[HOT] OSM humanitarian mapping and its learning curve

john whelan jwhelan0112 at gmail.com
Thu Oct 13 13:38:06 UTC 2016

​I think we have to accept we need new mappers and we need them to be
motivated so mapping projects that do not seem important ​may not be so
motivating.  The Statistics Canada project is interesting as in the longer
term I think we should see a pool of experienced mappers coming out of that
but it is a longer term project and its interesting to see a different
approach with more emphasis on data quality.  We rarely discuss the needs
of our clients ie those who use the maps in the discussion group.

Mapping one on one with new mappers you can train them fairly quickly but
it still takes twenty minutes or so.  With a group I think you have to
accept you have them there for two/three hours, 50% will never map again,
and they want to start mapping now.  What's the guy at the front talking
about OpenStreetMap and boring stuff for?  Asking them to train for two
hours first and get a badge is a sort of non-starter.  Ask me to go through
training for validation and I'm more likely to go off and play in Blender.
They are volunteers.  Making the training available to them is a different
issue to making it mandatory.

There is an issue of trust, locally the American Red Cross has hit the
headlines with their six permanent houses built in Haiti.  Divide into the
money raised and its not pretty.  There has been mention of the
Humanitarian Industry.  There is a suggestion that the NGOs look upon
mapathons as a way of engaging the public hoping to gain donations from

I've long thought that many projects could have better documentation.  Why
is this project important? who will use the data that we know about?  This
is being addressed through the training for project managers.

For a crisis certain projects will need a higher level of expertise.  I've
worked on critical high priority projects where tiles have been marked done
with only 25% of the mapping done.  Other tiles had been "validated" but
still left much to be desired, and my standard of validation isn't that

Validating and giving feedback is useful.  Quite a few of the new mappers
I've given feedback to are now solid mappers but quick feedback is critical
and when you get twenty or more mappers mapping in a mapathon you can't
give each the attention you'd like.

By the way it doesn't seem to be just HOT mappers who leave much to be
desired.  I've been looking at parts of Africa and there are mappers there
who have done a fair amount of mapping more than 500 buildings for example
but still don't tag their ways and their userid does not show up in HOT.

I'll leave you the thoughts but no real solutions.

Cheerio John
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