DISPATCH: HOT @ IEEE Humanitarian Technology Conference

[Cross-post from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team blog]

A few weeks ago the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team was a guest of the 2014 IEEE Canada International Humanitarian Technology Conference (IHTC). In the session, Samual Paul Alce, Pierre Beland and I each presented about to share all about the community, activations and how to use OpenStreetmap. It was an honour to participate and share the HOT story with such an important organization. It is our goal to build relationships with groups like IEEE to improve processes and technical implementation. We would like to thank Alfredo Herrara, Glenn McKnight and the whole IEEE IHTC team for inviting us. It was a pleasure to host this session with my guests: Pierre and Samuel. Here is the abstract and our slides with speaker’s notes:


Since the Haiti earthquake in 2010, new partners support the UN Agencies and International organizations through the Web 2.0 or Collaborative Web. OpenStreetMap is one of these community of volunteers. It has shown on several occasions its ability to mobilize hundreds of contributors and support remotely, providing maps and services necessary for such actions. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) makes the bridge with the humanitarian organizations.

In this session, we will discuss open source methods for humanitarian technology. The workshop will include an overview of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team’s (HOT) activities, some of the tools and best practices. We will include stories of activations around the world from Indonesia to Haiti to Philippines and the DRC. Our session also includes hands on training from HOT community leaders. Join us and learn about new methods in digital and in-person responders using OpenStreetMap.


Mesh in the Open

Mesh is Canada’s premier digital conference about what is next in business, media, marketing and society. The diverse participants always inspire. This year was no exception from Neil Harbisson’s cyborg activist to Mark Little on telling stories better with Storyful my brain is still spinning from the eclectic conversations.

This year I had the honour of running a workshop with Gabe Sawhney about Open Data, Civic Tech and Hacking for Good. We made our session fairly interactive with some slides to frame questions and then 5 breakout groups to talk about everything from technology in the upcoming Toronto elections or building a civic hack lab in the city. Each group had 30 minutes to talk amongst themselves and then provide report-backs. Thanks to the MESH team for inviting us to hack the conference process and bring our civic engagement spin to the event.


Get Involved Dreaming

We want to do something, share and participate in our world. And, we want inspire others to join in our various parades. What is the on ramp for Get Involved in our neighbourhood, our city, our country and our world? Organizers and citizens could circle the globe and back citing examples of websites that ask you to Join, Participate, or Get Involved.

Getting Involved Dreaming means considering how can we stitch together all the amazing opportunities in a collaborative and citizen-focused way. From offline to online engagement, there is a buffet of awesome for communities and companies. Each has a Get Involved strategy focused on their ROI goals or theory of change. When Linked In created their Volunteer site, I cheered. This combined with the rise of Corporate Social Responsibility programs is just touching the surface. From NationBuilder or Crowdrise, you see that there are a million ways to help organizations or individuals build “get involved” and create “fundraising’ opportunities. This is the same for open source, crisismappers and digital volunteers. Every day at Ushahidi I wondered about how to help all these citizen mappers force multiply their mission. Each of their ideas and projects truly matter in the world. Mozilla and Ubuntu have some best practices for Getting Involved Strategies in open source communities. The Digital Humanitarian Network was created to help people and organizations connect during times of crisis. My colleague, Patrick Meier, created AIDR: Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response with the Qatar Computing Research Institute. This is micro-mapping and volunteer tasking at is small bit best. Social Coding 4 Good focuses on developers and technical folks whereas Do Something is for teens. In Canada, there is Getinvolved.ca. I could spend all day giving examples of excellence in building community.

What if we dream a bit bigger and turn the model around to help our common mission?

book staircase, berlin

Master Search: Get involved, Community of Practice

What if we pulled back and had a Master Search for all these amazing things we could do to help our neighbours? The software exists, we just need to collaborate a bit more and aim for easy access for citizens to find their doing or giving passion. The key audience would be participants, doers, citizens and you. We would have a JOIN showcase. It is a simple navigator that Asks people what they want to do or what they want to give. The aggregator would then help match them to tasks and communities. Think of it as a global MATCH.com for giving. We would give love to open source organizations, corporations, non-profits, community-based organizations and citizens. Truly, this is all hands on deck to make it possible for anyone and any organization to connect. Using my Bit, Bye and Meal Deal community building framework, we could tailor it with the code to help people Choose their own adventure based on topic, time, location and their learning/doing/giving path.

