Recent diary entries
I'll be at State of the Map in Brussels this week presenting all of our work on validating OpenStreetMap data. At Mapbox, we spent the last few months looking at changes that happen in OpenStreetMap closely - geometry, tags, users and the community. I'm really excited to share what we learned, and to open the conversation on how the community can focus on keeping the map from breaking while growing. I'll be presenting the tools we have been building, insights about problematic changes, response, mechanics of communication and more during my talk.
Our team just published an approach to validating OpenStreetMap data - talking about identifying problematic changes, inspecting them, communicating and eventually fixing. Let me know what you think!
What makes OpenStreetMap special is the community. The community is what makes OpenStreetMap a truly self-healing map. The community is the map.
Map of recently reverted changesets
If you haven't already, watch Sanjay Bhangar's presentation at State of the Map US.
I'm a software developer at Mapbox based in Bangalore, India, co-leading our data team. Prior to Mapbox, I've been part of projects at Karnataka Learning Partnership, Moabi, and organizations like the Center for Internet and Society and Tactical Technology Collective. What makes writing this note special is that I'm in Doha this week, talking about OpenStreetMap data, tools and running a Digital Humanitarian workshop along with Heather Leson and the Qatar Red Crescent Society. In doing so, I've been able to engage entrepreneurs, engineers and scientist - introducing them to the largest living map, and OpenStreetMap as a project that is truly "moving the map." What makes me believe in what we do at HOT and OpenStreetMap is the power of bringing people together.
I have been part of OpenStreetMap since 2008. Since the Haiti activation, I regularly lurked on the HOT mailing list and occasionally mapped. More than mapping, I was drawn to how the OpenStreetMap software infrastructure worked and the idea of mapping anything and everything. I started off my career building data infrastructures and advocated the use of OpenStreetMap software for other use cases. The recent Nepal activation is when I truly got involved in HOT. Right after the earthquake, our team in Bangalore got together to start mapping priority areas. I was communicating with folks at the Kathmandu Living Labs and relaying requests to map, make map data available for download, and working with actors on the ground to design maps for print. I also got a chance to help and learn about imagery acquisition through Mapbox and the Indian Space Research Organisation.
India doesn't have a strong OpenStreetMap community. We managed to build momentum and groups across different cities - New Delhi, Pondicherry, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Mumbai to contribute to the Nepal mapping tasks. Arun and I did training over Skype, phone and hangouts. It was a surreal experience to have been in the middle of a crisis at the same time I realise from the conversations with everyone at KLL that it was very real. I've been part of the most recent activations in Mexico and Afghanistan, rallying communities to map and getting in touch with people on the ground who could tell us more about what's important. I have run events, trained individuals to map and spoken to journalists and the media, in India, about what we do at HOT.
I think HOT is in an excellent position to do something that will change how crisis response works, from data acquisition and communication to controlling and supporting distribution of aid. Our community is strong, technology is robust and we are continuously improving, as we learn from each activation. In my mind, HOT's challenges are more than drumming up people to map. In times of crisis, people want to help. What's missing is the link between traditional disaster response agencies and HOT. During the Nepal and Afghanistan activations, I have reached out to local aid agencies in India like the Red Cross chapters, Goonj, Indian Airforce - they were all responding to Nepal - but I failed to make any connection and failed to see our maps being used by them. All the journalists I spoke to were interested in the story how a group of digital humanitarians are helping map Nepal and were not going to help speak about how these maps need to be used by local agencies. In Afghanistan, I heard firsthand that the agents on mission have practically no communication channels. HOT has work to do to break these silos, work with partners to and make our maps known and used. I'd like to start small, understand how local aid agencies work and make our ways flexible to collaborate closely.