The lack of visibility of Notes really sucks

Notes should be considered vital information for mappers, and should be more visible to contributors, but they’re often ignored/forgotten for years. They’re the only way to get information from and a great way to get leads from people who are not regular OSM contributors.

I do most of my OSM editing on Chicago. I found many notes that had been open since 2016, 2017, 2018… I’ve been working on resolving/closing them, but I also came to wonder why so many are left unseen. Then I noticed the issues.

There are three editors that I consider the “main” editing tools: iD, JOSM, and Potlatch. These are the most prominently featured in the wiki, at least for beginners.

  • iD hides notes at the start of every single session. It will not save your setting, and iD developers do not seem to be interested in changing this. There is a long-ignored pull request that should fix it.
  • JOSM shows notes in downloaded data. Notes will not show up in the Download window’s map, so if you’re looking for notes you need to download a wider region with “OpenStreetMap data” unchecked (“Notes” should already be checked) due to the limit on download size. There is also a plugin, NoteSolver, that can streamline dealing with notes but I have not tried it. (EDIT: Corrected. I misunderstood JOSM and the wiki before.)
  • I have not used Potlatch, and there’s no mention of it on the Notes wiki page. It hasn’t been updated in 2 years so I don’t know if it’s relevant anymore.

These mobile apps are effective:

  • StreetComplete - shows notes with questions, and lets you (optionally) see any notes. You can also post them from the app. You can’t close notes, but you can comment on them / add images.
  • Vespucci shows notes by default. You can comment and/or close/reopen notes. Its unconventional UI/workflow causes a steeper learning curve, but I have respect for how much power is in this little app.

That wiki page linked above also shows a few neat lesser-known options.

  • NotesReview - Shows some number of the world’s latest notes by default, so it may not show any notes in your country until filters are adjusted. Does not include aerial imagery, but lets you view the note in another editor (I can’t get the JOSM link to work). Defaults to a dark theme that is very low-contrast, which seems like an accessibility issue; there’s also a light theme available that seems to have a higher contrast. Lets you comment, or comment & close.
  • Generating an RSS feed - for monitoring a specific area for new notes. May be a bit technical for some people. Not visual. I assume the feed includes links to where you can see the notes, but I haven’t tried it yet.
  • osm-note-viewer - Doesn’t show notes right away, but instead you choose how to find notes in an area or some other method. Interesting approach. I prefer this viewer’s theme to that of NotesReview. Its UI seems less intuitive though. Took a while longer to figure out how to log in and comment (hamburger menu at top left of map; “Interact” at very bottom of left frame. Only tool I’ve seen so far that lets you interact with multiple notes at once with the same comment/action. I’m not sure why I’d want to, but it’s neat.

What about you, do you ever check for notes? What editor do you use the most, and how are notes handled there? Why do notes seem to be such a low priority for OpenStreetMap developers?

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