The Community of Practice for Organizers would be the second audience. This would include anyone who wants to share and help make it easier for people to get involved in their world. It is not limited to non-profits alone, but for companies who have CSR programmes or Open Source groups. While I don’t want to simplify any of the amazing efforts, I’d like to see a common place for organizers to unite and share best practices and maybe build some common toolsets. Right now this is scattered. We have to hunt down articles on Chronicle for Philanthropy, join the Community Roundtable, seek counsel at NTEN , find each other in the halls at OSCON (create a Birds of a Feather) or attend the Community Leadership Summit. I created this fledgling mailing list to try to connect organizers some.

What’s in the Code? Pybossa or Crowdcrafting was built to help matchmake people to tasks. Mozilla has even adopted this great tool: What can I do for Mozilla? (See the code.) There is a new Canadian company called AskforTask that matches people to tasks for pay. What if this type of code was for volunteering? We are closer to this master search or JOIN dashboard everyday.

What examples can you share? Are you working on this? Do you want to help me try and sort out this tangled dream of helping people get more involved in their world? You can join the mailing list or drop a note on this post.

(Photo: Story of Berlin (March 2013))


Matter @ Go Open Data

Matter. Every morning we wake up and do things that matter. All of us have different versions or reasons behind “matter“. Some of us work because it provides fuel to things that matter to us like family, savings, neighbourhoods, future, or another cup of coffee. Some of us are very lucky to work on items close to our own values.

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about how to get to the next 20000 or 2 million people who think that Open Government and Open Data Matters. Well, it strikes me that we are focusing on “matter” from the wrong direction. We are caught up in the conversations and techniques (portals, datasets). While these are very important, I think that miss the true opportunity to really talk with our neighbours. Today I am going to cite some global and local examples to highlight how we can possibly get to “matter more”.

The full Go Open Data:

A Build a Data Community Model

In the community management field, we create community playbooks. These are strategies and common methodologies to support our agendas. Here are 24 things that you can do to build community by various levels of engagement from just a little bit to more of a byte to a full meal deal experience. Your community members really lead programming to guide you in your tailored choices. I’ve hacked together a data community playbook model with Doug Belshaw & Mozilla’s Web Literacy matrix to share some ideas on how we can build global communities. Let’s keep remixing. Every community is unique, but these are some thoughts on how to build openly.

Note: This is an interactive chart. Simply role your cursor over the columns to see more data.

(on Infogram)


My full speaker notes

Here is a rough edit of my speaker notes and all the associated resources:

Slide 1: Matter

Every morning we wake up and do things that matter. All of us have different versions or reasons behind matter. Some of us work because it provides fuel to things that matter to us like family, savings, neighbourhoods, future, or another cup of coffee. Some of us are very lucky to work on items close to our own values. This is a big responsibility. Not every citizen has this privilege.

Lately I’ve been thinking more and more about how to get to the next 20000 or 2 million people who think that Open Government and Open Data Matters. Well, it strikes me that we are focusing on “matter” from the wrong direction. We are caught up in the conversations and techniques (Portals, datasets) that miss the true opportunity to really talk with our neighbours. Today I am going to cite some global and local examples to highlight how we could potentially “matter more”.

(Event: Go Open Data)

Slide 2: Leaders, Teachers, Methods, Capacity Building, Core Processes.

As a crisis mapper, we tend to seek data and information like a high speed train of contributors and information. Some of the things we’ve learned are directly applicable to what the good folks in Ontario and Canada are trying to do.

