Category Archives: OSMF

Posts about organisation of the OpenStreetMap Foundation. Working groups, the board, and other entities, and how we structure our organisation

Powering OpenStreetMap’s Future: A year of improvements from OpenStreetMap Foundation’s Site Reliability Engineer

Just over one year ago, I joined the OpenStreetMap Foundation (OSMF) with the goal of enhancing the reliability and security of the technology and infrastructure that underpins OpenStreetMap. Throughout the past year, I have worked closely with the Operations Working Group, a dedicated team of volunteers. Together, we have made significant progress in improving our processes and documentation, ultimately strengthening our collective effectiveness. I am immensely grateful for the support and collaboration within this group, and I am delighted to witness the remarkable strides we have taken in building a solid foundation for the future of OpenStreetMap.

I’ll go into a little detail below about what’s transpired. At a high level, I made it easier to manage deployment of the software running on our servers; hardened our network infrastructure through better redundancy, monitoring, access, and documentation; grew our use of cloud services for tile rendering, leveraging a generous AWS sponsorship; improved our security practices; refreshed our developer environments; and last but definitely not least, finalised migration of 16 years of content from our old forums to our new forums.

If you want to hear more from me over the course of the work last year, check out my talk at State of the Map 2022 and my interview on the GeoMob podcast. And I’d love to hear from you, email me at osmfuture@firefishy.com.

2022-2023 Site Reliability Details

Managing software on our servers

Containerised small infrastructure components (GitHub Actions for building)

I have containerised many of our small sites which were previously built using bespoke methods in our chef codebase as part of the “Configuration as code” setup. Moved the build steps to Github Actions. Setup a base for any future container (“docker”) based projects going forward. These are our first container / docker based projects hosted on OSMF infrastructure.

Our chef based code is now simpler, more secure and deploys faster.

Improved chef testing (ops onboarding documentation)

We use chef.io for infrastructure (configuration) management of all our servers and the software used on them. Over the last year the chef test kitchen tests have been extended and now also work on modern Apple Silicon machines. The tests now reliably run as part of our CI / PR processes. The tests add quality control and assurance to the changes we make. Adding ARM support was easier to add because we could use test kitchen before moving onto ARM server hardware.

Having reliable tests should help onboard new chef contributors.

Hardened our network infrastructure

Network Upgrades @ AMS (New Switches, Dual Redundant Links, Dublin soon)

Our network setup in Amsterdam was not as redundant as it should have been. The Cisco Small Business equipment we used we had out-grown. We had unexpected power outages due to hardware issues. The equipment was also limiting future upgrades. The ops group decided to replace the hardware with Juniper equipment which we had standardised on at the Dublin data centre. I replaced the equipment with minimal downtime in a live environment (<15mins).

Both Dublin and Amsterdam data centres now use a standardised and more security configuration. Each server now has fully bonded links for improved redundancy and performance. The switches have improved power and network redundancy. We are awaiting the install of the fully resilient uplinks (order submitted) in the next month.

Out of Band access to both data centres (4G based)

I built and installed an out-of-band access devices at each site. The devices are hard wired to networking and power management equipment using serial consoles. The out-of-band devices have resilient 4G link to a private 4G network (1NCE). The out-of-band access devices are custom built Raspberry PIs with redundant power supplies and 4x serial connectors.

Documentation of Infrastructure to easy maintenance (Racks / Power)

I documented each rack unit, power port (Power Distribution Unit), network connection and cable at the data centres. This makes it easier to manage the servers, reduces errors and allows us to properly instruct remote hands (external support provider) to makes any chances on our behalf.

Oxidized (Visibility of Network Equipment)

Our network and power distribution configuration is now stored in git and changes are reported. This improves visibility of any changes, which in turn improves security.

Config is continiously monitored and any config drift between our sites is now much easier to resolve.

Terraform Infrastructure as Code (improve management / repeatability)

Terraform is an infrastructure-as-code tool, we now use it for managing our remote monitoring service (statuscake) and I am in the process of implementing it to manage our AWS and Fastly infrastructure.

Previous these components were all managed manually using the respective web UIs. Infrastructure-as-code allows the Ops team to collaboratively work on changes, enhances visibility and the repeatability / rollback of any changes.

We manage all domains DNS using dnscontrol code. Incremental improvements have been made over the last year, including add CI tests to improve outside collaboration.

