Category Archives: OSMF Working Groups

Join the OSMF Engineering Working Group to support the OSM developer ecosystem

To support the development of open source software around OpenStreetMap, the OSM Foundation has recently launched the Engineering Working Group (EWG). The group intends to support open source software projects with direct funding, mentorship programs, and by offering a platform for coordination.

Why this working group?

OpenStreetMap relies on a vast ecosystem of open source software. This includes the tools used by mappers to understand and contribute data, the software powering our database servers and website, the libraries and frameworks used by developers to build consumer-facing applications around OSM data, and many of these applications themselves.

The development teams creating these software products are generally independent entities, separate from the OpenStreetMap Foundation (OSMF). This is by design: The OSM community values do-ocracy and decentralization, so the OSMF does not manage software projects. However, that does not mean there is no room for the OSMF to support this vital ecosystem!

What we do

The Engineering Working Group (EWG) is charged with

  • Handling software development paid for by the OSMF, including the distribution of grants. This will involve putting out calls for proposals on tasks of interest, and accepting proposals on other tasks.
  • Offering a platform for coordination of software development efforts across the OSM ecosystem. We want to encourage standardization and shared efforts between projects by bringing together developers with similar interests. This work also includes responding to emails and directing people at other people or appropriate resources.
  • Managing OSM’s participation in software mentorship programs such as Google Summer of Code, which help grow the OSM developer community.

For handling paid development, “tasks” include development of new features, maintenance of code, documentation, and other tasks that improve the developer experience. When we are ready to start providing grants, we will encourage applications from skilled individuals who aren’t professional developers, professional contractors or companies, as well as those who are.

The OSMF has previously supported software projects through microgrants as well as separately with funding for Nominatim, osm2pgsql, Potlatch 2 and iD. With EWG, this kind of support will be placed on a more solid foundation.

In our first round we will look for projects that don’t need much management and focus the bulk of our efforts on core software. Like with all work paid for by the OSMF, the principles of the Hiring Framework will apply.

Whom we seek

As a group that is just getting started, we’re eagerly looking for additional working group members.

We would particularly welcome people knowledgeable about technology used in key OSM systems, such as the rails port, Ruby on Rails in general, and the cgimap implementation of the main OSM API, as well as those who can help with knowledge domains, such as user interface design, which are not well covered by the existing members.

However, you do not need to know any particular technology to participate! So if you have experience with the OSM software ecosystem, developing software, or managing software development, consider joining us!

Do you want to translate this and other blog posts in another language..? Please send an email to with subject: Helping with translations in [language]

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. It has no full-time employees and it is supporting the OpenStreetMap project through the work of our volunteer Working Groups.

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DWG survey on organised editing

The Data Working Group is conducting a survey as part of its work on a policy covering paid mapping.

When OpenStreetMap started, it was largely a project of hobbyists contributing to OSM in their spare time. They chose freely what to map and which tools to use, and they took individual responsibility for their contributions.

The continuing growth and popularity of OSM have also brought more and more organised mapping efforts, mostly in the form of companies setting up paid data teams to improve OSM data in specific regions or for specific use cases, but also unpaid groups like school classes that are directed to work on OSM.

These organised mapping efforts are an integral part of today’s OSM contribution landscape and, when done well, help make OSM better and more widely known.

In order to ensure good communication, and a level playing field, between individual community members and organised editing groups, the OSMF Data Working Group has been tasked with developing guidelines for organised groups. These guidelines will above all set out some transparency requirements for organised groups – things that are already voluntarily followed by most groups today, like informing the mapping community about which accounts edit for the team.

We have prepared the following survey with a few questions about such a policy to give us a better understanding of what the mapping community expects from such a policy. The survey is aimed at everyone editing (or planning to edit) in OSM, whether as individual mappers or as part of a team, and your answers will help us in fleshing out a draft policy.

Within the scope of the survey, and the policy to be written, we define paid mapping (or paid editing) as any editing in OSM performed by someone who is told by a third party what to map (and potentially also how to map it) and who receives money in exchange. We define other organised mapping (or editing) as any editing that is also steered by a third party, but where no money is paid.

