At Development Seed we’re always looking for ways to contribute to open source projects. Recently, we started thinking about how we might be able to help improve the OpenStreetMap (OSM) ecosystem of tools. Of course we had our suspicions, but to insure whatever we came up with had the whole OSM community in mind, we started with a round of user interviews. Below you’ll find our process and findings, in hopes that we can all start supporting tools to serve the greater community.
User interviews are essentially what they sound like, interviewing users to better understand who they are, what they do, how they use OSM tools, and what they feel could be improved within the OSM ecosystem. To try and capture the opinions of such a large group, we broke up the community into 3 different groups:
We interviewed at least 4 people from each group, to ensure that we were hearing from a number of different voices. For the 19 different people we talked to, from Belgium to Japan, we asked them a base set of questions, and asked follow up questions based on the discussion. There were a lot of interesting patterns and ideas that emerged from our conversations:
Communities often have their own standards or features that are unique to an area. People who aren’t engaged in the local communities, who don’t know what these derivations are, can sometimes do more harm that good. It would be ideal to be able to showcase those local variations so that mappers are more aware of them.
Many interviewees commented on how it would be nice to know more information about a mapper. For example, what kind of skills they have, features they’re interested in mapping, potentially how responsive they are to messages. Knowing more information about a mapper could help better build a community, giving people a better understanding of which individuals to reach out to.
Many people in the field or people who often don’t have good wifi connections talked about this. One OSM member commented on how it’s been hard building the community without a way to demo OSM offline.
Another interesting way to look at the data collected is by the different audiences.
Overall, there is a lot of good potential work here. At Development Seed, our next steps will be coming up with potential projects that fit the needs of the community, as outlined above. Of course, we’d love to hear any suggestions for how to keep in contact with the community or any thoughts about projects to improve OSM moving forward.
Find our blog post here.
Comment from KMR31 on 20 April 2018 at 13:08
Thank you for all Development Seed is doing. Your list of possible improvements sounds right on. I might add to future changes for editing in OSM iD: 1) add Strava Slide for path alignment 2) add the Strava Heatmap as a background overlay.
* - Kimball
* Mapper since 2015
* Just under 200 edits/contributions so far.
Comment from Omnific on 20 April 2018 at 13:49
One of the minor suggestions is one of the best: “Creating a better building tool for iD.” JOSM has a fantastic, intuitive building tool as a plug-in that allows a four sided building to be completed in less than half the clicks (3/2 vs 4 in iD + 2 to square + 2/3 to tag as a building) that would be great for HOT and reduce complaints about new users not squaring buildings. It also makes the process much faster and more enjoyable. This is a readily needed improvement for iD.
Comment from dave683 on 21 April 2018 at 13:22
@Omnific yea thats the 1 thing i would love to see added to ID. another plus for josm is that you can make complex building shapes using that building tool to create the smaller parts of each building and then join/combine them all into a single building. its quicker in some cases than tracing the outline fromt scratch. ID has a merge option but it only groups things together unfortunately
Comment from mcld on 24 April 2018 at 08:30
Regarding this one: “Being able to know what is missing or what has changed in their neighborhoods/areas they map”:
Improving the “History” has always seemed like a missing piece of the puzzle. The “History” of edits on the main website interface is rather unhelpful since many systems (such as wheelmap) commit changes whose bounding box seems to cover the whole of the Earth - so when you look at the History, you’re not really able to focus on “changes that happened here”.
There was a project called OWL to make a new improved history view but it stalled.