On Mass Deletions in OGF

This morning, I posted this in response to a query on the User Diaries at OpenGeofiction:

General advice for all users:

When deleting large numbers of objects, please be careful. This is not a use-case that the OSM software is designed to handle (think about it – mass deletions are NOT common on OSM). Divide up your deletions to cover small numbers of objects (<1000) and small areas (so if something goes wrong you don’t mess up large areas).

I called attention to the post in the discord channel (“OGFC”), and so I decided to rant onward and provide some additional clarification and thoughts. I’ve distilled those, without much editing, below.

To the above, I would add that in my own practice, I have another step I take with respect to deletions. I almost never delete relations. You’ll notice in JOSM, it actually tries to warn you that “this is rarely necessary” when you try to delete a relation, and I think that’s a solid point. What you can do with relations you don’t need any more is repurpose them. That means you delete the members of the relation, and all of its tags, and then use it the next time you need a new relation for something.

user: What would be the potential harm of deleting relations?

Well I suspect that sometimes, a deleted relation can end up as a “ghost” object, or a “stranded” object, in the render database. Meaning it’s truly been deleted from the API database (the main rails port) but that deletion fails to transfer correctly to the render database (which stores things in a different format, and doesn’t actually have “relations” at all, but rather transforms a relation them into a special type of “closed way” I think)

By repurposing a relation instead of deleting it, you guarantee the render database will have to reclassify the linked object(s).

If you just delete it, the render database might not handle the disappeared relation correctly, and just leave the no-longer-linked objects lying around.

This is just speculation, because I don’t really understand it well. But just based on observed behavior

In general, I think that the OSM software is not designed to handle mass deletions. That’s the key point.

Because in OSM, who goes around deleting large number of objects? The real world doesn’t work that way.

You re-tag things, yes. You might move things slightly, adjusting position to improve accuracy. But things in OSM don’t “disappear”

Or if they do, they do so in very, very small sets. A building gets knocked down. A road gets torn out.

One object at a time.

So it seems very plausible to me that the OSM software actually hasn’t been designed to handle mass deletions, and hasn’t been tested for integrity in dealing with mass deletions.

For years now, I’ve been telling people, when you decide to rearrange your territory (and what geofictician doesn’t sometimes decide to rearrange their territory?!) … it’s better to move things than to delete/re-create things.

This prevents “ghosts” in the render.

In the long run, I suspect that we’ll have to just “reboot” the render now and then. But I’m not going to do it very often. (I mean “reboot” as in delete and re-create from zero, not “reboot” as in turn the machine off and on again – that happens every night).

I’d welcome comments on this rambling, vaguely rant-like discourse, for those who are knowledgeable about how the OSM apidb-to-renderdb pipeline works.

Music to make deletions to: 10cm, “오늘밤에.”

The Terrible mysql Crash of 2021

I still don’t know how it happened. I somewhat suspect I got hacked, somehow … I found strange and unexpected Chinese IP addresses in my mysql error log. But I don’t understand mysql back end or admin well enough to know for sure what was going on.

I was able to restore a full-server backup to a new server instance, and have re-enabled the mysql-driven websites (my 2 blogs, my wiki, etc.) on the new instance. Meanwhile, I somewhat stupidly reactivated the non-mysql website (the geofictician OSM-style mapping site, the so-called “rails port”) on the old server instance. The consequence of that is that I am now stuck with a two-server configuration where I had a single server configuration before. I think in the long run I’ll want to isolate ALL my mysql-based sites to a single server, and ALL my non-mysql-based sites to another single server. That’s going to take a lot of shuffling things around, which is not trivial.

For now this blog (and my other blog) seems healthy and up-and-running, again.

There may be more downtime ahead as I try to reconfigure things more logically, however.

Music to do sysadmin drudgery by: Talking Heads, “Found A Job.”

Too many projects, not enough motivation.

There are many things I could be working on, geofiction-wise. I was chatting on the OGF Central discord channel a few days ago, and managed to enumerate 9 different ongoing geofiction map-drawing projects, all essentially unrelated.

  • OGF / Makaska
  • OGF / Tárrases+Mahhal
  • OGF / Ardisphere
  • Arhet / Deadlands+Hellbridge
  • Arhet / Rasfsayan
  • JOSM Only / Lekista
  • JOSM Only / Tsiqeye+Preye+Domeye+Sekeye (4 continents of a planet)
  • JOSM Only / Bofobunda+Zhebeyem
  • JOSM Only / Senhar

All of these above-listed projects are basically not moving forward at all.

Meanwhile, I also feel that I should be working on things like upgrading and/or completing the deployment of my map server (currently called Arhet). I also wish I had the energy to develop my expertise in the realm of getting contours working on Arhet, as they do on OGF. I won’t be happy with my own server environment until I’ve solved that.

But I have zero motivation, lately.

Anyone have any motivation to spare?

Music to motivate by: Taylor Swift, “The Man.”

Not much mapping

Really, I’ve just been busy with other things. I have been doing very little geofiction – exactly zero on OGF for the past month, and only minimal work at Arhet on my own server. I’ve been quite busy with real life.

And just now, I’m traveling. Here is a perhaps-geofiction-inspiring picture of Astoria, Oregon, seen from the Washington side of the Columbia River.

The long Astoria Bridge across the mouth of the Columbia River, looking south at the town of Astoria, Oregon.

Music to fail to map by: Café Tacuba, “El Aparato.”

A year later

This blog is one year old today. I founded it on Saint Patrick’s Day, last year. That’s why there’s that little shamrock on the first entry.

I really haven’t posted as much as I intended, here, over the last year.

My life underwent such huge changes, mostly unexpected. I ended my 11 year residency in South Korea and moved back to Southeast Alaska. I’m still in a bit of transition in terms of career, and meanwhile living off my savings.