Two stories:
Navigators: Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team and wider OSM community responded to the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Pierre Beland of QC (Canada) with Andrew Buck (US) worked very closely with Maning Sambale (Philippines) to remap the affected areas. These maps were then used by the American Red Cross, UN OCHA and MSF for logistics and response. How? Map Capacity, global outreach, Consumers (people who need the data) and tools like Task Manager to make it easy to share. It was an amazing effort. I had the opportunity to participate and host events in London, UK and Nairobi, Kenya. This was partially successful due to matchmaking by navigators who acted as map mentors with new mappers. We also asked some tough questions about satellite imagery, licenses and should we use drone imagery. Drones for data collection is a hard topic. The privacy issues and data integrity were also hot discussions. We don’t have the answers but we all need to ask questions about privacy and possibilities. We should be asking these hard data questions now for our province and country.

Teaching Data Skills/Data Literacy: A data portal is not an end in itself, we need to unlock it. The Govt of the Philippines and the World Bank are working with the School of Data. My colleague is in the Philippines right now working with them on these data issues. School of Data has free courses online. Take them, remix them. They belong to everyone who needs data and data skills.


  • schoolofdata.org
  • hotopenstreetmap.org
  • http://tasks.hotosm.org/
  • http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Typhoon_Haiyan
  • http://data.gov.ph/
  • http://americanredcross.github.io/OSM-Assessment/
  • American Red Cross and HOT member Dale Kunce presents on the Impact of HOT – http://vimeo.com/91926804

Slide 3: Feelings and We are all data providers/collectors

At the OpenGovernment Partnership meetings in London UK last year, I had an “Ahh moment”. Chuks from Reclaim Naija ( a Nigerian community based organization) questioned the IATI speaker about “success” for budget data. He said “We won’t trust the budget data unless we are involved in the process.” While participatory budgeting is on its way in Canada, what really struck me about this statement was “Feelings.”

While we mosey down the Open Data is great parade, we need to talk about and deal with feelings about open data.

This brings up key questions – Do Ontarians trust their governments? Are we comfortable with the process?

Data collection and sharing is not about just the government. It is about citizens too. As we participate, we should collect datasets to compare and hold our governments and ourselves accountable. We should not wait for our government or big businesses to do this for us. This is our neighbourhood, our country too.


  • http://reclaimnaija.net/
  • http://communitylifeproject.org/
  • http://africacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/ARP5-Africas-Information-Revolution1.pdf
  • http://textontechs.com/2013/11/data-soup-ingredients-feelings-methods-and-next-steps/

4. Navigation: Are we reaching people? Businesses? How will we incorporate new technology?
I worry often that as we focus on Open Data for municipalities and what we ‘those in the know’ want from Open Data. How can we focus on what matters to people? I think we need to change this conversation.

How will sensor data be used in the next 10 years?
A friend of mine is interested in water quality and sensors. He would like to implement this in northern towns because what really matters is Water. What can we do with open data, sensors, programming and community engagement in Northern Ontario? How can we apply the elements I mentioned from Typhoon Haiyan or Reclaim Naija, but for Ontario?

All of this goes back to: Who are we involving in this conversation and why? Are we asking the right questions? And, do our NGOs, Civil society and neighbours have the skills they need to use open data for their work. The answer is – not yet.

Paul Baines is leading a project across Southern Ontario about water tracking and sustainability programming. The purpose of this participatory map is to give people a shared space to mark, explore, and dialogue about a Great Lakes Commons.
Paul needs data skills and some datasets – in terms of open data for the Commons Map – He needs:

- bottled water permits for all political jurisdictions surrounding the great lakes
- city, provincial, and federal parks
- crown, shared, and private land ownership
- watershed boundaries for all jurisdictions
- native reserves in the USA parts of the great lakes
- public hiking/biking trails for the Great Lakes
- solar and wind energy locations
- organic farms locations

We’ll hold a workshop to support his project in the coming months. But who else out needs these skills? Who is navigating all these organizations and businesses from ‘yeah, open data’ to ‘how you make it work for you’. While I am not talking about hand-holding the talent, I am saying that this gap is not going away. I’m excited about the Ontario government’s and the various city governments for their commitment to open data. Maybe we need a Service Ontario approach to Open Data. In the meantime, I have hope for people like CODI – Canadian Open Data Institute and MARsDD, Center for Social Innovation and others to make it possible. We need a civil society and neighbourhood action plan. Well, beyond what the government can do.

