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About me

My name is Ethan and I go by FTA in OSM; I live in the US. Professionally, I work with remote sensing of the atmosphere. My DWG account for reverts and other related work is FTW_dwg.

OSM involvement

I first joined OSM in April 2012 at the encouragement of a friend. We had initially been discussing my volunteer contributions as an editor and reviewer with GMM, who as a side note formally recognized my work with a Top Contributor Award for my involvement with that community. Companies must make money off their products to stay afloat, and that is okay because that's how the world works. But our discussion inspired me to start contributing to a map with data that everyone can access for free. After studying contributions of other users, reading on the wiki, and becoming comfortable enough, I made my first edit in October of 2012. As they say, the rest is history.

I enjoy editing in more rural regions than urban areas. I often work on smaller roads, railways, walkways, and often large campuses (universities, colleges, zoos, etc.), but my focus on any given time is a cumulative function of what I have been working on the past few weeks in OSM. In addition to general editing, I've worked on projects specifically like the USBR, I've contributed some GPS traces in places where none previously existed to aid in mapping, and I've made some edits on the wiki. In March 2014, I began been to contribute to HOT with disaster response mapping--bringing full circle my work with emergency preparedness and amateur radio hobbies. Starting in October 2014, I've been contributing to software development for OSM-related projects. I recently began service with the OSM data working group.

Besides the whole open data aspect of OSM, one of the things that has really kept this project near and dear to me is the grassroots concept. There is no centralized administrator system that decides whether every editor is worthy or not of making edits. Sure, we have the DWG and intervention for people maliciously editing or violating copyrights; but aside from cases where that is required, everyone is treated as an equal. It is our collective knowledge that, when brought together, powers the largest editable map in the world. Users have different interests--some prefer to focus on bike paths, others choose to draw buildings, and other others develop software tools--and our community provides the space for all these contributions to work in synergy.

OSM and HOT presentations
Date Group Location
Mar 3, 2015 American Planning Association Wisconsin Chapter Pfister Hotel, Milwaukee, WI
Dec 9, 2014 Maptime Madison Madison Public Library, WI
Nov 11, 2014 Wisconsin GIS Day Union South, Madison, WI

Local Madison, WI OSM group

I'm interested in starting an OSM group in the Madison, WI area. We had a great turnout for the Maptime meeting in late 2014, and other people I've talked to are particularly interested in HOT mapathons. If you would be interested in attending a Madison/South WI OSM group, please let me know (best through OSM mail). Right now, I am of compiling a list of contacts for meeting announcements.

"Regional mentors" project

This was something I have previously mentioned as a program I would like to start. We have active mappers that are spread throughout the whole world. Their collective expertise of OSM, GIS, and other topics is immense. We should have the opportunity for mappers to volunteer to serve as a sort of patroller of new mappers in their given region to welcome them to OSM and serve as a friendly contact point for someone geographically near who is in need of help. Patrollers not in the perjorative sense of a hall monitor, but rather someone who is a "regional mentor" for OSM. Coordination for this project would probably be best suited through the member chapters of the OSMF (e.g. OSM-US oversees US program, OSM-Germany oversees Germany program) while countries without a local chapter could fall under the purview of the OSMF.

In the mean time, I have been specifically contacting new mappers in the WI area who start editing (usually as a result of the announce-bot in the #osm-us IRC channel) and welcoming them to the project. I'm still working on a formal proposal/outline of this, so stay tuned for a link to that to be added here.

Potpourri of other information

It is best to contact me through OSM mail at

How I have contributed and where I have contributed to OSM so far.

Why is your username FTA? It stands for Fightin' Texas Aggie, a moniker for a student at my undergraduate university.

I ran for the OSMF Board in 2014 to catalyze ideas I hope would/will foster a more welcoming and close-knit community within OSM. Check out the details at User:FTA/2014_OSMF_Election. Despite only garnering 6 votes, I remain optimistic that some of my ideas helped to continue conversation and serve as a springboard for initiatives in OSM. I plan to become more involved through membership in Working Groups and also continue my outreach both in my local community and to schools.

OSM tools:
  • JOSM for my edits.
  • OSMTracker for Android to record and upload GPS traces running on a Samsung Galaxy S3 and a Samsung Captivate.
  • Garmin eTrex for an additional GPS
  • Mechanical keyboard over a conventional one
  • Two monitors when editing to have the OSM wiki or task manager within an eye movement. Also run a VirtualBox Ubuntu install for software testing.
  • Wheat Thins to snack on

Some of the pages I have helped maintain on the OSM Wikipedia:

OSM Logo This user submits data to OpenStreetMap under the name FTA.