Monthly Archives: October 2022

The evolution of ‘notathons’ in Latin America

Notes is a core feature of the website. It enables you to add a comment on the map to assist others in mapping/editing OpenStreetMap. Other users can respond to your notes, for example to ask for additional details if necessary. Members of the OSM community in Bogotá in Colombia have been holding notathons – meetings to close pending OSM notes – and now they’re trying to help the various Latin American communities to do the same. Below is an interview of Andrés Gómez (OSM Colombia) by Juan Arellano (volunteer translator in the OSM Foundation’s Communication Working Group), conducted originally in Spanish and translated into English.

Andrés Gómez

Juan Arellano – Hi Andrés, how and when did you become interested in OSM note resolution?

Andrés Gómez – I became interested when we were in lockdown due to the pandemic, with a lot of free time and unable to leave the house. It was the end of 2020, I was browsing Pascal Neis’ statistics page, and on the OSM notes overview page I saw that Colombia was really bad in terms of closed notes compared to open ones. This wasn’t so surprising as the Colombian community was not very active, and we had neglected this aspect.

So I read all I could find about notes, comments and how to solve them, but I didn’t find that much info. It felt a bit like when I started mapping in OSM… I was struggling to get started. It turned out that notes are a different layer, with their own process and flow, and I didn’t really understand their purpose.

However, after solving a few, I started to understand the mechanics. But solving 5,000 notes was a huge task! I tried to mobilise a group I had created years ago, MaptimeBogota. We had done mapping parties before, so I proposed virtual events, since we all had to be at home, and I waited to see what would happen. I had to be insistent. From May 2021 every Saturday at 11am I organised a virtual event. At first no one attended, but I kept insisting.

After several weeks, Doris Ruiz arrived, who knew about GIS, but not OSM, and we supported each other. Later came Rafael Isturiz, who knows about open source communities and IT administration, and I managed to convince him of the potential of the notes (now, he is the biggest note evangelist I know, and great things have been achieved thanks to him). Grigoriy Geveyler, who supported us in the dissemination of events then also joined the group, and obviously Juan Melo, who has become one of the great contributors worldwide. With such a group, the dynamics of solving notes improved, and we all learned a lot not only about notes, but also about OSM and GIS. In January of this year, we were able to announce the closure of all the old notes in Colombia.

JA – Do you use special tools for note resolution?

AG – At the beginning we only used the Pascal Neis tool, as we only wanted to solve the notes in Colombia. But once we completed this objective, Rafael proposed replicating the model in other countries. So, we started sharing the topic in the OSM Latam channel on Telegram and eventually organised a meeting, supported by Celine from OSM Mexico, to integrate the countries in the region. We already knew how to use tools like BigBlueButton, how to make presentations, how to disseminate via Meetup, so all the logistics were easy and the event got a good response from the community. Rafa proposed the idea of doing a ‘Notathon’, an event focused on the resolution of notes for any country, where multiple contributors could resolve notes in the same area together.

To develop the workflow for the notathons, we investigated other tools. NotesReview is good for a few notes in a given area. Anton’s OSM Note Viewer has had an impressive evolution, and we have requested some features from him via GitHub, and he has supported us in developing them. More recently, we have used the DAMN project to divide areas of interest, so that we can work collaboratively resolving notes in the same area without overlapping.

JOSM (Java OpenStreetMap Editor) is our preferred editor for resolving notes, and we have all shared our experiences of different plugins that can help in the note resolution process. For example, Erick de Oliveira’s notes for creating unmapped tracks are quite demanding, so Rafa proposed Fast Draw, and that helped us a lot to solve about 700 notes. Continuous download also allowed us to automatically download data from wherever the notes are, and so sped up resolution. We even found a couple of bugs in JOSM, and created their respective tickets in Trac. We have also requested other applications to incorporate notes functionality, such as FediPhoto and EveryDoor (which already did!).

JA – So, has the Latin American OSM community responded to your calls for notathons?

