Local Chapters v2.0 - A standardised starting point for new contributors

Posted by DaCor on 4 September 2013 in English (English)

For the TL;DR crowd, the basis of the following lays out what I feel should be achievable in providing a standard starting point to creating local chapter portals within the OSM ecosystem while at the same time allowing more active chapters to flourish externally but benefit from tools available to all. i would like to preface this with an acknowledgment that I do not have the necessary technical skills to create what i am about to propose, but maybe it might spark somebody into following through on even some aspects of this proposal. The idea behind this is to keep it as simple as possible for new members to tie in with existing members from their country / region. For myself, personally, I only got as involved as I did due to the fact of the #osm-ie Irish IRC channel where I got a lot of real-time assistance.

There are a handful of strong OSM local chapters around the world, a sprinkling of inactive or dormant local chapters and a gaping hole where no local chapters exist at all in any form despite there likely being some active OSM members from every country in the world.

I propose to change this using the starting point of account creation on

How I envisage this working is upon joining, more emphasis is put on the new member placing a "home location" marker. The small print at this point can state that it does not need to be their actual "home", but rather it can be a generic location like the city centre or a local monument if they so wish. Benefits of placing a home location marker should also be outlined at this point as:

  • Automatic access to region / country specific local chapter (more on this later) etc
  • Country/region specific statistics

Once new member registration is complete, they are presented with an option to edit the map, but there is an additional option to "access openstreetmap local chapter for your area" which will open a new window, the chapter portal.

The chapter portal will contain several simple indicators for that chapter, these would be simple active/inactive indicators to show which of the following are in use:

  • IRC related, i.e the chapter maintains an IRC channel (#osm-gb, #osm-ie etc) with a link to a browser based IRC client (keep it simple, don't involve IRC clients at this stage) which would ideally open with the chapter portal as a wrapper around the IRC chat window. This could be changed in preferences to open in a new window, or open client.
  • Mailing list, same as IRC above (it would be good if signing up for mailing lists be simplified/streamlined to allow for one / two click sign-up)
  • Mapping parties, can link to an external site like event brite, meetups etc or be an integrated part of the portal showing the the next / previous meet ups.
  • National page on the wiki
  • A chapter forum. Ideally this would be integrated into the chapter portal rather than linking out to the existing osm forums unless they could be configured to allow the portal to act as a wrapper.
  • Lastly, stats! Various national stats incorporated into the portal (see, etc for examples)

I am sure there are a load of improvements that could be made to the above, however it would be a good starting point by which to tie new members into their local community and increase active contributors.

I do not see this as taking over from external sites that have been developed by certain chapters, rather, in those cases, this would act as a "first contact" location for new contributors.

I look forward to discussing this and many other things, with SOTM folks over the next few days

Comment from westis on 13 September 2013 at 06:07

These are great ideas. I've also been thinking in similar terms. It must be a lot easier to interact with local users, share ideas and principles about how to map certain features etc., as well as providing an easier entry for beginners in a specific area.

I'm currently trying to build a community of mappers in Kenya. There is a wiki page, but no real strategy of maintaining it. Then we're thinking of setting up a mailing list. But it is indeed too difficult and confusing to sign up for a mailing list. Then there's the forums, which is on an entirely different site and layout. And IRC (IRC what?!?), which is a great way for real-time communication, but not easy to understand for newbies. And so on and so forth.

If OSM could have local chapters/communities built in somehow, it would greatly help in catching all newbies who might disappear because of high learning threshold, to inspire each other, and to come up with a unified way of tagging certain features that are particular to that area.

Comment from DaCor on 13 September 2013 at 14:57

By the looks of it you have done great work so far in Kenya.

The local chapters working group has started back up again with a view to getting the local chapters question answered once and for all.

The main issues are legal ones, which i won't go into here, there is plenty on the wiki giving more details than I can, however once these main legal issues are sorted, the major road block for local chapters is then removed.

At that point, I think we can then start looking at infrastructure in terms of communication / websites / forums etc.

Comment from westis on 13 September 2013 at 16:22

Thanks for your reply! Being fairly new to OSM I'm really excited. I haven't heard about the Local Chapters Working Group before. Is it to set up legally registered chapters in different countries? That is, not only a community, but also a legal framework for it?

Since we're in the process of setting up a Kenyan OSM community I'm interested in hearing more about what we should think about in that regard.

Comment from DaCor on 13 September 2013 at 17:08

The initial purpose is to answer a lot of the legal questions that have come up from various sectors with regards to local chapters e.g. use of the openstreetmap logo as one example.

Once these questions are answered, it will possibly switch to looking at creating the right framework and tools for local chapters to be created.

Something to remember, there is nothing to stop you setting up a mailing list, irc channel, forum etc for Kenyan members right now. Its what we have done for Ireland and it has worked well for several years so if you think there is a gap and it needs to be filled and would be of benefit to Kenyan members, then you should go right ahead with it.

Folding all those things into an offical local chapter can always happen at a later date

Comment from mikelmaron on 13 September 2013 at 19:57


Great thinking, I've been exploring some of these questions too ... was the topic of my SOTM US talk

and this blog post

We have started implementing a few of the ideas around Groups in It's actually not too far off.

Finally, Local Chapters group is due to restart with a call in 1 weeks time. I expect the focus will be more legal, as you say.

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