Tag: OSM


Visualizing flux: Time travel, torque, and temporal maps

[Cross-posted from Opensource.com. The original article was published July 17, 2015 as part of the OSCON Interview Series.]

Mapping communities in the open source space are growing as more and more people use maps for business and social change. Leaders like Aure Moser are providing spaces for people to learn and be inspired. Prior to her OSCON session and in the middle of a busy travel schedule, she shared some insights into the communities and her experiences.Aure Moser

Aure is a developer and curious cartographer building communities around code at CartoDB. Her background blends science and scripting, and includes a cocktail of conservation chemistry, eco-enthusiasm, education, and egalitarian tech activism.

Previously of Ushahidi and Internews Kenya, she’s been working in the open tech and nonprofit journalism space for a few years, and recent projects have had her working with mapping sensor data to support agricultural security and sustainable apis ecosystems in the Global South.

Q & A

You’re an active member of the OpenStreetMap Community, most recently volunteering at the State of the Map US 2015. What inspires you about this project?

I love OpenStreetMap, and am a happy recipient of a scholarship to speak at State of the Map in Buenos Aires (2014). It is the democratization of information that the OSM community embodies, and as a former librarian I have always loved the idea of open source web architects as intellectual social workers. We have such a beautiful opportunity as software engineers to learn from the iterative requirements and pace of open source and open data initiatives, and crowdsourced efforts to break from the exclusivity of proprietary platforms have a special place in my heart.

CartoDB has been a great support of open source, open data and open mapping. Can you share some examples about how you and your team incorporate this into your work?

Open source is so important to our mission to make maps more accessible, and it’s been essential for our stack development as we progressively learn from community requests and contributions. Our software is engineered for ease-of-use, and our GUI Editor interface is an effort to make mapping projects more accessible to non-GIS experts. Everyone should be able to map found, open, and personal data, easily. At the same time, we have almost all of the functionality accessibility in our editor, available via our open source libraries and APIs. We have Carto.js for making maps, Torque.js for time-series data mapping, Odyssey.js for building chapterized narratives on maps, Vecnik.js for vector rendering, as well as our Import, Map, and SQL APIs to facilitate easy and open map-building in code.

As part of the Community Team at CartoDB, I’m also pretty passionate about our education and outreach initiatives beyond just the open libraries and APIs. Giving talks and workshops on our software has encouraged us to build remote learning opportunities for our users, so we host webinars and themed workshops to support our community. The Map Academy is a series of online lessons in all aspects of mapping (not restricted solely to the use of our software) that we maintain to help mapmakers learn about Javascript, PostgreSQL, PostGIS functions, and the mechanics of map design. Likewise, we document and publish our workshops and talks on a public mini-site that we invite our community of educators and active users to contribute to in the course of their curriculum development.

When you were with Ushahidi, you spent time in Kenya. Building map projects and training in the Global South has some incredible stories and insights. It would be great to hear what you learned about the open source communities working there. And if you can, provide some examples of mapping projects in the Global South.

The level of creativity and resourcefulness in developing technology with profound infrastructural challenges was incredibly impressive and inspiring throughout iHub (Kenya) and in other locations. There can be a general insensitivity to the persistent challenges that people face when technologists provide open source products that only operate under optimal conditions and high-bandwidth communities. Working within other cultures and under the creative constraints of poor connectivity or strained infrastructure makes you think about how limited the value of your product is when it fails in the face of easy deployment and reuse globally. Those experiences were valuable to challenging my assumptions of digital literacy, and my flexibility in designing products of greater utility. I really benefited from exposure to Ushahidi’s team, and the network of subcommunities that their products have engendered. I’ve always been impressed by what Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and humanitarian teams globally were able to accomplish via crowdsourced efforts.

Having left Ushahidi, I’m still pretty involved with similar groups and had the opportunity to work with many journalists, especially at Internews-Kenya, on developing independent mapping projects. At Internews, I had the chance to collaborate on a map-interactive piece with Eva Constantaras and InfoAmazonia to explore narratives around mapping extractive industry in Kenya, called LandQuest. The project uses Jeo, a WordPress theme developed by InfoAmazonia out of Brazil, to make map mashups with blog-style publishing platforms, and the theming flexibility is pretty sweet. I’m also on the advisory board for an amazing group of technologists building toolkits for activists in the Global South called Beautiful Rising; among other resources, we support civic hacking and mapping projects to empower community builders and journalists.