AG – Yes, and we have grouped all the notathons from the different countries in Latam in a Telegram channel. This is a first step, because there are people with more experience in notathons than us; for example, Felipe Eugenio from Chile, who has solved more than 8,000! Having a channel dedicated to notes has allowed us to work with focus on a specific topic. Some people who don’t participate in very active OSM channels, because they deal with so many different topics, prefer the Latam Notes channel because it is punctual and decisive.

In terms of participation in notathons, the community is a bit shy, and there are few newbie contributors arriving, but in a 1-hour event, such as the notathon in Cuba, around 100 notes are resolved. That’s a very high number, as we were all supporting each other, whilst asking Ghostsama, who was in Cuba, to clarify things for us from a local perspective.

We feel we have discovered new possibilities through notathons and we want more people to support and join us. We really think that, through the notathons, you learn a lot about OSM – in fact, when you go to solve a note, you don’t necessarily know what it will be about or what the user means, so you have to search, read, learn, and that’s it, you have evolved your knowledge and skills through OSM!

JA – What’s next for this project, any new ideas to implement?

AG – For me, the notes are the “voice” of the users of our maps, and we have to “listen” to them. We know that note resolution can be done collaboratively between people in the field and people contributing remotely, so one idea is to explore the potential use of notes in disaster response, where people on the ground can report what they see and, in real time, remote mappers can make modifications to the map. We have been thinking about doing a hybrid mapping party, where we would put this idea into practice.

OSM is also being used by platforms like Facebook or Instagram, and when our map is displayed on those social networks, there is the option to make a report. We would like these platforms to integrate these reports as notes, which would keep OSM more up to date. These companies could even deploy staff to solve the notes submitted by their users and, in this way, we all win.  

To conclude, notes have been present for several years within OpenStreetMap and there are already several communities that believe in the importance of closing notes. I believe we are just discovering the potential of notes and that the appetite for them is growing – people from other communities are reaching out to us as they see us as a step ahead in this. We want to keep innovating with OSM notes, and for the community around them to grow!

JA – Finally, tell us a bit about yourself and your relationship with mapping and #openstreetmap.

AG – I’m a systems engineer. I have been working as a DBA for Db2 for more than 15 years. Data and databases have always interested me; that’s why OSM is of my interest. My relationship with OSM dates back to 2009, when I started drawing some nodes and lines near my parents’ house. I didn’t really know how to contribute and wasn’t aware of the governance mechanisms or the communities around me.

In Bogota they had just implemented a new transport system: the SITP. This system is much more structured than the chaotic old system, but with a major shortcoming to this day: it does not display information to its users! There are no maps on the streets, and boarding a bus can be a nightmare. It was at this point that I started to do a lot of research on OpenStreetMap: joining the community, reading the wiki, discovering applications, websites, services, etc. and this has helped me better understand the dynamics of the ecosystem.

Although I am passionate about it, transport is a complicated thing to implement, and requires a lot of effort, so I eventually put it aside. However, my interest in strengthening the OSM community increased, and I consider myself one of the leaders of the Colombian community, and I am also pushing the Latam community towards greater integration.

Announcement: Decision on international State of the Map 2023 and 2024

SotM Logo
Summary: After carefully considering and reviewing the Call for Venue bids for State of the Map (SotM) 2023, the SotM Working Group (WG) has decided not to organize an international State of the Map 2023. Instead, we focus on finding a venue in Africa for 2024 that ensures safety criteria.

The State of the Map Organizing Committee (SotM WG) is a volunteer-led working group that organizes international SotM conferences that bring together members from the worldwide OSM community. To achieve this, we partner with a local OSM community to bring home the SotM conference in their country. The local community is selected among other bids after our open Call for Venues.

The Call for Venue for SotM 2023 received three bids from local organizing communities:

SotM WG has held multiple voice meetings and discussions within the group. We have carefully reviewed the bid applications and considered the issues that may arise along with each.

Bid 1: Paris, France 

The France team had withdrawn their bid application for SotM 2023.

Bid 2: Prizren, Kosovo

The Kosovo team had submitted a strong bid that clearly laid out all the details and plans for the conference. This was planned to be closely before or after FOSS4G 2023, similar to what happened in SotM 2022 in Italy.

