mikelmaron's Diary

Recent diary entries

I want to use Overture Places to improve OSM, and want to share a few ideas on that.

First the data is worldwide, and there’s definitely added value there to mine. Here’s Brandon Liu’s map over Santo Domingo.

However it’s a mixed bag. Adjusting confidence score is helpful. But even then, some things are in right location, some are already in OSM, some are closed, or miscategorized. It takes careful analysis to find places that could added to OSM. Wille did a great job examining his local area

This is not a harsh critique – it’s tough data to manage. There’s value. I’d like a workflow that gets at deriving that value, fast. I think it’s a combination of something that enables the kind of analysis Wille did, along with an easy way to edit OSM.

I don’t think this needs to have a fancy entity matching process between Overture and OSM. Choose an area. Generate a list of features in Overture, with confidence threshold, and filtered to feature classes of interest. Show both Overture and OSM on the map. Work down the list, examine the map, take an action in OSM if necessary (adding, updating, or nothing), then mark the task with the action.

I guess this could be done through MapRoulette? Though tasks there seem typically driven by analysis of OSM objects, not 3rd party data to conflate. RapID? Not possible to create your own tasks. What about adding Overture as an overlay in iD? Another way?

Yesterday I gave a keynote talk to State of the Map Nigeria in Abuja. Despite numerous technical difficulties (I think I was on a phone giving the talk within a big room?!), I hope I got some ideas across to at least one person who needed to hear them.

I decided to focus my talk on what it’s taken to feel accomplished in OpenStreetMap. And I do, so much personal and professional success has come from being a part of this community. It broke down to 9 points.

Up front I acknowledged Connection. It still feels like a miracle that I could talk from Santo Domingo to the Obasanjo Space Centre. When I was growing up, this was pure science fiction. Today we can connect with nearly anyone in the world. The power of this can not be overstated, and is not nearly leveraged enough. It’s the essential piece of what makes OSM works in my opinion.

Next Inspiration. Have a problem that moves you. You don’t need to know the solution up front, that takes time. Figure out how data and community apply. I started working on the idea of HOT after the Indian Ocean tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina. Disaster response is extremely hard, but it seemed like information flow about place could be a solved problem.

Translation is a powerful position to be in, sitting between two worlds and helping them to talk to each other. I don’t mean linguistic necessarily, but conceptual. HOT sits within two places that operate very differently – humanitarian and open source. In the OSMF, I’ve been working to help organizations and community better understand each other.

Commitment is essential. Working on hard problems takes years, at minimum. Map Kibera had a great map in OSM within weeks. But it took years until there was a direct benefit in Kibera. We could have celebrated in 2009 (and we did) but so what – we couldn’t stop there. I didn’t consider any solid impact until 2013, at the next presidential election, where the map became essential for the operation and participation.

Creativity. There is a massive place for repeating successful patterns, but creativity changes the game. Find novelty. There’s a tremendous number of not down things, but finding it requires reading voraciously, adapting ideas, identifying and contributing something new. It’s why I love the the name of the Youth Mappers chapter “Unique Mappers”. Every mapper is unique and has potential to have unique impact on the world.

Share that unique voice. And base what you learn in your journey rooted in your real experience. I used to blog extensively, and I found a network of incredible people who resonated with my ideas. A great recent example of this is from Hawa Adinani on how OSM transformed her.

Then Roll with it. Things will not end up like you expect. I joined Mapbox when OSM was a central part of its story and engagement. That changed – for understandable business reasons – but it was still hard. in my workday this led me to invest more time in social impact of maps, start the Community team, help all sorts of projects, including in climate. And that’s now where I’ve found myself with climate and environment data work at Earth Genome.

Remember, OSM is Not only mapping. So much is about organizing and supporting people to do work together. And isn’t getting humans to cooperate in new ways the ultimate challenge? OSM is a great start, a framework. YouthMappers is a very effective model to organize students. I’ve been on the OSMF Board for years, and didn’t start off with experience of non-profit Boards. I used to be pretty meh at it, but I think I’ve learned something. So valuable part of the OSM experience.

Finally Act don’t talk. There’s so many times I’m together with groups where we talk about doing something later. Let’s do something now! Even if it’s outlining a written plan in a document. If there’s ever a moment to actually do something, well do it.

And coming back to final note on Connection. That’s the common enabler of all the opportunity. Take part in our global community and see where it takes you.

2022 Board elections are coming up for OSMF. You can see what the details will be like on the wiki page from last year. There are three seats up for election, not clear yet who from current Board members will run again.

We need people to run who are focused on specific needs, and ready to put in professional level work on a volunteer basis. In other words, folks who can pick a 1 or 2 things, do good work on them, in service to our community. There are plenty of chunky problems that need ownership.

Me, I’ve been on the OSMF Board longer than anyone. I used to try to cover everything. Now my work in OSMF is very focused on 2 areas – personnel and fundraising. We need to look after our people and make OSMF a good place to work. And we need resources to make our plans happen. It’s a lot, but I’m limiting my time to these.

