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

Kai Krueger kakrueger at gmail.com
Sat Jul 20 05:33:27 UTC 2013

On 07/19/2013 09:57 PM, Serge Wroclawski wrote:
> 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
> community.

How do you measure sustainable community? Not everyone is going to come
in person to one of the OSM events and that is perfectly fine. Many
people might also hear about a project, become aware of it but then not
contribute until months later. And for many there is the need for
"repetition". The first time they read about something, they might think
it is an interesting project while reading and then forget about it. The
second time they hear about it they might think it seems like it is
catching on. Only the third (or likely even more often) time they hear
about it will they think, this really sounds like a worthwhile project
to contribute to, I should give it a try.

To get a sustainable community, you need sustained PR. At some point a
project is well known enough that just normal social interaction between
the general public talking about it is sufficient to sustain the
community. But with about half a mapper per 1 million population, OSM is
still far away from that level in the US.

> 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.

That's a real shame that all that effort didn't lead to more. It might
be an interesting case study to try and figure out what went wrong
there. With 200 people that likely was one of the bigger events in OSMs
history. Much bigger than many of the other activity in OSM that has
lead to sustainable communities.
> 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).

The conversion rate is likely going to be low. That is always going to
be the case. But if you have millions of users, then even if only 1% map
that is already a large group. And if the download stats on various sat
nav apps for smart phones based solely on OSM data alone are anything to
go by, then OSM already has millions of users. However, for average data
consumers to become mappers, it requires them to recognize OSM and know
the data source is OSM. For that to happen, it needs a lot of PR to
build a brand name for OSM, as well as more help from the various data
consumer developers to make end users more aware of "powered by OSM".

Continuing to work more on both "contributor marks" and "attribution
marks" with strong brand ties to the existing logo could hopefully help
in that respect.
> 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.

Well, in the end, it is likely going to be a combination of all three.

1) People first need to be aware of OSM, as otherwise they won't
contribute or come to any events.
2) There needs to be a reason to contribute. For many that is going to
be products based on OSM that a
3) Finally the social events to turn casual mappers into power mappers
and community organisers that are needed to keep the project going. But
the bulk of the data will hopefully eventually come from casual or even
"one time mappers"

So yes, we will need to work on all three, but each is a rather
different scope.

1) is probably some what on a national scale
2) is mostly on a global scale
3) has to be done on a local scale as physical meetings are an important
part of that.

> 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.

I think that is partly due to a failure of tools and expectations. Too
many tools are still geared towards the initial large scale acquisition
of data. There indeed you will likely have a pattern of a few
contributors contributing the bulk. But for keeping data current and of
high quality, you will need many people who passively observe the data
to (implicitly) check for errors and then occasionally make the odd
edit, if there is indeed a mistake. At the moment, however, it is still
to tedious from noticing an error in your every day use of OSM to fixing
that mistake. Particularly if your every day use of OSM is not on
osm.org but some other app or site, as so far editor integration on
third party sites is still more or less non existent.

But this is a global scale issue, so likely not solved on talk-us. PR
and local outreach on the other hand are.


> 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
> happy.
> - Serge

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