OSM Awards–Decision Guidance

Posted by Nakaner on 15 September 2016 in English (English)

This is the English of my previous posting in German.

How to cast your vote?

Open You will be redirected the OSM login page because the voting platform uses the authentication via OSM to ensure that every OSM account only gives one vote. The voting platform has been written by Ilya Zverv (Zverik), is hosted at his own hardware.

There are six categories I want to explain in the following paragraphs.

Core Systems Award

Following people are nominated:

  • Grant Slater and Tom Hughes who are members of OSMF Operations Working Group and operate the central servers of the OpenStreetMap project and additional services operated by OSMF, e.g. the wiki, the mailing lists, OSM Help. As you might have experienced, they do a great job. Do you remember the last downtime which was their fault?
  • Roland Olbricht has designed and developed the Overpass API and is its maintainer (relevant code contributions have been made in recent time by other contributors, too). He is responsible for the German instance of Overpass API which is sponsored by FOSSGIS e.V.
  • Bryan Housel is the main developer of iD. It is difficult for me as a JOSM fan to find nice words about him and his work. I do not like him very much because he has a mind of his own.
  • Mateusz Konieczny is a co-developer of OSM Carto map style which is used at and is the OpenStreetMap map for many people outside OSM community. He implemented the new road colouring scheme during Google Summer of Code 2015. Thanky you!
  • Sarah Hoffmann is the main developer of Nominatim, the only geocoder which is a community project. (There are other free geocoders but they are backed by a company). She operates the public Nominatim instance on and therefore is member of Operations Working Group. I admire her tilting at windmills—people who abuse the public Nominatim instance to do batch geocoding (converting addresses into coordinates).

It is difficult to come to a decision. Whoever you vote, it is no bad decision. I myself prefer Grant Slater and Tom Hughes, Roland Olbricht and Sarah Hoffmann.

Innovation Award

This is the category for inventors of innovative tools.

  • Yohan Boniface founded uMap, the free and OSM based alternative to Google MyMaps
  • The MapSwipe Team has been nominated for the development of MapSwipe app. Non-mappers can look through aerial imagery and mark areas where features are located which can be mapped (e.g. buildings).
  • American Red Cross has been nominated for the development of Portable OpenStretMap. This software makes it possible to go to remote locations (without internet access) do mapping there and upload your changes after the expedition. As far as I know, the main advantage is the multi-user capability. But POSM does not solve conflicts. Therefore its use is limited.
  • Martijn van Exel has been nominated for his work on MapRoulette. This quality assurance tool selects a random map error and presents it to the human user (who will fix it). It has been used much for TIGER clean-up work.
  • Manuel Roth and Lukas Martinelli have developed OSM2Vectortiles which makes vector tiles in Mapbox’s format available for download. They have made the processes Mapbox uses to produce its vector tiles more transparent. It seems that they are that successful that Mapbox’s lawyer asked them very friendly (!) not to build exactly the same vector tiles Mapbox sells.

Ilya Zverv wrote in the announcement) of OSM Awards that people and projects can be nominated whose work has been published after August 1, 2015. (This does not apply to Ulf Möller Memorial Award) If this rule is still valid, Yohan Boniface and Martijn van Exel cannot be selected because their innovations are older.

Therefor the remaining candidates are OSM2Vectortiles and MapSwipe. MapSwipe is innovative but its use for OSM is limited. It just makes HOT even more efficient. OSM2Vectortiles is the free download service for vector tiles and takes the work of creating vector tiles out of the hands of other developers. It is a little bit like a Geofarik download service but for vector tiles instead of planet extracts.

Influential Writing Award

Three mappers have been nominated for their user diaries:

  • Zu Edil Queiroz De Araujo
  • Joost Schouppe
  • Harry Wood

In addition, Nick Allen (Tallguy) has been nominated for his work on LearnOSM and the WeeklyOSM team (this includes the folks from German Wochennotiz because they are the mother and main source of all WeeklyOSM variants).