Recently I was speaking with a Toronto businessman about Open Data. He said: “What I really want is infrastructure data to make decisions about my business.” (Specifically he wants access to public data, like conduit and pole data.) He said that the cost to get that was very very high. I have true hope that this programme and our conversations today will help Open Data matter for him and the 100 or so people that he employs.


  • http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/kashechewan-residents-evacuated-over-flood-fears-1.1818986
  • http://myeinsteinjob.blogspot.ca/
  • http://myeinsteinjob.blogspot.ca/2014/04/open-government-tour-2014.html
  • http://tctrail.ca/explore-the-trail/
  • http://nationalmap.gov/index.html
  • http://greatlakescommonsmap.org/

Slide 5: Are we asking the right questions?

The new Government of Ontario site is great start. You are asking for input. But – Point blank – are we asking the right questions to make open data and open government matter to most Ontarian…not just those in the “know” or “those online” or those in “niche circles”. Open Data is also really about citizen engagement and citizen data collection. This will help it be more sustainable and with a richer impact.

We need to go outside and get uncomfortable. In a few months, why not have an Open Government Kashachewan session? How can we use open data to help our neighbours who live in rural Ontario? How can we use open data to help emergency managers? These are highly complex questions that deserve our attention. Otherwise, our work is in vain and tailored for a niche audience. I think the best programmes using technology and intellect are those based on the practice of being a good neighbour. I am not saying that Open Data can solve wicked problems, but it should be part of the toolkits.

“Report author James Anaya, the UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said there appears to be a high level of distrust among aboriginals in Canada toward the federal and provincial governments.”


  • http://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/kashechewan-residents-evacuated-over-flood-fears-1.1818986#ixzz31caBbOlh“
  • http://www.ontario.ca/government/government-ontario-open-data

Slide 6: Community Playbook: Here are 24 things that could help build your community.
Go outside, remix community play books by audiences, and ask the right questions. We need consider Tim Horton’s, Community Centers and Churches as access points to Open Government and Open Data. This is why I am excited about Richard Pietro’s OpenGov Tour across Canada or the work of Marsdd or CODI. We need more creative ways to listen and create value. Maybe we should partner with bands and artists more. How would they tell this story that is currently policy laden. We don’t know another latest, greatest ‘in python not php’ transportation app. We need to dream a bit bigger and listen, really listen to what else might matter to our neighbours.

During Open Data Day, the community in Buenos Aires went outside and made a mural. What are other creative ways that we can reach people?

Coffee chats should be around community engagement and playbooks. What are the steps by audience tip and each of the associated programs behind this?

Next steps: Here are 24 tactics and programmes that could help. By all means, remix these. Please share back your community building tactics.


To sum – There is a global community using citizen created data and building participatory data programmes. Just ask and you might find others who are using open data for a widerange of topics that matter.


  • http://dougbelshaw.com/blog/2013/04/02/web-literacy-standard-a-modest-proposal-weblitstd/
  • https://wiki.mozilla.org/Learning/WebLiteracyStandard
  • http://www.communityroundtable.com/research/community-maturity-model/
  • http://www.communityroundtable.com/research/the-state-of-community-management/the-state-of-community-management-2013/
  • http://www.communityroundtable.com/research/state-of-community-management-2014/
  • 12May

    May Days are here!

    School of Data

    May is big month for events on all things open and technology. I’m participating in a number of events wearing a number of hats: School of Data, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and the Crisismappers Network. Most of these are in Toronto and some are free. Hope to see you there!

    GO Open Data (May 15, 2014)
    What an honour it is to participate again in the 2nd annual Go Open Data event. This year I will be keynoting about Challenges and Next Steps for Open Data. Rest assured I’ll give some global and local examples from python scraping to feelings. There are some spots still open for the event. Hope you can join it! (There is a $25.00 cost.)

    ICT4D Toronto Drinks (May 20, 2014)
    Having attended ICT4D drinks in London (UK) and Washington (DC), I know in advance the mix of great folks. I’d like to see this as a regular event in Toronto. This is a free night to talk with like minds using Tech for Good around the world. Register here!

