All I Want for OpenStreetMap is … Social and Attention

Kate posted her wishlist for OpenStreetMap and I second everything she wrote … OSM can be fine tuned to be even easier. In my wishlist post, I want to cover improving connections between mappers, and focusing mappers attention.

In short, OSM should be more like Facebook. Seriously. A news feed should show you the most relevant activity and news for you personally, and the profile page should show what you’re about in OSM in a more approachable way.

State of the Map Group Photo

The sociality of OSM is its biggest strength. The intricacies of maps, tags, places are discussed in minute detail, and are ultimately the result of conversation, not top down dictate. The result are maps that are more expressive for more situations than any other platform. And we even meet in person! At the pub, the hack weekend, the LogCluster meeting. Anyone who’s ever been to a State of the Map conference can attest, it’s a vibrant, fun, exciting movement.

OSM has hundreds of thousands of users, and hundreds of millions of map features. Yet the tools to connect to mappers and monitor an area are still the same as 5 years ago. Changing this is my wishlist … and yes, I know that most all of OSM features are coded voluntarily, and its something I could do myself rather than list out … I appreciate all the time and energy that goes into OSM coding, this is my *wish* list.

Finding the Local Community

If I’m travelling some place new for an event, I want to connect to the local OSM community, and the process is complicated and not obvious. First, browse to the area in OSM and click the “History” tab, which should show recent edits in the area. Problem is, this often includes large, global edits which overlap this local area and aren’t relevant. And if you page through in a somewhat mind-numbing fashion, the OSM rails app starts to have performance problems past page 5. OWL is potentially a solution to this, but it has already been a priority development item for years.

And what the history tab won’t do in either form is tell you who the most active, prominent mappers in the community are. For that, I usually jump over to ITO’s excellent OSM Mapper, which present and visualizes summary statistics for an arbitrary area. Excellent, but you have to know it’s there, and it takes a separate authentication, and is a little counter intuitive to use. But from there, I have a list of 5-10 top mappers, with links to the OSM profile pages, from which I can send them a message. And wait, and hope they respond.

Next, I’ll jump into the wiki, and look through the relevant Wiki Projects. Sometimes this will have listing of Users in an area, or links to their website, or mailing lists. The User profile pages sometimes have a way to contact that user, but just as often not. If there’s a mailing list, then it’s about subscribing to yet another mailing list, perhaps one in a foreign language, and posting. If there’s a project website, that’s usually golden and a sign of an active local community that will be responsive.

Focusing Attention

And that’s just for a one time connection. Most mappers have been involved in mapping many areas. How do you keep informed? You basically need to have a ton of RSS feeds, poke around the monitoring tools, read a lot of lists.

A lot of activity, most of the time, you only need to be dimly aware of. If a user with a good reputation is editing in a familiar area, there’s little need to check into it further. If a new user has just signed up and is editing, it would be good to take a close look at their edits, and reach out and welcome them to OSM and offer to support their work. Reputation needs to be calculated, and used to filter.

And not just edits. There’s so much going on in the community. The Weekly OSM Summary is super useful, but is only the cream of the global activity. There are OSM events all the time, but it seems mostly German mappers are adding their events to the wiki. Expand User Diaries so these posts are accessible in all sorts of ways, for all kinds of notifications.

Being Social Should Be Simpler

Maybe the general concept is around “Interest”. There are places you might be interested in. There are particular mappers and communities you might be interested in … either because they’re active in an area, or perhaps because they make suspicious edits. Directly in the OSM website, you should be able to manually indicate this interest (by friending a user, set a list of locations); or it can be automatically calculated through analysis and stats of where you’ve been active before.

I started on this idea by adding friend and home location filtering to Diary Entries and Changesets. An ok start, but not everyone uses Diary entries to communicate, and the changesets still include everything … it’s both too much information and not enough. A lot is happening in OSM at any time, and you have limited attention.

There’s definitely a need for some system to do processing and analysis, from the planet diffs. Make these stats visually intriguing, and directly a part of a user or groups activity streams. There’s great experiments visualizing group stats with rankings on altogetherlost, and overall stats. And the personal statistics on neis-one, and heat map are excellent. Bring this directly into

Social Design

Currently the user profile page on OSM has two functions … one to view other people, and another as a dashboard for yourself. I think these should start to diverge into two different pages. The User Profile should be grown to give a better idea of what a mapper is up to. The Dashboard would be a focus point for a mapper to stay on top of everything they care about in OSM. So in one page, give a summary of what friends and nearby users are up to, but also what’s happening in places you care about. For many users, myself included, there are many areas you’ve mapped, and would like to keep track of. Right now, you explicitly express interest by declaring your home location. This could be expanded to multiple, manually specified locations (my top 10 areas); or by analysis, a list of your top areas for editing could be automatically compiled.

It’s not only a design challenge, but it’s going to be an architected challenge as well. More social takes a lot more servers.

And don’t require mappers to visit to get this. Yes, send emails out with weekly summaries of activity.