Grew our use of cloud services

AWS in use for rendering infrastructure. Optimised AWS costs. Improved security. Improved Backup. More in pipeline

Ops team have slowly been increasing our usage of AWS over a few years. I have built out multiple usage specific AWS accounts using an AWS organisation model to improve billing and security as per AWS best practise guidelines. We generously received AWS sponsorship for expanding our rendering infrastructure. We built the experimental new rendering infrastructure using ARM architecture using AWS Graviton2 EC2.
We haven’t previously used ARM based servers. As part of improvements to our chef (configuration as code) we had added local testing support for Apple Silicon (ARM), only small additions were required to add the required compatibility for ARM servers to chef.

We were impressed by the performance of AWS Graviton2 EC2 instances for running the OSM tile rendering stack. We also tested on-demand scaling and instance snapshotting for potential further rending stack improvements on AWS.
We have increased our usage of AWS for data backup.

Improved our security

Over the last year a number of general security improvements have been made. For example: Server access is now via ssh key (password access now disabled). We’ve also moved from a bespoke gpg based password manager for the ops team to using gopass (feature rich version of https://www.passwordstore.org/ ), gopass improves key management and sharing the password store.

Additionally we have also enhanced the lockdown of our wordpress instances by reducing installed components, disabling inline updates and disabling XMLRPC access. We are also working to reduce the users with access and removing unused access permissions.

Documented key areas of vulnerability requiring improvement (Redundancy, Security, etc)

Documentation on technical vulnerability: I am producing a report on key areas of vulnerability requiring improvement (Redundancy, Security, etc). The document can be used to focus investment in future to further reduce our expose to risks.

Refreshed our developer environments

New Dev Server

We migrated all dev users to a new dev server in the last year. The old server was end of life (~10 years old) and was reaching capacity limits (CPU and storage). The new server was delivered directly to the Amsterdam data centre, physically installed by remote hands and I communicated the migration, and then migrated all users and projects across.

Retired Subversion

I retired our old svn.openstreetmap.org code repository in the last year. The code repository was used since the inception of the project, containing a rich history of code development in the project. I converted svn code repository to git using a custom reposurgeon config, attention was made to maintain the full contribution history and correctly link previous contributors (350+) to respective github and related accounts. The old svn links were maintained and now link to the archive on github https://github.com/openstreetmap/svn-archive

Forum Migration

The old forum migration, we migrated 1 million posts and 16 years of posts to discourse. All posts were converted from fluxbb markdown to discourse’s flavour of markdown. All accounts were merged and auth converted to OpenStreetMap.org “single sign-on” based auth.

All the old forum links redirect (link to the imported) to correct content. Users, Categories (Countries etc), Thread Topics, and individual posts.

The OSMF Board reflects on the first third of the 2023

At the start of the year, the Board put together our thoughts on what we saw ahead of us. Four months later, there’s a lot to reflect on and assess. Here’s thoughts from each of us on what’s happened, what’s ahead, and how we’re feeling about it.

We welcome input and contribution to the work of OSMF. Contact us directly or, if you are an OSMF Member, join our monthly Board meeting.

Arnalie

Transitioning to this new role has been a slow learning process for me. In the first three (3) months, I failed to do any tasks as I am still learning (plus some health issues). I am keen to help improve new board member onboarding process, as well as to share semi-annual or annual reflections via my OSM Diary. With that said, my priorities is still the same and I hope to support my colleagues in their tasks to grow our community and maintain the OSM project.

Building more local chapters (Q2 priority)

  • Proposal to Local Chapters application and processes have been drafted and we hope to share it with the community for feedback by end of May / early June
  • Had some chats with potential local chapters (if you are reading this and interested to know more, reach out to me!)
  • We also hope to strengthen our relationship with the current local chapters (will conduct research and consultations with LCCWG) and we will be sharing compiled LC annual reports
  • Diversifying OSMF membership, including membership of OSMF Working Group (Q3 priority)
  • Ensuring financial sustainability and effective fundraising
    • in supportive role, but hope to help in diversifying fundraising activities especially in Asia region

Craig
Working on the Board starts with a steep learning curve picking up all the skills needed to be effective. We’d gain a lot by upgrading the on-boarding process before the next Board elections. It’s on my list!

