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Thanks to the 2012 OpenStreetMap Foundation Board. This is going to be the year.

Last weekend in Seattle, the OSM Foundation Board met “face-to-face”. We get together because no matter how much you try otherwise, there’s way more done in person in a couple intensive days. It cost about 4 or 5k USD this time, and it’s worth the cost. But, I think we’ve always done a terrible job explaining what happens at the Board meetings, and a middling job following up, and those two things are totally related.

I want this meeting to be different. It must be different. This is my fifth year on the Board and final year on the Board (I was elected again this year, but will stand down at the next AGM), and to me, and the entire Board, this is a crucial year for OSM. The face-to-face was the most productive yet, and the most difficult yet. I’m very satisfied. In year’s past, the minutes get published, and various announcements go out through working groups, and that will happen.  But it’s insufficient, maybe distilling too far the atmosphere and the messiness of these get togethers.

The Stage

Steve is based in Redmond, and expecting a child any day, so he offered to host and avoid travel. I wasn’t far, relatively, in Chicago. The rest of the Board (excepting RichardF who couldn’t make it) flew in from Europe. I found a cabin near a lake on airbnb, quiet, cosy, and cheap. Henk hired a car, and drove everyone around. We had a meetup Friday night, made some burritos and played Kinect at Steve and Hurricane’s place (and tried to forget we watched Crank 2), and enjoyed the Seattle sunshine (no joke). Sunday Hurricane gave us horse riding lessons!

A regular vacation! Except for the part where we spent 18 hours of our weekend discussing/arguing about OSM in windowless meeting rooms at Microsoft (which we very much appreciate btw!). And the rest of the weekend continuing to talk about it, or even dream about it. Being on the Board is a sacrifice of time, because we all feel deeply responsible to the project and our position.


The Board meeting proper started with presentations by Steve and Oliver. Steve hit many of the same themes from his SOTM and SOTM-EU talks, except he left out all the stuff about how awesome OSM is doing. We looked and discussed several graphs of recent statistics. OSM’s growth to date has been beyond imagination, but there’s no shortage of projects that changed the world and then met reality, hard. Looking at some of these, the factors in decline included insular community, lack of direction, and no innovation. That’s what we have to avoid.

Oliver made the point that “We are the Board! Shape the project!”. The Board, and the Foundation, needs to be a functional team, with clear goals and activities, all within the limited volunteer time we have to contribute. Fact at this point is, the Foundation doesn’t have clear objectives, beyond the mission to support but not control the OSM project. To meet goals, we can take action, we can guide and steer, we can spend money. At the end of workshop, there should be a target that guides all our activities towards achievement. Some of the slides were beyond funny management clip art (a guy looking forlorn into the mirror, facing reality) but the point was important. “We are the Board! Shape the project!”

At this point, I thought it would be useful to look at some of the management lessons and differences from HOT. While we are by no means perfect, I do feel there’s good alignment between the organizational side of HOT and the community, largely the same community as OSM. Contrast to OSMF, HOT is very focused in what it does, with clear guidance and priorities and steering. We aren’t afraid of spending money when it’s necessary. We value marketing by the organization (though could be better). There are clear technical needs, and we pay for it. There’s a key attention to the consumption side of map data collection, seeking strategic partnerships with other organizations. We’ve been selective and directive with responsibility, and when necessary, have taken it away. We try to be as transparent as possible, publishing very detailed board minutes.


We took Oliver’s point and started strategic planning.

OSMF Board meeting traditionally use a simple technique to come to consensus on a topic, whether it’s the agenda of the meeting, or in the case of Seattle, the objectives and activities of the OSMF this year. We brainstorm all our choices on the subject, write them on the whiteboard. Each person gets some number of votes, say 5, and distributes them among the topics. If topics can be grouped together, their count is added together. There’s discussion about the meaning of terms, sometimes a lot of discussion. Iteration to insure that we all have a common understanding. At the end, there’s a list of priorities. I always squirm in this process, because somehow I don’t believe it can work, but inevitably does a pretty good job, and if we need to override, we’re not strict about the methodology.