Some summary ideas for an activity stream:

* Recent mapping activity in multiple areas you’re interested in. Should be higher level than individual changesets (SteveCoast has made 12 edits over the last week in Seattle), but allow you to dig in further if you want.
* Some visual distinction between trusted vs non-trusted
* Also deal better with “big” edits, bots, etc. Filter these, or make them visually distinct.
* New mappers in these areas, and their activity. Highlight these, it’s a good opportunity to reach out.
* Highly trusted or experienced mappers in these areas, and their activity. Again, sometimes highlight, sometimes filter, depending on the need.
* Non-mapping activity in the area … upcoming mapping parties, other local news.

Only Possible With Open Data

Arguments about the importance of Open Data often come down to a principled stance, or a licensing discussion … that kind of argument doesn’t make much impression on folks who aren’t way in the weeds. And it’s more than just licensing … there are equal parts issues of legality, technical freedom, and community. Clear examples of what you can do only with OpenStreetMap, and not with say, Google Map Maker, makes this stuff real. Here are just a few, among many.

Mapping of Jalabad and surrounding countryside is unique to OSM. They collect data with GPS and Smart Phones and Walking Papers. With GMM, you can only trace imagery on your laptop computer. With OSM you can go into the field to actually talk with people about what to put on the map. Afghanistan is not an option at all on MapMaker, for political reasons. And the Jalalagood guys are organized as a company, but do mapping largely in their free time, voluntarily … so they get nixed for being “commercial”.

Great video on Jalalagood and a detailed mapping trip report.

In Haiti, TapTapMap maps local bus routes, free to add any sort of data in OSM. In GMM, users are not allowed to add bus routes, only Google does that, and only by getting data from transit agencies. Haiti’s system, like many places in the developing world, does not have a single authority which maps and controls the routes. You can only get these routes by riding with your GPS.

Another project that certainly couldn’t happen without Open Data. This is a Tourist Map of the Gaza Strip. Produced by a spin-off company from a university that took part in OpenStreetMap mapping in Gaza. This is not an area that can even be mapped in Google because of a political decision, it’s mostly blank on the map. While the map is free, it’s produced by a commercial entity and contains ads for local restaurants, hotels and sites.

In the Phillippines, recent humanitarian response to flooding relied on open source tools to process and make available satellite imagery to create OSM data. The GMM toolset would not permit integration of any other data sources except those controlled by Google. So it would stifle local ability to respond to disasters that don’t make huge media splashes (G Crisis Response has not been active at all in the Philippines).

Thanks to the 2012 OpenStreetMap Foundation Board. This is going to be the year.

Last weekend in Seattle, the OSM Foundation Board met “face-to-face”. We get together because no matter how much you try otherwise, there’s way more done in person in a couple intensive days. It cost about 4 or 5k USD this time, and it’s worth the cost. But, I think we’ve always done a terrible job explaining what happens at the Board meetings, and a middling job following up, and those two things are totally related.

I want this meeting to be different. It must be different. This is my fifth year on the Board and final year on the Board (I was elected again this year, but will stand down at the next AGM), and to me, and the entire Board, this is a crucial year for OSM. The face-to-face was the most productive yet, and the most difficult yet. I’m very satisfied. In year’s past, the minutes get published, and various announcements go out through working groups, and that will happen. But it’s insufficient, maybe distilling too far the atmosphere and the messiness of these get togethers.

The Stage

Steve is based in Redmond, and expecting a child any day, so he offered to host and avoid travel. I wasn’t far, relatively, in Chicago. The rest of the Board (excepting RichardF who couldn’t make it) flew in from Europe. I found a cabin near a lake on airbnb, quiet, cosy, and cheap. Henk hired a car, and drove everyone around. We had a meetup Friday night, made some burritos and played Kinect at Steve and Hurricane’s place (and tried to forget we watched Crank 2), and enjoyed the Seattle sunshine (no joke). Sunday Hurricane gave us horse riding lessons!

A regular vacation! Except for the part where we spent 18 hours of our weekend discussing/arguing about OSM in windowless meeting rooms at Microsoft (which we very much appreciate btw!). And the rest of the weekend continuing to talk about it, or even dream about it. Being on the Board is a sacrifice of time, because we all feel deeply responsible to the project and our position.


The Board meeting proper started with presentations by Steve and Oliver. Steve hit many of the same themes from his SOTM and SOTM-EU talks, except he left out all the stuff about how awesome OSM is doing. We looked and discussed several graphs of recent statistics. OSM’s growth to date has been beyond imagination, but there’s no shortage of projects that changed the world and then met reality, hard. Looking at some of these, the factors in decline included insular community, lack of direction, and no innovation. That’s what we have to avoid.

Oliver made the point that “We are the Board! Shape the project!”. The Board, and the Foundation, needs to be a functional team, with clear goals and activities, all within the limited volunteer time we have to contribute. Fact at this point is, the Foundation doesn’t have clear objectives, beyond the mission to support but not control the OSM project. To meet goals, we can take action, we can guide and steer, we can spend money. At the end of workshop, there should be a target that guides all our activities towards achievement. Some of the slides were beyond funny management clip art (a guy looking forlorn into the mirror, facing reality) but the point was important. “We are the Board! Shape the project!”

