Administrative boundaries that are rendered in default mapnik layer are disturbing and ugly. They interfere with roads and ways and make the overall map-reading experience a nightmare. Do we really need them? No major mapping service like Google Maps, Bing or Yahoo Maps uses such a feature in default view. I really do not see any particular benefit to have these boundaries displayed in such visibility as they are now. Lets hide them from the default render on openstreetmap.org.
First off, the mapnik slippy map on openstreetmap.org is not a Google/Bing/MapQuest competitor. It is a shop window for OSM and for active mappers a really useful tool for spotting blank areas, mistakes with newly entered data. You can for instance try one of the Open MapQuest sites which use OSM data but with a render style which reflects what MapQuest knows about their users.
Second, many maps show administrative boundaries. For instance the UK Ordnance survey show all the same boundaries shown on OSM. Most mainstream atlases also show this kind of information.
Thirdly, if you don't like the mapnik render, do feel free to create your own, boundary-free, render. The current render is designed and maintained by people with far more cartographic experience and knowledge than I have: I tend to respect their choices. Calling these people's design decisions 'ugly' and 'disturbing' probably isn't the way to engage them in changing mapnik.
Fourthly, you can suggest changes for any OSM tool at trac.openstreetmap.org.
A bug has been filled with this idea: http://trac.openstreetmap.org/ticket/3588
I believe administrative boundaries to be appropriately rendered by mapnik for several, even many reasons.
1) Do recall that "Street" is OSM's middle name. Hence, crossing a street while also crossing the threshold of [a city, county, state, country] truly any administrative boundary (such as a public university), literally makes that point on the map and in reality an important gateway. Communities recognize such gateways, often marking them with signs, welcoming the traveller from "one jurisdiction to another" (in a friendly way) and this makes mapping these points, whether signed or not, important. I know from personal experience that when I use a street map, I want to see such changes on the map.
2) Legally, administrative boundaries show truly important transitions on the map. This may "show up" errors in alignments, along rights-of-way, and so on, or they may form a pleasing and visually harmonious boundary. But whether they do or don't, maps should show these accurately, and OSM can, does and should continue to do so.
3) There are many others I could name, but I'll refrain, believing several of them to be tedious restatements of 1) and 2) above. But those two should suffice.
Last edited by stevea (2011-12-01 05:07:25)