There’s a lot of noise and energy around any election, and that holds pretty true for OSMF. It’s the one time of year many think about the OSMF at all. But the real work happens in the rest of the year. Very little of the campaign manifestos really matter. Opinions and positions don’t really matter. Through strategic discussion, we largely agree on what needs to get done. Doing the work is what counts, and that’s what we need in Board candidates.

Jumping directly into the OSMF Board with no prior OSMF experience is hard. There’s lots to do on Working Groups and Committees throughout the year. Helps build reputation across our global community, and familiarity with how we function.

That said, whatever your experience, if you are ready to jump and put in the work, I’d love to support you. Reach out and we can talk. I can share my insights on the process and what it takes.

Are you part of a local chapter, or a local community, putting together an organized project, or developing software? We’d love to hear from you at the OSMF Board meetings. Please get in touch with us or comment on this post.

Over a year ago, the OSMF Board began inviting Local Chapters to present at our monthly Board meetings. It has been consistently great to hear about OSM activities around the world directly from the people involved. Very useful for the Board and those keenly interested in Foundation governance to get as full a picture as possible. Thank you to OpenStreetMap Italia, OpenStreetMap á Íslandi, OpenStreetMap France, FOSSGIS, FLOSSK, OSM Ireland, and OSM UK!

We realized there’s more voices we could hear from, and over the past two months, have opened the door to any OSM community and other projects like software development.

In May, Jochen Topf shared his experiences developing key pieces of the OSM software ecosystem. And this month, Feye Andal shared work across the incredible OSM-PH community. Next month, we have Sarah Hoffman coming to talk about nominatim!

There is so much happening across our amazing community. For the Board and others involved in core governance in OSMF, we want to have this front and center to our efforts. We appreciate the time everyone has spent to share their work with us, and encourage everyone else to signal your interest!

We assessed where we are and got a lot of good work OSMF Board Screen to Screen a couple weeks ago. One place where we have not moved as much as hoped is with diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion was a big topic at the start of this year’s Board, we adopted a diversity statement and started a diversity and inclusion special committee (DISC) which had a couple good meetings. Then nothing. Why and what can be done to revitalize?

I take personal responsibility. I organized the first two meetings, but was hoping to see someone else step up to take charge on the effort. My background – white male techie from US/Western Europe – is very well represented in the OSMF, and I didn’t think it was best for the DISC to have me as the chair. On reflection, that was wrong, and I should take up the effort to bring dedicated people together and make sure they have what they need to channel limited time and energy effectively.

So I want to do three things.

First, I want to have calls with people from underrepresented groups and geographies in OSMF, hear about your involvement in OSM, what you’d like to do in OSM and OSMF (and certainly not only on diversity directly), and offer my guidance and help to find good places to contribute. OSM is hard to navigate, and I want to make direct personal effort. Many of you I have the privilege to know, many not yet. Please get in touch with me, or share my contacts with folks others.

Second, I want to revitalize DISC and simply chair it. To make it vital is again going to take personal outreach to people who have been involved, or could be involved, and find the best places again to focus. One area I think we should take up is trust and safety in our online communication spaces.

Finally, we’re about to have an OSMF Board election. I want to especially encourage underrepresented people to run – from outside North America and Europe, and women. If you think you have something to contribute, please step forward. I know it can be an uncertain move – if you have any doubts, please reach out too and I’m happy to talk about what’s it’s like.

What HOT needs to work on for 2025

Posted by mikelmaron on 17 July 2020 in English.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team develops on a 5 year cycle. From 2005-2010, HOT was a crazy idea within the crazy idea of OpenStreetMap. From 2010-2015, HOT showed that the use of OSM in humanitarian response was a viable idea, we built an organization and operations and tools, and weathered some chaos as an organization growing out of a community project. At this point in 2015, I recognized the 5 year pattern in my HOT Summit talk An Incomplete History of HOT. That’s where I first met HOT’s Executive Director, Tyler Radford, who from 2015-2020 stabilized and grew HOT in a well structured way. Confidence in this foundation has led to the Audacious grant to expand OSM community centered mapping from 2020-2025. I am very excited and very much want this to succeed wildly.

This is HOT’s most difficult transition. A well structured organization has a lot of momentum, and the intention of the next 5 years looks very different from the previous 5 years. HOT has focused on project work, building up staff, and delivering on specific commitments. All of which is great. But this naturally generates friction with community centered approaches, and I think HOT’s relationship to OSM has suffered because of lack of investment in the community and consistent data quality, and a disregard for the responsibility of HOT to engage in both the good and bad of OSM. It also means working for to contribute the many positive things in HOT’s work and culture to OSM at large. By “investment” I don’t focus on money, but on the time to build relationships, and use, support & develop processes to make OSM better. However, when operating at the scale of HOT, community effort needs to be resourced and part of the plan. I made this point in my HOT Summit 2019 talk Data, Operational Excellence and HOT.

The stated intentions of Audacious are very in line with a revitalization of the “OpenStreetMap” in Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. But it takes much more than an excellent proposal and well thought out plan to be successful. What HOT is looking to do here is very rare in any area of endeavor – use the work of a structured organization to help build a robust, multi-faceted and independent community. I think HOT is up to the task, but let’s realize, this is really hard.

