[Talk-us] Steady increase in the number of mappers in the US

Serge Wroclawski emacsen at gmail.com
Sat Jul 20 03:57:44 UTC 2013

On Fri, Jul 19, 2013 at 7:42 PM, Clifford Snow <clifford at snowandsnow.us> wrote:

>> Similarly, when the Washington Post covered the local DC hackerspace,
>> we had two people stop in at the space (only two!) and neither of them
>> joined.
> I'm not sure that two events are enough data points to state that publicity
> doesn't work.

Let me give you more datapoints.

We actually has two stories about MappingDC, one in the Post, and one
in a government publication. Neither of those created any sustainable

Atlanta had a huge event through Cloudmade's ambassador program, with
>200 attendees, and CNN coverage. Thea (the ambassador) invested a ton
of time and energy into that community. But a couple of years later,
and they were gone.

Their community consisted mostly of OSM consumers, people working for
groups interested in consuming OSM data, or talking about imports, but
not of mappers. I really wanted Atlanta to work. There was enormous
investment of time and resources in it, and outreach to universities,
government agencies and businesses.

I was hopeful at the time that data consumers would turn into
contributors, but it largely didn't happen. These organizations are
very interested in OSM as a datasource, but contributing is another
matter, and organizing is yet a different matter still. These people
were interested in OSM, but they weren't invested in OSM emotionally.

I want to be clear that I think there's a very important place for
outreach to data consumers, but I've learned not to expect that these
people will turn into OSM contributors (I'm thrilled if they do, but I
no longer come with the expectation that they will).

I also feel that I owe both Russ Nelson and Richard Weait an apology.
It's because of Richard's initial visit to DC that I heard about OSM
and became interested in it, and it's because of Russ Nelson's visit
that Kate Chapman, Steven Johnson, Katie Filbert and I all started
MappingDC (and we started it together, as a group).

So yes, it's possible to spark a community by a visit, but AFAIK, for
all both of their hard work, DC was the only community where the work
was sustained.

> Any thoughts on what sustains members?

Yes, it's consistency. That's the #1 most important thing that
sustains members. Run events regularly, monthly is best. And if you
can, make it the same day. And if you can, make it the same place.

In DC, we used a bar in downtown DC that had a lot of space, and we
had a monthly event that was just us sitting around and drinking. Kate
coined it Mappy Hour (if you were wondering what the origin of the
Virtual Mappy Hours were- that's the story).

We can mapping parties too, but the drinking events were super popular.

The reasons we haven't done that here in NY is that I have some
medical issues that make it difficult for me in a bar environment, and
bar space is limited and very noisy in Manhattan (for the most part).
If we found a good place, though, I'd try again.

BTW, Russ, our mapping parties have been good- we get Brooklynites
coming to Manhattan, we get Manhattanites coming to Brooklyn, folks
coming in from Jersey, even Connecticut, so it can happen.

And after several months of this, we're finally starting to see
"regulars", folks who will come to most or all the events, and it
takes a long time. It's also can be pretty hard work in the beginning,
even lonely work, when you set up an event and 30 minutes before the
event, half the RSVPs cancel, but those that do show up regularly,
they stick with the project, they map, and they stay involved.

> Maybe we need to ask people, what got them interested in OSM and what keeps
> them active. Maybe one of the activities we should undertake is to collect
> that data to help develop plans go active mappers.

I think the commonality between dedicated mappers I know is that
they're usually already involved in an existing project of similar
ilk. They're FLOSS developers, or they're Wikipedians (or both).

We get other people, from other backgrounds, but in my experience, the
ones who stick around for months and years tend to be people who
understand why OSM is so important. We get others to come out- they
hear about the project, we get them through their first edits, but
they don't stick around.

I think there are things we can try to do to bring those people
further along, but I think we also need to recognize that OSM has the
same issues as Wikipedia does, and that other projects of the same
type have- that sustained user involvement hovers at around the same
level, and that a very large percentage of contributions come from a
minority of users.

So in addition to more people, the thing I think is most important is
understanding the supermappers near you, bringing them into the
one-on-one community, and also making sure that those people are

- Serge

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