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Contributing to OpenStreetMap is "Maptastic!"

By Ryan Lambert -- Published November 17, 2015

I have been a consumer of OpenStreetMap (OSM) data for a few years now, mostly through Geofabrik's downloads of smaller regions. As I started to do more and more complex work with the OSM data, I started running into troubles. The problems were two-fold:

So, in July 2015 I finally created my account in OpenStreetMap and started contributing data. Less than four months later, RustProof Labs hosted our first OpenStreetMap mapping party! We only invited a small number of folks to ensure things didn't get too crazy (those GIS folks, you gotta watch them!). This also allowed us to get great feedback from a group that we could trust, and prepare ourselves to do a bigger, more inclusive event next time.

Our First "Mapping Party"

On November 7th, we had a group of four volunteers hit the streets of Longmont, Colorado using FRCC's Boulder County Campus as our home base for the morning's activities. Our small group, Kevin, Sarah, David, and Seth, surveyed and collected over 400 distinct data points across 15 city blocks! All in 3 short hours. When asked how the surveying was going, one volunteer responded with "It's Maptastic!"

The data points surveyed include doors, trees, street lights, fire hydrants, and so much more. A big Thank You to the volunteers for your time and invaluable feedback!! Our next event will include many improvements from your input and experience. I would also like to thank Front Range Community College for allowing us to use the space, and especially the staff at the FBC campus! Their hospitality and sincere interest in our project made the event that much better.

We are starting to work on plans to organize mapping parties during 2016, with our next event slated for the spring.

How We Did It

The week before the event, I discovered Field Papers and, with a lot of experimenting, I created two different Atlases to hand out to our volunteers. Each volunteer got a red sharpie, one "grid" from Field Papers, and basic instructions on what to collect and how to notate various elements. We sent the volunteers out to mark up the Field Papers maps. When they returned, we scanned the papers, uploaded them back to Field Papers, and used JOSM to add the surveyed data into OpenStreetMap.

What We Learned

Extra-Fine tip Sharpies >>> Fine tip Sharpies. Fine tipped sharpies are still pretty wide, especially when you're trying to mark up a lot of detail on a single sheet of paper. We will be fully stocked with the extra-fine tips for next time. Oh, and we won't forget to bring our clipboards either!

We need to communicate better to surrounding areas what the event entails, so surrounding businesses can be aware that a group of volunteers will be walking around. Not only walking around, but looking closely at things most people ignore. Another thing that will help with this is we provide brightly colored name badges for volunteers to increase visibility on the streets and in the neighborhood.

We need at least two computer and scanner stations to enable quicker loading of data. Our volunteers we mesmerized watching me scan their marked up Field Papers, uploading them and then using JOSM to to add THEIR data right in front of them. To go along with this, we will need one or two volunteers to help users scan, upload and add their own details if they want. Those that don't want to do data entry wouldn't have to, but I think a lot of them will.

How to Get Involved

Start by taking a look on in your favorite areas. See anything missing?

Now, take a look at the Beginner's Guide, learn about some collection techniques and learn how to edit OSM data. Editing can be done with OSM's built in iD editor without installing any software. Or, you can install JOSM and have the full power of editing at your fingertips.

If you run into issues, feel free to get in touch with us, or post your question on the GIS StackExchange forums.

By Ryan Lambert
Published November 17, 2015
Last Updated November 17, 2015