- 1 Brief introduction
- 2 Improving the OSM community (growing deep)
- 3 Increasing OSM's reach (growing wide)
- 4 Concluding remarks
- 5 Addenda
I've been a member of OSM since April 2012 and have been editing since October 2012. I was initially referred to OSM by a friend after learning about the time I put in on other map sites (I received a Top Contributor Award from Google Map Maker at one point). I'm more of a newer face in the OSMF community, but new blood is a good thing, too. Most of my time with OSM has been map editing (including starting to help with HOT early this year) coupled with some wiki fixing, but I have recently started translating my science programming skills into "program" programming skills by slowly easing into some of the coding projects with OSM. In the near future, I am hoping to start a local OSM-US club and work on public school mapping outreach in my area. For a more detailed background, see my user page because I would like to keep this page more about my ideas regarding OSMF.
I like the motto of growing deep and wide: improving inside the community to make it a great place and one that provides people the joy of helping the world (growing deep), while also growing our reach (growing wide).
Improving the OSM community (growing deep)
OSM data is used--no...relied upon--by lots of people! We should take time to celebrate and relish in that fact! We should also be mindful of the responsibility OSM as a whole has to the community that it makes up. We should house-keep a bit within the organization when it comes to interactions and conduct among members. We should also look to cultivate our current users. Identify people who are "rising stars", who are faithful editors, or have just put in time to make some little thing great. Give them a pat on the back, a "good job, friend", or even a "hey, I see you've taken an interest in OSM...care to get more involved?" We need to examine ourselves to see where we fall short of being a welcoming and accommodating community to all people, regardless of any trait that makes them who they are.
We should introduce a mentoring program. Provide an opportunity for those who have worked on OSM to give back to the community by letting them serve as OSM mentors for anyone interested. It could be someone just does not understand why we have certain tagging schemes. It could alternatively be someone wants to get involved with software development in the project, but does not have much experience doing so. Whatever the case, we should provide a "see this list of users if you are interested in a mentor:" listing to grow our community. At the same time, we should provide positions for those who want to go beyond editing. "Community MVPs" for those that are dedicated to helping on help.osm.org or forum.osm.org. "Welcome team members" for those who wish to reach out to new members and help them get acquainted. "Regional helpers" for those who are experts in an area of the map (either spatially or categorically) to serve as a point of information about a particular area. It is through bringing the community up together that we can really grow deeper.
Increasing OSM's reach (growing wide)
A few points to grow the reach of OpenStreetMap over the coming years (in no particular order):
Growing educational outreach
Firstly, educational outreach is a means by which we can improve our visibility. There are a few projects I know of that are focused on teaching OSM to schools, clubs, etc. or developing resources to be used for learning. We should continue to grow these projects as they provides a great pool of future OSM contributors and also help to educate the world. I spent a year leading an after-school science club at a local 6th-8th year school. One of my lessons involved introducing kids to what a map is: a graphical picture of the world usually scaled down in size. I did a quick activity where I had one team hide an object, draw a "picture map" to the object for the other team, and then repeat with the teams' roles switched. After we iterated a few times, the kids were absolutely in love with maps. They, on their own volition, wanted to create a map of the building to help visitors find their way! Imagine when they get home...the students telling their parents about the fun they had, showing them the handout on maps, and how they can get involved to change the world with just a computer and local knowledge! Then, the parents might want to see what all the hubbub is about and decide to join as well. Think of all the mapping professionals and hobbyists that could be turned onto OSM because they were introduced to it earlier in their life and it became a resource they consulted often. I remember in my days as a kid of discovering USGS maps, plotting out the local amateur radio repeaters in my area with coordinates, geocaching, and the like. It was all centered around maps and location, and it is what made me who I am today.
Growing local OSM groups
Secondly, we need to increase the local OSM groups and their scale, from country-wide to borough-wide. It is through these clubs that personal connections are made, the human element is added, and where fellowship among like-minded persons occurs. What's a great way to introduce someone to OSM? Take them along to a mapping party or even a presentation on applications of OSM data, showing them what we're all about as a community and what can be done with their changes: I love that at some point, at least one person will view at least one improvement I have made, and it will make their journey/trip/research/2-AM-wikipedia-article-surfing/planning just a little bit easier. Additionally, by identifying members who are active in every corner of the world, we can improve the local knowledge element of OSM. If there is not enough interest for a club in one area, we could instead use a regional contact point, allowing volunteers to step up as a source for helping new members, recruiting new ones, and improving documentation/continuity in that area.