How do you see the industry evolving over the next few years?

I think it’s safe to say that we will progressively collapse the distance between ourselves and our devices so “wearable” and “Internet of Things” futures are possible. I would say that we’re in a strange intermediary technology period now, where we’re pretty persistently developing products as an industry that provide a liaison to the future with a foothold in the past. In the same way that DVD/VCR combos were a short-lived intermediary before the obsolescence of the VHS player, we’re prototyping a lot of digital prosthetics that do things like put glasses on people who don’t need them or provide technical crutches to people otherwise unimpaired. I think there’s a great future in wearables and more fusion of physical technologies with software projects and dynamic mapping, and I’m pretty excited about it.

Since your talk is about time travel, where and when in time would you travel if you could?

Oh wow, such a great yet impossible question. There are a lot of historical events that I would naturally love to have witnessed if only for the Doctor Who/Quantum Leap opportunity to define what actually happened. I guess the less inventive and more egoistic part of me would love to have a Christmas Carol experience where I revisit or project potential outcomes in the Many Worlds possibilities of my future. So I’m pretty happy where I am, way beyond where I could be.


On the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Board

For almost a year, I’ve had the honour to be a member of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Board. HOT is one of the most important Digital Humanitarian /Crisismapper communities. As a community advocate and organizer, I joined to support and be in service of these efforts. A Board member serves the strategic interest of the organization and her members. Today I ask the HOT membership to consider renewing my Board Membership so that I can continue to collaborate and help HOT grow.

For my fellow candidates: HOT is a young organization. Being a HOT Board Member often required more than 10 hours a week. If you are nominated to join the board, you should be prepared to contribute this level of time. I’m writing this to help outline what I think the HOT Board needs to do in the next term.

Boy and the world image

When I joined the Board, I began researching Board best practices and reviewed many other organization’s Board composition, bylaws and strategic plans. I also asked colleagues from other organizations what makes a successful board. I determined that I could contribute work on fundraising, communications, strategy and outreach. These are items that I felt were missing from HOT’s strategy.

My first board term involved more organizational development issues, which delayed my original goals. HOT is a Working Board. But, there are some differences between what a Board does and what items are for Operations. This continues to be a growth opportunity for HOT. A Board ideally should not be involved in the day-to-day operations operations of the organization. Some examples include: staffing decisions, receipt management for projects, and HOT activations. I think it is important to also distinguish the Board, Operations and what it means to be a valuable contributor/member of the community. Every organization needs these components, but each is often its own entity.

By definition, a Board Member key role is to support the strategic growth and ongoing success of an organization. The following types of skills would be needed among the composite board. Every individual on the Board brings different skills, so consider this a sketch:

  • Networks (Fundraising, Humanitarian)
  • Technical Expertise
  • Legal Knowledge
  • Financial Acumen
  • Business and Organizational Development Strategy
  • Fundraising and Communications Strategy

The HOT Board should focus on the the above noted tasks to contribute to the success of the whole project.

Some Resources:

For friends of HOT, I am collecting resources on Boards and how to help shape with examples. Please do share any resources on Board leadership or Board Best Practices. This is a journey and I am learning as fast as I can. (Thank you in advance.)

On this topic, I want to thank Aspiration Tech gifting mentorship on the Board journey.

  • Chronicle of Philanthropy
  • Plone: (an example of a “Working” Board)

    “This is a working board. Be ready to regularly take on and complete responsibilities for board business.

    The board writes no code and makes no development decisions. It is much more concerned with marketing, budgets, fund-raising, community process and intellectual property considerations.”

  • Open Stack (Board example)
    “The Board of Directors provides strategic and financial oversight of Foundation resources and staff.”

