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2020 Washington State (US) New User Report

Posted by Glassman on 31 January 2021 in English. Last updated on 1 February 2021.

New Users in Washington State

2020 saw 746 new users in Washington State make their first edit. Down just slightly from the previous two years. Anecdotally it appears that we had fewer SEO edits than in past years.

Welcome Message

Welcome messages were sent to 696 of those new mappers, up from last year. Only 26 people replied at least once to the welcome message. I should note that the welcome message doesn’t ask for a reply. Of the new users, 84 replied to changeset comments. A total of 1784 changeset comments were made on the new users edits. Not all of these changeset comments required a reply. Tips were left on 351 changesets.

Edit Quality

I tried to review all of their edits before I send out the Welcome message. Some days when I had other more pressing chores the reviews were just a quick check. In some cases I left a Tip: in the changeset comment on better mapping practices. If the edit was harmful I either reverted or fixed their edit. Harmful could mean that the new mapper unintentionally dragged a node or disconnect a road.  There were eight cases of vandalism which were all reverted.


As mentioned above, I left 351 tips. Below are the most common tips left.

Tip #
Instructions on how to square buildings 88
Street names should not be abbreviated 37
Instead of deleting and redrawing, modify the geometry to preserve the history 23
How to adjust the imagery offset 22
Draw just the roof outline of a building, not the entire area 18
A number of the tips involved addresses including not deleting the address when deleting a poi 17
Descriptive names should not be use 11
When to use access=no (people wanting to prevent others from driving on their neighborhood road 10
Limit edit area instead edits in multiple parts of the state 10
Encourage the mappers to leave brief descriptive changeset comments 8

Top New Mappers

The top mappers, by the number of editing days are shown below along with any company association. Four of the top five mappers work as paid mappers. Disclaimer - a top mapper has a much better chance to make this list if they started editing early in the year. Only those with 15 editing days or more are on the list

User Name Edit Days Company
DowntownAbby 168 Kaart
KiloCrimson 133  
nllucky 103 Amazon Logistics
VLD164 87 Facebook
Shashank Saraogi 86 Amazon Logistics
austinsnow 68  
150074 67  
watmildon 65  
brownbray 62  
markkerrigan 51  
I_Tripped_And 44  
MatildaWolf 44  
CardinalScout 39  
Fogey7 35  
funwhilelost 25  
AJ Fite 21  
beepbeep123123 19  
goldenempireguy 19  
LRC1900 19  
PaulWC911 16  
RobSturza 16  
beleki2020 16  
Mark Plesko 15  
Shortree 15  

2020 Editor Usage

Posted by Glassman on 8 November 2020 in English.

This is a quick count of the various editors used by mappers in 2020. iD is on top with 7.6M edits followed by JOSM with 5.6M. The data was collected by looking at tags->created_by in the changeset database.

Editor Count
iD 7636890
JOSM 5644149
StreetComplete 414353
MAPS.ME 160365
Go Map!! 122639
OsmAnd 118465
Potlatch 115427
Vespucci 100327
Other 90879
osmapi 73587
Refill Südtirol 22612
Services_OpenStreetMap 16985
Merkaartor 13137
autoAWS 11626
All the Things 10548 7930
Go Kaart!! 7567
FireYak 6956
OsmHydrant 6564
MapRoulette 3206
ArcGIS Editor for OpenStreetMap 2611
Rosemary 2067
Gnome Maps 1437

Mapping Ballot Drop Box Location

Posted by Glassman on 22 September 2020 in English.

The US 2020 Election is just 41 days away. Like some states my home state of Washington is all mail in ballots. But you don’t actually have to mail in your ballot for it to be counted. You can also drop your ballot off at any one of the counties ballot drop box locations.

Skagit County Ballot Drop Box in Anacortes, WA

The county has a map of all their locations but it’s not always clear exactly where the drop box is located. So what’s a OSM mapper to do? Go out and map them. The last two locations, Concrete and at the Sauk-Suiattle Tribe were added this afternoon. The Sauk-Suiattle is located in the Southeast portion of the county near Darrington, WA. While much of the county lies to the east, hardly anyone lives there.

I encourage everyone to get out and map polling stations and drop boxes where appropriate.

Tagging is simple amenity=polling_station plus polling_station=ballot_box for drop box locations. Additional tags can include operator and opening_hours.

One surprising find was that ballot drop boxes are located in both of tribes located in the county. Sauk-Suiattle and Swimomish.

2019 saw 760 new mappers in Washington State, again down slightly from previous years. Not a trend we want to see continue. This includes the late influx of Tesla’s mappers that are mapping parking lots so they can summons their Tesla. Don’t think badly of Tesla owners in Washington, it rains a lot. I only wish I could summons my old car.