At this point, I thought it would be useful to look at some of the management lessons and differences from HOT. While we are by no means perfect, I do feel there’s good alignment between the organizational side of HOT and the community, largely the same community as OSM. Contrast to OSMF, HOT is very focused in what it does, with clear guidance and priorities and steering. We aren’t afraid of spending money when it’s necessary. We value marketing by the organization (though could be better). There are clear technical needs, and we pay for it. There’s a key attention to the consumption side of map data collection, seeking strategic partnerships with other organizations. We’ve been selective and directive with responsibility, and when necessary, have taken it away. We try to be as transparent as possible, publishing very detailed board minutes.


We took Oliver’s point and started strategic planning.

OSMF Board meeting traditionally use a simple technique to come to consensus on a topic, whether it’s the agenda of the meeting, or in the case of Seattle, the objectives and activities of the OSMF this year. We brainstorm all our choices on the subject, write them on the whiteboard. Each person gets some number of votes, say 5, and distributes them among the topics. If topics can be grouped together, their count is added together. There’s discussion about the meaning of terms, sometimes a lot of discussion. Iteration to insure that we all have a common understanding. At the end, there’s a list of priorities. I always squirm in this process, because somehow I don’t believe it can work, but inevitably does a pretty good job, and if we need to override, we’re not strict about the methodology.

In less than an hour, we had these goals for 2012.

The World’s Most Used Map OSM is clearly the world’s most used open map, and most open map, and the best map. We want as many people of possible contributing and using OSM, and to do that, the experience of using OSM needs to improve, and where you use OSM can improve.

More Than Just Streets Do you know everything OSM is capable of mapping? Does your neighbor? Does your mayor? OSM is relatively well known in some circles, but it’s full potentially is still opaque to many. We want everyone to know what OSM is about.

Cultivating Leadership of Mappers. Shared Goals Between the Community & OSMF Mapping is driven by mappers, with a clear goal (make the map!), and there’s every reason that with clear goals and empowered members, the OSMF can act strongly. We now have clear goals, and clear expectations of what the management team and working groups can do and achieve, without much prescription on how things happen. This all frees the Board to provide the direction, and the management team and working groups to make the operational decisions.

Easier Contribution for Non-Geeks We debated how this differed from the Most Used Map, and decided it was important enough focus to stand on its own. Usability is certainly related, but more broadly, there’s much to do to improve all kinds of involvement in OSM.

And Again

The bulk of our time was spent translating these goals into actions, and this really was the most difficult part. Some things were quick to decide, like the final switch over to ODbL, but others became very drawn out and very detailed, like the process for site redesign. We touched on every standing issue, and aligned clearly to the goals. PR, list moderation, license change, the management team, working group budgets, SOTM, PR, site redesign, the articles of association.

We all agreed that short term action was needed on almost everything, with mind to how things should play out in the longer term. This meant drawing the above diagram, a lot, to remind ourselves of the urgency. We set big, audacious goals for all parts of the Foundation, with clear deadlines.

With so much on the table, we decided to stay in the room until we had decided on everything, which ended up meaning staying hours late, til there was little sunshine outside (or metaphorically sunshine inside the room) and tension rising. At one point, I was so fed up, I almost walked out, really seeing that if we didn’t resolve the issue at the Board, it wouldn’t resolve in the Foundation and the project, the goals wouldn’t be met, and decline was inevitable. And for me personally, that would mean a slow turning away from a project ingrained in almost everything I do in the world. We had to push through.

And we did. Despite looking over the brink, we had resolve. I felt tense, but knew I’d be happy with what we accomplished.

And after it was all done, we had some beers. The next day we rode horses. Group hug.

Thanks to the 2012 Board. This is going to be the year.

And thanks to Oliver Kuhn for the photos!

Good Citizenship in Open Data

I didn’t expect my rant would strike such a nerve, but maybe I’ve been holding my tongue for a long time. Thank you for the many responses, online and off, both supportive and challenging.

We must work to understand what good citizenship and ethical behavior means in open data projects. The nature of communication, copying and competition in the space of open data is very complex. Yes, it’s not just about Google, but about raising the awareness of these issues among the people organizing open data projects, and especially the communities where we want to have an impact. The best idea I’ve heard this week (in a week of amazing ideas in Cambridge) was from Jeffrey Warren. We need a clear set of principles and ethics to guide the practice of open data initiatives in new communities. Open data collection should have: open and clear explanations of the purpose of data collection and the license of data; effort to find existing sources of data, rather than replicating and resurveying, and lobbying for the sharing of that data; effort to give the communities that collect data every opportunity to use that data in their own work, however they see fit; etc…

Participation in open data is both about the arcane topics of data licensing, and simply and most importantly being a good citizen. The impression of legal matters is usually all any non-lawyer grasps … it’s just too hard to understand the subtleties of legal text, and we rely on trusted intermediaries to explain what’s what. Google is trusted, and they’re misusing that trust with communities, NGOs, and governments. And Google has huge resources, they get a lot of attention. They’re representing their mapping offerings as free and open, when they’re ultimately controlled by their business concerns. Google has one of the slickest communication practices around, with subtle phrasing that gives an impression of cooperation, but with built in protection whenever someone digs into the details. This is deceptive.

