About 3 Mondays ago, I went to my first-ever Field Papers Mapathon and to my surprise, discovered a smaller group of people to what I am normally used to at mapathons. These were the JOSM experts, the seasoned veterans of remote mapping who no longer relied on the ID-editor that I’ve come to love. They are pros at identifying different buildings and natural landmarks (a result of extensive validation work) and experts at inputting Field Papers data. For this particular mapathon, they were tasked with inputting the names of streets, religious buildings, and other important points of reference in Zimbabwe and Bangladesh into the OSM database.
On one side of the room was the Epworth crew, who were inputting data they had just recently received from Zimbabwe. Tom Hills, a PhD researcher at Imperial College London, was guiding that group, explaining to everyone how to properly input Field Papers data into JOSM. Epworth has been one of Missing Maps’ top priorities because of the risk of water-borne diseases in the neighbourhood.
And on the other side of the room was the Bangladesh crew, led by Carmen who had just recently returned from a field trip to the country. In Bangladesh, she had led Y-Care International and local OSM volunteers in collecting vital field data necessary for updating names of streets, landmarks, and townships both in English and Bengali. It was interesting to see someone who had done some field mapping herself to be sitting in London with the JOSM experts, offloading the cultural knowledge she had learnt in the field and sharing with them her knowledge of the local topography. I think more JOSM experts should be sent to the field just like Carmen for this first-hand mapping experience. And I also think that the Missing Maps project should try to get passionate, local OSM volunteers to come to London to share their local knowledge with us. I mean, the Missing Maps project is as much a cultural exchange programme as it is a remote mapping platform. It would be great to foster such an exchange over the long-term.
As I watched the JOSM experts furiously clicking away on their laptops, I thought it’d be a brilliant idea to interview a few of them to get a better idea of the work they were doing. So I asked Tom Hills, who was leading the Epworth Crew, and Maria Longley, who was working on the Bangladesh Field Papers, to sit down with me for interviews. I’m nearly done polishing up the interviews, which I will link to this post shortly. These interviews will be a part of my new ‘Meet the Mappers’ blog series that I hope will help put faces onto the many hard-working mappers who are a part of Missing Maps.
All in all, the August Mid-Mapathon was a wonderful experience for me. The food was great (breaded butterfly prawns should be a staple at every mapathon), the people were friendly, and most importantly, the passion was present. A mapathon wouldn’t be what it is if it weren’t for the passionate people there. And the food, of course ;)