Welcoming messages were set to 679 new mappers. The message remained the same even though I keep thinking of changing it. Guess there must be something to consistency or is that procrastination?

I was able to identify 7 of those new editors as paid mappers. It was fairly easy since they typically have thousands of edits each. Paid mappers are making significant contributions to OSM. Only Amazon has significant number of edits in Washington. From my experience they are making quality edits. I’ve caught a couple of errors, certainly less that what I’ve made. They are quick to respond and fix the problem.

For the number crunchers here are some of the stats:

  • 760 new users including SEO spammers
  • 679 welcoming messages set with 31 replies (4.6%)
  • 344 users were sent one or more changeset comments (50% of new users)
  • 62 new mappers responded to a changeset comment (18%) It should be noted that not all changeset comments expected a response. For example, if the changeset requested a review and that review was good, a response wouldn’t be required.
  • New mappers contributed over 40K edits since joining OSM. However, paid mappers contributed nearly 32K of those changesets.
  • Not counting paid mappers, new mappers edited a total of 1990 days

Have you considered welcoming new users? I highly recommend starting. It only takes me a few minutes a day for the entire state of Washington. The start of new quarters of some of the universities and colleges, when new GIS students are given an assignment to edit in OSM, are challenging, but mostly it is just a few a day. Mapbox’s OSMCha will help you identify new users in your area. Feel free to use and modify my Welcome Message or even better use the Belgium’s communities welcoming process.

Clifford aka Glassman

2018 saw 794 new users in Washington State, up just slightly from 787 in 2017.

Of those nearly 800 new contributors, a welcome message was sent to 693 users. I gave up at some point sending to obvious SEO editors since they never respond or for that matter bother read any OSM wiki articles on how to edit.

Of those that did receive a welcome message, 27 replied. This number is down considerably from previous years. However, they have been responding to changeset comments. 82 new users replied to a changeset comment that either I or someone else left. One feature I’d like to see added to the changeset comments is to be able to get notified when I don’t get a response. It usually means what I suggested fixed never got fixed.

The Welcome Message is relatively unchanged from previous years. I do think it’s time for a change. I’d like to add some hints on what and where to map. It’s on my todo list for 2019.

I want to thank Wille Marcel at Mapbox for OSMCHA. One of the latest improvement is to add users to a personal watch list. I recently started adding new users that have questionable first edits. Okay - the edits aren’t questionable, they are just bad. OSMCHA now allows watching for repeat vandalism.

If you are welcoming new users, I’d like to hear your experiences. Just drop a comment below.

Happy New Years, Clifford Snow

SEO Work Hours

Posted by Glassman on 27 November 2018 in English.

There is one Search Engine Optimization (SEO) company that keeps adding incomplete data in the US. They never respond to inquires or fix their errors. They add duplicate nodes, use the wrong syntax for opening_hours, leave a lengthy description and never tag the type of business.

Looking at their history two things stand out. First their locale is either en:US or en:GB. Could be two different locations or more likely different users. The other is when they make their edits. Below is a breakdown of their edits since Jan. 1, 2016 :

UTC Hour Edits

SEO Edits

Changeset timestamps show that edits start around 04:00 and end before 14:00. My guess is the location is 3 to 5 hours ahead of the UTC. Anyone want to venture a better guess?

Having the IP of the users to get a better location would be nice. Anyone with OSM system admin want to assist?

Creating Vector Tiles for use with iD

Posted by Glassman on 29 August 2018 in English. Last updated on 23 September 2018.

Version 2.11.0 of the iD editor now has the ability to display vector tiles as overlays. With help from a bunch of people I was able to create and display a vector tile overlay for use in iD. I want to pass along what I learned to help others.

Creating Vector Tiles

So you have some data you would like to display in iD to help editing. I used Florida State Trails data which is open data on the Florida State open data site. The licensing is suitable for OSM. Once you download the data, I recommend reviewing the data using QGIS to see what it look like. QGIS shows all of the data visually. Adding an OSM baselayer helps understand how the data would fits with OSM. QGIS will also convert the data to a GeoJSON needed for the next step, which is coverting the GeoJSON to a Mapbox mbtiles files. Lets look at the steps in more detail.

  1. Download the data and open in QGIS.
  2. Convert to a GeoJSON. If the data looks good in QGIS, save a copy as a GeoJSON using the Save As in the Layer menu option. If the data isn’t in WGS84 (EPSG:4326) projection QGIS will allow you to change the projection for your new file.
  3. Use Tippecanoe to convert the GeoJSON to an mbtiles file tippecanoe -o yourdata.mbtiles yourdata.geojson

Serve the data as a Vector Tile

The data is now ready for a Vector Tile Server. I used Mapbox’s Studio to load and serve the data.

