OpenStreetMap

How can we double the number of active mappers in the US in a year?

Posted by mvexel on 10 October 2015 in English (English)

The most fun I have with OSM is making the map better. Adding nodes and ways and tags. Seeing how my puttering around with JOSM or iD leads to a prettier map that is more useful.

Getting folks together in Salt Lake City where I live to have some OSM fun together. For example. A few weeks ago, I started a new thing called the Flash Map Mob. We do them every other week now in SLC and together we map something like 100 shops and restaurants every time.

The map becomes more useful and folks are having fun. That is what OSM is to me!

I don't need to sit on any board to do these things. Heck, I can probably do more of them when I am not on the board! So why do I do this? What value do I add being on the OSM US Chapter board?

I'll tell you and I'll be brief.

OSM is still very good at adding contributors.

contributors

(The graphs come from osmstats.)

What we're not so good at is actually getting folks to go out and map. Look at the flat daily active mappers graph for the US:

activemappers

This is not a US only problem. But I want to start attacking it where I live.

I don't think putting on big conferences like we have makes more people go out and map. I think we should stop doing that as OSM US.

We should direct that energy towards creating smaller OSM gatherings around the country. Gatherings for mappers. I want us to do 4 of those in the next year. They could be like the fantastic event I attended in Seattle for OSM's 10th anniversary. (More photos). Or something else? We should find out. What does an OSM event look like that you would go to?

We should put local mapping groups first. We should step up funding local groups with mini grants. We should do regular sessions to help people get started organizing their group. Gather more data on what works and what doesn't to help direct our energy. Perhaps it's mapping party kits? Perhaps it's changing the web site to be much more community / mapper oriented? I want us to find out.

I work at Telenav on OSM stuff. So I am in a position where I can get a fairly big organization with lots of talented people to do useful things for mappers. Recently we published Missing Roads. It's stuff like that that gets people mapping. As a board we should encourage companies to enable mappers by having them build useful things and share data.

All of this should lead to us getting from ~250 daily active mappers in the US to 2x that in the next year. This is what I want to accomplish with the board on my next term.

Comment from Omnific on 12 October 2015 at 18:43

I think first and foremost we need a stronger community and communication. While mapping events are great, they target a very small subset of people. We need a better online presence, with an integrated open chat system in iD to talk to others in your region and country in real-time, instead of using the relatively unfriendly mailing lists or the dead US OSM forum site.

Additionally, we need remote mapping events, where we encourage US mappers to help each other map a city or town. It would bring the online mapping community together more. While there are a few of us both out surveying and doing armchair mapping as well, there are a lot of people who are more comfortable just working from Bing imagery.

We also need a better social media presence. The number of people in the US that even know about OSM is tiny; consequently the number of mappers is tiny as well. The US is massive and needs a better online community to help people mapping in all remote corners, rather than just the major, very progressive cities that have OSM mapping parties.

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Comment from mvexel on 13 October 2015 at 00:53

I like the idea of online mapping events. Do you have ideas about how those could work?

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Comment from robin27 on 13 October 2015 at 03:05

FixWikiMaps did a MapLift event this year to encourage people to update or create maps for Wikipedia. The idea was that there was a week of encouraging people to work on maps for Wikipedia. They did a pretty great job of creating a sense of online community, even for just a week. Definitely recommend reaching out to talk with them about what they did.

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Comment from SK53 on 13 October 2015 at 11:13

One idea which I like are the creation of locally-based OpenStreetMap sites. Son & father team, Will and Richard Phillips, have done this for Nottingham and Evesham in the UK. Some of this work was presented at the recent SoC/BCS Mapping Together conference in York.

These sites also pull in open data from local & central government bodies and make use of a range of raster map layers (including historical ones). Thus, they not only make thematic data from OSM more readily visible, but also assist the mapping process by making the trawl through potentially useful open data much more focussed.

(Please note that Richard passed away very recently).

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