There’s a few things I’m thinking about as important for success.

First, what does success look like for HOT’s Audacious grant? Achieving “one million volunteers to map an area home to one billion people” could be either a success or failure. It entirely depends on what happens in year 6. What do these communities look like in 2025, so they’re in position to continue to flourish and thrive? In other words, we need to define what a successful community looks like. A very good starting point is the work of my wife Erica Hagen on Sustainability in OpenStreetMap. In essence, sustainability requires an ecosystem of different kinds of actors – volunteers, non-profits, educators and students, companies and governments – that collaborate, pick up each other’s slack, sometimes compete in a healthy way, and provide career development pathways.

Second, HOT needs to lean into the discomfort of transparency and public, critical self-reflection and input. The natural defensive tendency of any organization is to polish over problems and present things in the best light. But when working in a community, it’s imperative that the process of reflection and learning is something we all engage in. Don’t over edit. Otherwise learning will suffer. This is difficult because there’s risk and exposure, but HOT is strong enough to do this without undermining its operation.

And third, the right people need to be in place leading and building these programs. HOT has a very strong staff. But many of the staff have had their first exposure to OpenStreetMap through HOT and see it mainly through that lens. The organization needs to internalize the persepctive of OpenStreetMap and the places where it will work. There are currently job openings for a Head of Community and Regional Hub Directors which call for “familiarity with OSM community” and “OSM experience a plus but not required”. Now the pool of candidates who have everything is going to be small, so I understand being flexible on requirements but I believe these roles need more than what’s advertised. If OSM experience is slight, the candidates need to show an obsessive excitement to jump into the deep end of what OSM is all about, warts and all.

Fourth, HOT needs a strong Board that will hold the organization to account. HOT is right now electing new Board Members. My question to the Board candidates and current members is how they will function to ensure that Audacious work is implemented with community as its focus. That could mean holding feet to the fire, and making your excellent ED sweat a bit when he’s talking to you.

Finally, HOT needs to build a strong working relationship with the OSMF. I’m gratified to see a good line of communication developing between the HOT Board and the OSM Foundation Board. We’re on the cusp of sorting out some long standing trademark issues. But this is just the start as both organizations work on issues of governance and upkeep of our core infrastructure.

That’s all for now. I’m very interested to hear how you think about this challenge and where HOT needs to put its focus.

At the first meeting of the new OSMF Board, we discussed forming a Diversity Working Group, and I was charged to draft a scope of work. I appreciate the opportunity to take up the task to help get this effort moving. It’s fair to say that we all want participation in OpenStreetMap and the Foundation to be more representative of the whole of OSM and the world we want to map. This post sketches my thoughts on how we got here, and what this could look like. I’d love feedback. After some period of discussion, I’ll help organize a meeting (or set of meetings to accommodate time zones) to kick things off.

As background, the topic of diversity has been active for a long time in OpenStreetMap, in posts and mailing lists, including the dedicated diversity-talk@ list, discussed in Board election statements and QA for several years and at Board face to face meetings, and in person sessions at State of the Map. This year’s Board election of all white men from Europe and North America prompted active discussion across Twitter, OSM Diaries, and within the board email group. This discussion was at times difficult, and other times was productive. It became clear to me that there is a wide range of impression on what we all mean by “diversity”, the degree to which it’s a problem, if things should change, and how that change might be accomplished.

These discussions provide us with a broad set of topics to start thinking about an OSMF working group. I find it daunting, but at the same time we are provided with much to reflect on and work through on the topic of diversity. As the OSMF board, we are in a position to help the community channel these discussions into productive, impactful, data-driven and community oriented group. Structurally, this could take the form of a full working group, a working group with a time delimited lifespan, or a Board committee.

Here’s a proposal for questions the group might address

  • What does diversity mean for OpenStreetMap and the OpenStreetMap Foundation?
  • What open communities are successfully addressing diversity and how can we learn from them? For example, Guillaume suggested looking at the Python Diversity Statement as a good starting point.
  • How diverse is the OSM/OSMF currently? How will the group measure and conduct research to find out? What research and data already exists?
  • What are the root causes and systematic issues within our community that could be addressed to improve diversity?
  • What actions can be taken to improve? Where are the biggest opportunities for community growth? This could include a wide array of approaches, from recruiting more people to OSM/F, mentorship, work on inclusion in our interaction and communication, or a hundred other things. The actions wouldn’t be the responsibility of the group to implement alone. Most likely this would involve coordination with working groups, the Board, and community.
  • What is the timeline to checkin and evaluate these efforts? What’s working, what isn’t and why? Where do we need to iterate on approaches?

Again, I want to hear from you all on this sketch, what such a group should focus on, and if you’d like to be involved. This effort itself is going to work best with a diverse group of people. Please add your comments here on this diary entry; or link in a diary comment to posts on the channel of your choice. If you’d rather communicate privately, you can send me a message through

OSMF Governance Thoughts

Posted by mikelmaron on 6 December 2019 in English.