Growing our data
Thirdly, we need to grow our data reach. Grassroots mapping is the core of OSM; it's a great way to go about it. But, we should also be open to data from governments, private companies, or individuals that are willing to release their data on our license terms. We have undertaken a very enormous task to map the whole world. I love the idea that's been mentioned about adding emphasis on addressing...it's one thing missing where we do fall short on compared to the other big maps...but generally, ways and areas are still far from perfect across the world. I think we should increase our outreach to governmental bodies, from a national level down to the local scale. For example, county clerk offices have a wealth of information about addressing with plat records. If we can't find a mapper in a rural area, then this could be a great avenue as it still provides that local touch of knowledge.
Growing our software
Finally, we need to continue to kindle the software developer side of OSM. A company may be hesitant to adopt OSM data if it requires a large upfront investment. Sure, it's not our business to perform this work fully for companies, but we should examine our infrastructure more from the end-user side of things for future planning. We should make it easier and more attractive for people to adopt OSM data. We should also continue to keep friendships with the companies who have indeed invested time and effort into providing tools and data for OSM and its subsidiaries. Furthermore, it never hurts to advertise OSM as a developer project, too, to the greater internet community. A computer programmer by trade may not have an interest in mapping in his free time, but they may love building front-end applications or helping to plan data structures.
These are some of the areas I want to work on with OSM, should I be elected to serve on the OSMF Board. Ultimately, my desire is to see this project that I have grown to love, OpenStreetMap, be the best it can be and continue to take its place as a world-changer. Please contact me with any questions; my information is available here.
As an open data project, the OSMF board should function with that same mentality. Transparency regarding business before the board is important for accountability to the members. Some exceptions may be necessary, should the board explicitly deem an item must be kept private. But, the general protocol should be that meeting items are released to OSMF members and the public. If a tentative agenda is released prior to the actual meeting, members would actually have the opportunity to contact board members and share their comments/concerns/suggestions regarding the items to be discussed. Additionally, all monetary action should be visible to anyone. A director should not feel singled out for asking for reimbursement of OSMF official business, and releasing the transactions helps keep board members accountable for spending the foundation monies (e.g. no first class transatlantic tickets, buying personal items, etc.). Finally, any items voted on should be published with the vote counts.
Board member responsibilities
Responsibilities to keep OSMF functioning should be doled out fairly evenly in terms of workload to board members. The processes to accomplish these responsibilities should be written down at some point to ensure easy transitions between elections or in the event someone must step down as a board member prematurely.
Board member roles
I believe board members should act as 1) administrators of the OSMF, 2) "big picture" setters of the OSMF, 3) representatives of the large OSM voice, and 4) get-it-done-ers. As a board member, I won't restrict myself to the administrative side of OSM. I'll continue to stay active with mapping. I'll continue to improve my efforts on software development. I'll be open to hear ideas from anyone on ways to improve OSM and the OSMF. I'll work on tasks that have "fallen through the cracks" because they are unpleasant. I'll try to spearhead initiatives that will be positive steps forward for OSM (including what I have mentioned above as some of my ideas). I don't treat the role as some honorary or cv padding position; I treat it as a chance to positively affect OSM and its direction while also getting down on my knees and still working in the dirt.
I do not think we have the infrastructure at this moment required to hire paid staff. As a board member, I would like to provide to members of the OSMF justification for a need to hire a certain staff member with the explicit job responsibilities that would be assigned, how they would be evaluated, and for how long they would be retained if on a short-term basis. More data users and members of the community may require a dedicated support person to assist if avenues like the forums or questions/answers become saturated. Hiring a computer engineer could provide guidance to development of our software structure and chisel away at the big problems faced by us. An administrator may also be necessary to handle the day-to-day operations and office tasks of the OSMF. Hiring staff does also introduce additional oversight regarding human resources, fair hiring, etc.
Outside funding opportunities
I am in favor of pursuing outside funding from corporate sponsors and foundations. I do not like the idea of advertising on the map homepage, but I would support a different page listing major sponsors (possibly on the donation page). To grow OSM, we could use backing that would greatly enhance our hardware, provide the infrastructure to gain a few paid staff, and target specific software needs. These funds, however, would need to come with no obligation of services provided in return (i.e. strictly donations, not "payment for expected services" as we are a free and open data project).