Onboarding New Mappers

Posted by martien-176 on 20 October 2021 in English.

As a validator and #Slack validation channel visitor I am regularly confronted with complaints from fellow validators about the sometimes bad quality of the mappings of beginner mappers. This refers especially to buildings and to a lesser extent highways. Adding to the frustration is that instructive comments after invalidation of tasks hardly seem to be read by these same beginner mappers. The result is often that a task is invalidated several times for much the same reason(s).

Therefore validators can get the feeling that they are “fighting against all odds”. This can work as a demotivating factor. Possibly that even some validators quit validating.

Several solutions have been tried and applied. Ranging from getting the notifications more in sight within the Tasking Manager, limiting iD Editor in which features can be mapped to making Project authors creating their project more beginner friendly.

And of course there are the training webinars organized by the Training Working Group. These are good introductions for new mappers to get themselves onboard. However, they are imo mainly visited by the more motivated mappers. While the bulk of the problem is with the large group of casual mappers, of whom some only map incidentally (e.g. during a one-time mapathon event).

But why not attack the issue right from the start? Why not educate new mappers before they make their first edit?

There are several possibilities.


A virtual space where new mappers can exercise their skills and get some form of basic automatic feedback. Mimicking how mapping a real world task would look like. The mappings will not be saved in the OSM database, so mappers can make mistakes without consequences. Feedback is given automatically, through popups or messages in the margins. The ID Editor WalkThrough could serve as an example.


New mappers can do an introductory quiz/questionnaire. After successfully completing it they can earn a badge. This badge could be placed on their Tasking Manager profile.

This is already happening on a small scale, with success, at Crowd2Map. It turns out that mappers like it and the quality of their mapping improves.

Introductory video

New mappers get to see an introductory video after their first login. This video is short enough to keep their attention and covers all important subjects.


The most ideal would be the sandpit option. Creating a sandpit however involves developers. The Tech team was positive towards this. However circumstances (personnel shortage among others) hindered it being started up. For the time being this option is postponed.

The quiz could be placed on the hotosm courses site. This suggestion was investigated, but for several reasons did not materialize (personnel shortage among others).

An alternative could be to host it on an external source. Crowd2Map did this: their quiz is hosted by Canvas Network - Free online courses - MOOCs . Of course this brings with it limitations.

The most feasible option turned out to be the introductory video. The Training Working Group has much experience in making these sort of videos, so they could take care of this.


It could be argued that an introductory sandpit or quiz, or even a video, raises a barrier for some mappers. It could give them a feeling they are “tested” before being able to take part in the mapping. And thus opposes the notion of inclusiveness that is at the heart of Openstreetmap.

It is therefore important to stress that this all is not mandatory. New mappers should be encouraged to take part in the introduction. If mappers refuse to do it, so be it.

But hey, in the context of HOT every mapper is tested in the end, namely by a validator.

What are your thoughts about this?

Or do you have other ideas to encourage good mapping from new users?

Please leave a reply in the comments. Thanks in advance.

Slack discussion about this subject:


Comment from Glassman on 21 October 2021 at 23:36

I look at a lot of new mappers first edits while I welcome new mappers in my state. I see a lot of great first edits and some that will certainly improve as they get more comfortable with the tools and how to find information. I do agree with you that there are come common errors that could be reduced.


  • I’m a firm believer that we should first look at improving our editing tools. As great as iD is, there is room for improvement. Published in my diary entry are a list of tips I’ve given new mappers. First on the list is to square buildings. It would be great of iD would warn new user that the building isn’t square. Check out the list to see what you think could be flagged to the user.

  • Users can skip the built in tutorial iD offers. Maybe it should be mandatory for any new user with no edits. It might be too much if a user just wants to add a phone number or address so maybe we need another tools for those users.

  • Welcome new users with a message full of helpful information. That along with providing helpful tips on their first edits. While it doesn’t help with their first edits, it will help with subsequent ones. A good way to start is to start welcoming new mappers in your geographical area. Just go to the new Welcome Tool and read the instructions on how to have your area added.

Comment from martien-176 on 23 October 2021 at 10:25

Hi Clifford(?) / Glasman , i notice some great ideas on your diary.

I like especially the statistics you keep of the results of comments as far as the improvement of the edits.

How do you accomplish this? Do you maintain a spreadsheet? Maybe an automated script of some sort (is that possible anyhow?).

Thanks so much for sharing :-)

Comment from Glassman on 23 October 2021 at 21:11

@martien-vdg, It’s pretty much all done manually. To see how many users I welcomed I manually county the number of messages sent.

For the comments I do have a database table from the planet with comments. I can find those with a simple query. However the tips summary is again manual calculated from the query results.