My main focus has been work on the OSMF strategic plan. A small team, Allan Mustard, Sarah Hoffmann and myself have revised and restructured the plan from 2021, translated it into 10 languages and we are now doing a communications campaign inviting widespread OSM user comment on the Community Development part of the plan.

I am bringing OSM into the United Nations Digital Public Goods register and we are now close to concluding the very bureaucratic process of registration. I’m also studying whether the OSMF should appoint a full-time Executive Director. Work on a discussion paper is progressing but has not reached presentation stage yet.

I have put in particular effort learning about the very important but complex Tech side of OSMF from the many sources, and I have attended Operations meetings to find out what the small team does, how they do it and how they might best be supported at Board level.

Guillaume

Guillaume has been occupied with family matters and deeply regrets that he has not been able to attend to OpenStreetMap since.

Mateusz

I am learning how the OSMF board works, with various minor activities like preparing email responses/participating in discussions and meetings. I hope to achieve more in the coming months, especially with issues from strategic meeting plans and what I described during the OSMF elections. I am especially happy that the April licensing issues with data published by Overture Foundation/Linux Foundation are solved.

Mikel

It’s been been especially intense and productive. We’ve prioritized fundraising in OSMF, brought on a fundraiser to help us with the effort, and drafted guidelines to align fundraising with the mission and values of the OSMF. There’s a lot more to come in the fundraising campaign. Also, I’ve spent a lot of time communicating for the Board with the community and with some of our organizational relationships, and gotten the Advisory Board going again. Been especially interesting to figure out the complexities of things like Overture and Map Builder. I think we’ve struck a good tone, and OSMF is positioned well. Finally I think the Screen 2 Screen was very good to orient us on all the work in front of us, and take single threaded ownership of it. It’s a lot, and I can’t say it doesn’t both excite me and feel daunting, but we have the right set up to see it through.

Roland

There is a clearly predominant issue for now: fundraising. The OSMF has now grown to a size where hardware and running expenses are substantial, and the employment of people is a commitment that comes on top of that. We now need close to 700’000 GBP (or EUR or USD) per year to assure that, although we had in the past an income of only about 200’000 GBP (or EUR or USD) per year. We have reserves, so it is not urgent, but really really important.

Starting to work with a fundraiser is thus the right decision. This is currently much US centered – this is within expectations as historically most income has come from there, but also a challenge as we want substantial contributions from outside the US both for the money and the diversification.

Sarah

After a slow start, board work has become pretty intense in the last two months. The appearance of the Overture foundation was an unplanned event that without a doubt influenced the priorities of the board. Consolidating the OSMF’s financial situation is in full swing. We’ve had fruitful discussions about budgets, and means of funding and fundraising. What has come up again and again in discussions is our pending move to the EU, which would open more venues of cooperation for the OSMF. This will be a priority for me in the next quarter. Working on the Strategy plan updates gave me the opportunity to talk to quite a few members of the community about the future of OSM and I very much like to hear more. Next I will be organising a discussion session at the State of the Map France in Marseille.

Ethical guidelines for fundraising at the OpenStreetMap Foundation

OpenStreetMap is gearing up for a campaign in 2023 to fund the maintenance and growth of the core services that enables the amazing mapping community. This is so important the OSMF Board consulted on and decided to engage paid help with organizing the fundraising campaign. With this big step, it’s imperative that this effort is guiding by the high ethical standards aligned with the mission and values of the OSMF.

The Board has written draft Fundraising Guidelines and wants to hear from the community about them. At a high level, fundraising is guided by these main points.

  • Funds are raised to support the OSMF’s mission.
  • We balance honouring donors’ wishes and preferences while upholding the communities’ values.
  • Our communication will adhere to high standards of integrity and transparency.
  • Collaboration and inclusivity of the diverse OSM community in fundraising efforts is paramount.
  • Fundraising will be executed and managed effectively.
  • Our guidelines are anchored in clear policies.

Please take a close look and provide any feedback in the forum, in the comments, or directly to the Board.

Local Chapters Congress – Live & Online in 2022!

By: Local Chapters & Communities Working Group (LCCWG) 

The Local Chapters & Communities Working Group (LCCWG) tries to organize a yearly in-person and a yearly virtual Local Chapters Congress. For obvious reasons, events in 2020 and 2021 could only happen virtually. But in 2022 we managed to do both! This post covers about both the virtual and IRL (in real life) congresses.

State of the Map Florence – Community Meet IRL!