I can say as a team member of Wochennotiz that the work which is invested into WeeklyOSM/Wochennotiz is much larger than the time to be invested into a blog. WeeklyOSM is more important and therefore has more “influence” than a simple blog. The German Wochennotiz is also read by people from outside OSM community because Wochennotiz/WeeklyOSM produce a summary of all important and less important news of OSM universe. I did not hesitate to give my vote to myself (Wochennotiz/WeeklyOSM).

Greatness in Mapping Award

This category covers great mapping efforts. You have the choice between

  • a group of HOT mappers (Ramani Huria Team)
  • Nelson A. de Oliveira (naoliv) who does monitoring and quality assurance in Brazil,
  • UK Quarterly Mapping Team who organizes the quarterly mapping tasks
  • Martin Ždila (description says that he has mapped and walked 1.4 % of all hiking routes in OSM and 38% of all in Slovakia)—I hope it is true
  • OSM Los Angeles Building Import Team

It is not difficult to say who will not get my vote—neither Ramania Huria Team nor LA Buildings Import will get my vote. I have not found any reasons why I should vote Ramania Huria Team (I hear the name for the first time). Only the official SotM Twitter account advertises them (which should not happen from my point of view, official Twitter accounts should be neutral!). Imports should not get any awards. “No complains” is the best compliment an import should get.

Because I read the name Martin Ždila for the first time, only UK Quarterly Mapping Team and Nelson A. de Oliveira remain. It is difficult for me to find a final decision.

Expanding the Community Award

You have following options:

  • Pascal Neis for his tools
  • Ahasanul Hoque and Tasauf A Baki Billah
  • Courtney Clark
  • Kathmandu Living Labs—community of mappers who had been mapping before the Great Earthquake
  • Pete Masters

The only candidates, I know, are Pascal Neis and Kathmandu Living Labs. I do not want to give to much of my votes to humanitarian mappers because OSM is more than HOT and Missing Maps and they already gain enough attention from third parties. In addition, I consider usage of the term “leadership” in the description of Ahasanul Hoque and Tasauf A Baki Billah as a bad attribute because OSM is a community of independent-minded individuals, not of people who follow their boss (my country had enough bad experience with leaders in history).

Ulf Möller Memorial Award

This award should memorize the murder of Ulf Möller in January 2012. Ulf was mapper, developer, had been OSMF board member and much more. The idea of having such an award is rather old, it was published) a few months after his death. But the idea fizzled out. The original description was:

The Ulf Möller Memorial Award will recognize an individual each year who improves OpenStreetMap through good mapping, benefit to the community and other improvements to the OpenStreetMap project.

Following persons have been nominated:

  • Kate Chapman for co-founding HOT and “bringing HOT to” the developing world
  • Harry Wood for good mapping, organizing a local OSM group and his work at HOT
  • Frederik Ramm for his engagement to make OSMF (especially the finances) transparent and his responses on mailing lists which helped other people understanding OSM
  • Nick Allen (Tallguy) – has also been nominated for Influential Writing Award
  • Richard Fairhurst as voice of reason in OSM community and his projects (Potlatch 1, Potlatch 2, Tilemaker)

Because LearnOSM is too much focussed on HOT (if a newbie reads LearnOSM, he might not be aware of the other aspects of OSM) and therefore the name LearnOSM is not appropiate, I decided not to give my vote to Nick Allen. People who want to get this award should have done good work for the whole project, not only a part of it.

“Bringing OSM to a significant portion of the developing world” might sound well but it is not the way I want to support. Someone who distributes OSM like a colonial power, should not be awarded. OSM should origin from the local people. If they don’t need maps, we should not force them.

I must admit that I am not a fan of the web editors but they attract many newbies (which is good). They lower the entry level. I assume that Potlatch was the main reason why the European OSM communities became so powerful between 2007 and 2010. Richard competes with Frederik for my vote. I admire the time he invests into OSM both as developer, entrepreneur, DWG and board member etc. It took a some time until OSMF became really transparent – Frederik joined the board in 2012. First the finances became more transparent (and published earlier), now even the board meetings are public.

OSM Awards could be better

The OSM Awards are not fair. The majority voting system is suitable for binary decisions (with optional abstention from voting). But it is not suitable for an election where opinions differ widely. I would like to give some negative votes to some candidates but I cannot. A system like STV (used for board election) is also not fair but better (and more complicated).