There’s no problem with copying, it’s encouraged. Mapping Parties are not patented. There’s no license on ideas, because fair play is expected. Simply, being a good citizen, being a friend in this diverse space, means giving credit and giving back. Google has taken a concept, adapted it, and not attributed. Not until last year did they even use the phrase Mapping Party for Map Maker events (sometimes that got the attention it deserved). In places where there’s been exposure, Google didn’t “throw Mapping Parties”, because of course it would’ve been noticed as deriving from OSM. And Google is alergic to giving any notice to OSM, for example omitting any mention of the biggest open data project on the planet, which originated in the UK, from their glossy magazine on UK Open Data.

Competition is a very crude and inaccurate way of describing the relationships in the open data space, especially between OSM and Google, and is based on confusion of what OpenStreetMap is all about. OSM is essentially a commons, a data project where everyone can contribute, share and use. OSM is not a company, it’s not an NGO. It’s a collective where hackers, governments, universities, anarchists, slum dwellers, multinational corporations, and international organizations all contribute to a common endeavor to map the world. Every other major internet company contributes to OSM in some substantial way. It is Google only that has decided it’s in competition with OSM, not because of the designs of engineers and product people, but because doing so would undermine something Google thinks it can profit from.

Honestly, I would be thrilled to see Google adopt the use of OSM. The data of OSM is very different from the interfaces and the software. The site and tools definitely need improvement, but it’s not because wants to take away traffic from Google Maps. OSM’s frontpage needs to do something different: “The frontpage fails to communicate what the project does and why it does it effectively. The controls are confusing for new users (lots of random tabs and sidebar). In addition, it totally fails to connect new users to others around them and thus create a community.” Google could even be helping with this.

Never did I say that Google should stop making its products, but rather than it should stop exploitation. In more positive terms, Google must be a better citizen. I even said that a lot of what Google is doing in Africa is good for Africa. I use Google products all the time, live by Google Calendar, and think Summer of Code is awesome no matter how many spaces OpenStreetMap gets. They’ve contributed in great ways to humanitarian response. I have many friends at Google, who are not surprised by what I said, but perhaps surprised that I said it out loud on the Internet. But this is one place where Google’s Africa Strategy has fouled up directly in a space I care deeply about, fueled by business concerns, cloaked in open data clothes, but ultimately dangerous. As Ping said on Crisis Mappers (about a different OSM-Google issue, but equally valid here) …

It is okay to have issues with Google. Google is a big place; there are a lot of different people and different teams here, all trying to accomplish different things. It’s tough to assign a coherent intent to the entire company; we’re a bunch of people trying to work together even though we don’t always agree. No individual person is trying to be evil. Sometimes we screw up, though.

So yea, I’m pissed off, and can’t keep quiet. And actually, as some have asked, there is a lot more to these stories that you’ll only here about over a beer. If you only know me by this post, perhaps you’re surprised to hear that I’m usually known as a mediator, diplomatically open to all sides of an issue, generally a nice guy who just wants to map the world. And in case it wasn’t obviously clear, this all is my personal opinion. Another aspect of our open world is our multiple public representations, and I wasn’t speaking for the OSM Foundation, Humanitarian OSM Team, or GroundTruth. And yes, the OpenStreetMap community has a reputation for being “caustic”, which is based on a very small segment of our community, mostly the osm-talk list. Anyone who has ever attended State of the Map, gone to a pub meet, contributed to a HOT response, posted to nearly any other list, will have a different impression.

Finally, I regret to say that Unosat got caught in the cross-fire of this post. Unosat has an evolving cooperation with many entities, including HOT, where we have been given access to imagery in Japan and Liberia. While I find fault with their Google MapMaker cooperation, they aren’t giving Google any data, rather using Google data. They are well versed in the details of open data, of licensing, and are wise to explore opportunities equally. They’ve generously explored how they can work together with OSM, most recently in Japan and I look forward to more.

We Need to Stop Google’s Exploitation of Open Communities

Google’s strategy is to build market in Africa by appropriating the appearance of open data community methodologies, yet maintaining corporate control of what should rightfully be a common resource. They are specifically targetting govts and NGOs, offering to “map their country for free”, but keeping the results, and attracting customers.

What bothers me so much is how they have blatantly copied OpenStreetMap. First their MapMaker product is directly modelled on OSM, but with a restrictive data license, where you can not use the data as you see fit. Second, they have stolen the idea of Mapping Parties, a unique concept and name we developed. Third, they’re even copying initiatives to map impoverished informal settlements, like Map Kibera.

All of this with no credit, and no shame. I’m sick of Google. What can we do?

I’ve tried to stay civil with them, through years of this kinda stuff. I’m friends with many googly Googlers. But I don’t see cooperating or being quiet helping at all. They’re deceptive and need to be stopped.

Seriously, Google claimed to map “the largest slum in Africa”, with “citizen cartographers”. They’re building their business by glorifying half-baked “community” mapping initiatives, promoting their brand on the back of poverty.

I totally get why African governments and techies are excited about Google. Their moves in Africa are going to help build up the market for everyone. What is horrible is the hidden dangerous bargain they’re offering. To most people, Google is not just a company, but a force for good in the world. They even forget its a business, with so much done for “free”. But remember, it’s an extremely lucrative business, and they reason they don’t participate in OpenStreetMap, like every other major internet company (AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo…), is because it doesn’t make sense for their bottom line. They see value in owning your data. They’re moving to own the data of communities and governments in Rwanda, Kenya, Zambia. They can do whatever they like with the data, they own it. Of course, they will eventually take advantage of that. Scratch eventually, they changed the terms on Friday, so you have to pay to opt out of GMaps API advertising.

