functionality is directed specifically at those people (who might be referred here):

Thanks for adding a note to the OpenStreetMap data. It's quite common that people treat notes in the same way that they are used on other mapping services. This page has lots of detail, but essentially what you need to know is that in this particular case the notes functionality is intended as a way to communicate mapping errors and omissions only. Sometimes the difference between a personal note and one indicating a mapping omission is subtle, but if your note looks like it may have been added as a way to create a marker for private or publicity purposes you may find that another OpenStreetMap contributor 'resolves' the note (which means it's been marked as dealt with). Please refer to this help question for thoughts on what are appropriate methods of displaying personal markers.

See also

  • those two tag keys:
    • key:note – only a similar name, quite different function (used to inform other mappers about non-obvious information about an element)
    • key:fixme – partly a similar function (allows contributors to mark objects and places that need further attention)