The best voting system is useless if your choice is limited. The candidates of these awards have been selected by “some members of CWG, SotMWG and the Board” (source). How are they legitimated to decided who will get an award? These awards will have an influence of the public image of OSM. Why do the awards not have a system with rounds? During the first round, all mappers (people with OSM account) could suggest candidates and the descriptive texts (but less than 80 words – otherwise you have to read too much) are written. Maybe you could introduce a minimum number of supporters every candidates should achieve during this round. In a second round, all mappers could vote. Four or five candidates per round progress into the third round.

Comment from jonwit on 16 September 2016 at 00:14

Thank you for the translation! OSM Awards aren’t perfect but at least transparent.

Comment from joost schouppe on 19 September 2016 at 14:44

Nicely done. For the “Influential writing” award I happily voted for yourself too :)

Comment from althio on 20 September 2016 at 15:31

Some of your comments are interesting, your outright bias against humanitarian mapping aside. You “do not want to give [too much] of [your] votes to humanitarian mappers” is almost funny after reading your entire piece.

Kudos for most of your analysis, I agree or at least respect your views most of the time. Some bits I do not understand or disagree:

  • nominees (eg. Yohan Boniface and Martijn van Exel) can be selected because of improvements or new stuff inside existing tools, not only brand new tools. You are free to judge they provide lesser innovations than other nominees this year.
  • Ramani Huria: my understanding is they are more a local group supported by local universities (“community-based mapping project in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, training university students and local community members”) than a “group of HOT mappers”. Your mileage may vary, but as you admit you don’t know them, it is a bit far-fetched.
  • I skip your rejections of Nick Allen, Harry Wood or Kate Chapman (slightly heavy-handed in my humble opinion).
  • [You] “would like to give some negative votes to some candidates but [you] cannot”: I think you miss the point of these awards. Think more positive.

Finally: “Why do the awards not have a system with rounds? During the first round, all mappers (people with OSM account) could suggest candidates and the descriptive texts”. Either I miss something obvious you are unhappy with… but this is exactly how the whole affair happened. Candidates were freely submitted by anyone with with an OSM account and you could even vote for a first round. As stated in the announcement of OSM Awards you quoted:

Comment from Nakaner on 20 September 2016 at 15:38

Hi althio,

althio wrote:

Finally: “Why do the awards not have a system with rounds? During the first round, all mappers (people with OSM account) could suggest candidates and the descriptive texts”. Either I miss something obvious you are unhappy with… but this is exactly how the whole affair happened. Candidates were freely submitted by anyone with with an OSM account and you could even vote for a first round. As stated in the announcement of OSM Awards you quoted:

Yes, there was a first round but it was not democratic. See following qoute of an email you linked

The voting is preliminary: it will help us to decide which nominees would go into the “short list” to be voted on later.

This means that a board (not the board) of people decided who is eligible in final round. That’s what I criticise.

Best regards


Comment from schleuss on 21 September 2016 at 22:37

Thanks for your diary post.

However, I completely disagree with your reasoning on not awarding imports. I kindly offer these

10 reasons why you are wrong:

  1. The Los Angeles County Building Import has been a local effort right from the start.
  2. The import is adding invaluable metadata one wouldn’t get by tracing aerial imagery alone.
  3. It’s a powerful collaboration between volunteers and paid mappers.
  4. It has been transparent from the start. See Github.
  5. One of the import sponsors is the fourth most distributed newspaper in the Untied states. (and it uses OSM to do most of its maps!)
  6. There were very few buildings before the import - Jan. 2016 vs. July 2016
  7. The building data lays the groundwork for responders/journalists/government officials/insurance companies/others before the next major earthquake. It’s gonna happen any day now.
  8. The import has inspired and emboldened MaptimeLA (500 members and counting) and a local Github organization.
  9. The import catches Los Angeles up with other major U.S. cities in terms of building coverage data.
  10. Building outlines will inspire and encourage more edits. It’s way easier to add the donut shop to the corner of the strip mall if you know where the strip mall starts.

For even more check out this presentation about the import at the State of the Map US.

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