    1st Toronto Tech Salon: How Can Technology Improve International Development? (May 21, 2014)
    Tech Salons are a way to have a deeper discussion about topics. The model is much more interactive. One of the questions that is sure to stir up some great debates:
    “And are we actually imposing Western values and suppressing local businesses with extractive electronic tools no better than colonial powers of the past?”

    This is an invite-only event, but I think there are spots still open. I love that some of the participants are focused on mobile and development. To register, click here.

    Subtle Technologies (May 24, 2014)
    I’ll be joining Stephen Kovats’ Subtle Technology session: Critical State Making: Applying Open Culture in Post-Conflict Development. Crisismappers and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team are using open technology to support humanitarian efforts. Using some of the recent examples from Sudan, Mali, and Guinea, we will talk about the complexities of building capacity with local leaders, local context and local language. It is always a delicate balance. (This

    MESH – Open Data Brainstorming Workshop (May 27, 2014)
    At MESH, I will be co-hosting an interactive session about Civic Tech and Open Data at MESH. We will be stirring up conversations and creating a snapshot of what MESHies think about Open Data and Civic Tech.
    (There is a cost to register for this event.)

    IEEE: International Humanitarian Technology Conference (June 1, 2014)
    With fellow Hotties (community members of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team), we will be hosting a HOT workshop all about how technology and HOT’s processes have had an impact. We will give a walk-through about recent HOT activities including the Philippines response as well as do some hands-on mapping to show some of the technology we use. Our goal is to better connect with the IEEE community of expertise. (This is a paid event in Montreal.)

    Truly it is a pleasure to have a full month of sharing and making by hosting, keynoting or participating in all these activities. Now, off to prepare. See some of you soon.

    (Photo: School of Data expedition in Geneva (September 2013))


    Murmur: SMS, Badges and Location

    Butterfly Bridges, created by Natalie Jeremijenko’s X-Clinic, have spun me into idea flurry. Last night I attended her Strategic Lab (Slab) presentation on Measuring the Common Good in Smart Cities. She is teaching and shaping biodiversity in new urban frameworks. Civic action activities like this and placemaking really show the potential of how we can build community in new and creative ways.

    Murmur, SMS + Badges + Location

    It is no secret that I’m location-obsessed. While maps are storytelling devices and are not an end in themselves, there is a connectivity to how location and storytelling provide us with common space. The Emergency Hack Labs project attempts to connect SMS, Open Badges and Placemaking to help people during times of emergency. The goals include providing volunteer engagement and peer-to-peer thanks. I wrote about this previously in Open Badges in a Crisis.

    Map/Location projects with a true plan to connect the online to the offline are the most sustainable. It is more amazing some of the creative SMS campaigns that give voice. These projects during times of crisis are busy and important windows into what is possible and where some of the opportunities exist. But, we should be building them outside of emergencies and morphing them to local language and context.

    Murmur is a Toronto project that uses SMS to connect people to location for stories. You can simply call a number listed on a sign in a particular place. The recording places a story or poem. The thing that has always struck me about this project is that people share and they learn the power of location. What if Murmur was installed in post-conflict zones or risk-prone regions? Local communities could curate the stories and teach in community centres. And, what if Murmur existed when a disaster or emergency happened? Would there be a difference in the community if people already felt comfortable with that style of non-threatening, trusted network program? It could start as a creative and art project, but then change gears to be a recovery and healing project to help with storytelling, remembrance and support. This is all theoretical. Technical, privacy and security issues would need to be addressed. But, expecting people to trust location and report stories with no historical community process for this is always a hurdle. Another scenario is: What if Murmur or its SMS kin was turned into a Volunteer peer-to-peer thanks model like Emergency Hack Lab?

    Surely, this has all been done before? What examples can you share? I want to dig in more to understand how we can make location and online storytelling tools realistically connect online and offline during times of crisis.

    So, thanks to Butterfly Bridges. With all this thinking, I am going to the park.


    When Birds of a Feather Map Together

    [Cross-post from Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team blog.]

    All spring we’ve been thinking about how to grow and support the HOT community. We know that we need to improve support to keep up the momentum of the last year while balancing quality great work around the world. At the State of the Map US event, we held a HOT BoF (Birds of Feather) session with over 45 participants. It is a small section of the wider global community, but it gave us a chance to see old friends, meet with partners and potentially engage new mappers.