Corporations should not be the stewards of a public resource, and a potentially controversial public resource. Compare Gaza in OpenStreetMap and Gaza in Google for just one example of why this is a bad idea. We’re approaching a situation where a corporation is becoming the decision maker on international borders. Wait, did you think the UN or other international forum was supposed to have some role in these kind of things? Nope, Google is getting UN data too.

Internet, now’s the time to get pissed.

OpenStreetMap and Transport, presentation to the World Bank Transport Forum

Kate Chapman and I were invited to speak at the World Bank Transport Forum, on OpenStreetMap and Transport and ICT … which is great, cause I’m a transport geek (honestly disappointed I missed an earlier session on “Best Practices in Railways”), a long time bicycle advocate (what after yesterday I know as “non-motorized transport”), and there’s many many cool projects in OpenStreetMap.

I gave this presentation, with kudos to osm-talk for pitching in.

Went over pretty well, despite being introduced as an anarchist. Actually, it went really well, and I have a stack of biz cards to follow up on at the World Bank.

My fellow panelists were Eddie from OpenGeo, talking particularly about their work with TriMet and Jon from Ushahidi, talking a bit about an interesting upcoming bicycle project in China. New to us was Todos Somos Dateros, a really interesting citizen engagement in Lima around transport data and feedback, with an overlapping approach to some parts of Map Kibera.

The other half of the day was also at the World Bank, at ICT Days. The session I caught featured guys from,, Sunshine Foundation, government guys from Singapore and Korea. The key takeaway for me … its a small step for capable governments to open data, but to become open governments means true participation, and that’s not something government can ever do alone, except in the already most responsive and representative governments. For us, that means community technology development, to strengthen citizens and civil society.

Finally, of course the Bank had nice Wine and Cheese. Heard there about an upcoming Water Hackaton back in Nairobi, which fits nicely with ongoing work in Mathare, and older projects like WaterWiki.

cross-posted to GroundTruth Initiative Blog

Haiti, Mission 2

Nicolas Chavent and Dane Springmeyer are now on Haitian soil for HOT.

It was just a few weeks ago that Nicolas and Robert returned from the first HOT mission to Haiti. Nicolas had the immediate conclusion … we have to go back. Something amazing was started with OSM and an interesting cross section of CNIGS (the Haitian national mapping agency), the UN, and civil society. The work had to be seen through, and Nicolas is dedicated for the long term. He’s joined now by Dane, adventurous and incredibly skilled technically. Can’t wait to see what develops this trip, and immensely proud that OSM is again on the ground in Haiti.

Our greatest thanks go to the World Bank, and especially the Disaster Risk Management group. They are funding this mission, and the next in June. Besides continuing to support the Haitian government in recovering from the quake, the Bank is particularly interested in how OSM can be used in future risk assessment, particularly vulnerable buildings. This mission in Haiti will continue the discussion.

As HOT is still a developing entity, we are also thankful to OpenGeo for providing a vehicle to move so quickly, and to MapAction for sharing their view on assessing risk and insurance.

HOT’s work in Haiti is all about continuing the open environment of sharing that developed in the immediate response to the quake. In dedication to that openness, and give a small taste of what it takes to go to Haiti, here is the instruction sent by Nicolas to Dane for guidance on his arrival in Port au Prince. I haven’t seen anything like this practical advice posted online before, so here it is.

* Airport International Toussaint Louverture
Functional kaos where
** you’ll be brought to terminal via a van,
** you’ll pass one counter (medic I think),
** Baggage pick up: baggage will brought to the baggage pick up area from the plane by the Airport personnels (all is handled by hands). In principle the baggage pick up area is restricted to airport personnels only & you are supposed to raise their attention to get your luggage. French for this will He ce bagage (look-up in dictionary for baggage items which are not backpack/ SAC A DOS or suitcase/ VALISE & COLORS, so that you can designate your pieces). Things in practice are more fluid: I managed like many others Haitian to get my stuff personally at the cost of not building friendship which is ok.
** Call Fred (glad you’ll have your IPhone; feel free to borrow a mobile from a foreigner) to check with him how the pick up is organized & follow instructions
** Customs: no problem for Westerners-
** Open fenced area outside of the terminal building: this is where that I waited for the driver in mission 1, driver will bear an A4 sheet with your details
** In case the pick-up went wrong & Fred phone is un-responsive::
*** Do not exit the airport area unless you are with a Westerner in a car who will drop you at the main entry of the UN Logistics Base (LogBase). Prepare for the unlikely to happen worst case scenario (no pickup) while you are on plane and/ or through the baggage collection process and identify Westerners working in LogBase or in PAP who could offer you a lift to LogBase. This could be the only option for you to exit the Airport in a car with Westerner.
*** If no westerner, no car, no dirver, then stay at the airport and be hyper patient and calm until pick up finally comes or that I arrive and I hope we will get things sorted out.