On August 19, at the State of the Map in Florence, Italy, the LCCWG hosted an in-person (woo hoo!) mini-Congress. If you missed it, here are some of the ideas that arose from a fruitful and fun discussion. We hope you will consider joining the next session in late 2023!

We started the session by dividing up into continents – and every continent was represented! It turned out many people from the same regions didn’t know one another. 

Next we heard Allan Mustard, Tobias Knerr and Jean-Marc Liotier talk about the role of chapters from the OpenStreetMap Foundation perspective. 

Next we passed out two colors of sticky notes and asked participants to share things that have worked in their communities or challenges they have faced. There were many great answers, and many common threads.

Where have you seen success gathering community?

In terms of having an organization, some groups found that having several dedicated chat rooms on specific topics helpful. Other groups found it simpler to move organizational stuff to open source software like Collabora, LibreOffice, LimeSurvey. Many folks had success linking with their local government and holding local events, like State of the Map. Other common threads were around community building and mapping projects. Community building around the world seems to have more success when the focus is on building relationships, working together with other communities and having regular informal meetings. All participants strive to keep their spaces open and welcoming. 

Often communities are contacted by local authorities who want to help keep OSM data up to date. This can lead to partnerships for mapping projects, such as mapping health infrastructure for covid, mapping buildings and addresses, following up on Notes and just new mappers heading out to contribute on their own. 

What’s Difficult About Organizing Community?

On the other sticky note, folks shared things that were more difficult. A general theme seemed to be growing pains – how do you get started? Once you have a little group, how do you formalize? When you become a Local Chapter, how do you find new goals for the community to work towards? In some regions, getting volunteer work at all is difficult. In others, it’s mostly about keeping people on board for longer.

Another common difficulty was the institutional and financial challenges associated with having a local group. How do you finance your organization? How do you handle commercial activities? In our session there were discussions about the limits to paid mapping by local chapters, the growing pains moving from an informal to a formal group, the procedure to become a Local Chapter and when requests from outsiders or handling management as a volunteer can be too time consuming. 

Other challenges included how to decide between open channels Vs closed channels (where many folks tend to be already, like WhatsApp), having too many different channels, getting visas to attend global events, engaging volunteers in low income countries, and reconvening in-person after COVID.

When it comes to mapping – often that’s the least of a Chapter’s worries! Though in some countries, incentives for volunteers and lack of resources like decent internet connections are a barrier. Another challenge can be to get people facing the same direction to achieve common mapping goals, or to decide on which mapping tools to use. And there’s more and more quality open data that allows you to improve OpenStreetMap – but it is so much work to put it to use.

Local Chapters Congress – Community Meets Online

On November 12, 2022 the global OSM community gathered for the 3rd annual virtual Local Chapters and Communities Congress 2022. Leaders and members of various OSM communities, whether they are officially recognized Local Chapters of the OSM Foundation or just a regular user group of OSM mappers, came together to share stories and learn from each other.

There were lightning talks, presentations by LCCWG members and lots of great discussions. OSM Italia presented a fun video about the SotM in Florence. Adrés Gómez talked about how the Colombia community is successfully dealing with huge amounts of Notes – and how the project is expanding to other countries. Janet Chapman talked about Crowd2Map Tanzania. Then we heard about the new Discourse forum that lives at community.openstreetmap.org. To close off, we heard from a bunch of communities from around the globe.

You can check out the full agenda on the wiki and watch presentations from the day on this youtube  playlist


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.

Welcome TomTom, our first Platinum Corporate Member

We are happy to announce that TomTom is joining us as our first platinum tier corporate member. Their contribution provides crucial direct financial support to our operations and infrastructure, which is essential to accompany the growth and ensure the long-term sustainability of the world’s largest crowdsourced geospatial project.

People create data in OpenStreetMap, excited that open map data will be widely useful and used. Many more people will be interacting with OpenStreetMap data through TomTom’s user base, and some of them will be curious about our community and interested to help make it better. We welcome all such contributions, whether someone is fixing a small issue on the map affecting them, or as the first step of a life long mapping passion.

We are grateful for the wide extent of TomTom’s support of OpenStreetMap, which extends beyond financial contributions: they actively participate in working groups, the Advisory Board, and local OpenStreetMap communities. TomTom’s recognition of the importance of the OpenStreetMap data they use is a testament to the value our project provides. We hope this inspires other corporate partners to join as members to support OpenStreetMap.