  1. Create a new Tileset in Mapbox Studio
  2. Mapbox Studio will assign a unique Map ID for each of your tilesets under your user name. Mapbox Tileset

Your data is now ready to be used. All that’s needed is a url for iD. The URL will look like{z}/{x}/{y}.mvt?access_token=pk.eyJ1IjoiZ2xhc3NtYW4iLCJhIjoiRjk3dWdwYyJ9.Tg_fMJWxygeKBgVTrZHmGA

To determine your URL use your Map ID created in step 2 above and your Mapbox Access Token to create ID from step 2/{z}/{x}/{y}.mvt?access_token=your token

To create an access token, go to and select Create a Token. Mapbox Access Token

Using Vector Tiles in iD

Now that you’ve created your first vector tile, you are ready to use it in iD.

  1. Use the Map Data icon to add in your new URL Add Vector Tile URL
  2. Select a vector tile to read the vector data Display Vector Data

Alaska Marine Highway

Posted by Glassman on 29 April 2018 in English.

I’ve updated the Alaska Marine Highway. The southern most end is in Bellingham, Washingtonm just up the road from me. It didn’t appear to connect to either Valdez and Seward that the US Bike Routes indicated that it should. A number of ferry routes were missing or incomplete which was started me on the quest to fix the problem. It still doesn’t connect to Seward, the jumping off point for USBR 97 to Bellingham. As far as I can tell, Seward doesn’t have a ferry terminal. It does connect to USBR 95 in Valdez.

Alaska Marine Highway

Work still needs to be done. If anyone wants to help, here is a list of items that need help with:

  1. add or update the cargo= tag to indicated what the ferry carries, such as cars, pedestrians, etc.
  2. Check each ferry terminal to see if they have routes that are missing
  3. Verify that the route is actually routable.

We are waiting on AASHTO to finalize the ferry route from Bellingham to Alaska. Once we have the approval the ferry route will be added completing the bike routes from Alaska to the northern half of Washington State.


Location: Edgemoor, Fairhaven, Bellingham, Whatcom County, Washington, United States

Normally SEO firms are accused of adding garbage to OSM. The worst offender, what I refer to as “SEO Updated” is a prolific firm adding poorly tagged companies. Fro the week of Jan 28th through February 3rd, SEO Updated added 27 businesses. The only good news it that they only seem to operate on weekdays. I believe DWG is fully aware of their operation.

Another offender came to my attention. This SEO firm, Milestone Inc. in Santa Clara, CA. is not only adding poorly tagged companies but they are deleting existing building outlines with some of the same information they are adding, but only as a node. Like SEO Updated, each business has their own user name in almost the exact same format. Another similarity, they don’t respond to changeset comments or messages.

Their Operations VP has not responded to my messages nor has one of their customers, Best Western Hotels. So today I’m going on Twitter to shame them into responding. I could use your help. Please retweet or post your own to @milestonemktg. Please use the hashtag #DestructiveSEOedits.


OpenStreetMap is one of the few open source initiatives that operates without a formal Code of Conduct. Many [1] of the large open source projects have adopted a Code of Conduct for their mailing lists, forums and conferences.

Why would we want to have a formal standard for contact? OpenStreetMap longevity depends on our being able to attract and keep new mappers, developers and third party users. Good behavior means more people feel comfortable engaging in community discussions. Bad conduct not only drives people away but can lead to giving OSM a bad reputation. Our reputation is key to raising funds needed for operation and growth. The OSMF Board has a fiduciary responsibility to protect our project. Adopting and enforcing a Code of Conduct is a step in that direction.

[1] Some examples of CoC guidelines are:

  • Be respectful
  • Be friendly and patient
  • Be civil and considerate
  • Be collaborative
  • Assume good intentions.
  • Respect time and attention
  • Disclose potential conflicts
  • Take responsibility for our words and our actions
  • Be welcoming
  • Be careful in the words that you choose
    • Discriminatory remarks based on stereotypes
    • Violent threats or language directed against another person.
    • Discriminatory jokes and language.
    • Posting sexually explicit or violent material.
    • Posting (or threatening to post) other people’s personally identifying information (“doxing”).
    • Personal insults, especially those using racist or sexist terms.
    • Unwelcome sexual attention.
    • Repeated harassment of others. In general, if someone asks you to stop, then stop.
    • Deliberately spreading FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)
    • Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior.