“Governance” are the key rules and processes by which an organization functions. Setting the structure is one of the primary responsibilities of the Board, and in the long run where Board work has the most impact. It’s top of mind for me for the future of OSMF. I think a lot of the churn in OSMF can be settled by having better processes. This is not about centralized control, actually quite the opposite. I talk about this in my Board candidate statement and Q/A, but it’s kind of buried. And it can be pretty dry. Don’t expect excitement here. But it’s important. Want to surface a few ideas and my perspectives.

The most immediate action I want us to take is splitting the Advisory Board into a group of Local Chapters, and a group for corporates. The Advisory Board as-is has failed – the Board asks for nothing from it, and the Advisory Board offers up very little. I don’t think Local Chapters and companies have the same concerns, or have a lot to say to each other in front of the Board. So let’s split and see if it becomes more interesting. As usual, discussions from the Advisory Board would be reported out publicly.

I’m more interested in what Local Chapters have to say. I think empowering Local Chapters in OSMF governance is how we make sure that OSMF is relevant and serving more communities and mappers. There was an excellent discussion on this during State of the Map. It’s not clear what governance models make sense – federated decision making, designated rotating Board seats, etc – but let’s start looking at this in what will be a long deliberation. I think the Local Chapters and Communities Working Group could also be a good place to dig in.

We need rules of order for how the Board and Working Groups work together. This is exactly not the Board trying to exert more control over Working Groups. Rather, it’s making much more clear to Working Groups what they should expect from the Board when they need something. And so the Board can hold itself accountable to being responsive and predictable. Take a look at the Board Rules of Order, and it’s all about how we communicate, timelines, and decisions. Frankly, the Board has been bad at communicating how long we will deliberate on a request from a working group, and communicating the results back. Maybe another and better way to frame this would be additions to the existing Board Rules of Order.

We need to draw up and adopt a conflict of interest policy. This is being discussed on osmf-talk right now. With a written policy, it will be clear to all what constitutes a conflict of interest and how to handle it.

Finally AoA changes on the ballot, particularly term limits. I’m grateful that my fellow Board members worked on these, particular Frederik and Kate. They’re all worthwhile, and my preference for term limits would be:

A retiring member of the board shall be eligible for re-election only if they have not yet been elected to a board position three or more times during the most recent eight board elections.

I do not want this to benefit me. If elected, I’m not intending to run again after that (please stop me if you see me considering it!). Rather, I think a lifetime limit is very long for this organization, and could conceivably remove someone valuable from serving the organization again after time away. Anyway, I’ll be fine with the passage of the more restrictive version as well.

Curious to hear thoughts about governance ideas, and what else we should be thinking about to bring more balance to the OSMF.

Mapping Overtime in India

Posted by mikelmaron on 27 November 2018 in English.

Wonderful story about the OpenStreetMap India community on the cover of Bangalore’s largest newspaper.

A decade ago Schuyler and myself were invited to share OpenStreetMap across India. I documented that life changing trip. It was a significant launching point event, but was not the start of the OpenStreetMap community in India however – Arun Ganesh, Shekhar Krishnan and others were already well on the way. And certainly all credit for what’s developed since goes to the folks mapping every day.

For me personally, it was a lifelong highlight of my career. As well, it was also a significant personal launching point. And probably for OpenStreetMap as a whole. Later that year we helped Palestinians map the West Bank. The next year, we initiated Map Kibera. All of these experiences contributed to the formative moments of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.

When Mapbox looked to establish a data team, it looked to India. The combination of technical skill and passion for open knowledge made it a natural fit. I was happy to connect them with friends from OpenStreetMap adventures. They set the standard for companies working and contributing to the OpenStreetMap community. That pattern is growing rapidly, and India is the rapidly growing center of the skill and passion – for work and especially individual value. There’s going to be a whole lot more mappers coming in the most populous democracy in the world. I’m not surprised at all that 100 mappers wanted to join the Foundation. They are welcome.

Take a look at this video. That collaborative assembly is the pure spirit of OSM. Look at this launch of State of the Map Asia with a lamp lighting and ceremonial OSM edit.

What a great mapping community. Thanks for inviting me to be a part of it.

I took a tip from Dexter from the City of Detroit Office of Innovation, and started on the Detroit Mapping Challenge by browsing City of Detroit Open Data. What open data could help make OpenStreetMap Detroit the best map in the world? BikeShare locations looked like a useful and straightforward starting point. And now OSM Detroit has very accurate MoGo bike share docking stations. There turned out to be a few surprises getting there, and lessons to absorb for mapping all of Detroit.

The data looked decent on quick inspection, and is licensed public domain. Maybe a very small human supervised import is in order. I browsed OSM to see what was already there, and turned out this already all 43 docking stations were already added by mapper175, with the changeset comment Added nodes for MoGo Bike Share system stations (resurvey needed for most of them). Are they in the right place? Is there something a remote mapper could do here?

I picked the Second Ave & Prentis St docking station at random, and opened it up in iD.

