Mapping Weekend Howto

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What is a mapping party?

A mapping party is where a group of openstreetmappers and novices descend on an area to map it exhaustively, usually over a weekend. It's a very social event where people can meet up and talk (usually at a pub) in between mapping sessions. A mapping session consists of dividing up an area between participants and mapping it, be that by car, cycle or walking. For more description of what a mapping party is, see the Mapping parties page

There have been many mapping parties so far, all over the world!... If there hasn't been one near you, please organise one using this handy guide.

Getting Started

For a successful mapping party you need three key ingredients: a place, some people and a date. Finding a suitable venue is usually the hardest thing to achieve. Everything else will just fall into place.

  • When Once you have a rough venue ('London' or 'Berlin') and a couple of people, then put up a wiki page with all the details and confirming the date. The rest is easy. On the day, unless you get a lot of newbies, it will all just happen.
  • Where The simplest venue is a pub, preferably with free WIFI. You may find though that you can get a local company, arts centre, library or hall to provide free space for the weekend.
  • Who The next thing is to get some people signed up. It's a good idea to contact two or three local mappers in advance and find out what dates would suit them. Choosing a date by holding a poll on, is an approach which has worked for some. Otherwise just aim to get a few individuals committed before you make a general announcement.


Here's a checklist of things to do in advance


  • Announce your event at least two months ahead of time. Pick a weekend that doesn't clash with major holidays.
  • Choose a weekend


  • Choose a place that's reasonably near major transport like airports, train stations and motorways. Remember: some people will come from abroad.
  • Choose meeting places for lunch times and evenings that are family friendly (people may bring children)
    • Check if your venue requires you to provide public liability insurance (some offices or community buildings may ask for this) - see discussion page for more info
    • The pub in the evening really matters - building community is all about social interaction so pick a good pub and tell everyone you're going for drinks there afterward.
  • Get the lat/lon for the meeting places and announce in advance
    • Try to get somewhere with free WIFI


  • Start the wiki page. You could copy and paste wikitext from the Mapping Party Template, or use your own words/layout
    • Put your phone number on the wiki
    • Give clear instructions about how to find the right people if you are meeting in a public place.
    • Put an map on the page (Use <map> or <slippymap> syntax, upload a customised image)
    • Make a 'cake' diagram to divide up the area into manageable chunks. (For an example see London mapping party page) Mapping Weekend Howto/Cake Diagram
  • Reserve the loan GPS units and Banner for the chosen dates and make arrangements to get them to the venue.
  • You can now use smartphone tools such as OSM Contributor for android OSM Contributor
  • FAQ for Newbies
  • Check for rail engineering works and other scheduled transport disruption on the chosen weekend

At the event

  • Make sure you have hardware and software like
    • SD Card reader (NaviGPS units)
    • Garmin serial cable (and serial to USB if you need it)
    • JOSM
    • GPSBabel
    • NaviLink software (for NaviGPS units)
    • Camera
    • Mobile tools OSM Contributor

GPS units

Unless you are mapping a city covered by Aerial Imagery, you will need to do surveying using GPS Units.

  • Get deposits (bank card / passport) and contact details for anyone you lend a GPS to
  • Make sure the GPS units have sufficient battery charge and are blanked.
  • Make sure the GPS units are set to record and newbies know how to operate the basic functions
  • Make sure newbies know to make sure the GPS can see the sky