* LogBase (CC)
** both IOM & WFP are located in the UN Logistic Base (LogBase) which is lierally at the end of the runway of the international airport Toussaint Louverture. LogBase is a separate spatial entity from the public international airport which is under the control of the various national air forces of the MINUSTAH (the UN peace keeping mission in Haiti) & consequently you access it from a secured entry point relatively open to Westerners furnished with IDs.
** Access (main & only entry point) you’ll have to mention that you are working with OSM and supporting the GIS (SIG & CARTOGRAPHIE) unit of the Registration (ENREGISTREMENT) Department of IOM (OIM – Office International res Migrations) and
*** refer to the GIS Officer/Coordinator of this unit who should have sent an email warning them of our coming. MINUSTAH people at the Gate never read emails (but never admit it), so this generates issues and you have to stand firm and say that you are here to work with IOM and that you must make it to the IOM Office in LogBase to get started and directed to the CampCharlie where you’ll be lodging for the rest of the trip
*** if IOM is not impressive enough, then make the name of WFP (the Head of Programes in WFP and a friend).
*** Again if this is not working, wait at the gate with the guard being calm patient and resolute. This area is safe security-wise so a good place to wait, there should be shade. Furnish you with water bottle from the plane or ask the gards to help you buying water or soda-

* Camp Charlie (CC)-
This is the name of a UN Peace Keeping Mission camp In Haiti where a Danish Hum organization set up a humanitarian camp (all in tents WC, Showers, Kitchen, Dining spaces, lobbies & cubic – the name under which your tent place is designated) where we will be staying. You’ll reach CC from LB there is a shuttle system put up in place between LogBase and Camp Charlie. It’s minimal on Sunday and it’s likely that we will be relying on a car and reach CC with Fred-

* Mobile phone.
I am not 100% sure I”ll manage to get my phone in my commute (train to airport) in Paris since the friend who as it as well as my ext hard drive is likely to be at the maternity welcoming a child… So your iphone (if a SIM card can be loaded in can do good, alternatively if you have an old mobile close to be trashed but functional enough to do text messages & talking it would be worthy to have it with you).

Before 2010, State of the Map Scholarships 2009

The State of the Map Scholarship program’s wider objective is to support nascent OpenStreetMap communities by building connections and exposing ideas. The application process is in full swing for 2010, so it’s a good time to look back at the effect 2009 has had on participants. It’s also required as a final report for OSI!

Following SOTM 2009, I took a look forward at what could start to happen. The kinds of things in mind were GPS loans (GPS are still hard to come by and expensive in some places), mapping in marginal and conflict areas, access to satellite imagery, localisation of software and tiles, organization of local chapters, and promotional activities. We also had funds for select follow up activities with some of the participants, to build on promising leads in these areas. Everyone invited in 2009 is still very involved in OpenStreetMap, probably more so … these are true believers. Like Arlindo says, “I don’t think on OpenStreetMap as a hobby anymore” … it’s more of a way of life.

Local chapters made progress. Well, the Foundation is still working to come up with a legal agreement that will work in jurisdictions across the globe (just a little complicated), but that hasn’t stopped local groups from formalizing anyhow. Khan Le has helped form a Vietnam OSGeo local chapter (which can also work as an OSM local chapter), as well as holding mapping parties in Hanoi and Saigon. Fredy Rivera in Columbia used part of his follow up funds to establish a Columbia OSM chapter. Backed by the follow up funds, I actually pushed Latin America as a whole to come together as a chapter, considering the small communities last year, but it was harder to coordinate the decision making at this scale; things have grown anyhow, and along more national lines.

Giorgi was able to take part in a massive local push, by joining the Open Maps Caucasus initiative. He met Jeff Haack at SOTM, the coordinator for the OMC project with JumpStart International. They started there in some of the conflict affected regions in the recent Georgia-Russia conflict.

Abdel in Cairo is sees SOTM 2009 as a key instrument for moving forward in Egypt and may have more to say soon on plans there.

In Cuba, PB kept things moving well despite difficulties like the illegality of GPS, and a failed attempt to get spare servers from Wikimedia (illegal to distribute from the US). He used his follow up funds to attend an SDI meeting in Panama and wave the flag for open data. OSM is increasingly being seen as a core component in national scale Spatial Data Infrastructures in many countries, and PB’s work in Panama made a great push on this issue.

Everyone still sites the major need for GPS units. Brazil used its follow up funds for a GPS loan program, and just distributed the first of the units. Julio in Chile used funds to purchase GPS units also but within the dire emergency of the Chilean earthquake. Despite the difficult times there, OSM has continued strongly. Columbia has also been contributing to the relief effort in Chile, and Haiti.

Pushing for cross border collaborations doesn’t necessarily work. Though everyone gets along wonderfully, OSM is still seen often through nation state boundaries. So as in Latin America, the same in the even trickier relationship between India and Pakistan. Professor Rai in Ludhiana has done amazing work, including an impactful effort to map the enterity of Gill village. Across the border, in Multan, Professor Rasul has been pushing ahead in the pursuit of open mapping. The follow up grants to them were meant to both strengthen their own programs, and encourage them to collaborate across that difficult border, as both lie within the former region known collectively as Punjab. Map Punjab is intended to be a site with localizations, in both language, national borders, and historic borders, as well as a point of technical and social collaboration. So far, it hasn’t materialized. Some things take longer to brew.

