Missing Maps Mapathons Core Team

Posted by qeef on 18 July 2023 in English.

We have organized mapathons in Prague. We planned them, met on site, trained new mappers, mapped something and went to the pub. There we discussed and planned and exchanged our ideas. We called ourselves the core team. (I am only writing in the past tense because I am not there anymore; there is actually still a core team organizing mapathons in Prague.)

I was involved in Missing Maps CZ & SK from 2016 to 2020. I was involved in organizing mapathons. During that time I wrote and still maintain the mapathoner plugin. I like free software and I know that it is different from open source. I lobbed for openness. In 2020, I published Divide and map. Now. – the damn project and still maintain it. In 2022 I wrote simple hot intersecting areas and have not updated it since.

I am not sure if it’s time for this diary, but I want to write down my opinion about the core team and the community, because we have been talking about the community and the core team all along. And in my opinion, these two terms are often misunderstood.

DISCLAIMER: These are my own views. Please read this diary accordingly. I am in no way affiliated with OSMF, Missing Maps, HOT, MSF or the Red Cross.

Have you heard of WHAT, WHY, HOW and WHO questions? This is one of my favorite ways to discuss things.

Missing Maps’ WHAT and WHY are clear from their website. Let me put it another way: map the (vulnerable people of the) world because it’s a good thing. WHO is the community, the mappers. HOW is decided by the core team.

The community has a flat structure. The community is made up of mappers who vary in experience, commitment, time spent, frequency of mapping, and participation in mapathons. It makes no sense to build any kind of hierarchy on top of that, because neither says anything about leadership or management skills. (If you think the term “management” is too corporate, please remember that “self-management” is a well-known term that has nothing to do with corporations.) A flat structure means that everyone is equal – everyone can contribute as much as they want. The most important thing is that the community, WHO, understands and agrees on WHY and works on WHAT.

However, it is wrong to assume that there are no leaders or managers in the community. It only means that their role is different from the established roles in companies (including nonprofits): leaders inspire and managers support. Now I probably owe a couple of examples: first, encouraging a mapper who was attending their fifth (or so) mapathon to try to lead an iD training session; second, the discussion of communication channels with publicly available history for all and why that is good.

Someone has to care about the mappers and that is the core team. I like to say that the core team is the people who go to the pub after a mapathon. You know… that’s where we discuss and plan and share ideas… The core team is made up of the mappers in the community who give their time, energy and money to keep things going. It’s a thankless job. They work hard to be replaceable because that’s what the community needs. They only succeed if the community works without them; the community can not depend on one person.

What about leaders and managers, and the core team? They are orthogonal. You do not need to organize mapathons to inspire and support. (Mind you, you usually go to the pub anyway.) And you do not need to inspire and support to serve the community. (But you often do – by doing.)

The core team decides HOW WHAT is done. Sure there are guidelines on the Missing Maps website, but that’s just a checklist that is not for everyone. The core team influences tools, workflows, documentation, communication, presentations, knowledge, tricks, and the overall look and feel of mapathons.

It is possible to apply WHAT, WHY, HOW and WHO to the core team as well. So, WHAT does the core team do? It takes care of the mappers, of the community. WHY does the core team do that? Because without the core team, the community struggle on how to do their what. WHO again, is the core team? The people in the pub. And HOW does the core team do its job? Well… Core team members need to agree on HOW, both for themselves and for the community. I believe that free map of the world should be created with free software. I believe that openness is very important. I believe that “the end justifies the means” is a wrong statement.

Finally, I would like to give a little tip on how you can expand the core team: support others, tell them that they are doing important work, that they are doing it well, and that they are perfectly capable of supporting others.


Comment from pedrito1414 on 19 July 2023 at 10:19

Hey qeef, thanks for this post. I really enjoyed it… I am in a similar position to the one you were in, but in the Missing maps London community ‘core team’.

We have never returned to physical spaces after covid (partly because we gained so many lovely community members who are not from the UK or London and would therefore lose access), but we have tried to address the important lack of pub chat that online events bring as part of our social infrastructure.

What we now have is a regular monthly mapathon (first Tuesday of the month - find them here) - these are for anyone who wants to come, learn, improve or just map in a social environment.

But, we also have a mid-month mapathon (every third Tuesday of the month). This is a space for the core community team plus other interested folks, where we also do mapping - often more challenging projects - but there is no expectation that anyone needs “teaching”. i.e if you are coming, you need a good grasp of JOSM already…

This space is amazing and the chat flows back and forward whilst we map and covers all sorts of topics (related to OSM, community, humanitarian work of course, but also far beyond).

I think this is not only a space where we get to relax, exchange and sustain ourselves as ‘core team’ members, but also invite new community leaders to come and introduce themselves, get to know the gang, get more involved if they’d like to (or not)…

Was really nice to read your diary this morning as we had a lovely mid-month mapathon last night and I was just thinking about how important that group of people and that community space are for me. Thanks for the timing :D

Comment from SColchester on 19 July 2023 at 10:46

Great post! These are things that I’ve been thinking about in an unstructured way for the last five years - but you’ve put these same thoughts into words brilliantly. Sounds like the Missing Maps London community and the Missing Maps Prague community have a lot in common :)

This particularly resonates, well written:

“The core team … work hard to be replaceable because that’s what the community needs. They only succeed if the community works without them; the community can not depend on one person.”

Comment from janabau on 19 July 2023 at 14:04

I loved the simplicity & clarity of definitions… of the core team and also “The most important thing is that the community, WHO, understands and agrees on WHY and works on WHAT.” Well structured.

In covid times, we have experienced actually, rather than the 'Prague core team', evolving into a community of core team members with shared interests, activities, languages, experiences and goals across the Czech republic and Slovakia. It was a joy to eventually visit each other's mapathons and meet in person (and go to pub at the end of the day, getting to know each other, better connecting and sometimes planning). Help with validation and training from core team members across geographic boundaries has also been invaluable. Please do come back check on us & drink Club maté at a mapathon, queef, if you feel like it :)

Comment from YjM on 19 July 2023 at 14:16

Thanks for sharing your thoughts @qeef! You are always welcome on mapathons in Prague, be it as a member of the community or as a member of the core team.

Comment from qeef on 20 July 2023 at 01:00

Thank you for your positive comments. It is nice to see that I am not alone in these thoughts. You probably do not hear this too often (maybe because you are busy telling others), so – you are doing a great job. You are making the world a better place. Thank you. Please, keep up the good work.

I wrote a sort of retrospective diary and did not mention the thing I am most proud of (and had nothing to do with). Let me correct that little mistake in this comment. What I find most fascinating about Missing Maps CZ & SK is that there are mapathons not only in Prague. There are regular mapathons in other cities, too! I am sure the stories of Radim and Daniel (Brno), Antonin (Olomouc) and Milo (all of Slovakia, actually) would be even more inspiring, especially because they could talk about real experiences organizing mapathons without access to exclusive locations, an established core team or both.

Comment from Koreller on 30 July 2023 at 19:48

Thanks for your diary !

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