Read more from TomTom on their announcement.

EWG Project Deadline: “Adding the Ability to Mute Users”

The Engineering Working Group (EWG) would like to announce the deadline for the following project: Adding the ability to mute users on the openstreetmap.org website.

Project Deadline

The  deadline for submitting a proposal will be March 13, 2023. After the submission deadline the EWG will resolve to award the bid within 2 weeks.

About the Project

Users who receive unwanted messages to their openstreetmap.org message inbox currently have to report the message writer and wait for an administrator to take action. This feature will make it possible for anyone to painlessly mute (ignore) private messages from another user.

For more details about the project, including how to apply and proposal requirements, please see the the Engineering Working Group Project Funding Repository on Github. Click on  “Ability to mute other users” under the Projects section or visit this link for a list of deliverables.

Understanding the Project Funding Process

Before submitting a proposal make sure to also read the Engineering Working Group’s Project Funding Proposal Framework for a general overview of the process. Should you have any questions about the funding process please reach out to the Engineering Working group at engineering@osmfoundation.org.

About the Engineering Working Group

The Engineering Working Group is charged with, among other things, handling software development paid for by the OSMF, putting out calls for proposals on tasks of interests, offering a platform for coordination of software development efforts across the OSM ecosystem, and managing OSM’s participation in software mentorship programs. 

The Engineering Working Group meets once every two weeks. Meetings are open to all and all are welcome. Questions? Please send an email to engineering@osmfoundation.org. We are a small group and are still welcoming new members!


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

Starting 2023 on the OSMF Board

In January, the new OSMF board met to discuss the work each of us wants to drive forward in 2023. What emerged was an initial, work in progress agenda for the year, with a good distribution of focus areas. Below are a few sentences directly from each of us on what we are thinking and how and where we want to contribute in 2023.

We welcome your input and participation. Contact us directly or, if you are an OSMF Member, join our monthly Board meeting. We will continue to develop and refine our ideas, including in a half day screen to screen session, soon.

Mikel:

Fundraising is my top priority, to support our core staff and infrastructure in a sustainable way. We will have dedicated fundraising campaigns across diversified sources including community small donors, public and private grants, and corporate sector engagement. Secondly, I will focus on making OSMF a great place to work, continuing to implement the necessary processes and structures, and supporting them to be successful. Finally, as secretary, I want to give the OSMF a professional, responsive communication tone. The more I think about it, the more I believe that excellent communication is the key to so much – across fundraising, reputation building, and community growth.

Sarah:

I’d like to focus this year on making the daily operations of OSMF run more smoothly, so that the board has more time in the future to focus on strategic matters. This includes yearly planning and budget, smoothly running communications to and from the board and a financial plan where the majority of our operational cost is covered through regular income. I also hope to get some wisdom from our working groups to understand how we can help each other to spread the work more efficiently, and on more shoulders.

Guillaume:

  • moving our corporate registration to EU
  • improving communication
  • facilitate process improvements for OSM tagging, like liquid democracy
  • financial planning and budgeting
  • increasing the diversity of fundraising sources
  • with Grant, increase infrastructure reliability

Arnalie:

For my first year on the OSMF Board, I would like to focus on:

  • Building more local chapters
  • Diversifying OSMF membership, including membership of OSMF Working Groups
  • Ensuring financial sustainability and effective fundraising (an aspect I need to learn more/develop personally)

Roland:

For me, fundraising is the most important thing to do right now. We need money for both long-awaited improvements and daily operations, and our traditional sources of income from individual and corporate members do not even cover our daily operations. At the same time, the Overture announcement has made clear that some data consumers are willing to spend money on reliable map data. So one building block is to adjust the corporate membership levels.

Another aspect is to raise money for improvement projects and, even, completely new projects. History has shown that it is more feasible to secure income for concrete ideas than for an abstract fund. As the board works on behalf of the community, I will bring project ideas into discussion and listen for existing project ideas from the community that are concrete enough for cost estimations so that we have a list of project ideas ready to excite potential donors. I do not expect that every project will be funded, but I do want to see every potential funding opportunity finding an impactful project that it can be invested in.

Craig:

Now, a month in, I’m getting some traction on my election promises.

I want to help OSMF build up the mapping community and support and encourage existing community leaders. My special effort will be in Africa.