Elsewhere in India, Arun Ganesh does lament the long gestation of OpenStreetMap in India, though his strategy to increase visibility seems wise. Rather than focus on open data in the extract, he’s producing beautiful maps, especially of transit systems, that are only now possible with OSM data. Nic Roets is taking a similar tack in South Africa cooperating on mapping World Cup venues. Finally, Ciprian in Romania is collaborating with companies using OpenStreetMap.

So, different stories all over, but the same core story is individuals energized by the experience of SOTM, growing OSM naturally and with purpose. Can’t wait to see what’s next, and especially who’s coming in 2010, and what might develop from there.

What would it take to map an entire country?

“What would it take to map an entire country?”

With the growing visibility of Map Kibera, that question is coming more frequently, especially in Africa, where both OpenStreetMap and traditional mapping are widely absent. This is a massive question, which is going to depend very much on circumstances of that country, and on who is asking that question; and in the end may be better answered by a different question. In response to a couple queries, from Liberia and Malawi, I decided to write up a few blog posts to start off those conversations, and serve as reference for any of the other 200+ countries on this planet. To start, going look at a few examples to serve as models for answering the question.

Up front, the question assumes one very important thing; the historical growth pattern of OSM isn’t happening. Traditionally, a few individuals had their minds blown by a conference presentation on OSM, or maybe a random blog post somewhere, and they start mapping their home town. And when that looks to be a big task, and they start eyeing the next town, they start recruiting others through mapping parties. A mailing list is set up. The virus starts to spread, and OSM might get the attention of a local government or two, maybe some companies, and soon, the country is well on its way to being mapped. The growth is organic. It might take years. The preconditions are important. Roughly, there has been an active community already of technically proficient people who have leisure time, perhaps already contributing to open source projects. In other countries, there may not be a technical community, or socioeconomic conditions make leisure time a valuable and scarce. Other places may be in conflict. These are places where people start to consider intentional interventions to get mapping going.

The first place I took part in an intentional effort was India. Now, India is well known for having a broad and highly skilled technical base, but at least in 2008, there was proportionally small open source community. There had been interest in mapping through the Free Map project, and Schuyler and I took the invitation to promote OSM through a slightly insane schedule of mapping parties in 7 Indian cities in one month. A wonderful experience. But it did not instantly translate into a frenzy of mapping activity. The idea gestated for a time, and slowly, individuals took up the cause, and now the OSM India community is vibrant, centered in cities. One place to note is Mumbai, despite extensive interest, is still not active, largely due to an import of AND data that turned out to be much less than accurate, discouraging further editing. An issue we’re still looking at, and generally, I’ll talk about existing data sources and imports in another post.

Palestine was a very intentional mapping, first of the entire West Bank, and then of Gaza. JumpStart International funded a project to create a complete, public domain map of all roads. We estimated a time of about 6 months, which turned out to be accurate (more on time estimates in another post). The approach taken was to hire engineering graduates, in teams based in each region, train them through mapping parties, and coordinate the incoming data. Gaza was not to be mapped, but the 2009 crisis there motivated the remote OSM community to fund raise to purchase recent satellite imagery of the entire strip, and trace remotely. After the conflict was over, JumpStart entered Gaza and built up a team to enhance that work with a combination of GPS tracing and imagery. The result is a complete road map of Palestine. However, no sustained OSM community of interested individuals, local companies, local government, and UN agencies is left. The individuals involved saw this as temporary paid work, and many of them have taken jobs outside Palestine. The wider community wasn’t engaged with an aim to build capacity. So now, even though Israeli OSM has been interested to hold joint activities with Palesinte, and Ramallah now has street names, the map isn’t being updated.

In Kenya, we haven’t set out to map the entire country, but it seems like the base we’ve built in Kibera is ready to spread throughout Nairobi and beyond. We’ve focused heavily on Kibera, but with the idea always that the group here, and the entire community, will be able to take the project forward. The impact of mapping a place that was unmapped, and considered unmappable, has made a great impression within civil society, the government, and the UN. We’ve taken a lot of time to outreach to others already working with map data. The approach is more like planting a single seed, nurturting it, and then allowing it to grow. It’s yet to be seen how this pans out.

JumpStart started next working in Georgia. Their approach is now long term but different. They have first focused on conflict areas, following the Georgia-Russia conflict in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and also in the capital, Tbilisi. From this start, they are building a country wide network of regional offices, Open Maps Caucasus, supported by an NGO structure. They are producing curriculum, hiring a team, and doing extensive outreach with map data users. The question to my mind is the long term sustainability of the structure. If JumpStart decides to stop supporting the NGO structure, will it be able to find more funding to keep going? And if that doesn’t materialize, will a community be in place to take it forward organically? Again, yet to be seen, and a question they are certainly considering.

