User Studies

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This page is focused on analyzing user behavior and engagement on OpenStreetMap.

The goal of this analysis is to better understand how to better serve the OSM community.


Overall OSM Visitors - End State Segmentation

The following segmentations of the registered user base is offered as one framework for analyzing user engagement. It is adopted from Haklay & Budthathoki's 2010 Horizon Challenge presentation.

  • Visitors to - unknown
  • Attempted registration, but quit or never confirmed - unknown
  • Registered Users - the entire base (100%, ~1MM users as of Jan 2013)
  • Never mapped - registered, but no edits (~60%)
  • Mapped (edited or created an object) at least once (~40%)

Mapper Activity Segmentation

Of those who have mapped - this needs to be updated - this timeframe needs to be updated. It's not clear that this is a relevant measure, as the "active" % will tend to go down over time - a better metric might be the percentage of those registered in the past 2 weeks who've made at least 1 edit:

  • Active (measured as having mapped in the last 2 months - not sure this is the proper timeline)
  • Inactive - those who have not made an edit in the last 2 months

According to Neis & Zipf 2012, roughly 80% of all OSM mappers through 2011 who end up making edits make their first edit on the first day of their registration.

Mapping Intensity Segmentation

Of those who have mapped - need to assess what are the relevant breakpoints here:

  • 1-9 edits ("Nonrecurring Mappers"): 50%
  • 10-999 edits ("Junior Mappers"): 37%
  • 1000+ edits ("Senior Mappers"): 13%


  • Why do people register and then not edit?
  • Why do people make a limited # of edits and then quit?
    • Satisfactory reasons? e.g. did they quit because they wanted to? They finished their task?
    • Unsatisfactory reasons? e.g. did they quit against their desires? Too hard to figure out what to do? Documentation?
  • What types of people make edits & what types end up quitting? (e.g. technical vs. non-technical)
  • What is the average activity period for each different type of mapper?
  • What do the splits of Active/Inactive participation look like across the various mapper types - nonrecurring/junior/senior?

Appropriate Metrics

It is unclear what are appropriate metrics for engagement. These need to be identified. The 2 week interval for stat updates is completely arbitrary.

Draft Suggested Metrics

  • New mapper acquisition numbers. Number of new mappers over the last 2 weeks.
  • Conversion rate - % of new mappers who make an edit in the first 2 weeks after registration.
  • Numbers of/growth of active mappers by each intensity type.
  • Conversion of mappers across intensity types.


  • Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) - a term used by academics when studying OSM user behavior

Analysis Tools & Data Sources