I just switched to using the new OSM Welcome Tool. The tool has links to OSMCha. At some point I hope we can insert canned tips via the OSMCha tool which could then easily be counted. But until the iD developers show more interest in adding more validation warnings it doesn’t warrant the OSMCha development.

Comment from Kraan46 on 24 October 2021 at 04:06

As a first step, not involving a heavy developers intervention i hope, would it not be possible to insert in the TM for new mappers (and maybe not only for new mappers, also for each mapper starting to work on a project) an obligation to confirm they have read the instructions before being able to select a first task.

Comment from jwalseth on 26 October 2021 at 19:24

@martien-vdg After watching this video (posted by @Kraan46 in the Validation Slack channel) I have been using both the “Inline_Validation” and “Missing Maps / Youth Mappers Validators Checks” Map Paint Styles in JOSM when validating. The effect is to very clearly highlight problems like overlapping buildings, etc. What if the ID editor had this kind of rendering built in? Overlapping buildings, red. Un-squared buildings, yellow. Building intersecting road, orange. It could be an option, like New Mapper Mode.

Comment from Kicking Leaves on 27 October 2021 at 11:47

Hi @martien-vdg, I’m a newby here, so apologies if these are daft suggestions. As a keen beginner not that long ago I was helped very much by a couple of validators - @SteveJH and @(C Walsh) - who took me under their wing and gave me good feedback, support and encouragement. They were kind, interactive and patient and gave me links to further information to study as well. I know validators are busy people, but wonder if creating some form of mentor system would help save time down the line? Before finding these mentors, I found the amount of information available on line, beyond the introductory videos on TM, quite bewildering. It would also be great if there was a curated list of e.g. videos to watch, listed from “beginner” to “expert” which folk who were interested in improving their skills could use to self-educate? Thanks for trying to improve the system, Martien and best of luck! Kate, a.k.a. Kicking Leaves

Comment from Glassman on 28 October 2021 at 22:43

Kate, a.k.a. Kicking Leaves, have you looked at the information available on I recommend new users visit this site. I’d be interested in hearing what your opinion is of the site.

Clifford aka Glassman

Comment from Kicking Leaves on 29 October 2021 at 11:51

Hi Clifford, thanks for this link, much appreciated. On a quick scan I think it looks very useful as well as being clearly laid out. I’ll certainly follow through and learn from it. I wish I’d found it as a beginner! I think this nicely shows my point that it would be useful for beginners to have easy access to a curated set of websites and videos for self education. This website would clearly be included. I find videos the most helpful, but other folk will prefer reading material, I’m sure. Thanks and best wishes, Kate

Comment from martien-176 on 29 October 2021 at 15:47

@Jim, Id Editor has an Issues Tab ( It is not perfect but i believe it is actively developed.

Another thing is the lack of automated squaring of buildings, an issue that regularly pops up (and complained about). It is i believe also explicitly brought to the attention by HOT to the developers.

But Id Editor is not developed by HOT. So there is not much we can do until the developers decide it is worthwhile to dive into. And until now this seems not the case.

You can always post new features on their GitHub page

Comment from martien-176 on 29 October 2021 at 15:56

@Kate, yes, ideally every new mapper should be able to have a personal mentor. Not necessarily validators, experienced mappers would also do.

They only problem could be that the demand for mentors would exceed the number of available ones.

Crowd2map has a system that every beginner mapper can post their freshly mapped tasks on Slack. An experienced mapper will check it out and provide personal feedback.

But here the same problem as mentioned above: there should be enough available validators (being all volunteers).

But there is an alternative: instead of waiting until the beginner mapper takes the initiative, the validator can do that. Through OSMCha you can “hunt” beginner mappers on project and task level. That way it is possible to provide feedback in a very early stage. Frans Schutz wrote an informative intro about this workflow (

Comment from martien-176 on 29 October 2021 at 15:57

@Kate, @Clifford, do you know It is meant as an introductory site for both OSM and HOTOSM users. It covers both beginner stuff and also topics for the more advanced mapper.

Comment from Glassman on 29 October 2021 at 18:19

@martien-vdg - Yes I’m well aware of the site. I include it in every welcome message I send to new users in my State. I should have also recommended it to @kate. I’ve also asked Frans Schultz for permission to modify his OSMCha Concepts for the Welcome Tool.

About your comment that iD should validate unsquare buildings. I also mentioned it to the developers. It was my number one suggestion to new mappers. See my diary entry at I plan to follow up when there is a replacement for Quincy.

Comment from Frans S on 30 October 2021 at 12:19

Hello Martien.

