Not long ago I came across this:
“That’s another thing we’ve learned from your Nation,” said Mein Herr, “map-making. But we’ve carried it much further than you. What do you consider the largest map that would be really useful?”
“About six inches to the mile.”
“Only six inches!” exclaimed Mein Herr. “We very soon got to six yards to the mile. Then we tried a hundred yards to the mile. And then came the grandest idea of all! We actually made a map of the country, on the scale of a mile to the mile!”
“Have you used it much?” I enquired.
“It has never been spread out, yet,” said Mein Herr: “the farmers objected: they said it would cover the whole country, and shut out the sunlight! So we now use the country itself, as its own map, and I assure you it does nearly as well.
It immediately made me think of the long ongoing trend in orienteering mapping towards ever larger scales with ever larger amounts of detail.
My view is, and has been for some time now, that the efforts in including increasing amounts of detail dwarf any benefits to the racer from having this additional detail. Indeed it has often gone to the point of absurdity, where the additional detail has become a disadvantage rather than a benefit to the racer, because of diminished legibility and increasing irrelevance of any given piece of detail.
My wish for O' mappers everywhere would be to keep one principle foremost: that above all, a map must be useful.
Then the following principles apply: legibility, consistency, accuracy, and inclusion of all important details.
An orienteering map is not intended to be, nor should it be, an exhaustive, encyclopedic inventory of all possible objects within the competition terrain. And yet that seems to be what many orienteers think it should be, as if a map with less detail is somehow a compromised, second rate product.