I cycled through all the imagery options available to OpenStreetMap, and no evidence of a bike share dock station. Turns out MoGo launched just over a year ago and all of the aerial imagery is apparently older than that.

I then tried street level imagery. Bing Streetside is comprehensive but collected back in 2014. Fortunately in Detroit, Mapillary and OpenStreetCam have extensive and recent coverage. Clicking through the street level images in iD to find something with the correct alignment to capture the dock was sometimes tricky — depended on the precision of the capture position, the direction, the field of view, and distance. Confirming features seen in the street level imagery against aerial imagery was helpful to choose a well located shot.

For Second Ave and Prentis Street, the docking station moved just a few meters, from on street to inside a parking lot. While the accuracy of the first location in OSM was probably ok enough to find the docking station, the position of on the street vs sidewalk has substantial meaning for high definition mapping and analysis.

I next checked out the dock at Cass Ave & W Hancock St. The original position on West Hancock looked ok, but the OpenStreetCam imagery quickly confused me. One image showed the doc on West Hancock, and another from a few months later on Cass Avenue. I couldn’t trust what my eyes told me here — is the location or direction of the images incorrect? Am I looking at the same dock?

I searched and found that this dock had moved due to street construction. The reported move date didn’t quite match up with the first image but seemed reasonable to explain what I was seeing. And it also mentions the move of **2nd Ave. and Prentis — somehow luckily the first two stations I picked had substantial changes.

The MoGo site also had a map, and browsing it, the locations for the above two dock stations were very accurate. It looked like the location in the MoGo map corresponded exactly with the docking station kiosk unit. Perhaps I could simply use these locations to correct the data in OSM. But what about the license? Asked Dexter and ..

.. he confirmed that I could us it in OSM and that they would now update the data set on the main Open Data site. Open Data is more than a data source, it’s a conversation.

But first, had to screen scrape. Viewing source, the dock locations were stored in two lists of coordinates. I wrote a quick script to scrape this and transform into GeoJSON and then load into iD as a local file.

I had confidence in this data from the first two stations, but decided to confirm each location from street level imagery before adjusting. I zoomed in on each station from the local file in turn, enabled street level imagery, clicked to find the best view and recency of imagery, until I had a confirmation of the MoGo location.

It became a bit monotonous, though still interesting to investigate the streetscape across Detroit. I began day dreaming about a process that would make it easier for me to confirm. Something that would show the current and new point, automatically determine the best source of imagery from all available — biased towards most recent, and including machine learning to filter images that probably have a dock in view. Step through each point, reposition if needed, and confirm.

For the most part, the locations were spot on. This one confirmed with Mapillary imagery contributed by, in fact, Dexter!

And in just a couple cases, very close but slightly off. Like the station above, where the MoGo map has the station on the street side of the sidewalk, but OpenStreetCam had the station closer to the building. I decided to go as close as I could tell from the imagery.

I learned a lot from the short exercise.

  • OSM is iterative. The first version of this data was pretty good, now it’s great. And we’ll need to update again as MoGo changes and grows.
  • Open data is a conversation, not just a download site. Connect with data holders and it will help unlock more data and possibilities.
  • Street level imagery is a superb source. Utilize as many sources as possible, research from multiple angles, and pay close attention to recency.
  • Human review is always key, but we need to make it very easy with processes that minimize drudgery and take best advantage of human intellect.
  • You can learn a lot about a city, even from far away. Takes patience but it’s rewarding to understanding the geography of a city.

There’s going to be a lot to learn about the city, and especially about the process of mapping, from making Detroit the best map in the world. Excited to see what happens next.

Holiday reflections on OpenStreetMap

Posted by mikelmaron on 21 December 2017 in English.

I’m starting to reflect on OpenStreetMap over the holiday. The last several months have personally been simultaneously trying and inspiring. Here’s a few thoughts…

We are all the community Do you contribute and participate in OpenStreetMap in any way? Map, organize, code, discuss, etc? Then you are in the OSM community.

We need to move away from talking about the “OSM community” as being either the people we agree with or the people we disagree with. It’s a pattern I see too much. There are plenty of people and groups that are 100% part of the community, but don’t fully realize it.

Community looks different in different places The kind of people, background and settings hosting our community look very different in every city, every country.

This is one of the most amazing things about OpenStreetMap — we’re all working together! University students, open source coders, slum dwellers, professional teams, ambassador(s), geographers. Keeping this in mind is super challenging and necessary for a global project. Trying to understand where others are coming from is something everyone can learn to do, and do better.

We agree far more than we disagree The things we agree on our huge — mapping the entire world openly is still a radical idea.

But the things we argue about might seem like insurmountable gulfs. Yet even on the “polarizing” topics of the past months — organized editing, code of conduct, quality etc — from my seat there’s a huge amount of agreement. Lot of the gulf seems to be about particulars of language and how to get there, rather than essential meanings.

Most of us are quiet The overwhelming vast majority of people on mailing lists and in the OSM community as a whole are not saying anything.