In less than an hour, we had these goals for 2012.

The World’s Most Used Map OSM is clearly the world’s most used open map, and most open map, and the best map. We want as many people of possible contributing and using OSM, and to do that, the experience of using OSM needs to improve, and where you use OSM can improve.

More Than Just Streets Do you know everything OSM is capable of mapping? Does your neighbor? Does your mayor? OSM is relatively well known in some circles, but it’s full potentially is still opaque to many. We want everyone to know what OSM is about.

Cultivating Leadership of Mappers. Shared Goals Between the Community & OSMF Mapping is driven by mappers, with a clear goal (make the map!), and there’s every reason that with clear goals and empowered members, the OSMF can act strongly. We now have clear goals, and clear expectations of what the management team and working groups can do and achieve, without much prescription on how things happen. This all frees the Board to provide the direction, and the management team and working groups to make the operational decisions.

Easier Contribution for Non-Geeks We debated how this differed from the Most Used Map, and decided it was important enough focus to stand on its own. Usability is certainly related, but more broadly, there’s much to do to improve all kinds of involvement in OSM.

And Again

The bulk of our time was spent translating these goals into actions, and this really was the most difficult part. Some things were quick to decide, like the final switch over to ODbL, but others became very drawn out and very detailed, like the process for site redesign. We touched on every standing issue, and aligned clearly to the goals. PR, list moderation, license change, the management team, working group budgets, SOTM, PR, site redesign, the articles of association.

We all agreed that short term action was needed on almost everything, with mind to how things should play out in the longer term. This meant drawing the above diagram, a lot, to remind ourselves of the urgency. We set big, audacious goals for all parts of the Foundation, with clear deadlines.

With so much on the table, we decided to stay in the room until we had decided on everything, which ended up meaning staying hours late, til there was little sunshine outside (or metaphorically sunshine inside the room) and tension rising. At one point, I was so fed up, I almost walked out, really seeing that if we didn’t resolve the issue at the Board, it wouldn’t resolve in the Foundation and the project, the goals wouldn’t be met, and decline was inevitable. And for me personally, that would mean a slow turning away from a project ingrained in almost everything I do in the world. We had to push through.

And we did. Despite looking over the brink, we had resolve. I felt tense, but knew I’d be happy with what we accomplished.

And after it was all done, we had some beers. The next day we rode horses. Group hug.

Thanks to the 2012 Board. This is going to be the year.

And thanks for Oliver for the photos!

cross-posted from Brain Off

Weekly OSM Summary #29

October 17th, 2011 – October 31th, 2011

A summary of all the things happening in the OpenStreetMap (OSM) world.

  • During last weeks Google Doc Summit 2011 an OSM book for beginners has been created. You can buy it here and find a preview here.
  • The translations of the documentations for our well-known OSM Editor JOSM for Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Icelandic and Turkish don’t fulfill the minimum standards. You can help to improve it. Otherwise they will be dropped in future releases. Other languages require updates as well!
  • The “ODbl coverage map” has been updated. The map shows the status of the OSM data related to the license change.
  • For Toulouse (France) several datasets have been announced under the ODbL. Read more in our wiki.
  • The official Maps for the “Giro d’Italia” are based on OSM data. OriginalTranslated.
  • Annette and Peter won the inaugural Torsten Brand Award for their OSM project: “Look and Listen Map”. Keep up the good work!
  • On October 23rd, 2011 an earthquake struck Turkey with a magnitude of 7.2. If you would like to help, you can find some information about which data sources you can use in our wiki.
  • A new website with general OSM stats is online. It will be updated daily.
  • Andy created a tool for Cyclestreets that imports and merges cycle way data of the Dft (Department for Transport) in Great Britain.
  • The “London Cycling Guide” is now using OSM data. You can find a book review here.
  • The “Heart of the Elephant and Castle Urban Forest Map” shows detailed positions of trees in London.
  • Martin created an animation showing the mapping progress in Rome (Italy).
  • You can add your ideas or suggestions for the Itomap to an OSM wiki page now. The First suggestions have been implemented already.
  • Thomas developed a webpage which displays the data of several Web 2.0 services such as Wikipedia, Twitter, Flickr, Panoramio, Gowalla … on an OSM map.
  • A really nice OSM map with 3D visualization for buildings in Poland.
  • The Public Transport Map (OpenPTMap) will now be updated on a daily basis.
  • A new PHP framework allows you to interact with the OSM API. Read a little bit more here.
  • Matthias created some pie charts, which visualize the usage of the OSM tileserver by different programs and services.
  • The Spanish administration has now an open data portal.
  • At the OpenDataCamp several projects used OSM data. You can find the results in their wiki.
  • The South African Census 2011 is using OSM for their “Verify Census Fieldworker” website (via Grant)

