Building community - OSM India

Posted by naveenpf on 30 September 2020 in English.

It is a long time I have written a diary. One of the most important aspects of opendata/opensource project is building a community. In order to build a community, we have to reach out to new volunteers contributing to the project.

Post State of the Map Asia 2018, the important communication channel of Openstreetmap India community has been telegram. Personally, I have installed telegram on my mobile for Openstreetmap communication.

Both India and Kerala communities have been using the telegram group for all the discussions. One of the advantages I have seen with telegram conversations are:

  1. More people are involved. (Unlike mailing list or forum.)
  2. Getting a reply is faster.
  3. Frequency of discussions has increased a lot.

On the disadvantage side, indexing or looking for a previous discussion is not easy.

After knowing about the telegram group, I used to send personal messages to OSM contributors to join OSM India or Kerala telegram communication channels. But this was a very small scale. In order to notify new users about the OSM community, another effort was to list all the OSM India/Kerala entities to the OSM community index. But, it was not much helpful. It was not catching eyeballs. I have tried RSS feeds too, but the area of selection can’t be India.

In order to build community, I have been looking for a welcoming tool for the past couple of years. Few options were to use the tools built by Belgium and the Italian OpenStreetMap community. Even OSMF local community is trying out to build something similar. What I was looking for was something similar to Twinkle in Wikimedia projects. I have used twinkle to build a good community in English Wikipedia.

1.Indian Roads
2.Indian Railways
3.Education in India

After Mapathon Kerala was started in October 2019, a lot of new contributors have started mapping Openstreetmap. But new contributors were not aware of the OSM Kerala telegram community. Even though 1000+ contributors started mapping in Openstreetmap in Kerala, not many newbies did not join the community communication channel.

First few months, I used to send a personal message from Openstreetmap message infra. To my surprise, whomsoever I have sent the message had joined the telegram group. Sending emails was not scaling.

The search for a welcoming tool continued (welcoming tool). A similar issue has been raised in the Openstreetmap website too.


One working solution I could find out was using OSMCha. Wille from HOTOSM tech team, told about parameter ‘changesets_count__max=1’ This means the first edit of the user to Openstreetmap.

With different filters, I invite new users/experienced users to the telegram community.

Welcome to OSM Kerala - 306 invites.
Welcome to OSM India - 148 invites.

Kind of filters I have are.

  1. New users who edit in Kerala
  2. New users who edit in India
  3. Experienced users who have completed 150 edits in Kerala (changesets_count__min=150)
  4. Experienced users who have completed 500 edits in India

Few times the same user would have received the same message.

Workflow for inviting new user.

Review the new users’ first edit. Mark them as good or bad.
Have the same changeset comment for good and bad.
Send the comment to the new user.


Since OSMCha can store only one changeset comment I had to keep inviting for India in notepad. And do the same for new user invite for OSM India.

Workflow for experienced new user.


Review the user’s edit.
Check the profile if the user has any changeset comment.
Mark them as good or bad.
Have the same changeset comment for good and bad.
Send the comment to the new user. Add the user to a trusted user list. (one parameter for the filter - it acts as welcomed user tag)

Importance of the landing page.

I have kept only two links in the invite. Both invites contain a telegram group invite link.


Another link I have kept for
India :
Kerala :

Both the landing pages have been revamped with social media links so that users can follow any of them.

One more difference I have noticed is when there is a picture of people on the landing page. The landing page of Kerala has a good picture of OSM Kerala community. Once the users see the picture, the tendency to join the community communication channel increases. :)

What next :-

Post-SOTM Asia 2018, there are conversations on the formation of chapter/usergroup. In order to achieve that we need more volunteers who are engaged in non-mapping activities too. Once we have a good team of at least 30 people, who are interested in maintaining OSM India we can start efforts on forming an organisation.

Few thoughts on what next of welcoming tool:-

  1. Send a postcard once the user completes 500 or 1000 edits (
  2. Send a handheld GPS device once the user completes 10k edits. (Need to see if OSMF have an active loan program/Need to find sponsors)


Comment from cRaIgalLAn on 2 October 2020 at 14:41

This is very useful Naveen. Membership is very important - I am interested in finding a bunch of good examples for building OSM membership and teaching mapping skills - your workflow of developing community links with Telegram is great. Can I remind you of the OSMF micro-grants programme which is a competitive process which can potentially-possibly-maybe support expanding, documenting and formalising pilot programmes like this.

Comment from naveenpf on 4 October 2020 at 08:50

Thanks cRalgalLAn !!!.

For on-ground community building, you have to reachout to Manoj(, Jaisen ( and Arjun (

Currently, models developed by them is getting implemented by Kerala Government (

There are not many discussions on mirco-grants in our community. WG is getting formed.

Comment from pitscheplatsch on 11 October 2020 at 12:24

Hi Naveen, maybe you already know: Collaborative tool for welcoming new mappers

All the best, Pascal

Comment from wille on 11 October 2020 at 14:22

Congratulations for your work! Nice use of OSMCha!

Comment from naveenpf on 12 October 2020 at 04:04

Hello Pascal, Thank you, We have reviewed that

OSMCha would work for now. Thanks, naveenpf

Comment from naveenpf on 12 October 2020 at 04:07

Thanks a lot Wille.

  1. Any suggestions to handle multiple templates ? Currently stored in the wiki and doing copy/paste.

  2. Is there support to send HTML messages ?

Thanks, naveenpf

Comment from wille on 12 October 2020 at 11:04

The OSM changeset comments doesn’t support markdown or HTML, see

What you could do is to add all the error messages to your template and then delete the unneeded before sending it. I hope it will make it easier than copy/paste

Comment from Øukasz on 16 October 2020 at 08:56

Thank you naveenpf,

This is helpful, I will use some of these tricks myself.

One tool I have tried before when looking for users to build a community was - perhaps you find it interesting too?


Comment from joost schouppe on 1 November 2020 at 16:43

I’ve referrenced this article on the LCCWG ticket mentioned on the osm-in ticket. This is an interesting approach to welcoming new users! See

(I got such a message myself, which was fun)

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