As at the begin of every new quarter since a couple of years, I’ve updated the Contributor Statistics on our wiki.

Naturally the most noticeable thing is the large jump in new users and active users starting in April 2016, which is naturally mainly due to new incoming edits from users. This is, on first principles, naturally not a bad thing, and annoyances due to bad edits aside, exposing more people to OSM is good.

What I have however noted in discussion is that the impact of the growth of the raw number of contributors is massively overestimated. For example the number of edits (not changesets) per month is essentially unchanged:

Which is not a surprise given that a maximum 0.18% of the edits per month in 2016 to date have been made with even though at least 1/4 of the active users used the app in the relevant periods. A preliminary comparison with editors that started off with iD show that over the same period the total number of edits per contributor using is smaller too.

There may be some longer term gains that we can’t see yet, at least anecdotally I’ve seen one user do an initial edit and then switch to iD, but the numbers indicate that right now that is the absolute exception.

[Update] Small clarification: the 0.18% number includes all edits not just new contributors.

Comment from RobJN on 20 October 2016 at 22:20

Hi. Interesting post.

Can you clarify what an “edit” is? Is it adding/moving/deleting a node, way or relation? What about tags? If I was to add a square building=yes (with 4 new nodes). Does that count as 1 edit or multiple?

The reason I ask is because Maps.Me is a basic editor that only allows editing nodes and doesn’t allow “tracing”. As such you’d expect the numbers to be much lower.

May be need a method of measuring “value added” or “effort contributed” rather than just measuring edits or changesets. I appreciate this is not easy to measure (or maybe not possible at all)!

Comment from RobJN on 20 October 2016 at 22:21

As a further point: Focusing on Maps.Me misses the point that the number of edits has staled since 2014. Should we be worried?

Comment from SimonPoole on 20 October 2016 at 23:24

The edits corresponds to the num_changes attribute in the changeset dump, which is roughly the number of objects deleted/modified/created. Creating a 4 node building from scratch should end up with a count of 5.

But that doesn’t really matter, because even if you were to “normalize” the number by multiplying by 5 (given the popularity of doodling buildings) the total contribution share would still remain under 1%/month.

As to the edit numbers levelling out (which likely they are not, I suspect in reality it is simply not so rapid growth, all a question of how you scale the diagram :-)): in lots of places where OSM is really good we are clearly seeing saturation effects in that the low hanging fruit has been mapped and adding meta data of all kinds tends to be a slow process.

With 60-70’000’000 objects touched in one way or the other each month I don’t really believe that even stagnation would be an issue (one day we will have something near complete coverage of all major features and then undoubtedly the number will start falling, would that be a problem?). .

Comment from Zverik on 21 October 2016 at 13:56

Thanks Simon, your statistics page is great. I’ve updated the numbers on Editor Usage Stats wiki page as well.

To really compare with other editors, you should filter by POI tags: how many were created, modified or deleted with versus all other. The result won’t be too high, but certainly higher than a percent.

Also, if we value number of edits higher than number of users, then we consider the map more important than the community. I doubt many people would agree. But there is also a discussion on whether users are part of the community, so again, we should decide whether a thousand random users are better than a million buildings traced.

In commercial projects, KPI is usually measured either in active users or in actions that generate revenue. OpenStreetMap has no revenue besides donations, so I’d say people are very valuable to the project, regardless of how and why they come.

Comment from SimonPoole on 21 October 2016 at 14:35

To use your analogy from your last paragraph, our main “income” is the time and work our contributors donate. So yes, how much is contributed in that sense is clearly an important KPI and not something that should be glossed over. If we only had contributors using to edit, well then we wouldn’t actually have a map.

I don’t believe anybody is claiming that the edit count is a perfect metric, but it is clearly a lot better than counting changesets which was never particularly good and has now become completely useless. Separating out POI edits would be rather difficult and would require detailed analysis of every edit, and naturally agreement on what a POI actually is.

I haven’t seen or heard of anybody taking the position that a user can’t be part of the OSM community, but I would expect such a user to want to be part of OSM and not simply be declared as such for marketing reasons. In turn that requires actually knowing what OSM is and the lack of that is what has been widely criticized.

Comment from Zverik on 21 October 2016 at 14:42

If we only had contributors using Level0 to edit, well then we wouldn’t actually have a map — but you won’t argue each of these level0 users is a strong member of the community.

I agree about counting changesets, even submitted a talk for the State of the Map about that, which got rejected. is a mapping, not learning application, and it cannot devote screens of text to explain OSM and how it differs from other maps. Does Vespucci or Pushpin or OsmAnd explain what OSM is? But we mention OpenStreetMap in every interview and every marketing article, which might have reached somebody.

Comment from Nakaner on 24 October 2016 at 18:31

@Zverik Vespucci and Pushpin are editors. You can only use them for editing. If you install them, you usually know what OSM is.

OsmAnd hides the editing feature in a plugin which has to be activated.

Comment from Zverik on 24 October 2016 at 18:56

Fair point. And already has a screen that explains to user that they are editing a public database and their contributions will be monitored. I don’t think it is possible to include a full explanation and tutorial on OSM in an application and not lose users because of that, but we are trying to do something right.

Comment from RobJN on 24 October 2016 at 20:06

Either way I value having all the editors as available options. Although I was surprised to find that my stats show just 1.3% of my changesets come from the mobile editors. Maybe that will increase over the coming years…

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