State of the Map US: Building Community


What can every community learn from OpenStreetmap? Often community managers particularly in OS communities cite OSM and Wikipedia as the top models to compare.

At State of the Map US, there is a whole track to share best practices. John Firebaugh (Mapbox) and Kathleen Danielson (OSM US) gave great talks on their experiences. It is a good thing they are recorded as I’m adding them both to my list of Community is hard and beautiful resources.

Community management and stewardship

In the past year, OSM has incorporated a number of big changes including implementing ID and changing the look/feel of the website. While paid staff (John) helped curate and design the process, the projects were community-driven and transparent. Listen to the talk for more in depth context and outside resources. Here are some of the core points:

  • Work in the open and be transparent
  • Over communicate
  • consult, consult
  • Set bounds
  • Call for cloture
  • Be patient

So, at a time of change in a number of communities, we should really heed John’s sage guidance, and, of course, remix for our own context.

(Side note: organizations need to hear this loud and clear. I am very keen to see this actually occur in every community. Over the years, I’ve seen so many teaching moments. As community managers and organizers, we can only do our job to the truest form of this type of feedback if allowed to be free.)



Building offline and online

Community starts with us online or in a room. A few hours into SOTMUS and I am even more bonded to the project, have caught up with old friends, met some new ones and feel inspired to learn/do more. Kathleen spoke about the importance of getting together locally. She provided tips and guidelines for community building and event planning. A few key points:

  • save community, save world OSM
  • Every community is unique
  • Take care of yourself
  • Community scales -up or top down
  • One topic that Kathleen raised is her distain for discourse loops via mailing lists. Another commenter mentioned their dislike of wiki(not always updated). I guess we could call this the old wars for communities(as one friend opines): mailing lists vs. x (x=forums, irc, wiki etc). As far as I am concerned there is no one source of truth. We need to use all communication tools to reach community where they are. Tall order, but as John rightfully pointed out: over communicate.

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