I just saw that the video for my SotM16 talk has already been online for a month… many thanks to the organisers and video team in Brussels for making this happen so quickly, and in such a high quality! You can find some summary notes further below, along with recommendations to HOT organisers.

The recording: Youtube: Building large-scale crowdsourcing communities with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team

You can get the slides here: Slides: Building large-scale crowdsourcing communities with the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team

(This was recorded at the tail end of an unusually busy summer, after a couple of weeks of deadlines on little sleep, in a morning slot, with little time for rehearsal… throughout these short 30 mins I really, really wanted to go back to bed. If you know me a little you might notice it in the recording, everyone else may simply think I’m a little slow :)

Among the key observations to date

The talk summarises much of my research to date. It includes updated statistics and visualisations, and the results of three studies of HOT community engagement.

Over the course of this work, I’ve stopped thinking about community engagement as a process of “converting” people. Instead I now also think of it as a process of discovering and activating the right people: many of our most prolific contributors were already prepared to be engaged. Maybe they were looking for community, for a spare-time activity that has a bigger impact than just watching TV; maybe they already had some GIS experience and didn’t know they can use it for a social purpose. In this sense, fostering community engagement is as much about the initial recruiting process as it is about the actual contribution process.

Among the key observations to date:

  • HOT is now a key source of community growth for OSM: among the 32,000 HOT contributors to date, 80% are newcomers to OpenStreetMap! (I have not yet investigated whether they then also contribute to other parts of the map.)
  • Over their contributor lifetime, 50% of HOT mappers dedicate at least 65 minutes to their contributions. This may sound like a small average for a volunteering organisation, but for an online platform it’s a massive achievement.
  • Emergency response events can also be key recruiting moments: during HOT activations for Typhoon Haiyan, the Nepal earthquake in 2015, the earthquake in Ecuador in 2016, and others, many new volunteers joined HOT.
  • … and much, much more.

Recommendations to organisers

In the talk I also make some recommendations to HOT organisers, based on study findings, and informed by my interactions with the wider community:

  • During large disaster events, carefully manage the tasking manager task listing. People who join during these events don’t tend to stay active for long, and their contributions tend to have a lower quality. Point them towards newcomer-friendly projects where they can make some early experiences.
  • At the same time, HOT can likely benefit greatly from a notification mechanism for contributors who are interested in future campaigns. Currently there is no good means of reactivating mappers who have already made some early experiences. Instead we rely on our volunteers to discover new campaigns on the mailing list or on social media. While this may work for the core community, there is likely a larger number of mappers who may be willing to help out again. How can we best inform them when they’re needed?
  • Generally, try to connect newcomers to the existing community as soon as possible, and do so in a setting that is appropriate for absolute beginners. The mailing list works well for a few hundred core contributors. Yet as we grow, is it still the best default location for a newcomer who has a question for an expert?


Comment from pedrito1414 on 22 November 2016 at 09:35

Hi Martin, really interesting! I have a question / comment.

During OSM Geo Week, many new mappers participated (a quick glance says more than 4,000). However, unlike other major new mapper activations such as a natural disaster, the vast majority made their first edits at a mapathon. Does this ‘recruitment’ mean longer / more substantial engagement in the medium to long term?

Another question, although maybe not so specific to your research… I have done A LOT of validating on tasks done over this week. Does the quality of the mapped data improve compared to that contributed by mappers who would normally start at home (without the support of people at an event)?

Thanks for sharing!


Comment from dekstop on 22 November 2016 at 11:45

Oh, these are great questions. To evaluate this we would need a list of attendees of such events, or at least an approximation. Previously I’ve estimated mapathon attendees based on known event dates/times and the mapped project – are there such records for GeoWeek?

And of course we’d have to wait at least a couple of months to then observe retention.

Have there been similar large events we could look at in the past? E.g. are there attendee records of last year’s 100 mapathons?

(I’m currently looking at validation impact on engagement, and then plan to start my PhD thesis write-up; but this looks like a great evaluation opportunity for if I can find some time on the side, provided we can find a good attendance estimate.)

Comment from Super-Map on 23 November 2016 at 09:38

Hi Martin,

Good work! As we know all to work on those projects, it’s take time… This is why there is a lot “newcomers”, not enough “formed” and haven’t all time the will for to acquire all skill needed… they have, maybe other “hobby”, occupations in the real life. it’s a pity! When someone take enough time for to learn about those projects: OpenStreetMap, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, Missing Map… so he’s able to understand how it’s very interesting, how it’s important and “why”!… How it’s very “REWARDING” for all! Throughout your “reports” we have the proof, a new time, than we haven’t sufficiency “newcomers” who begin “regular” in the time… It’s sad, of course but we mustn’t be “discouraged” for that point! Why: “ “. In the end of November 2016 we are nearby “7500000000” humans on planet Earth! Inside this incredible number, who continuously to grow like the CO2 in our atmosphere until an certain threshold… there is lot of humans who have the “luck” to live in a flat (Why the luck because some others live in houses?! They have , fortunately, a ROOF!…). And often, but not all time an Internet access! And for this point, the lack of Internet access around the world, will be solved in the not so far future… As you know, as researcher, we haven’t all time “troubles” we have equally lot of “solutions” and WILL to change the world where we living all toward the better way. It’s all together, gathering throughout same projects we will be able to change the world where we living all! And we must change lot of THINGS!

P.S.: Excuse me, for my “incorrect English”, but I’m unfortunately not a “seeker” or something like that. I’m just, autodidact!

Comment from dekstop on 23 November 2016 at 13:16

Hallo Super-Map! Just briefly, in case I’ve given the wrong impression: plenty of the newcomers joining HOT turn into highly engaged mappers. The top 5% of mappers contribute for 18 hours of more over their lifetime (slide 10) – that’s 1,600 people! The core community may not grow as quickly as the overall contributor number, but it’s certainly growing. (My research is explicitly focused on the newcomer experience, so I don’t spend a lot of time exploring what happens to the many who decide to stick around.)

Comment from Super-Map on 23 November 2016 at 21:16

I congratulate your work. I don’t know if I understand all correctly, but apparently we are not “enough” (too much, I don’t think if it will be better…)… I think your research are very clear for me and I’m regret to make a simple “note”. At this time, I finishing to read your “report”. I regret, because, I recognise your work, of course and I find those projects very interesting and “personally” I know why. If you have the time to see my “actual” profile, you will be able to understand one part of my motivation.

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