OpenStreetMap

LCCWG's Diary

Recent diary entries

Welcoming new mappers

Posted by LCCWG on 17 November 2021 in English (English).

Welcoming new mappers

TLDR: It’s now super easy to welcome new mappers in your country or region. Just post an issue at the Welcome tool repository, and we’ll set you up. New mappers will be listed and in a few clicks you can check their work and welcome them with a localized welcome message. You can share the workload, as it will be clear who is and who hasn’t been contacted. Try it out at https://welcome.osm.be/ (don’t forget to connect your OSM account). Instructions on how to request your region available here.

About the tool

Back when we started doing real life meetings in Belgium, one of the first frustrations was how hard it was to get in touch with mappers. How do you let mappers know there’s a group of locals who are eager to get to know them? And how do we offer a helping hand to new mappers?

Of course, the first thing you think about is automating, plugging in to the global OSM software. But that software evolves slowly and you’d have to come up with a solution that works worldwide from the start.

So we decided to go for a simple solution: Belgian mapper M!dgard built a simple tool in PHP around Pascal Neis’s RSS feed of new mappers. M!dgard never stopped hating the ugly coding, but it did do the job for several years - with Jakka doing most of the welcoming work.

Don’t expect welcoming new mappers to be very rewarding. Most new mappers are never going to stick around, so just a few percent will ever answer you. Statistically speaking, there doesn’t seem to be an impact on mapper retention either. But we always felt that it does help people to find their way in the documentation and in the communication channels. Not in the least, we used the tool to monitor the edits of new mappers. That helped us spot errors as well as occasional vandalism.

Of course, Belgium wasn’t the only country that had this issue. People all over the world had similar workflows, sometimes a tool of their own. But the Belgian tool was not exactly scalable. So this became a priority of the LCCWG as soon it was restarted: how can we combine the efforts being made locally to create a solution that works for everyone everywhere.

It remained on the todo list until Jonathan Beliën (OSM Belgium board member, who also built the Road Completion project software) joined the LCCWG and decided this was a problem he could fix. He rebuilt the tool from scratch, with the input collected through the LCCWG. The tool does what it needs to do, and it’s really easy to request your own region to be set up.

The new tool is using the power of OSMCha and the OpenStreetMap API to detect new users and get information that could be useful to the people welcoming the new mappers. New mappers are added daily, based on the region (country, state, city, …) where they made their first contribution.

We are very pleased that even with minimal promotion through the LCCWG network, the tool has already been set up for quite a few regions and countries!

How to use it

Have a look at the welcome screen to see if your region is already included (if it’s not, request it here):

landing page

On the region page, you get a nice overview of the most recent new mappers. The little graph shows how much work is left to be done. Make sure you connect your OSM account at this point.

region page

If your account is connected, you’ll be able to send a message. If you don’t see any text there, that means that there is no default welcome message yet for your region. If there’s none, request it here. If your country is multilingual, you can have default messages in several languages. The tool will try and guess the language of the mapper!

When you click “Send message”, it will open a new tab on openstreetmap.org where you only have to click “send”.

mapper page

The tool itself cannot send the message, since the OSM api does not allow messages from external parties. That means that you need to go back to the screen below and mark the mapper as “has been welcomed”. While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to also review the changeset of the mapper. The review status will be fetched from OSMcha at the next update. An explicit slider to mark “I have checked the edits of this mapper” will be added to the tool soon.

Happy welcoming,
Jonathan Beliën & Joost Schouppe
for the LCCWG

Every year during State of the Map, starting in 2016, there has been a Local Chapters Congress session where representatives and members of Local Chapters that have been recognised by the Foundation and other local mapping communities meet together to talk about experiences and challenges in starting, building up, and growing enthusiastic local communities of OSM mappers.

Due to the pandemic, we unfortunately could not hold the Local Chapters Congress this year during the virtual State of the Map 2020 last July. However, the Local Chapters and Communities Working Group, or LCCWG, has decided to push through with a separate virtual event at the end of this year’s OSM Geography Awareness Week! (Trivia: the LCCWG was in fact formed as a result of the Local Chapters Congress 2019.)