The survey is available at

The OSMF Data Working Group

Getting involved in the Operations Working Group

OpenStreetMap has a map display, and more importantly a database of raw map data, and more importantly than that a community of map contributors! All of these things require servers. Big computer systems crunching lots of data and handling lots of internet traffic. This is the realm of the “Operations Working Group“, who make the decisions and take the actions that keep these servers ticking, and keep OpenStreetMap (the map, the database, and the community) up and running.

Difficult technical work which only a few people are directly involved in. But today Andy Allan blogged about how they’re working on getting more people involved in the Operations Working Group.

openstreetmap server diagonalThe OpenStreetMap project is nearly 12 years old, and we’ve been very lucky to have a small team of talented volunteer system administrators doing a fantastic job over that time, spending donated money wisely and meeting some huge scaling challenges for the core infrastructure.

“There’s a pride in keeping OpenStreetMap humming along and not causing too much of a fuss”

But increasingly OWG have been quietly enhancing their server configuration management approaches. All code/configuration scripts are maintained openly in github, and recently the team are looking to make this easier to test, so more people can feel confident in proposing improvements to the server set-up.

“The goal is to allow future developers to improve each cookbook using only their own laptops”

You can donate to the OpenStreetMap foundation, which will help fund our servers. But you can also get involved in improving the server set-up, and it’s gradually getting easier to be more directly involved. If you can help, read Andy Allan’s blog post to learn more. Thanks to Andy and the rest of the Operations Working Group for all their hard work.

Engineering Working Group + Hack Weekend

cc-by2.0 Patrick Hoesly on flickr

Back in August we announced the formation of the Engineering Working Group, tasked with trying to attract more developers by lowering barriers to entry. Since then we’ve seen some good technical coding work and other achievements in and around the activities of this group:

  • OpenStreetMap is now rolling with rails version 3, thanks largely to the hard-working Tom Hughes. Besides deploying it, and ironing out a few nasty problems with sessions, he did the work of porting the code over. The website and API code needed to take account of differences and new features of rails 3, particularly the use of AREL for database querying.
  • Kai Krueger has packaged this rails code, and also Mapnik and mod_tile, into an unbuntu PPA. This packaging system offers a very simple way to install these tools (and keep them up to date) on ubuntu/debian . We’re currently testing this, and hope it’ll make it much easier for developers to hack on the code for
  • Working with Mike Migurski we have a more attractive, and more helpful page sitting at, the OpenStreetMap data downloads site. Mike, and stamen design, are also now providing “metro extracts” – more manageable (smaller) files for OpenStreetMap data, one city at a time.

In addition to these, the Engineering Working Group has dived head first into the big tasks of improving technical documentation, and tidying up the bug tracker.

Clearly these are things which would happen anyway within the OpenStreetMap developer community, and the achievements are down to the hard work of individual people. But the Engineering Working Group lends a little structure, and provides a forum for taking a step back and looking at these kinds of meta-development. Development which helps development!

You can find out more about the Engineering Working Group on the OSMF site, and anyone is welcome to join in their discussions, which take place every Monday on IRC (details)

London Hack Weekend – 26th, 27th

Perhaps you’d prefer to join in face-to-face? Come along to a “hack weekend”! EWG is also involved in this, and trying to get more developer events happening, in more locations. For the moment though we have one coming up at the end of the week…

See the London Hack Weekend details on the wiki (and sign up there)

Previous hack weekend at the same venue (MapQuest offices)

“An OpenStreetMap ‘hack weekend’ is a meet-up where we bring along laptops to an office space and spend the weekend doing some technical work to improve OpenStreetMap. This may be development of the “core” components, the editors, or any other side projects and pet projects we fancy hacking on. OpenStreetMap has development tasks sprouting from it in all directions. There’s work to do in almost any programming language, as well as tasks like documentation, and even some non-technical graphics design and translation tasks.

We mostly take a fairly unstructured free-form format. People turn up and start beavering away on something, or they turn up and see what they can help with. However we can also run more structured workshops if there is demand”

Whether you can make it to a hack weekend or not, we are always looking for more technical people to help with improving OpenStreetMap.

OSMF Working Group Summary


The second summary of OSMF Working Group summaries is up at the OSMF
site. This summary includes details from 5 working groups, the OSMF
board and about a dozen meetings.


Don’t miss a minute of the fun.


Also included in the OSMF Blog today is the announcement of the dates
for State of the Map 2011 in Denver.…


“Be there or be square”


Meeting room photo by David Boyle
is licensed CC-By-SA