Adopting a CoC is just one step in the process. If we only post the CoC when members sign up on a mailing list or attend our conferences, nothing will change. Instead the Board should:

  • Define the scope of the policy: may include mailing lists, conferences and other in person gatherings, forums, comments on changesets, IRC,
  • Decide who is responsible for responding to reports of abuse
  • Determine consequences for violating the CoC
  • Provide appropriate avenues to report abuse
  • Periodically remind members of our CoC

[1] Example of Codes of Conduct by Open Source organizations:


I want to thank everyone that contributed to this document. Blake Giradot, Martijn van Exel, Andrew Johnson, Kate Chapman, Ian Dees, Dale Kunce, and Joost Schouppe. If I missed anyone, I apologize in advance.

Location: Mount Vernon, Skagit County, Washington, 98273, United States

POI Completeness

Posted by Glassman on 27 March 2017 in English.

ramyaragupathy asked me recently how well I thought Seattle was mapped. One of the areas was very broad, POI’s which makes answering the question very difficult. Thinking about the question lead to what outside data source could we compare to OSM to get a sense of completeness.

I stumbled across the King County Health Department Restaurant Inspections. Every restaurant inspection, going back many years, is available in the counties open data repository.

The data needed some massaging, food inspectors seem to think that they shouldn’t limit themselves to just restaurants but any business that serves food, including schools, company cafeterias, the fried chicken (ugh) found in mini marts and food trucks. After removing businesses that didn’t match amenity=fast_food or restaurant or cafe it appears that OSM has 1,714 food service businesses vs. 3,680 inspected by the county or 47%, slightly less than half.

The actual results are most likely somewhere near 47% but OSM many have some closed businesses and the county’s list may be over stated (I may have keep businesses that should have been excluded.)

That brings up the question - what to do with all of the county’s data. It’s definitely not something I’d like to see imported, but it would be nice to see better coverage. What are your recommendations?


2016 Washington New Users Report

Posted by Glassman on 9 January 2017 in English.

This is the second annual results report on welcoming new mappers. 2016 saw a large increase in new mappers in Washington State over 2015. Also a record number, 403, welcome messages sent. Last year I reported sending 106 messages with a 9% response rate. This year the response rate was 7.4% which I partially attribute to the larger sample size and to the increase in MAPS.ME users who seem to never respond.

Recently I starting using Toby Murry’s ChangesetMD tool to help identify new users. While I’m still using the IRC-Bot to identify new users, I expect to switch over to using minutely changesets with Toby’s ChangesetMD tool.

Using the new tool I was able to start capturing some new data.

  • Total new users in Washington State = 562
  • Welcome Messages Set = 403
  • Responses received = 30
  • Response rate = 7.4%
  • Percent of new users getting a Welcome Message = 72%
  • Total number of changesets by new users = 14,119

Editor Used

  • iD 474
  • MAPS.ME 53
  • Potlatch 18
  • JOSM 5
  • Go Map!! 4
  • OsmAnd 4
  • Rosemary 2
  • Gnome Maps 1
  • Vespucci 1

Some interesting statistics

  • Average number of edits by users that received a Welcome Message = 29.0
  • Average span [1] of days editing by users that received a message = 17.4
  • Average number of edits by users that did not receive a Welcome Message = 15.2
  • Average span [1] of days editing by users that did not get a message = 13.6

The numbers are encouraging me to continue to send Welcome Messages to new users. I plan to add a section with suggestions of what to edit. Cities like Seattle have quite a few features already mapped which might discouraged new users. Conversely, rural cities are pretty barren which can be just as discouraging.

Check out my current process on GitHub which includes my updated Welcome Message which includes a link to tips for Pokemon Go users.

[1] span = the number of days between first edit and last edit.


Retaining New Users

Posted by Glassman on 12 December 2016 in English.

This is a blog post on my efforts to connect with new users. OpenStreetMap adds new users at a surprising rapid rate. If only they would stick around. So what can we do to increase their longevity? Not have extra money, bribes are out. So is swag, not that I have any of that either.

Right now I’m giving new users thumbnail information on OSM and inviting them to join an OSM Meetup group. After the new year when I’ll pull together some statistics to see if information alone is useful or if I should try another approach.

What else can I try?

  • Challenges
  • Suggestions of what to map
  • Survey for new users

New User Edits

Posted by Glassman on 26 November 2016 in English.

One of my goals is to increase the number of mappers in Washington State by contacting them after their first edit with suggestions to help them get involved. My message was taken from the Brussels community. I can’t say it helps keep people mapping but it certainly doesn’t hurt. At least no one has asked me not to send them messages. (Most just ignore me.)