    Our conversations touched on recent activations, how to get involved, types of community members, teaching tools/methods, partnership engagement, working with imagery providers and, of course, UAVs.

    How to Get Involved:

    1. Join OSM, visit LearnOSM.org, watch MapGive videos
    2. Join HOT mailing list, IRC
    3. Pick a Task from Task Manager.

    HOT’s community is gearing up. We have been doing some deep tissue analysis on how to improve in our HOT community Sprint.  We recognize that there several distinct groups within our community who have particular needs that are unique to that group. These core types include connectors/teachers/organizers, mappers (many types), partners/mission supporters, techies, and, lastly, those involved in the business of mapping/data consumers/supporters.

    map head


    HOT has been activated many times in the past year with the largest activation Typhoon Haiyan (Philippines). The wider community works with official and unofficial partners to respond such as the American Red Cross, Medecins Sans Frontieres, USAID, HIU, CartONG, and the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery. Some session feedback included that HOT needs to get better with a structured owners and workflows for contact while capturing the partners needs. 

    To improve the quality of data, we need better activation specific training to help compare before and after imagery sets, plus local context guidance.  One participant advised that they would like iD (the main editing tool at OpenStreetMap.org) with a swipe function to see the before and after imagery. For remote mapping, there needs to be more training tools to help improve the first edit. But, there needs to be a validation process. While it might be time-consuming, it might be beneficial to have a Tier 1 – 4 process to improve quality checks and provide mentorship. Mentorship is actually already happening, but this would allow us to formally recognize leaders more. Map Roulette might provide a way forward on this to be able to pull out the data that needs a second or third review.


    From imagery to drones, trying to solve the equation of how to get quality and as close to real-time data was very much on our minds. HOT has received some UAV imagery but has much caution in getting involved in UAV data collection as… there are problems with getting clearance for airspace, and technical work to patch together a mosaic for tracing. Add to this the complexities of liability issues and the risk to volunteers on the ground who could be accused of espionage (as has happened to other humanitarian volunteers). The level of resolution is an issue. We are currently looking at buildings and infrastructure – but there’s a lot more to look at that have : what if UVA derived detailed imagery was made available? What scenes would be made public to all parties? Who would be making vulnerable? What about all the privacy and security issues? What about the safety of the vulnerable should a drone be tampered with or crash.

    The Sexy, Unsexy stuff

    In terms of documentation, just like the wider Humanitarian field, HOT needs to build a research environment to create case studies from end to end. These need to include items like how to make something repeatable. HOT also needs a research arm to help tell the stories and analyze the progress to help guide any changes.  

    HOT needs are project managers for the tools and products that we produce within the community. All of our products needs to be translated and up to date. These folks are most welcome to join the Technical Working Group. 

    The Sexy, Unsexy stuff

    In terms of documentation, just like the wider Humanitarian field, HOT needs to build a research environment to create case studies from end to end. These need to include items like how to make something repeatable. HOT also needs a research arm to help tell the stories and analyze the progress to help guide any changes.  

    HOT needs are project managers for the tools and products that we produce within the community. All of our products needs to be translated and up to date. These folks are most welcome to join the Technical Working Group.  

    Some of the unsexy things (thanks Robert Banick for coining it) that are needed are: documentation, policy, health and safety and more. Our friends and members from the Red Cross advised that we publish internships and volunteer roles on our website to a wider outreach. We have many mappers in our network, now it is time to grow the support areas.

    Building Map Literacy, One Edit at a Time

    One the other end, Map literacy is hard to do in an emergency. Proactive map projects like HOT Indonesia show that this type of knowledge sharing and capacity building is much more effective done in advance. The same methods apply for our Humanitarian organization partners.  As we working more pre-disaster, we’ll have better data about the risks – the balance of working on basemapping vs. damage assessment will shift and this will change the game.  

    One day we’d like to have all the active community participants and Board members in the same room. Until then, we are very lucky to HOTties meet and share. HOT’s community is just a small corner of the wider OpenStreetMap community. We are fortunate to have opportunities to meet. Thanks to the HOT BoF participants and State of the Map US for giving us a place to connect.