Did we miss something? You can contact us via

Authors: Pascal & Dennis – (thx @ “Wochennotiz”)

Weekly OSM Summary #28

October 5th, 2011 – October 17th, 2011

A summary of all the things happening in the OpenStreetMap (OSM) world.

  • Nearly 100% of Denmark’s streets have been mapped by OSM. Currently 97.2% have been mapped. You can use a map or a form to search for missing ways.
  • In Wales the road names show a completeness of more than 95%. Thx at Ito for their analysis. You will find further results at their webpage.
  • The “Big Baseball Project 2011” tries to map all baseball fields around the world until October 27th, 2011. You will find the user ranking, a baseball-map and a beginner’s guide in our OSM wiki.
  • France has now its own local OSM chapter.
  • Martijn van Exel, Randy Hale, Jim McAndrew and Michal Migurski have been elected and Richard Welty has been reelected for the US local chapter. Congrats to them!
  • Because of an Edit-War about the name of the city “Jerusalem” the name-tag will not be used any longer in this specific case. The question is should the name be written in Hebrew or in Arabic?
  • The OSM Inspector “Routing view” is now available with a worldwide coverage. It shows errors in the OSM street network such as unconnected or duplicated ways. Read the full blog post and further news here.
  • Researchers from the National University of Ireland, Maynooth conducted a „Comparison of the accuracy of OpenStreetMap for Ireland with Google Maps and Bing Maps“. Read their full paper here.
  • The project OpenArialMap added some new images.
  • Get your own Hiking Map in ten steps with Maperitive.
  • Richard Fairhurst created a Ruby ODF Renderer for OSM data. Read his full announcement here.
  • Peter Körner created some new extracts of the OSM full history database dump. His announcement at the OSM developer mailing list can be found here.
  • Kai Krüger built some packages, to install and run your own OSM map tile server on an Ubuntu operating system. Find more information on the OSM wikipage.
  • The Android app for the project is now available at the Android market.
  • MapQuest launches Mobile Flash Maps API”. You can use it within Flash Builder 4.5 native mobile applications.

Did we miss something? You can contact us via

Authors: Pascal & Dennis – (thx @ “Wochennotiz”)

Big Baseball Project 2011

To coincide with baseball playoffs and the World Series we’re running
a special mapping project:

The big baseball project!

Help adding baseball diamonds to OpenStreetMap. This is a really easy
type of map editing which anyone can get involved in, so give it a go,
and tell a friend! If you live in the U.S. (or some other baseball
fanatical part of the world) you can start by looking for baseball
diamonds near where you live, but these things are easy to spot in the
aerial imagery. This means everyone can help, from wherever you are in
the world. You can even contribute to the free world map while you’re
watching the MLB playoffs on TV!

We’re tracking baseball edits to bring you a rolling edits display and user rankings, but you’ve only got until
October 27th to become an OpenStreetMap baseball champion!

You’ll find more guidance on the wiki, plus a short press release.

Weekly OSM Summary #27

September 19th, 2011 – October 4th, 2011

A summary of all the things happening in the OpenStreetMap (OSM) world.