Good and clear story and ideas. You have posted this in your diary. Who all are reading this? You gave me a link in Slack, otherwise I wouldn’t have seen it. Isn’t Slack a better sounding board for this kind of ideas? (possibly parallel with the OSM diary? Greetings Frans

Comment from martien-176 on 30 October 2021 at 16:15

Hi Frans, thank you.

I posted a message on HOT Slack a week ago announcing this diary post ( I think you missed it because you were on vacation (?).

I choose to publish on my OSM diary (and not on HOT Slack) because i guess not every HOT mapper is on Slack. And also non HOT mappers can read it and provide feedback this way.

I will announce this article also on the HOT mailing list soon.

In the end i plan to post a recap of the feedback on the HOTOSM Slack

Comment from JanetChapman on 31 October 2021 at 12:26

Very interesting, thank you! Would love to talk more about how we can improve new mapper induction at Crowd2Map. Also would you be interested in doing a webinar for our (and other) interns and Youthmappers on this please? Many thanks, Janet

Comment from Puxan on 1 November 2021 at 10:43

Hello matien-vdg (automatic translation)

I share all the opinions expressed in favor of improving the quality of the new additions of mappers. A few months ago I already put in my diary an approach on the subject that I do not see in everything that has been said here. It’s about the mapatones. I think most of the new additions to OSM are through mapatones. In this section it is possibly easier to intervene.

Standards that could improve the quality of mapping in mapatones:

1.- Do not admit new mappers to the mapathon who have not completed at least one tutorial on the web (, the one included in the iD Editor help,…). I see that currently mappers are supported that have not even registered yet in OSM. Those who have not been able to complete that minimum previous work can be directed to a next mapathon

2.- The organizing team must commit to reviewing all the changesets of the mapathon in a short period of time (7 days?) And send a report of it to each mapper. If necessary, the number of mappers is reduced to the number that can be reviewed by the person in charge of each room.

3.- The organizing team should ensure the category of those responsible for each mapping room.

For me another added problem is that of the language. I am not fluent in English enough to be able to advise without fear of making translation errors that may annoy the mapper. Maybe at some point the language that the mapper speaks should be included

Comment from martien-176 on 3 November 2021 at 19:00

Hi @Janet, thanks for your feedback. Although i am a member of the HOT Training WG i am not involved in webinars (my spoken english is not that good). I mainly focus on maintaining

But you can always contact the HOT Training WG for new topic proposals.

@Puxan, you bring up some interesting ideas. However, i do not have any specific experience with mapathons, didn’t visit nor organized one.

Maybe some one who does can give feedback here about this.

Comment from pedrito1414 on 4 November 2021 at 14:26

Thanks @martien-vdg for the post and @Puxan for the mapathon comment….

A few points to add to the discussion from myself (as someone who has been involved with lots of mapathons as an organiser and participant)…

I’m not sure that it’s the case that the majority of new mappers come from mapathons - I think probably the majority are ‘armchair mappers’ responding to emergencies and disasters at home. To date, 234k mappers have contributed OSM edits through the HOT Tasking manager (see the section: Mappers in all priority countries), whereas mapathons tend to attract tens (or occasionally >100) people mapping together.

I also think that mapathons can be great places to get started mapping (even from before having an OSM account). In good examples, new mappers are surrounded by other people mapping they can ask and talk to and there tend to be enthusiastic experts present. Also, mapathons tend to be designed to onboard and train new people, whereas approaching OSM alone is a fairly complex and overwhelming experience.

Interestingly in Martin Dittus’ research, it was found that mapathons provide a social setting that encourages longer term commitment and contribution. A small but significant number of people build relationships and community and tend to go again and again. Their contribution to OSM also tends to be very high (I am one of these people - I have been attending Missing Maps London community events for seven years now, at least once a month).

I am confident in the opinions above, but I also acknowledge that not all mapathons are the same… and, this is one of the challenges… as with many things in the open community landscape, it is very tempting to integrate rules and barriers to entry but it’s almost impossible to enforce or socialise.

I also agree with @Puxan that we need to do better with validation and feedback when it comes to mapathons… Some do have specific validation capacity but many do not and far too many projects on the HOT Tasking Manager go unvalidated (or validated not in a timely fashion). I work for HOT and it’s something we are seriously investing in at the moment to try and improve the quality of data contributed.

Comment from Frans S on 4 November 2021 at 15:30

Updated the document. how to use OSMcha HOw to review mappers work.

Comment from Frans S on 11 July 2022 at 13:03

Hi Martin. Much has been said in your story and the comments. It stems to my mind from the implementation and who can and will guide this. Can this become an automated session where a mapper has to map some (fictional) objects and as a response there is a comparison with well done mappings. Something like a response to inline validation , check on squared mapping and the validation tool.

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