There is a place to be mapped. The area is usually too large for one guy. Involving a team of mappers is, therefore, evident. And there is an excellent approach to solving big problems called divide and conquer. Therefore Divide and map. Now. – the damn project.
The goal is to split a large area to squares a human can map. Then, lock a square, work on it, and mark ready for review. Lock again, review the square, and mark as done. The project is here to avoid overwriting work between mappers.
If this sounds familiar, you probably know the HOT’s Tasking Manager. (HOT stands for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.)
There are issues with the HOT Tasking Manager. Mainly performance issues. Then, slowly forgetting about essential functionality. Unwanted updates as the necessity of email address (I really hate this!). And only one repository for the whole project.
These are technical issues, however. What about community issues? Why Google disk when there is OpenStreetMap wiki? Why Slack where you must be invited and logged to (just!) see the history? Why all these sign-up Google forms to contribute? I will try to guess an answer – because HOT is a company (even non-profit) and does not know how to be an open community.
Before you ask “If you are so smart, why you do not contribute to Tasking Manager?”, I tried 1, 2, 3, 4. However, there is no real discussion about the future of the Tasking Manager. The future is already decided; openness means that you can see the source code and fix bugs. Nothing more.
Let’s talk about the potential damn community. It starts with mappers. I will split mappers to novices, experts, reviewers (or validators), and mentors. Mappers are the most critical and the largest group, so the tool they use should be efficient, stable, and comfortable.
Novice mappers perhaps have different needs than experts or reviewers. Mentors, on the other side, probably need to be as close as possible to novices to help them. All of them use the tool differently.
The next are guys with a place to be mapped. Their goal is to point to an area, provide the necessary information, and let mappers do their job – completely different tool usage.
The last (but not least) part of the damn community are developers. They should communicate with the whole community and deliver the tool.
I will try to explain how to create the tool that satisfies Who, do What, and avoids Why. The damn project tends to be proof of concept.
Novice mappers, along with mentors, probably use a web browser. Make a web application then. That could include web chat, maybe? However, remember the primary goal! Let novice mappers map and make mistakes. Let mentors reach the novices as quickly as possible and mark their mistakes efficiently.
Expert users use JOSM. JOSM plugin is the only possible solution here. Maybe other users use a different specialized tool? Make the plugin for that tool, too.
Another web application can help guys publishing places to map. But not necessarily a web app. What about some script? Maybe with some support of so popular machine-learning? Why creating areas to map couldn’t be done by computer? And then just confirmed by some (perhaps another) tool?
You need to serve all these clients with a centralized data store. That’s the backend server.
For each client, create a communication channel between users and developers, namely between novice users, mentors, and mapping web app developers. Then between JOSM users and JOSM plugin developers. Finally, between all the clients’ developers and backend server developers. Everyone involved should also be able to communicate with everyone else.
Always support new clients. One tool just can’t fit all mappers.
The damn project is proof of concept. It suffers from performance issues because the damn server runs on basic DigitalOcean droplet with 1GB RAM, 1vCPU, 1TB transfer, 25GB SSD disk. There are, of course, more issues.