I’m keen to prioritise the OSMF diversity and inclusion programme. I have some ideas, but this must be done as a collective effort.

For tech, I’d like to support OSMF documenting its computer operations, updating and improving the software, look at data structures, promoting vector map tiles and keeping the hardware up to date and reliable.

I’m also making an effort to support the administration in a professional way, with a focus on strategic planning, budgeting, fundraising, and communications.

Mateusz:

For starters, it is necessary to keep basic things running – this applies to the OSM community, servers and critical software. Hopefully only routine activities will be needed here.

I am working on a human-readable budget summary – needed for OSMF board work, better transparency and for people interested in what the OSMF is actually doing – especially those who might potentially donate.

GDPR handling is stuck in limbo – and it is the responsibility of the OSMF board to organise the handling of this annoying task.

Lastly, I want to take action on enforcing attribution requirements.

Get to know the new OSMF Board

In December 2022, four new members were elected to the OpenStreetMap Foundation Board, complimenting the three members already serving. The new members are Arnalie Vicario, Craig Allan, Mateusz Konieczny and Sarah Hoffmann and they join Guillaume Rischard, Mikel Maron and Roland Olbricht.

With regard to the OSMF’s diversity ambitions, this collective of Board members is exciting for two reasons… Firstly, because this is only the second time the OSMF Board has had multiple female members and, secondly, because this is the most geographically diverse board we have seen with representation from across four continents.

So, let’s meet the 2023 Board…

Arnalie Vicario (Philippines)

Arnalie is from the Philippines, and maps under the username arnalielsewhere. She advocates for open data and is passionate about building inclusive spaces in the open mapping and open geo community. She was a GIS Specialist for seven years until she shifted to (online) community engagement in 2020. She works as Online Community Engagement Lead at the Humanitarian Openstreetmap Team (HOT), and as a full time mother.

She has been an OpenStreetMap contributor since 2016, the same year she joined and became part of the OSM community in the Philippines. In 2018, she met her partner at the State of the Map – Milan conference, and reconvened GeoLadies Philippines, an advocacy group for community diversity, collaborative participation, and affirmative spaces especially for women, and under-represented communities in OpenStreetMap. She is a supporter and ally of various communities and networks such as Geochicas, Women+ in Geo, Open Heroines, and more.

You can learn more about her views about community in OpenStreeMap and humanitarian open mapping in the Geomob Podcast Interview – Arnalie Vicario: Building inclusive spaces in OSM as well as through her OSM Diaries.

Craig Allan (South Africa)

Craig comes from a local government background where, as a spatial planner, he received formal training in aerial photo interpretation, photogrammetry and land surveying. He has used commercial GIS systems since the 80’s, starting on the simple but very effective Atlas GIS by Strategic Mapping Inc. and later moving on to the infuriating but effective ARC/INFO by ESRI. Now, he’s a QGIS fan and has used it to support philanthropic work in Rangpur Division, Bangladesh.

Craig concentrates on mapping in Africa under the username, cRaIgalLAn. He appreciates that putting a village on the map may enable residents to be recognised and to receive development support and humanitarian aid. Craig is also very interested in conservation and climate change, so does a lot of mapping of threatened forests in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in several places in Kenya, including the Mara reserve and forests and wetlands inland of Lamu town. He also maps in north Chad because he’s interested in both rock arches and the East Saharan montane xeric woodland which somehow survives on high mountains in the Sahara.

In his later working life, he did less geography and demographics and more management, including strategic planning, risk management, performance management, budgeting and administrative tasks. These skills and experiences have their uses for building and managing organisations and he now deploys them in the interest of the OSM Foundation and the broader OSM community.

Guillaume Rischard (Luxembourg)

Guillaume Rischard is from Luxembourg and maps as Stereo, which is easier to pronounce (he also that username on the wiki). When he discovered OpenStreetMap in 2008, there were only a few main roads displayed around him. He didn’t take the project seriously. In 2011, he ran into it again, and saw that the map had become a lot more detailed. He spotted a missing name, and when he saw it displayed on the map when he refreshed right after saving it, he was hooked. When he uploads a changeset, he still likes to open that place in his browser while it still hasn’t rendered, open the same URL in a new tab a few seconds later, then switch between the tabs.