In the USA, mapping hadn’t taken off until last year. This was perhaps due to the TIGER data set, available public domain. CloudMade set out to initiate this community by hiring community ambassadors in regions throughout the country, and holding mapping parties. One of the most spectacular was the Atlanta mapping weekend, involving hundreds of people in cooperation with the Atlanta municipal government. However, after a time CloudMade discontinued the ambassadors program. From there, what has developed has looked like a more traditional growth, with a wide spectrum of individuals, companies, organizations, and government getting interested and involved. The GeoDC group has been very active, and recently OSMF US has incorporated. Hard to calculate what effect the intentional effort of CloudMade had on this growth, though it was certainly a contribution.

Finally, many have seen the extremely rapid growth of the map in Haiti. Prior to the quake, very little data existed there for familiar reasons. Following the disaster, and the release of imagery for derived works and other data sources, remote mappers quickly and spectacularly produced comprehensive maps of Port au Prince and much of the country. Mappers wanted to contribute to the relief effort. Certainly in other unmapped places, remote mappers are motivated to contribute just out of interest. If you look at any capital city covered by Yahoo imagery, there will have been remote mappers contributing at least geometries. Does this translate to places not in crisis, but in more prolonged issues that prevent mapping? Probably to some extent, but not nearly as focused and quick, and very much dependent on imagery. But imagery is not enough. Local knowledge is needed to name places, and identify features … most roofs don’t tell you what’s going on inside a building. In Haiti, two deployments have gone to advocate, train, and build capacity for OSM locally. Nicolas is now planning to go again, as part of our long term plan for OSM in Haiti, to continue the work to the point where the Haitian community, which includes their government and civil society actors, are ready to take it forward.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Deploying to Haiti

This weekend, Nicolas Chavent and Robert Soden will deploy to Haiti for the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team. MapAction and OCHA are facilitating this mission, with generous support from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department — many thanks to MapAction and ECHO for helping to make this happen. Nicolas and Robert are a dream team for this work, adventurous and passionate map makers. They are joined by experienced MapAction volunteer Chris Philips. Broadly, the mission is to support use of OpenStreetMap on the ground in Haiti within groups of UN and international responders, the Haitian government, and Haitian civil society. In other words, make sure OpenStreetMap stays relevant and useful into the recovery, reconstruction, and, most crucially, long term development of Haiti.

They won’t be going in alone, but with thousands of mappers globally ready to back them up.

This pioneering trip has emerged from several threads. Nicolas and I identified the need in our meeting in January, and published in the HOT Haiti Strategy and Proposal. The remote response of OSM has been very effective in the initial response, with high visibility and urgent need for data sets, but as time goes on, geodata management processes are put in play on the ground, and capacity building to use OSM within those processes is very much needed. OSM has to meet these communities half way to be effective, and the only way now to really understand deeply is to go to Haiti. The second thread has been a long running discussion between MapAction and OSM. I really admire the work of MapAction; they deploy rapidly and create maps by any means necessary in the crucial first days after a disaster, all through volunteer professionals. They first used OSM in their work last year in the Philippines, and we have long wanted to learn from each in how open source and open data can be deployed in emergencies. Third thread was the incredible World Bank deployment last month; Schuyler Erle and Tom Buckley had tremendous insights and made key connections with government and the UN that we hope to build on. Wonderfully, Tom has redeployed to Haiti. Final thread is the ongoing collaboration with Ushahidi and Kartier par Kartier, and their work to build local and diaspora capacity to take the Haiti Ushahidi install on in the long term. This definitely involves base mapping, and there’s an interest in linking in our approach, and eventually Map Kibera like projects in Haiti.

In detail, Nicolas and Robert will be doing hands on training and lots of conversing to assess needs and find solutions that integrate with OSM. Their work will address all levels. At the UN and international NGO level, we are blessed with many good contacts through Nicolas, MapAction, OCHA and myself, and are very eager to continue cooperation. CNIGS (Haitian national mapping agency) and CIAT (main government development coordinating body) have been working with the World Bank and others to rebuild themselves, and their capacity with new technologies; there’s interest here in really getting a solid national road network data set, with addressing. And within civil society, KpK has established an amazing grass roots network. Sabina Carlson from Ushahidi and Shadrock Roberts from KpK will also be in Haiti at the same time as the HOT mission.

The preparations have been intense. We’ve spent the last month budgeting, planning travel, getting equipment sorted, discussing the plan. Haiti is still in chaos, and perhaps even more so within the international responders as their hard work goes on and on. Not certain at this moment where there’s space to throw up Robert’s and Nicolas’ tents. Nearly certainly they are landing in Port au Prince on Sunday afternoon (with risks of delays). It will be Agile at its highest. Sourcing all the appropriate equipment has been intensive … printers, computers, and GPS units are on their way down, need to perform in difficult conditions, and find a good long term home. Software and data work is ongoing, including iterations of Map on a Stick. Clear training materials, including approaches relevant to short-on-time GIS and data collectors new to OSM, are being compiled.

Nicolas has spent a great deal of time on the Humanitarian Data Model. This work reconciles data models and schemas in various response sectors, maps to OSM map features, and works to engage new tools for Extract-Transform-Load processes, and JOSM presets. In other words, make OSM directly relevant to the systems already in use in Haiti. The OpenStreetMap community is invited to review and join the discussion on this process.

I’m very excited for this mission, and wish the best of luck and safe travels to Nicolas and Robert. Hopefully their busy schedule will allow for some updates and documentation. We’ll be listening closely to support whatever they need from afar.