In Mike Dobson’s recent blog post OSM vs. the Mechanical Turk – A New Option For Mappers?, he brought a point, which I think is more than reasonable:
“…I guess that when I thought about the term Volunteered Geographic Information, I made the mental leap that these volunteers were providing content in the form of spatial information reflecting the geographic areas in which they lived or with which they were more than casually familiar. It has now occurred to me that there may not always be a direct beneficial relationship between geographical knowledge and Volunteered Geographic Information…”
And then he did an analogous comparison between OSM and Mechanical Turk, in which he points out that:
“…If the majority of OSM contributors to the UK database are spending their time digitizing imagery for the UK portion of the OSM database, as opposed to contributing GPS traces and attributes from paths along which they have traveled or know something about, how likely is it that the OSM effort in the UK benefits from local knowledge to the same extent that it benefits from “free” digitizing?…”
to him, the way how some people contribute to OSM database is similar to a modern version of Mechanical Turk. It looks like the data are contributed with valuable local geographical knowledge, but it is only artificially generated from aerial imagery.
Now this reminds me of another exciting post I came across from Bing, in which Steve Coast announced the experimental service from Bing which can automatically derive street vector data from Bing aerial imagery. I am pretty sure it will boost the popularity of OSM in short term, but in the long run is it really helping?