He works as a freelance data consultant, and was the technical lead and helped drive strategy on the Luxembourg Open Data Portal, where one success was getting the addresses, orthoimagery and official map data of Luxembourg released.

The most significant thing he’s written recently is probably the Membership Working Group report on the 100 suspicious signups. Guillaume and his co-author Steve Friedl were honoured to receive the OpenStreetMap award for influential writing for it at the State of the Map conference in Heidelberg.

He is a member of the Data Working Group and Membership Working Group, and occasionally contributes to the OSM Weekly.

Mateusz Konieczny (Poland)

Mateusz maps and edits the wiki under his own name. He focuses his mapping on local surveying but has also made some bot edits and remote edits. He has also contributed to StreetComplete and other OSM-related tools, such as iD presets and JOSM. He focuses significant time on contributing to the OpenStreetMap Wiki, especially on documenting tagging schemes and reviewing uploaded files to make sure they have the correct copyright information.

Mateusz would like to contribute to greater transparency, attribution and GDPR compliance whilst on the board.

Mikel Maron (USA)

Mikel Maron is a programmer and geographer working for impactful community and humanitarian uses of open source and open data. He started with OSM in 2005. He was elected to the OSMF Board in 2015, and previously served from 2007-2012. He currently works at The Earth Genome, leading digital products. Previously, he led the Community team at Mapbox. He is co-founder of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, of GroundTruth Initiative, and of the Map Kibera project. He’s travelled widely, organizing mapping projects in India, Palestine, Egypt, Swaziland, and elsewhere.

He maps under mikelmaron and contributes to the wiki under Mikel.

Roland Olbricht (Germany)

Roland Olbricht came to OSM in 2008. Since 2011 he has maintained and operated the Overpass API independent of his day job. Before Covid, he participated in multiple local meet-ups in Germany. He contributes to the OSM wiki under the username, Roland.olbricht.

In his professional life, Roland makes software for public transit as a software developer for the company MENTZ GmbH.

Sarah Hoffmann (Germany)

Sarah Hoffmann has been contributing to OpenStreetMap since 2008 under the username of lonvia (she also contributes to the wiki under the same name).

She started out as a simple mapper, collecting a lot of data while hiking in the Swiss Alps. Over the years she became more and more involved in software development for OSM. She is maintainer for Nominatim, osm2pgsql, waymarkedtrails.org and a couple of other projects. She is part of the OSMF sysadmin team where she is responsible for the Nominatim servers and has helped out in the programme committee of State of the Map over the last couple of years.

In 2020 she finally gave up pretending that OSM is just a hobby. Nowadays she works as a freelancer doing development and consulting for OSM software in general and Nominatim in particular. She lives in Dresden, Germany.


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.

Reminder: Call for Feedback on the Data Model

Data Model Study

The Engineering Working Group of the OpenStreetMap Foundation commissioned a study in the beginning of 2022 on how to improve the existing data model. Jochen Topf has delivered the results of this study, including recommendations on how to make the OpenStreetMap data model more computationally efficient and more accessible.

Two key suggestions have been made:

  • introducing an area datatype for representing polygons
  • getting rid of untagged nodes

Community Consultation

In order to decide the next steps in this process we want to have more discussions with the community of developers as the proposed changes impact OpenStreetMap software which directly or indirectly depends on the data model.

Potential benefits

Less Mess for Areas

Some mappers may be surprised to hear that OSM does not already have an Area data type. After all, the iD editor prominently features buttons for drawing points, lines and areas. Once mapped, these areas usually appear on the map as expected. The OSM wiki documents whether a tag is typically used on areas, and even Overpass Turbo lets you use areas in your query.

Behind the scenes, however, these areas are represented as ways or relations. Each tool working with OSM data uses its own set of rules to guess whether a particular way represents a line or an area. Making areas a proper part of the OSM data model would lead to a consistent interpretation across applications, enable the API to prevent broken areas from being uploaded, and may eventually lead to support for partial downloads of very large areas.

Keeping OSM Processing Accessible

Currently, ways are made up of references to nodes, and we rely on these references to determine how ways connect to each other. Resolving the coordinates to these node references is a costly process within the OpenStreetMap toolchain as it takes hours to days, even on capable hardware.

In the future, we might model ways as a simple list of coordinates – depending on the exact implementation we end up with. This would offer large performance benefits, but getting rid of untagged nodes would be a significant change.