So far in December, there were 411 posts by 94 unique posters. The top 20% of those posters by volume contributed 58% of the posts. I don’t know the exact number of subscribers, but there are about 700-800 OpenStreetMap Foundation Members. There are tens of thousands more active mappers. This is extreme long tail participation.

We don’t know if these people are enjoying or recoiling from these discussions, or totally ignoring them. Every time I post, I do try to keep in mind that my words are going out to hundreds of people.

There are very few barriers to action I have seen very few ideas which are not actionable in OpenStreetMap, there is extraordinary freedom.

That doesn’t make it easy, but it’s much easier than building the map alone. Winning arguments with work is more effective than with words only. You need to listen to and work with others. But there are no absolute blockers. Follow and understand our basic community practices, and big or small things can happen.

Local Chapter Congress Notes from SotM 2016

Posted by mikelmaron on 17 April 2017 in English. Last updated on 18 April 2017.

The sun shined on the Local Chapter Congress at State of the Map 2016. It was fantastic to hear from so many people from so many communities.

Yes, sorry, it is long overdue to share – shortly after SotM, I took leave after the birth of my son, and only finding space to pick this up with the upcoming Board Face to Face.

There were many solid ideas, and of course further discussion. Would love to find several avenues to explore these. I think one could be the Advisory Board, which will include representatives from official Local Chapters. For “incubating” local chapters, maybe we discuss ideas on the local chapters mailing list. For communication ideas, we should figure out the right place…

Dorothea took thorough notes from the session. Posting the summary below.

Organising local communities

How OSMF Could Help?

  • Add new “tier” to Local Chapters for semi-formal groups not ready to register as a formal organization or full Local Chapter status
  • Subsidize some costs of groups in poor communities, including support for accessing internet and computer equipment

For OSMF membership

  • 2-level tier for membership fee, to include mappers from poorer countries
  • Vetting of members at lower membership fee by local chapter

Other fundraising options for local groups:

  • Ask local companies
  • Mapathons at places (like bars / coffee shops) which donate percentage of the proceeds
  • On membership signup, option to donate additional amounts


  • Restart equipment (GPS / phones / laser distance devices) lending program, either from OSMF, or between local communities
  • Legal questions on OSM activities in places like Pakistan
  • Groups as part of larger organisations
  • Organize national level donation collection through non profit associations for tax benefit, then donate to support OSMF

Improving communications

  • Central OSM-supplied platform for social aspects, there is fragmentation between communication tools (lists, some people find IRC/forum unappealing, FB, etc) ** The platform should also be helpful for organisation purposes (i.e easy past message retrieval)
  • Creation of map that has local groups with contact details on it
  • Tickbox on sign-up page to accept push-notifications
  • Short video (maybe localised) before the first tutorial in iD, that explains what OSM is all about
  • Identifying & contacting new mappers as they join – Belgium and Switzerland have models
  • Build tool to contact new mappers. The welcoming message will, ideally ** be personalised ** push people to come into contact with local groups ** let them know options available ** mention local upcoming events ** also, it will be followed-up after a few weeks/month (people have limited time)

  • Possible revitalisation of Welcome WG

  • Friendly reminders to decrease duration of mapping inactivity

Additional suggestions

  • Gamification
  • Drop-down list with current news (national/regional) on

Running for HOT Chair in 2017

Posted by mikelmaron on 7 March 2017 in English.

I’m running again for Chair of Voting Members for Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.

My outlook on the role is similar to last year.

I’ve been busy with the Governance Working Group, and the Election Committee – for both the new member nominations and Board / Chair elections. These seem to be going smoothly! Working on these has helped further refine our processes and documents. We now have a new member “Welcome Pack”.

Happy to continue with this responsibility next year. Please get in touch if you have any questions or ideas for the role of the Chair.

Working on the challenge laid out by @Zverik to add subscriptions to diary comments was fun! Now I want to suggest another – an overview of all notifications across This would include diary entries, comments, and notes.

Ideally this page would list subscriptions, in order of most recently commented.

One complexity, Notes have a different subscription workflow than diary entries and comments. With Notes, the original poster and any commenter are notified of comments. There’s no way to subscribe otherwise, or unsubscribe. We may want to, in the future, modify that to follow the same workflow.

As laid out by Zverik :”The offer is not indefinite: the PR must be submitted until the 15th of November and merged before the 15th of December. And yes, there might be a competition, in that case OWG will decide the winner by merging a pull request.”

State of the Map attendees are coming to Brussels from (at least) 52 countries! The global State of the Map is a unequaled time to come together in person to share experiences from every corner of the world, find common ground, and plan what’s next for OpenStreetMap.

Many of us, among the over 400 attendees, are local community organizers. We hold mapping parties, organize local SotMs, even register organizations and sign up as official Local Chapters. I’m excited that we have dedicated time to talk as local communities on Sunday – during the panel discussion of State of the Local Map and the open discussion of Local Chapters Congress. There’s call to have a Local Birds of a Feather. The discussions we have in Brussels will continue with local communities gathering next week in Manila for State of the Map Asia.