Because my process is manual, I look at every first edit and fix many of them. Those first edits often have common quality errors. I don’t believe they are from bad users, but from a process that could use improvement. We could insist that new users complete a course before they are allowed to edit. But that isn’t going to get us new mappers. Having existing mappers validate new users edits takes time away from their normal mapping.

When I do fix an edit, I include the change in the Welcome message. Occasionally I’ll leave a changeset message when I’m not sure what they were intending. Originally I was leaving a message and not fixing them, but after realizing that many didn’t go back to fix the problem I just started to do it myself.

I tried to look at this from a quality improvement perspective. First collect data then define the problem and finally look at solutions. My new mapper process has been running for over a year. While I haven’t done a proper job of documenting errors, something I’d like to do, some just keep reoccurring. Today I’m just focusing one one.

Problem Statement

New users edits do not include the lack of a tag to describe the business. For example, someone added an insurance office. The tag included the name, address, and phone number. Occasionally they will add a tag keyword to indicate what the business does. But no office=insurance. To the editor, this looks a good edit.

The developers did fix the problem of tags with just name=. It now notifies the user that they need to enter more information. We now need to take this to the next level.

Below are two possible solutions. The solutions are for iD since that is the editor most new users use.


  1. If the object is an area, provide two name fields, a building name and a business name. The text field should have appropriate tools tips to help the user select the right box for the name. If the business name is populated, then the user should be prompted to add an appropriate tag to the feature (besides the address.) Address point objects should not have a name field. Name fields should be only be provided with objects that have names such as businesses, places, etc.
  2. is a website to add businesses to OSM. The process doesn’t actually add businesses to OSM but leaves a note for a mapper to add the business. The code is on github. I’d like to see the user interface enhanced to help select the correct tags for the business with a version of iD to have the user actually add the business. To move the website out of obscurity, include add business under the edit menu on the main website.

How you can help

  1. Look at new editors in your area. Determine the common errors in their edits.
  2. Is the problem correctly stated?
  3. What other improvements to the process would help?
  4. Are you or your company willing to fund development to improve the process?
  5. What would be a good tool to capture new edit quality errors?

Clifford Snow

New Users

Posted by Glassman on 14 January 2016 in English.

I’ve been sending message to new users that are in our meetup area, inviting them to join our meetup. I also offer to answer any OSM questions they have. Since Jan 2015 I’ve sent 106 messages. From the new users, I’ve received responses from 10 new mappers. That’s a 9% response rate.

Not sure why the response rate is so low. A couple of possibilities come to mind. First, I don’t ask for a response. While I do invite them to join our Meetup Group, it is impossible to find a match between OSM user_id and Meetup nickname. Some could have responded by joining the meetup group. The other possibility is that I need a better welcome message. There is a third possibility but for now I’m not going there.

Work in progresssss

Location: Mount Vernon, Skagit County, Washington, 98273, United States

Welcome Message

Posted by Glassman on 3 November 2015 in English.

The OSM Welcome message could use some changes to see if we can encourage more participation from new subscribers. The current signon process is quick and easy. (At least if you don’t read all the legalese in the Agreement.) My goal is to build a welcome message that encourages more participation and mapping. I invite everyone to share their thoughts on what should and shouldn’t be in the message.

Listed below, in no particular order, are some of my thoughts

  • OSM Philosophy
  • Code of Conduct
  • Invitation to join the OSMF and local chapter
  • How and why to donate to OSM
  • Where to meet other mappers
  • A link to HOT’s LearnOSM.

If you’d like to help, just drop me a line.

If it has been a while since you signed up for the first time, below is the current process as done on a desktop computer. Not sure what it looks like on a mobile device. The last screenshoot is the welcome message. What is your opinion; can it be improved?

Initial Sign up

Initial Sign up


Full text of the agreement is here. Agreement

Confirmation Notice

Confirmation Notice

Email Confirmation

Email Confirmation

Welcome Message

Welcome Message

I was on the way to a meeting downtown taking my usual route. Entering the downtown area my normal route was now one way, going the wrong direction. On the way back I discovered that the street was just converted. Workers were in the process of redoing the signal lights. The lanes had already been repainted.

I made the change to OSM. Certainly faster than any of the commercial maps. However, the street has an entrance to I5 express lanes. These are time dependent. In the morning they lead into the city and out in the afternoon. But I can't find anything on the wiki that tells me how to show the TOD direction.

Since I'm new I'll ask on the newbie mailing list.

Location: South Lake Union, Belltown, Seattle, King County, Washington, 98191, United States