  • “ provides a simple-to-use, step by step approach to learning how to make maps with OpenStreetMap”. Visit the new website here.
  • The new OSM servers zark, soup, fiddlestick and eustace are online! Thanks to and Nokia UK.
  • “The Licensing Working Group has obtained explicit special permission to incorporate geographic datasets from in the OpenStreetMap project database published under any free and open license …“ Read the full announcement here.
  • A new tool that helps to coordinate upcoming Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) projects is online. Read the full blog post about the “OpenStreetMap Tasking Manager” here. And the next HOT meeting will be on October 5th at 11pm.
  • New international boundaries from the US Department of State are available. Read more here.
  • Google released a new commercial spot for their Chrome browser in which they featured the project. Watch the German video on YouTube. Also, they are searching beta-testers for their Android-WheelpMap app. If you are interested, drop a mail to:
  • A nice blog post about mapping in Afghanistan.
  • If you want to see “live” editing in the OpenStreetMap World, you can check “OSM Live“, “” or “GeoXP“.
  • A new blog post by Martijn van Exel: “Taking the Temperature of local OpenStreetMap Communities”.
  • The Geofabrik also supports a free shapefile download of OSM land use areas now. You can read the full blog post here.
  • OSMT is a new tool for splitting or merging OSM data.
  • A new HTML5 demo shows the rendering of OSM data within the web browser. Try it out here.
  • Michal Migurski provided a new website where you can download OSM data “for major world cities and their surrounding areas“. You can find it here.
  • The 2.0 version of Mapnik is finally out! Mapnik is the software we use for rendering the main map layer for OSM.
  • Michiel Faber and Guttorm Flatabø created a script that merges several GPS tracks into a “line of best fit” / average track.

Did we miss something? You can contact us via

Authors: Pascal & Dennis – (thx @ “Wochennotiz”)

Using OpenStreetMap data

OpenStreetMap has always made geographic data available for use in
interesting and unexpected ways. As OpenStreetMap grows, the data
becomes more difficult for some users to consume purely because of the
volume of data.

The World at once

To have the whole World in your hand, download and use the planet file.
Planet files are published every week. As mentioned above, some uses
find this file large and cumbersome to deal with, especially if their
interest is limited to a small portion of the data set.

In September 2011, the planet file was 18GB when compressed and about
250GB when loaded into a spatial database.

Smaller portions

If your interests are limited to a portion of the planet, then you’ll
want to know more about planet extracts. Extracts are a portion of the OpenStreetMap data

Extracts are provided by third-parties for single countries and and
also for regions that range from cities to states, provinces and

Weekly OSM Summary #26

September 5th, 2011 – September 18th, 2011

A summary of all the things happening in the OpenStreetMap (OSM) world.

  • The elections for the new board members of the OSM Foundation (OSMF) are over: “Congratulations to our new board members: Richard Fairhurst, Matt Amos, and Dermot McNally. Mikel Maron was also re-elected for the board.
  • Several slides and videos of the State of the Map (SotM) 2011 in Denver are online. You will find everything here.
  • Some notes from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) Meetup at the SotM 2011 in Denver are listened here.
  • “The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is currently investigating the use of OSM for the capital of the Guinea-Bissau“. Read the full announcement here. You can help here!
  • Blog Post about MapKiberia and the accident in Mukuru: „Building community resilience, because it’s not if but when“.
  • Interesting article at iRevolution about „OpenStreetMap’s New Micro-Tasking Platform for Satellite Imagery Tracing“. Read the full blog post here.
  • Nice video of the mapping progress in Georgia, watch it on Youtube.
  • „The OSM-US GeoBus is back!“ WTF? Read more here 🙂
  • A new mailing list has been created for the development of the “Ruby on Rails-powered“ OSM webpage.
  • If you want to create OSM maps with the Adobe Illustrator, you can find a nice tutorial with seven steps here.
  • The new OSGeo-Live DVD with a bunch of geospatial open source applications has been released.
  • Osmo is a free tool which can import OSM data into a MongoDB collection.
  • The Main OSM website is now running with OpenLayers 2.11. With this change it has improved mobile support.

Did we miss something? You can contact us via

Authors: Pascal & Dennis – (thx @ “Wochennotiz”)