If you are in Germany, you can lend GPS units for free. See


Internet Promotion

  • There are many event listing sites and social calendering services where you can add your own event. These can offer a good way of making an event more "discoverable". Many of them will also manage your sign-up list for you. If you're listing yourself on several of these options, give clear instructions about what is the required sign up procedure if any. Help people find the listings by tagging it both 'osm' and 'openstreetmap', and linking it from the OSM wiki event page.
    • - New in 2019! Developed specially for OpenStreetMap. Open source! Login with OpenStreetMap! Only real disadvantage: No cross-over discoverability to help your osm event be found by other communities, since there are no other communities on this site.
    • - Now featuring OpenStreetMap maps (in many/most places while zoomed in). Make an "event" and invite people to it. This requires attendees to be on facebook (Which is a problem. Some OpenStreetMap folks take a strong open/anti-corporate stance, and are not on facebook)
    • - Originally mostly designed for paid for events, with lots of ticket printing nonesense, which has since been removed. Still mostly useful for events with limited "ticket" capacity. Missing Maps Project uses eventbrite for their limited capacity mapathons. You can disactivate the "show a map" feature to lose the google map and add in a static map image into the HTML description instead.
    • - Costs money! Featurewise it's very good for helping you promote attendance/re-attendance of group meet-ups, and the critical mass of users makes it the very best option for cross-discoverability of events. Maybe that's why this is a popular option even though there's so many free alternatives, and even though it forces google maps. OSM US has an account and US meet-ups use this extensively.
    • - Open source! Uses OpenStreetMap! Small and not well known so limited cross-promotion. Focus on (limited to) "open tech" events. The interface needs some UX work (but hey! open source!) (OSM group)
    • - Open source! Uses OpenStreetMap! Maybe only intended for speaking events?
    • - Open source! Uses OpenStreetMap! But designed for "educational "courses" events. Small and not well known.
    • - Long time favourite option. featuring OpenStreetMap maps. The founders attended SOTM Girona! sadly it become unstable/unreliable and then completely offline since a buy-out.
    • - Featured OpenStreetMap maps (though with google geolocation of the venue). Has had some stability problems and annoying bugs before it died.
  • Look for local groups of technology enthusiasts (local linux user groups) and contact them
  • Find the Wikipedia article which best matches the location. Add a note on the talk page (Take care to avoid sounding too spammy. You can justify this promotion, since the party will probably result in a better map to illustrate the Wikipedia article)
  • countless other ways of promoting on the internet

Press Release

  • Prepare a press release (See Writing a press release for advice and examples)
  • Send press release out about three weeks before the event to:
    • Local newspapers (use this wonderful site: or a Google search for town news to find these)
    • Local radio stations
    • BBC Local radio
    • Local museums, libraries etc
    • Local community web-sites and forums
    • Local tourist offices


  • Prepare a poster (See Recruitment Poster for suggested text and links to other poster examples)
  • Visit venue a couple of weeks before the event to distribute posters:
    • The venue itself
    • Ask shops to display the poster in their windows
    • Local museum
    • Local library
    • etc


  • Prepare a flyer to distribute to anyone who wants to know more. See Flyers and posters for generic printed flyers which are available, or graphics files you can use.
  • Print some copies and have them available on the day.


Draw up a schedule for the weekend and post it, in advance, on the wiki project page.

  • Plan a Friday evening social event / pub meet for early arrivals.
  • Start with a kick-off/planning meeting first thing on each day. Allow at least an hour for this. Encourage participants to get going as soon as they are ready (especially old-hands).
  • Schedule mapping sessions for a maximum of 3 hours as many GPS units will need uploading after that time.
  • Organize a convenient rendez-vous point and ensure that someone will be there with a laptop (and cables etc) to upload tracklogs (and perhaps create a Party render). A pub with free wifi and food would be a good location choice.
  • Schedule an end of day meeting time. Include a session on each day to teach newbies how to upload and tag their tracks. Encourage newbies to do their own tagging.
  • Plan a social event for the Saturday evening. For example: a curry followed by the pub (or more likely vice versa).
  • On Sunday those people who have attended on Saturday may be tired, or less prone to socialising and more interested in just continuing their work.

Micro Mapping Party

If you want to do some collective mapping but find this all too much then consider a Micro Mapping Party.

Party Feedback

Ideas for questions to ask each attendee.....

We would love to have your feedback on today’s activities; it helps us make these mapping parties even better to improve your experience and the resulting map.

  • Date attended?
  • Do you consider yourself a Local or did you travel from further afield? Local/Non-Local
  • Have you attended a mapping party before? Yes/No
  • Have you contributed to OSM before? Yes/No
  • If Yes, have you collected data preciously with a GPS receiver? Yes/No
  • Time of arrival?
  • Expected time of departure?
  • Own or Loan GPS receiver used? Own/Loan
  • If Loan, how easy was it to use (1=easy, 10=hard): 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  • How many hours did you spend outside gathering data?
  • If we provided refreshments, were they what you needed? Yes/No
  • If we provided food at lunchtime, was it helpful or would you have preferred to do your own thing? Yes/Prefer Own
  • Do you expect to go away and edit the map to add your wanderings from today? Yes/No
  • If No is there anything we can do to turn it into a Yes?:
  • If you needed technical instruction, how helpful was it (1=not really enough, 10=more than enough): 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  • As a result of today, how likely are you to attend another mapping party in the future? (1=very unlikely, 10=definately) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
  • Would you like to be kept up to date on information relating to the results of this mapping party? If so please write your email address here:
  • If additionally, you would like to hear via your email address about other mapping parties in the future, please tick here.


  • Andy Robinson's notes on organsing a mapping party [1]