I took a break from the OGF admin team last summer, then worked really hard the last few months. I have become very frustrated with trying to do admin on that site. Indeed, I have become deeply disillusioned – mostly with myself, and my inability to maintain a charitable and good-willed mindset in dealing with a never-ending onslaught of faceless trolls and juvenile idiots. I’d rather cope with a classroom of unruly 7th graders.

In a few days, I’ll be traveling to my mother’s in Queensland for a few weeks: a long crossing of the Pacific. I’ll be constrained by obligations to relatives, so I’m taking a leave-of-absence from OGF and geofiction. I have resigned the admin position permanently. It will be hard to let go, but I feel I must do so for my own peace of mind.

Music to map by: Olga Bell, “Пермский Край.”

Subway Philosophy

Someday, I will return to work on my great metropolis, Villa Constitución. And when that day comes, I shall take on the huge project of refactoring the complex subway system I designed.

When designing subways, one should have a philosophy of subways in mind. Here is an essay every subway designer must read: “Stoppism: Retrospects and Prospects“.*

*Footnote for the dense: the linked article is satire – a gorgeous, brilliant joke.

Music to design subways by: Silvio Rodríguez, “Santiago de Chile.”

admin blues


It’s all pretty depressing.

I try to be a competent and fair and innovative admin on OpenGeofiction.

Half the users hate me – I know this for an actual fact, because I see what gets said on the OGF unofficial discord channel.

And now I’m feuding with the “boss” too. I can’t win – I’m stuck in the middle. I’m not paid for this. So why am I doing it?

Perhaps I should go back to trying to build my own geofiction server and forget this. Although I derive a lot of motivation and inspiration from the OGF community, trying to be an engaged and active member feels like more suffering than benefit, some days. I would do better to not try to change or “fix” things, but that’s not in my character.

I don’t know if the creator of OGF and I really share much in terms of vision. To initial appearances, he seems committed to the “open-” part of the name, and to open source projects and concepts. Yet upon further examination, he seems utterly uninterested in trying to go anywhere toward working out a more scalable and/or sustainable governance model for the site. And for any sizable internet community (or real community for that matter), governance is actually important. So in the end, it’s just a personal fiefdom. I can feel sympathetic to that… – that’s probably how I would set my own site up. But then, what’s the “open” about? Is it just because he used the OSM stack? It feels like false advertising: “Bait and switch.”

This is just a rant.


Music to admin by: Robbie Fulks, “America Is A Hard Religion.”

Not so geoficticiany, are we?

I have become rather obsessively immersed in a non-server-related, non-geofiction-related project. Such is my nature. I’m easily distracted by new projects.

As a result, though I still load these new geofictician sites and the OGF sites daily, and even comment occasionally or tweak something here and there, I haven’t really been doing much.

I’ll get back to this soon enough.

I did spend a few hours building Mahhalian contours, the other day, with a mind on fleshing out the new, leaner, smaller, faux Mahhal-for-OGF (because the “real” Mahhal will be a separate planet file on this here server thing, eventually).

Music to map by: 매드 클라운, “콩.”

Some weeks…

And then, some weeks, I don’t get much done.

I started working on trying to customize my Rails Port (the main “copy” of the OpenStreetMap slippy map), and got very bogged down in the fact that the OpenStreetMap Rails Port is highly complex software written in a language and using an architecture unfamiliar to me: the infamous “Ruby on Rails.”

I dislike the way that the actual name “OpenStreetMap” is hard-coded throughout all the little modules. It seems like a poor application design practice, especially for an opensource project. One area where the name proliferates is in all the internationalization files. So I started wondering how hard it might be to get all these internationalization files to be more “generic.” The answer: pretty hard, at least for me.

I’ve wandered off down a digressive passage where I’m learning about software internationalization under the Ruby on Rails paradigm, but I’m undecided how I want to handle this. Do I want to try to solve it the “right way”? Or just kludge it (most likely by deleting all the internationalization files except perhaps English, Spanish, and Korean)?

Meanwhile I have also got pulled away by some non-computer, non-geofiction projects.

So… not much to report, this week – nothing mapped, nothing coded, nothing configured.

Music to map by: Sergei Rachmaninoff, “Piano Concerto No. 2.”

Not making progress

I wanted to post a part 2 for my last post, about how I got the tileserver working. I was going to talk about coastlines. In fact, my tileserver IS working, but it feels a bit useless without the other half: the so-called Rails Port.

So I have become obsessed with trying to get the Rails Port running. And I keep running into problems. The fundamental problem is that I have never used Ruby (and/or “Ruby on Rails”) before. I don’t really understand it. It’s not a development environment I have any comfort with at all. I don’t really even get the overall model.

I can get a local version of the generic “openstreetmap-website” code running on port 3000 on my desktop. And I can get a similar “development” version running on my server. But I don’t know all the places I need to edit to get the Rails Port to “look at” my tile server and not the default OSM tileservers. And I don’t know what other files I need to customize to control e.g. users, site security, name presentation, etc.

I think I’m going to have to take a timeout on trying to set this up, and spend some time learning how to deploy a much simpler Ruby app on my server.

One bit that seems like it should be utterly trivial is how to get the application to present on port 80 (standard webpage) instead of port 3000 (Ruby’s default development port, I guess). I have installed Passenger for Apache and that’s how I can present the application on port 3000, but I guess Rails doesn’t cohabit well with other applications on Apache – e.g. the wiki, this blog, etc. So somehow… it has to get “wrapped” or “proxied” but the details of how to configure this are beyond my expertise.

I’m frustrated, so I’m going to take a break from this server stuff.

Music to map by: 박경애 – 곡예사의 첫사랑