[HOT] OSM humanitarian mapping and its learning curve

Severin Menard severin.menard at gmail.com
Wed Oct 12 17:34:15 UTC 2016

The edits on hotosm.org job #2228 <http://tasks.hotosm.org/project/2228>
have started and now happens what I feared. There is no mention of what are
the necessary skills and newbies are coming with a lot of enthusiasm but
with almost no OSM experience. A quick analysis of the first 29
contributors shows that 20 of them have created their OSM account less than
one month ago. Some did it yesterday or today. Wow.

The result of that : obviously, crappy edits are coming, spoiling what we
have been doing over the last few days : now we have building as nodes
where shapes are totally visible, un-squared bad shaped buildings and the
main landuse area is self-cutting in various places (see there

Nothing new under the sun : it was already the case for Haiti EarthQuake
2010. Quite a pity that six years after, despite the OSM tools have
improved a lot, it remains the same. It is though quite simple to fix the
most part of it: do-not-invite-newcomers-to-map-over-complex-crisis-

I guess some will argue that the OSM newcomers are people of good will and
that they just want to help and that they my feel offended/discouraged. Of
course their intentions are high and yes they may feel a bit hurt. But this
is really a classic in humanitarian response: people with the best
intentions in the world may not fit for it, just because they are not
experienced yet.

Mapping in OSM in crisis response is not an exciting one-shot hobby : it
does have its learning curve and it is key to learn how to map correctly
before being dropped over complex humanitarian contexts. This is why I
mentioned three sets of necessary skills for the jobs I created these last
days on http://taches.francophonelibre.org. And the beginner mappers who
joined the job that fitted for beginners are people that already have a few
months of OSM experience, not newcomers. Newcomers should be driven over
non urgent fields.

If someone is not interested to learn first in not a mass media covered
crisis context : this is not a problem, it is actually a good way to see
real motivations. I personally prefer to get one mapper that will become a
huge, excellent contributor, 3-4 more occasional but still producing neat
data, than to lose 10 that would create crappy objects and just leave
forever afterwards anyway.

I guess the resulting need of duplicating the number of necessary edits
(crappy ones then corrections) to get a clean data is a rather a good way
to grow the number of total contributors and the number of total edits
created through the # of the HOT TM instance that seems to be so important
for the board of HOT US Inc (two current directors have contacted me for
this purpose) to make communication and raise funds from the figures. But
what is at stake here is to provide good baseline data for humanitarian
response, not distorted metrics.

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