Folks like Martijn, Joost, and myself have been talking with OpenStreetMap local community organizers over the past few months, to learn more about what they’re doing, motivations, their challenges, and what they need from the global OpenStreetMap community.

What I’ve found is that local communities are seeking to get more organized to engage more officially with government agencies, universities and other institutions. They find they need financial administration beyond borrowing someone’s bank account. While some have seen the value of becoming an official OSM Foundation Local Chapter, there is still lack a clarity to some about the necessity and benefits. Nevertheless, they see a lot of value to learn from others working on similar issues – everything from legal and administrative issues of starting an organization, to sharing community engagement strategies that work, to amplifying the voices of their community in the global OSM conversation especially for non-English speakers. Regional connections are especially valuable, for working with mappers in similar languages, timezones, and to some extent culture.

I think there are straightforward things we could do here – like better communication about and between Local Chapters, develop some simple benefits like schwag and templates of core organizational documents, and more support for regional conferences. Just some ideas.

Really looking forward to hearing more about what local communities are up to and what we think we can do together! See you at State of the Map.

I’m running for Chair of Voting Members for Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.

I see the Chair as a straightforward role. The key responsibility is to communicate responsibilities and opportunities to HOT Voting Members, and organize the space for official convening and processes. This includes notification of Annual and Special Meetings, Elections and Ballots, as well as ensuring announcements of other meetings, like Working Groups. Expect to work closely with the Board Secretary and HOT’s Operations Coordinator, and the Governance Working Group, in these tasks.

My work over the last year with the Governance Working Group has prepared me well for this role. I have been closely studying, revising and clarifying HOT’s Bylaws and processes, with focus on making our governance work well for us.

This work be done with excellent clarity. HOT Voting Members cover nearly every time zone, many languages, and everyone’s time is precious. Our governance responsibilities should be straightforward and understandable, so we can focus most of our efforts on the amazing core work of HOT.

HOT 2015 Year in Review

Posted by mikelmaron on 31 December 2015 in English.

That time of year again … take stock of my year in HOT. Started off the year as a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the State Department working on MapGive, supporting HOT from the US government side. End the year working at Mapbox, still supporting HOT!

At State, got to help facilitate some truly remarkable collaborations. Nepal was a huge focus for all of us. I worked a lot on coordination, imagery, communications, especially within the USG. Worked with a great group of people to increase cooperation among institutions in OSM. We helped formed a Open Government Commitment to OpenStreetMap, with a great showing at the OGP Summit in Mexico City.

Was part of the team that put together an incredible, inaugural HOT Summit. What an incredible event. Got to tell a story of some of the early HOT history. Started off that week lending a hand with HOT Activation Curriculum Sprint.

Spent time on the Governance Working Group, putting together Bylaws updates. We now have 2 year terms for Board members! Lots more to do.

Sadly saw Kate depart as ED, but warmly welcome Tyler. There’s been a super skilled group of folks volunteering and working with HOT over the year, and happily talked with them about various things. What an amazing year — Tanzania, OpenAerialMap, Export Tool, and everything else I’m missing.

At Mapbox, we made a public commitment to HOT, which I hope is a model for other organizations supporting HOT. We matched the first 10k of the HOT fundraiser.

What about 2016? I’m going to keep volunteering on the Governance WG, we have work to do. Also interested to connect up more with HOT Training and education efforts. I’m on the State of the Map WG, and think we could pull off a great HOT Summit adjacent to it in Brussels. I’m very interested to invest time in local organization capacity, and hope efforts with Local Chapters in the OSMF (where I am now on the Board) can help with that.

Recently learned there is a new real estate development in the early stages of planning in my neighborhood. The Josephite’s Seminary has over a block of undeveloped space, and they’ve entered into agreement with EYA to build townhomes on the property. The number of townhomes being discussed is 150, a higher density of development than the surrounding neighborhood.

screen shot 2015-12-30 at 8 48 51 am

imagery: © Mapbox, Digital Globe.

I had a hard time picturing how 150 townhomes could fit on the site. EYA hasn’t yet come up with detailed plans, and has stated that they want to work with the community in the design phase. I am also interested in how maps could help the neighborhood envision ideas for what they want for the development.

So I have simulated what the footprint of the initially proposed development could look like. EYA had developed part of another religious property nearby into Chancellor’s Row. I assumed the density and townhouse size would be similar in the new development, that some kind of circulation road would bisect the property, and that the front of the property would not be developed, to preserve the character of the historic facade of the building (similar to Chancellor’s Row).

The result is below. This is based entirely off my assumptions, and not with any particular architectural finesse. But this turned out really helpful to see how it could be possible to build 150 properties on the site.

screen shot 2015-12-30 at 8 49 59 am

© Mapbox, OpenStreetMap. interactive version

screen shot 2015-12-30 at 9 11 51 am

imagery: © Mapbox, Digital Globe. interactive version

For comparison, here is Chancellor’s Row.

screen shot 2015-12-30 at 8 49 22 am

© Mapbox, OpenStreetMap. interactive version

After making this map, did some searching and found this promotional site for the property, along with this presentation from the December 3, 2015 community meeting. The “Site Use Diagram” shows a similar layout to my assumptions, but doesn’t show the layout of individual structures.

