Who are the Missing Mappers?

Posted by zool on 5 February 2015 in English (English).

I had the fun experience last night of dropping in to an event organised by The Missing Maps. Unfortunately I couldn’t make the whole thing, nor could most of the local mapper community members in Edinburgh, as we only found out that the event was happening the evening before :/

This seemed to be an accident of occupying parallel, not quite overlapping, social media universes. The main channel for OpenStreetMap Scotland news and events tends to be the OSM Alba Twitter feed and we organise mapping parties via the wiki, with the Scotland mailing list a fairly new addition to the communications tools.

Whereas The Missing Maps are organising via Facebook and eventbrite mostly. I don’t know about you, but i tend to treat eventbrite as read-only, and I’ve historically refused to actively participate in Facebook. So we failed to overlap, and this wasn’t helped by the University of Edinburgh-hosted venue moving at the last minute. So garycmartin attempted to drop by but went to the wrong venue and couldn’t find a redirect. But the indefatigable stevefaeembra went along and represented well for the local mapper community.

I could only make the central 45 minutes, and got stuck on one question about recommended tags for roads, to which my answer was suffixed with “and this is my personal opinion, and there are many personal opinions in the OSM community”.

I have a few thoughts to share about the experience of seeing newbie mappers get a copious and well-thought-out introduction to the iD editor, but i’ll save those up for another diary entry. Despite the teething trouble with the venue and the community links, it was a worthwhile event, very well attended by a diverse looking group of people, many of whom turned out to be students on the University of Edinburgh’s MSc GIS course, and i saw an old colleague from the EDINA datacentre there; always glad to see OSM bringing people together in unexpected ways.

Location: Southside, City of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Comment from LivingWithDragons on 6 February 2015 at 10:57

I think the difference of communication method/network is a good thing. The Missing Maps project is reaching a different crowd. Where OpenStreetMap has traditionally worked for pub-loving tech-geeks that love mailing lists or wikis, a whole majority of flower-wearing social-hipsters are now being reached.

Obviously there should be some over lap, especially to aid the teaching/learning, so it would be good if the organisers made an effort to contact the existing local OSM community. My view in London is that it worked better because some of the main Missing Map organisers attended the local pub meetups first (and still do). A few of the OSM-veterans have been attending, but that is not essential and the geeky pub meetup is still preferred event for most of them.

Missing Maps have a mailing list, which I joined (I think via typing on someone’s computer at the London November event). However I didn’t get any knowledge of the Edinburgh event through that.

Comment from zool on 6 February 2015 at 19:58

Thanks for the comment, Gregory, i’ve been in touch with the main organiser of the Edinburgh event and encouraging her to join the main talk-scotland list and post updates there.

I would count myself as both a pub-attending tech geek and a flower-wearing social justice worrier, so i don’t think a polarity is particularly applicable here ;)

Comment from Harry Wood on 6 February 2015 at 23:26

I keep meaning to do some diary entry write-ups of what’s been happening with missing maps in London. It’s pretty exciting. With me helping organise them, as well as organising the pub meet-ups, there’s no lack of social-media crossover. I’m keen to get people going to both.

….but so far there’s a particular funny crowd of people who always go to the pub. Quite a few of them are not interested in humanitarian mapping for whatever reason. Meanwhile Red Cross / MSF folks who help run missing maps events, and the fresh new mappers who come along to Missing Maps, they should totally come along to OSM pub meet-ups too, but for some reason it’s not appealing to them.

But yeah it’s shame if nobody even thinks to tell the existing OSM community (via a suitable channel) when these events are run. We must try to make sure that always happens somehow.

Comment from DaCor on 8 February 2015 at 21:48


Take a look at the differences for a possible clue

The thing that jumps out to me is location. I don’t know about you but a pub would be right at the bottom of my list for a good location for a meetup for a variety of reasons

  • trying to plug in a laptop
  • protect the laptop from pints spilling
  • hard to move around to mingle or even to get someone to look over your shoulder
  • can be loud
  • a pub environment, for someone new, walking into a crowd who know each other well…thats intimidating
  • the association with alcohol discourages younger participants

To give an example of some of the Irish meetups

  • we meet on a weekend, 12-6pm, the pub happens afterwards for anyone who wants to
  • a line of tables
  • plenty of space to move around
  • wifi
  • thats it

We’ve had local council people, start ups, academia, OAP’s, students etc etc, a huge mix, attending over the various meetups.All have had a wide variety of interests and reasons for attending.

zool & Harry

Regarding promoting the event, you can never have too many channels if all you use them for is promoting the event. Sure keep one or two as the main communication channels, but for future events I’m looking at

  • mailing list
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • google+
  • (I was really surprised at how effective this one is from other groups)
  • 1 page flyer that can be printed by anyone and posted anywhere (work, college, etc) and linked from all of the above
  • etc etc

Also start a week or two out from the event, and continuously promote it as the time draws closer

If the whole point is to promote something to increase the amount of people attending, why on earth would you place a restriction on your avenues of promotion. If sharing personal info is a concern (Facebook) sign up as OSM “Whatever” and set up a group page

You also want your own members promoting the hell out of it too

If anyone complain about spam, well they were never likely to go in the first place so let them unsubscribe if one or two extra emails is that much of an inconvenience.

We typically have quarterly meetups, so they are more of an event when they happen which may have an impact also

Comment from DaCor on 9 February 2015 at 03:07

Something I forgot to mention, having it on a Saturday and making it 6 hours means people are more likely to make an effort to travel that bit further to attend

This likely isn’t an issue in larger cities, but if you want to include those from outside the cities then it really helps

Comment from Harry Wood on 27 February 2015 at 03:45

Well it’s a different situation between London, Ireland (Dublin?), and Edinburgh, so difficult to draw parallels. Some good ideas, but the fact of the matter is a) We hardly need to do better promotion for the Missing Maps events. We’re filling the venues every time. b) I would love to get more people coming to the pub. I think I do ok at blasting out the information on quite a few channels, but they happen every two weeks, so it’s quite a lot of work for me personally. I think the main factor with the pubs is as you say “walking into a crowd who know each other well…thats intimidating”. It’s a format which works well for the existing crowd, and maybe this isn’t a huge problem, but it just seems like bit of a missed opportunity, that we don’t get many people from missing maps (or other groups) joining the fun at our regular OSM pub meet-ups.

Of course there are other types of events we could be running. Closest thing to this is a “hack weekend”, which involves a line of desks and wifi yes. One of those coming up in the next few months hopefully. These have been a bit of an “in crowd” in the past too, so maybe I’ll try some more outreach ideas for that. Lots of ideas documented here too: Mapping Weekend Howto

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