However, the SotM WG acknowledges that in-person international SotMs had been held in Europe for three consecutive years, and overall (excluding online conferences in 2020-2021), 9 out of the 13 international SotM conferences were held in Europe (source: [1])

Bid 3: Yaoundé, Cameroon

The Cameroon team had also submitted a strong bid that clearly laid out all the details and plans for the conference. SotM Africa 2023 will take place in Yaoundé, Cameroon, and they had offered that if this bid is accepted, the conference will merge with the international SotM 2023, which would be the first-ever international SotM in Africa and an opportunity to reach new faces and OSM communities.

We looked very deeply into this bid and discussed all possibilities with the local team of Yaoundé. However, security and safety are pressing issues in Cameroon (sources: [2][3][4]), and members of the OSM community had also expressed concerns about this.

No SotM 2023, and plans for SotM 2024

After carefully considering and reviewing the bids for SotM 2023, we have decided not to organize an international State of the Map 2023. Instead, we will focus our efforts on finding a perfect venue for 2024 in Africa – or if there is no possibility in Africa for 2024, we will look for a country in a region which was underrepresented in the history of SotMs.

We hope to open the Call for Venue for SotM 2024 by early 2023.

Call to action: We’d like to invite you to join the SotM WG and help us with the work for SotM 2024. If you are interested, please send us a message by emailing sotm [at] openstreetmap [dot] org.

= State of the Map Working Group

Nominate yourself for the OSM Foundation Board Elections by October 22!

The OpenStreetMap Foundation logo

Here’s an opportunity to get involved in the OpenStreetMap Foundation, the nonprofit that supports the OSM project!

The OpenStreetMap Foundation Board elections are coming up in December, and there are three seats that will be open. If you’re interested in running, the deadline to nominate yourself is coming up, October 22, 2022 at 23:59 UTC.

About the OpenStreetMap Foundation Board of Directors

The seven-person Board of Directors works on OSM Foundation matters on a volunteer (unpaid) basis and is elected by the OSM Foundation membership.

The board meets regularly to work on administrative, policy, and fundraising issues, to vote on resolutions and to support the OSMF Working Groups, which are also composed of volunteers. The Working Groups are always looking for help too! 

For the December election, the terms of Board members Eugene Alvin Villar, Jean-Marc Liotier and Tobias Knerr are expiring, so their seats will be available. (They also may choose to run again.)

If you’re interested in running yourself, or know someone who might be, there is more information about nominations and the elections here. You can nominate yourself!

Board members serve two year terms and may be reelected a few times, with a term limit of three terms in the last eight elections. (You can get more information about board term limits in sections 33 and 34 of the OSMF Articles of Association. The Articles of Association are the rules and guidelines of the OSM Foundation.)

The Board elections start December 3rd and close December 10th. You can see more key dates here.

Monthly board meetings are open to OSMF members to observe or ask questions. You can find minutes of past meetings here.

Why you should run for the Board

We always need board candidates! Consider it yourself or ask someone else who you think might be good for the next OSMF board election, which will take place on the 10th of December, 2022! 

Why run for the board? Below you can read the personal views of current and past board members:

(Please note that in order to run, you need to be a Normal OSMF member 28 days before the election, not an Associate one, and you must have been a member during the full 180 days before the election.)

If you’re not already a member of the Foundation, it’s a great way to support the OpenStreetMap project, voice your opinions and also become eligible to vote in Board elections. You can learn how to join the OSMF here, which can be free if you are an active contributor to OSM.

Note: translations for this post are to come.

About OpenStreetMap

The OpenStreetMap Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, formed to support the OpenStreetMap Project. It is dedicated to encouraging the growth, development and distribution of free geospatial data for anyone to use and share. The OpenStreetMap Foundation owns and maintains the infrastructure of the OpenStreetMap project, is financially supported by membership fees and donations, and organises the annual, international State of the Map conference. Our volunteer Working Groups and small core staff work to support the OpenStreetMap project. Join the OpenStreetMap Foundation for just £15 a year or for free if you are an active OpenStreetMap contributor.