At first glance, performance improvements may not seem particularly exciting. But how easy it is to work with our data directly impacts how useful OpenStreetMap is to the world at large. As Jochen observes: “The goal is to keep OSM as that great resource that can be used not only by multi-billion-dollar companies but by the student who wants to create a map of the world on their notebook or the activist with their donated second-hand computer.”

Better OSM History

Many mappers are disappointed when they realise how few things the history tab of the website can actually show. There are many tools, like OSMCha and Achavi, that offer much more, but still require a certain degree of proficiency to use them.

You might ask why, and the answer is very technical – the location of a single version of a way is, in many cases, not defined. It is the reason that change tracking remained an expert discipline with relatively newbie-unfriendly tools. By changing the data model we will move away from that barrier, and subsequently we can expect substantially better tools, but not before we get proper coordinates and versions for ways.

Minutely Vector Tiles Generation

While there are quite a number of matured vector tile generators nowadays, a couple of problems are still open.

  • One is which features shall go into the vector tiles for openstreetmap.org
  • The other is how to reconcile minutely updates with vector tiles for performance at an acceptable level.

That task gets an order of magnitude easier if you can not only truly parallelise the generation of tiles, but also elide the first expensive step to figure out to which tile a changed way belongs.

We might be able to find someone who encapsulates the raw computing power necessary to do this. But even if so, this is a highly nondesirable degree of dependence on that partner.

So yes, vector tiles for openstreetmap.org are in principle possible without this data model change, but at a so much higher cost that only specialized hardware will be able to keep up with minutely changes.

Have Your Say about the Future

Some kind of change is inevitable. The growth of the OSM database is outpacing speed improvements in hardware, and the ID-based model means that the whole process cannot be parallelized with full speedup. Keeping up with changes was easily possible in the past, but needs needs more and more tricks now. There is a point in the future where also specialized hardware will suffice to keep up with minutely changes.

However, there are many possible approaches to meeting this challenge. Now is the opportunity for the developer community to share your opinion about the way forward.


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.

Introducing the Communities Tab on OSM.org

There’s a new way to find and connect with OSM communities.

In the upper right corner of OSM.org, you can now see a “Communities” tab that links to a single, centralized location that lists formal Local Chapters, as well as the other OSM communities. Given how many communities there are and how fast OSM is growing, it’s a good time to add a prominent way to connect.

According to LCCWG member Joost Schouppe, the new tab “is probably the most visible change on osm.org since the addition of Notes.”

Once you have navigated to the new “Communities” page, you’ll see that the data for the Local Chapters listings is dynamically delivered via the OSM Community Index (OCI). In fact, the most difficult aspect of the project was figuring out how to integrate the OCI data into the page rather than just adding a simple list of Local Chapters as static content. As website maintainer Andy Allan noted, “The latter would have been quick and easy, but using the OCI means it is automatically updated when new Chapters are added, and it also means we are reusing all the translations for the Chapter names from the 46 different languages that we already support.”  

While there is not currently a way to dynamically capture all of the other, less formalized communities, the addition of the “Other Groups” section highlights their existence and points the way to more information.  

“It’s just a start” says LCCWG member Adam Hoyle, who also worked on the project.  “Ideally this can grow into an even better centralized page for people and communities to find each other.“ 

Showing a list of Local Chapters is only scratching the surface of what can be done, now that the various underlying technical challenges have been solved. For example, when new mappers set their home location on their profile, they could be shown a list of local forums, mapping groups, and communication channels customised to their location could immediately be shown on their personal dashboard. 

The key to shipping additional improvements to the “Communities” page is having volunteers to help out. ”All this community information is in OCI already, so we now need people to help expand our integration,“ says Allan. Schouppe adds that “this particular issue has been on the LCCWG agenda since October 2020, and Adam started working on it in January 2021. It goes to show that, because we are all volunteers, it takes a lot of time and effort to evolve the osm.org website, but it can be done.”

→ To contribute to the development of OSM.org, please visit the main Github and/or this issue, which highlights the many existing pull requests and gives ideas for how to contribute.

→ To help the LCCWG with their efforts to help local communities grow, please join one of their channels.

 I’d like to thank Adam Hoyle for his work and patience while we worked  through getting the technical foundations in place, which took a while but sets us up for the future; and also to the team behind OCI who made some changes to their side of things to help us get the translations  fully working more easily.-Andy Allan


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.