Nottingham/Pub Meetup/Leicester Mapathon

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The Missing Maps project is a humanitarian mapping initiative jointly founded by Medecins sans Frontiers (MSF), the American Red Cross, the British Red Cross and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT). It aims to map parts of the world vulnerable to natural and man-made disasters and thus enhance response capacity at the time of disasters. It also seeks to actively involve local people both in the mapping process. The need was identified once OpenStreetMap had been shown to be a highly effective tool for mapping areas affected by disasters (e.g., Haiti and Sendai Earthquakes of 2010 and 2011). In many cases no base map data was available until after the event.

A key activity of Missing Maps have been mapathons, often held on a regular basis (for instance in London) where people gather to collaboratively add information to OpenStreetMap for a specific area identified by one of the Missing Maps partners. Mapathons now occur world-wide. A recent major one involved hundreds of staff members from across their global workforce.

The individual theme of a mapathon will depend on specific humanitarian issues and projects at the time. For instance during the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa during 2013-2016 most mapathons were concerned with mapping buildings in population centres and the road network in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The information was used for population estimation, capacity planning, activity planing and navigation by field teams.


  • Contribute some data to one ro more on-going mapping tasks.
  • Learn more about how OSM works in the humanitarian mapping context.
  • Enjoy ourselves: mapping is fun!


This only applies if you do not have an OSM account, or have one and have never edited

We have a relatively short time for the Mapathon, and experience from the past suggests that the mundane aspects of creating an account and getting to grips with the basics of the editor can take some time.

We therefore suggest that, if possible, you do some, or all, of the following before the event starts:

  • Create a personal OSM account. You need an email address and a suitable nickname.

Please don't use a throw-away email address as: a) someone may need to ask you about your edits; and b) if the licence chances again each user needs to give their assent to their work being released under the new licence. It just needs to be an address you look at from time to time.

  • Validate the registration.
  • Open the editor (options on top of main OSM webpage), and take the in-editor tutorial.
  • You can also read through the learnosm material.

Likely Tasks

The range of available Humanitarian mapping tasks on the HOT Tasking Manager is likely to change before the 19th. Therefore the specific task(s) will be determined close to the date. Currently the following tasks look likely candidates:

Ideally there will be oone tasks which is mainly mapping buildings as a very straightforward beginners task, and another with more complexity including roads and other landscape features.

At the event

We will be located in room on the 1st floor of the Bennett Building way 127735376.

The room has around 45 workstations, but feel free to bring a laptop if that is what you prefer (e.g., if you are already edit OSM and prefer a different editor to iD).

For the workstations logins will be provided for the University of Leicester intranet.

The will be a short 10 minute intro:

  • Humanitarian mapping on OSM & Mapathons in particular
  • Introducing the specific task(s) for this mapathon & the HOT Tasking Maanger.

Thereafter I hope everyone will be able to get down to mapping. A few more experienced mappers will be around to help with questions and advice.


In order to work together effectively we will use the HOT Tasking Manager to allocate specific areas within the overall task to individuals. To do this :

  • Sign into the HOT Tasking Manager with you OSM identity.
  • Find the relevant task (link will be added here).
  • Choose and unmapped grid cell.
  • Click start mapping. The grid cell is now assigned to you until you release it or after 2 hours.
  • Directly start the editing task from within the Tasking Manager. This will ensure you can see the edge of your bit of the mapping area, with the instruction "Do not map outside this area".
  • Follow the reubric set out in the Taksing Manager (this may include some specific editing tips too).
  • When you have mapped all the specified elements in the area (or you feel that you have achieved what is possible), save your work. A pre-canned changeset description will have been created when you opened the editor. You can add additional text. Please also add #gisruk2018. This latter hashtag will help me SK53 validate data from the mapapthon.
  • You can now mark your task as completed/incomplete etc. If you have time start on another one.

Editing Notes

Roads & Paths

Highway Africa is a useful starting point.

Interpreting whether a linear feature is a road, track or path is particularly difficult, and in practice often needs consideration of a wider area, multiple editing passes, and experience. Therefore, in order, to keep interpretation as simple as possible for the Mapathon I suggest using two highway values:

  • highway=unclassified. This means a minor road, but such roads are routable for motor vehicls and therefore useful for people in the field such as NGO workers visiting the areas mapped.
  • highway=path. Any path wiich is too narrow for a motor vehicle.

iD allows measurement of features. Select Ctrl-I and a pop-up box appears. You can draw a line across a highway feature and see how wide it is. Roads probably should be at least 3-4 metres across.


All OSM editors allow an area with approximate right-angled corners to be squared. In JOSM & Potlatch the "Q" key shortcut performs the task, whereas in iD it is the "S"-key.

Round buildings can be created by drawing a triangle or square with the apices touching the perimeter of the building and then asking the editor to turn the way into a circle: id "O" shortcut.

Undoing Stuff

Ctrl-Z or button on top menu for iD. Ctrl-Z in Josm Z in Potlatch