New Users

Posted by Glassman on 14 January 2016 in English (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

Comment from SOSM on 14 January 2016 at 10:06

9% is a impressively high response rate, better than any other result I’ve heard of.

I believe we have to be careful about our expectations

  • we know that we have a large number of one time only mappers that simply want to fix something specific and are not about to turn mapping in to their favourite pasttime
  • of those that do stay on, a large number (this is simply based on experience and not hard numbers) seem to be want to be left alone

In any case even in countries with large and active OSM communities we are talking about perhaps 1% or so that really participate in the community and turn up at get togethers etc.


Comment from santamariense on 14 January 2016 at 16:45

Isn’t different from Brazil.

Comment from Alan Bragg on 14 January 2016 at 21:16

That’s great. I’d like to do something similar. I registered in 2011 but never mapped a single node and forgot about OSM. I rediscovered it in 2014 when I started mapping local trails and have become quite active. I would have welcomed a communication from a local mapper.

Comment from 42429 on 15 January 2016 at 19:00

When sending urgent messages to major mappers, I got a response rate of 50-60%. Only 1 of 5 has sent me a short personal message, the other ones have just pressed an OK button. 40-50% have disappeared without notice.

Some mappers have used a temporary mail address for signing up. Some mappers have forgotten their password. Some mappers don’t read every message.

A meeting of 10 mappers is a big event, even in a city with 1 million inhabitants.

Comment from Glassman on 15 January 2016 at 23:46

Thanks everyone for their comments.

If anyone is interested, I used the IRC bot to find new users after they make their first edit. Of course it would be nice to contact everyone that just signed up, but AFAIK that isn’t possible.

The 9% response rate is the people that responded to a message. The next step will be to see how active the 9% are as compared to the non-response group.

Now that I’ve moved to a more rural area, it appears that new local mappers are more responsive. Although they are few in number. I plan to start a new Meetup Group for this corner of Washington State. We’ll see if that draws in new mappers.


Comment from RicoElectrico on 22 January 2016 at 20:28

of those that do stay on, a large number (this is simply based on experience and not hard numbers) seem to be want to be left alone

Of course some people are that way, but in principle you shouldn’t want to be left alone - after all OSM is a social activity, with cooperation and its rules (written or non-written) shaped (and changing over time) by the community. If you want to edit, you should also socialize, at least minimally. We’re not Google Maps with faceless moderators. I think the current onboarding process (and the OSM website) doesn’t stress this enough,

Comment from marczoutendijk on 22 January 2016 at 22:18

In the Dutch community I send a welcome message to every mapper that does his/her first edit in our (small) country.
In this message I point them to a special help Wiki with informatin for newbies and encourage them to join the community.
I also check their first edits for serious mistakes/errors. A half year after this first contact I check the number of edits that were done after this initial edits to see if we are dealing with “one time only” mappers (e.g. no more edits after the initial edits) or staying mappers (more than 100 changesets after 6 months.)

On average we have 80-100 new persons (doing a first edit) each month. Based on some preliminary results and data checking, it seems that only 3% of the mappers keep mapping!

Comment from Glassman on 23 January 2016 at 01:25

Does the Dutch community manually send messages or is there some automatic way that I haven’t discovered?

Comment from !i! on 24 January 2016 at 14:19

Same for my state (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany), with even lower return rates. But compared to usual public relation mails, this is still higher (you say 1% return is ok in promotion).

Comment from dieterdreist on 25 January 2016 at 10:22

Inspired by your post I have counted the welcome messages that I have sent out in the past 2 years (exactly 100 if I do 2 years+1week), and how many replied (expected to be in the same range as you, but now discovered a significantly higher reply rate, for this term it was 27 replies). I often did not write to everybody just because she was new though, but rather picked those people that seemed more interested than the average newbie (i.e. more than one or two edits), and in particular I did often not write to apparent business owners (who had a profile name that sounded like a business and who only added this one business). In the more recent mails I also did not invite them to face to face meetings (because we don’t do them right now). My text is like this: a welcoming paragraph, followed by a paragraph of stuff I have noticed looking at her first edits, followed by a paragraph where to find more information and help (e.g. regional and national mailing list, wiki, I consider crucial the part where I comment their edits, because it shows them that it isn’t just a standard copy and paste mail, and it makes them more involved.

Comment from joost schouppe on 2 February 2016 at 06:18

In Belgium, we send a message to every new mapper, as picked up by Pascal Neis CSS feed, archived in a Google Doc. We do check the changesets, and sometimes personalise the welcome message based on that. There is no call to answer us, just an open invitation to join the community. With about 400 messages sent, we had a response in 11% of the cases.

I do have the feeling that personalisation increases chance of feedback, but then again feedback isn’t the goal. Maybe it would be more interesting to track link clicking from the message (but that might be off putting tonsome)

BTW our welcome message is available here for copying and improving. (scroll down for Dutch, French and English versions)

Comment from Glassman on 2 February 2016 at 06:50

That is an impressive message. I like that it is in a number of different languages. I wonder how many of our new mappers have English as a second language.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’d like to use your message to rewrite mine.


Comment from edward17 on 8 February 2016 at 14:54


I’m Eduard, active mapper from East of Ukraine. I also send “welcome message” to new users in my area. I find them just by veiwing OSM edits history or in RSS feed of “Latest OSM Contributors”.

I’ve sent messages to 65 users. Here’s some statistics:

  • 13 users (about 20%) have sent a response
  • 3 users haven’t mapped after sending a response
  • 8 users have mapped anything after sending a response but have stopped their contributing to OSM later
  • 2 (only!!) users are contributors up to now, but they are not really active

I can share with you some advices that I found white communicating with new users.

  • At the beginning of message I write my name (Eduard). I think that people write a response more often when they see a message from real living person and not from unknown OSM user (maybe bot!?) edward17.
  • I write that I’m from this area of country. In messages for users from my city I write that I’m from this city.
  • Before writing a message I analyse changets made by this user. I search for errors, using of wrong tags and so on. If I find this errors I choose the biggest error and describe how to fix it. New users use iD editor fast always. If fixing of errors is impossible with iD or if user makes too many changes I propose to use JOSM editor. If a user has responded and fixed this error I write new message with gratitude and description of next error.
  • At the end of message I write always one phrase: “If you have any questions, you can always write to me (“Answer” button below) or on forum: (login and passwort are the same as on site).” (we in Ukraine don’t use mailing lists, only forum). And really, I have received messages with questions like “Which tags are for <this> object?” or “Where can I see features with <this> tag?” for several times. It’s interesting that nobody (!) joined our forum.

I think it’s not bad :)

P. S. Unfortunately I haven’t enough time to make this activity now. So, all the text describes mostly summer of 2015. For this reason I write this comment so late.

P. P. S. I haven’t analyzed my comments to changesets, but this is also one of my ways to communicate with new users.

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