If you lead a local OSM community or are interested in starting or growing your local mapping community, you are invited to attend the Local Chapters and Communities Congress 2020 this November 21, Saturday, starting at 1200 UTC.

More info here including the link to the registration form: https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Foundation/Local_Chapters/Local_Chapters_Congress/2020

See you there! 🥳🗺️

The Local Chapters and Communities Working Group (LCCWG) is the OpenStreetMap Foundation’s newest working group and it was established in September 2019 following the annual Local Chapters Congress at State of the Map 2019. Since its establishment, the working group has now grown to 10 members spread over 4 continents as can be seen on the map below.

Location of the 10 members of the LCCWG Location of the members of the LCCWG. Base map © Stamen Design, CC BY 3.0 with map data by OSM contributors.

During State of the Map 2020, the LCCWG gave a talk titled “Building Stronger Communities Together”. This presentation explained about the work that we have done over the past year, which includes running a survey of Local Chapters and communities, looking at the websites of various Local Chapters and seeing what are the common features and differences, and looking at ways to help local OSM communities grow and sustain themselves by using various tools. If you missed that talk, you can view the recorded video of that presentation.

Screenshots of the LCCWG's presentation Screenshots from the LCCWG’s video presentation during State of the Map 2020.

One nice thing that we in the LCCWG did was that we took a very collaborative approach to creating our presentation. Coordinating across six time zones, seven members of the working group were able to piece together a 25-minute video. We think this collaborative method of working together provides a really good example of how mapping communities across the globe can come together and make something great. And this collaborative spirit really embodies how we envision OSM communities should work together to make the best map of the world!

If you share in our vision, please feel free to join the LCCWG! Just send us an email at local [at] osmfoundation [dot] org expressing your intention to join. You can learn more about us and the work that we do on the LCCWG web page.

Local Chapters websites - and lessons learned from them

Posted by LCCWG on 8 August 2020 in English (English). Last updated on 19 October 2020.

With the Local Chapters & Communities Working group (part of the OSMF), we did a quick review of the websites of all the official Local Chapters. This is quite interesting, as these sites all have basically the same mission - and still are hugely diverse.

Ireland website

All of these website focus on helping mappers find the community and/or to help outsiders understand what OSM is all about. Maybe surprisingly, none of these websites are map-centered. On some of them, it’s hard or even impossible to find an interactive map. There’s several creative attempts to build the content around a map - especially the Czech website is quite succesful at that.

Czech website

When it comes to communications, some focus on questions from outsiders with topical or single-point-of-contact style e-mail addresses. Others orient people towards one or many internal community channels. And a few do both.

The wide diversity shows that there are many ways to tell the OSM story. But in all, there is a striking difference to the very “technical” looking OSMF website and the very “mappy” website at OpenStreetMap.org. In fact, the Welcome Mat looks more similar to the Local Chapter’s websites then either landing page.

The Local Chapters websites offer several ideas that could be used to make a more inviting OpenStreetMap.org. Switching OSM.org to a logic like these pages, can be technically straightforward if we simply put the current website at www.osm.org/map. The OSM.org page could then become the glue that binds “core” infrastructure, even if it doesn’t belong to OSMF. The OSM.org subdomains could more prominently show some tools and projects, which are ever so hard for newbies to find. For example, it could have a query.osm.org subdomain where you can use Overpass-turbo. This could look like the current welcome.osm.org or the current wiki.osm.org.

The LCCWG survey of local groups, shows that many local groups expect the global OSM community to do more to direct people to them. Two thirds of all groups surveyed wanted the global site to show their existence more prominently.

All the while, we should be working on the technical backlog of osm.org as well! Andy has been doing a tremendous job on that. But we need so much more work done. The LCCWG is incredibly appreciative of individual volunteers, however we feel that there is a need to move towards getting paid help where appropriate. This includes working on the technical debt to make it easier to start contributing, and delevoping new community focused functionality. A new drive in the CWG could also be instrumental in rethinking our landing pages.


Most of this text was used for the LCCWG presentation at the 2020 State of the Map, where we talked about several of our projects. The LCCWG is always looking for more help - join our chat, our mailing list or our next meeting. The text was written by Joost, with help of Rob and the rest of the LCCWG

For more details about our websites review and the rest of our to-do, check out our Gitlab issues.