I’m interested to continue researching the Josephite Development, and work to see how open mapping can benefit the community process. Questions I have so far are what has been the historic development of the neighborhood since the 19th Century; the estimated cost of purchasing and developing the land, and potential profit and tax benefit to the city; what are the costs for upgrading infrastructure for the development, and what is the impact on transportation network; and what would various alternative schemes look like?

A quick technical note. I took the building footprints for Chancellor’s Row from the DC Open Data site. Not all of the structures were in this data set, so I added missing structures by tracing satellite imagery in QGIS. Most of these structures are not in OpenStreetMap, and will add these later on. I copied a selection of building footprints, and pasted them over the Josephite Seminary property in a possible configuration. Saved these from QGIS as GeoJSON, uploaded to Mapbox Studio, and styled to make this map.

Location: Michigan Park, Ward 5, Washington, District of Columbia, United States

I am excited to put myself forward to serve on the OpenStreetMap Foundation Board. I’m a mapper, coder, communicator and organizer, obsessed with OpenStreetMap for over 10 years. The OSM community has grown phenomenally. The core governance of OSM, the OSM Foundation, has kept the core resources of OSM stable and strong, but has struggled to keep up with the community. OSMF needs to grow. Growth doesn’t necessarily mean get bigger; I believe within our community we have everything we already need. What it does definitely mean is getting smarter and faster about how we engage and collaborate together beyond the map. That means creating proper space and structure in OSMF for a much broader diversity voices and activities of the OpenStreetMap community. I have a strong record of building alliances and networks in the OpenStreetMap community, and am ready to bring my efforts to OSMF.

OSM is a global project, and participation in OSMF should reflect that diversity. Local Chapters are a critical means to bring more voices and energy into OSMF. Local Chapters are national and local level groups of OSM mappers, some more formalized than others. We should engage Local Chapters (whether officially signed up with OSMF via an agreement, or more nascent) to broaden our discussions and deliberations, and recruit more help for the critical activities of the working groups. We can help Local Chapters do what they do better, with support for community management, events, and organizational capacity. Linking chapters together to share their knowledge benefits everyone. I’d help kickstart this, through targetted discussions through Local Chapters, on what they hope to see from OSMF and OSM.

Re-energizing working groups are key. I want to talk with as many OSMF Members as possible, hear about your interests, and help you find a way to contribute your time to OSMF. I want to promote Working Group activities loudly, and actively and directly recruit people to get involved. Working groups, whether Licensing, Data, Communications, Operations, etc, should be able to move quick and comprehensively as issues come up, as well as have a longer term view of where they’re heading. When this involves funding, OSMF needs to have a greater (if still relatively small) financial capacity to raise and spend money.

Partner organizations, whether government, academic, corporate, or non-profit have a role to play as well. Providing means for folks working with OSM from their organizations to contribute as well to OSMF will provide a breadth of much needed support and skills. This means boosting our sponsorship program, with more definition of what partners should expect from OSMF and vice versa.

OpenStreetMap will have an amazing State of the Map in Brussels. I want to see many opportunities for broad participation there, with solid outreach to other communities and interest groups, space for our global community to represent through scholarships and a Local Chapter “Congress”, and space for related communities to gather before and after, like the HOT Summit. And smaller events are critical too. Part of our support for Local Chapters translates into help to make even more great regional and national State of the Maps.

This will be my second stint on the OSMF Board. I’ve learned a lot about how organizations work since then. I’ve facilitated buy in to OSM everywhere from international organizations, to informal settlements, to activists, to educators. I served on the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Board as President, and continue to lead the Map Kibera Trust Board. My most recent year was spent as a Presidential Innovation Fellow at the State Department, where I helped the USG publicly commit to Open Mapping in a big way. I’ve recently joined the Mapbox data team. I’ve helped initiate mapping efforts around the world, from the ground up.

OSM continues to fascinate me. Please get in touch with your questions and ideas. I bring many perspectives and experiences to the Board, and can’t wait to work with you all.

HOT 2014 Year in Review

Posted by mikelmaron on 5 January 2015 in English.

I started my HOT year a worried president of the HOT Board, and ended as a confident regular member.

We all worked hard. Really hard. Most importantly on HOT activations and projects. HOT has had a stunning impact on humanitarian response. But we knew we could this. What challenged us more was ourselves. We worked hard on HOT’s organization, the processes and relationships that make the space for amazing to happen.

Ok, let me just say personally, I had a lot to learn this year. I’m not proud of everything I did. But I’m immensely proud of where HOT is now.

The Board Face to Face was a real turning point. Sincere thanks to the Board for putting our all into this. And thanks to our guide Gunner.

Some other things I spent time on: helped coordinate to get V2 of the OSM Tasking Manager developed; formalized imagery coodrination; put together trademark applications for HOT; formally employed our Executive Director.

I joined the US government for a year, and really just getting started. My HOT 2015 orbits around this. Since I’m no longer on the Board, I’ll have more time to put into working groups, community building, technology.