Organized Editing Policy

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OpenStreetMap is an international project where thousands of volunteers together produce open geodata during their free time. As a community OpenStreetMap works through checks and balances that rely on every mapper deciding on what to map and how to map individually and being responsible for her or his activities. Because each mapper can only add or edit a relatively small volume of data every day errors can be recognized and corrected by the community through communication and open processes before larger damage is done to the database. For automated edits and imports this does not work the same way so we have documentation requirements and review processes designed to prevent bigger problems with such activities and to avoid disruptive and time consuming repairs of the data.

Organized mapping activities by groups of people who act under instructions of an organization often come with similar problems. Errors and deficits in the instructions given or in the way they are communicated to the mappers of the group can result in large scale damage to the data and can be disruptive to normal mapping activity. And although we in principle welcome such organized activity we have put up this policy to regulate organized mapping activities in the interest of the individual mappers and a functioning mapping community.

Who does this policy apply to?

This policy applies to groups of people who perform mapping or other activities within the OpenStreetMap community in an organized way and not - as in normal mapping activity - under the free and independent decision and responsibility of the individual mapper.

Such groups can be either part of formal organizations like companies, schools and universities or ad-hoc groups created just for the purpose of mapping in OpenStreetMap.

In case of paid mapping or otherwise contractually regulated mapping activities even an individual mapper's work is considered to fall under this policy.

This policy does not apply to mapping suggestions that are openly communicated within the OSM community and where all participants take part and perform their edits under their free and independent decision.

General rules

The following rules apply to all organized mapping activities.

  • The group and its members need to accept the contributor terms.
  • You are expected to follow the principles of Good practice and How We Map, in particular group members need to always use good changeset comments with their changes.
  • Transparency is paramount. Editing activity needs to be openly visible and traceable and you may not in any way try to disguise what you do, for example by using multiple user accounts per mapper for your organized activities, through misleading changeset comments or misleading statements in communication with other mappers.
  • Transparency also includes that the motives of your organization to engage in mapping are openly communicated. If your organization is tasked to perform mapping by another organization such connections must be visible. You may not hide or disguise whose interest your organized mapping activity serves in any way.
  • Each individual participating in an organized mapping effort must use a single mapping account and this may not be shared among several mappers.
  • Instructors and leaders of organized mapping groups must have sufficient experience in normal mapping in OpenStreetMap. Instructors must make sure mappers they instruct have sufficient knowledge and experience themselves to perform the editing tasks they are instructed to do in good quality.
  • Communication from other community members is expected to be answered by mappers of the group within one week, within a day during ongoing mapping activity of the group member in question. Such communication can be in form of email, personal messages on openstreetmap.org or changeset comments. You are expected to react to concerns and objections by fellow mappers regarding your edits in the same way as if you were mapping as an independent individual. You may not put the mapping instructions received from the group above such concerns and are expected to discuss possible conflicts between those openly with the community.
  • If you use any data in organized mapping activities that has not been directly observed on the ground by the mapper and that is not routinely used by normal mapping in OSM (like those listed in Potential Datasources or Aerial imagery or the OSM Editor Layer Index) you need to follow the Import Guidelines in addition.

Specific rules for short term organized mapping

These additional rules only apply if your organized mapping activity is non-recurring and does not take longer than three days with no more than 30 mappers participating. Non-recurring here means the organization initiating the mapping activity does not expect to do something similar again in less than a year.

  • The user page of every mapping account on openstreetmap.org participating must show the following:
    This account participates in organized editing activity by <your organization name> from <date> to <date>. More information is available at <link to your organization's section at One-Time_Collaborative_Editing page on the OSM Wiki>.
  • You need to make sure all user names of the members of your group are listed on One-Time_Collaborative_Editing in a separate section for your mapping activity.

Specific rules for long term organized mapping

For any other organized mapping activity the following rules apply.

  • You must create a page on the OSM wiki describing your group and the aims of your mapping activities. This page must include a list of all user accounts that take or formerly took part in your group. This list must be kept current and former members not participating any more must not be removed but should be marked as former participants instead.
  • Your group's wiki page must be listed on Commercial and collaborative editors.
  • The user page of every mapping account on openstreetmap.org participating must show the following:
    This account participates in organized editing activity by <your organization name>. More information is available at <link to your group page on the OSM wiki>.
  • You must have a contact person for your group who can be contacted by the community regarding the work of the group as a whole and who is responsible for the activities of the group as a whole. The wiki page must list at least the OSM user name and email address of this person. You must make sure any communication sent to this person is communicated quickly to the members of the group if necessary.
  • Any specific instructions given to the members of the group how to do their work needs to be publicly available for scrutiny by the OSM community.
  • Any specific localized activity on a larger scale by the group or members of it (rule of thumb: more than one person day for a specific subject) must be communicated to the local community affected through their usual communication channels (usually the country specific Mailing lists and/or the corresponding section on the Forum) in advance. For international activities you should contact the community on the talk mailing list (note you need to subscribe to this mailing list to be able to send messages to it). For larger projects sufficient time must be allocated for discussion among community members (usually about 14 days). You must not pursue such activity if there is a community consensus against it.

Violations of this policy

Violations of this policy can result in blocking of user accounts by the Data working group and reverts of the edits made. In case of severe and repeated violations by an organization banning this organization as a whole from participating in OpenStreetMap might also be considered.

Other things to consider

  • If mappers cease to work for a group in long term organized mapping they should create and use a new OSM user account to clearly distinguish between edits made for the group and those made afterwards.
  • Mapping activities of group members separate from their organized mapping activity, like for example of paid mappers during their free time, should also be performed with a different user account.
  • You also need to respect the Import Guidelines and mechanical editing rules as they apply.