One common theme weaved into the State of the Map US conference was the difficulty of community onboarding...once people are finally drawn into OpenStreetMap, how can we retain them and help them feel like a part of the community? I think we should have some sort of OSM Ambassador program. A welcoming committee, or mentoring program, that reaches out to greet new users as they join the community and serve as a contact point for questions about OSM, correct tagging, using the data, or just why this community is so great. This group can also be the connection from individual mappers to local OSM chapters, Maptimes, and other organizations.
The program should be somewhat local, focused on the country, province, or even city to provide a “local” touch to the communication--not just a generic response. The ambassador/mentor/welcomer doesn’t necessarily have to live there, but it would be great for them to have some knowledge of the location to provide advice tailored towards that region. This initial contact would perhaps help the new mapper realize they aren’t the only person in a TIGER desert of nodes. It would also give them a direct contact point if they don’t want to approach the mountain of mailing lists or try their hand at IRC and other help mediums.
A similar mechanism has likely been informally happening already by many of us in the community. I have personally sent messages to people as I’ve randomly seen a new editor show up in the history, usually when they are in my area. Minh Nguyễn, had a great talk at the SOTM US, where he touched on how he has also reached out to new mappers in the bigger picture of inspiring local mappers. It makes sense that we already do this, because we truly care about the OSM community. But we should organize our efforts so that we can ensure all of the areas are covered.
This project is, I think, the biggest step forward for springboarding an ambassador program. We should look to organize this worldwide and rally around welcoming people into our community to provide a group of fellowship for mapping and open data!