    Some Resources

    Authors: Heather Leson and Mita Williams

    Images are in the Public Domain via the Noun Project


    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.

    Cat in a tree

    State of the Map US: OSM in Biz and Map Roulette

    Finally, it is spring. What better way to wake up brain cells than spending the weekend with maps, map nerds and ideas.

    For the morning sessions, I attended sessions to consider the true potential of business and technology in the OpenStreetmap community and the wider network.

    Eric Rodenbeck of Stamen Designs uses OSM for half of their map projects. Giving back to the community, Stamen provides some of their beautiful designs for free (eg. Watercolour). They served 250 million free tiles in March 2014. An example of the extensibility of OSM is the potential to add a layers of useful information on a map highlighting the park than just the roads. (They did a National Park project which used OSM which included custom pins.) The potential of OSM in business, according to Rodenbeck, is to financially viable, more exposure and paying it forward.

    If I was a funder or a developer with spare time, I would invest ASAP into helping MapRoulette.org build a mobile and localized process to grow it internationally. Imagine the potential in a very mobile, global space. Every community should learn from them: easy interface, small task, clear and solid mission. The tool serves easy errors/bugs to fix. They focus on accomplishment and rewards. As we think about how to grow community and support for OSM, the window to success can be seen from the recent Connectivity errors map Roulette. The tool served up 40 000 map errors which messed up the intersections and the ability to create routing maps. The community repaired these within 6 weeks. In the future they may do a leaderboard or better stats in the future. Right now there are two core developers and they could use help

    Martin of MapRoulette advised that the following are key to creating a good challenge:

    1. make it armchair: Tasks that can be resolved by just looking at data no local knowledge

    2. Small ask, brief time allotment: Tasks that can be easy to fix -taking seconds not minutes

    3. Watch the tangents: Fix one thing, load and move onto the next task


    About the Event: Stateofthemap.us

    All the sessions are being recorded so you can watch the talks after Monday.


    (Photo: cat in Cherry Blossom trees (Washington DC), April 2014)


    Toolkits Sprouting up

    Toolkits are important for any project, but should be embedded into software or on a usable website. The other day I was shopping for personal business cards, so I hopped onto Moo Cards. As any software developer or community manager knows, you are always “on” when it comes to great work. What do you see in other products, communities and programmes that you can learn from and potentially grow your own projects better. Moo Cards really inspired me by taking a process and making it user-friendly and fun. Simplicity at its best.

    I’ve created, reviewed and advised a number of toolkit projects. While at Ushahidi, we helped take the important toolkit research and embed it into the design for the next Ushahidi version. End users can and should contribute to and ever change software to serve their purposes. We took the Ushahidi toolkits and remixed them for the Kenyan elections using Atlassian Confluence wiki software. This way the documents can be more sustainable and remixable.


    Toolkits everywhere

    Lately, it seems that every ICT or social technology programme is booting up a toolkit project. Why? Well, there are gaps in process, gaps in software and, most of all, big opportunities to learn and share. I like to think of toolkits as the new handbook, but often well-written in clear language that is easily translatable across domains of knowledge. We are in a toolkit frenzy. Even I’ve even written before about the Community Manager toolkit.

    I think that we have a lot to learn about building toolkits that have the following attributes:

    • Easy to use
    • Translatable/Localize ready
    • Remixable (on github or a wiki)
    • Plain, Clear and concise text (eg. web copyediting)
    • Easy to learn
    • Delivers to many audience levels across domains (eg. types of users from different fields)

    The next time I am building a toolkit, I am going to use the Moo Cards Test. If it can address those elements, but still serve the end goal, then great. It is hard to serve so many masters and audiences. Given some of the core missions of development or technology for good toolkits, it is worth the effort to communicate right.

    Recent Toolkits

    There seems to be a launchfest around new toolkits lately. It is super exciting to review them. From open data to open development to evidence-based research to building better social innovation, these projects have you covered. The best part is that all the projects are open for feedback and continue to improve based on community input.

    Happy learning and doing.

    (Photo: Tulips from my garden (last year and soon to be this year.))

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