(Photo by me: San Francisco, February 2014)


Heart of the Matter

Matter. Difference. We use these words with varying degrees of weight, responsibility and, dare I say, ego. My inbox is full of collaboration. It is breathtaking to see governments, NGOs, technical communities and digital humanitarians work together. New ground has been broken. Alliances are being formed. People are contributing tech and analytical skills. Folks are trying to apply lessons learned.

Enroute to Nairobi for the International Conference of CrisisMappers I watched a film about humanitarian workers in complex conflict environments called Beyond Borders. There was a scene where “secret maps” caused a series of violent consequences.

Well, we don’t live in a “secret” map world right now. We live in a world that open communities, NGOs, and governments are truly seeking ways to build and to work with common goals and language.

Maps are love

In the past weeks and a half over 1100 amazing individuals have contributed over 1.7 million edits to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap activation in response to the Typhoon Yolanda which struck the Philippines. There are a number of unsung heros who are volunteering hours to negotiate, to map and to plan using OpenStreetMap. From the folks who made it possible to get satellite imagery to those who have been tirelessly mapping. Andrew Buck and Pierre Beland have been spearheading the online coordination. They seem to be on every hour answering emails on the HOT mailing list or on the HOT IRC channel. Mapping Parties have been held around the world to support this. (Sam Leach’s post).

The American Red Cross joined the HOT community and board last night for a special call. They shared their story about how HOT OSM work is being used and what are some of the future requirements. Some of the organizations that got a shout out included Digital Globe, US Government, NGA and Mapbox. (With apologies if I am missing more, but others have provided imagery and fielded support.)

There was an ask to collect impact stories. Can you share yours?

Continents away I think about “matter”. For some of us, it is pure instinct. We spend our spare hours coordinating, documenting, sharing and trying to bridge this. Hats off to those who continue to “do” with Open.


OSM needs you: join the OSM Hack Weekend

At Toronto’s International Open Data Hackathon event this past weekend, it struck me how many folks would love to know how to use and how to build tools to support the OpenStreetMap community. Conversation after conversation folks mentioned that they wanted to learn more, do more.

Well, this is your chance Toronto.

The Toronto OSM community is a dedicated group hosting their second Developer Hack Weekend from March 8 – 10, 2013. An OpenStreetMap “Hack Weekend” is a local event for technical work to improve OpenStreetMap. They are holding intro sessions, socials and a developer focused hackathon.

Full details about OSM and this event can be found on the OSM wiki.
If you haven’t created an account yet, anyone can join OSM. There are many ways to start contributing. Just join and start connecting.

(Photo from Toronto’s OSM 8th Birthday party. Cookies courtesy of Meg the awesome.)

Three ways you can get involved:

1. Join one or all of the events.
There is a great mix of learning, social and developer action events. OSM is supported by developer projects that make the mapping possible. I’ve added the links and some details below.

2. Help spread the word
“Support OSM globally and in Toronto. Join the OSM Hacker Weekend: March 9 – 10, 2013: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Toronto_Hack_Weekend_March_2013#Who.27s_coming.3F”

3. Help Sponsor
Like every hackathon, OSM could use a hand with food and drink. If you or your organization can lend a hand. The contact and event organizer is Richard Weait. Ping him:RWeait at Gmail dot com.

OSM Intro Session and OSM Social

There are monthly Toronto OSM casual mappy hours to meet and connect with other OSM users and fans. I’ve been attending for awhile and always learn something new. Getting an introduction to OSM is really the best place to start, so take a break on Friday afternoon and check out the session. If you can’t miss work for the sake of mapping, you can catch the Friday night Mappy Hour. It is my understanding that guest mappers and hackers are coming into town. This is a chance to learn about OSM plus get a deeper understanding of the Hack weekend opportunities.

Register for OSM Intro Session (Friday, March 8, 2013 14:00 pm EDT)

Register the OSM Evening Meet and Greet Mappy Hour (Friday, March 8, 2013 18:30pm EDT)

Your Weekend is better if you Hack for OSM

These are the core of the event and are cast from the same OSM Hack Weekend alloy that has lead to important advances in the OpenStreetMap infrastructure and tools. If you have wanted to know how to become a developer – contributor to OpenStreetMap, this is your best opportunity to learn from and share with the experts.

OSM Saturday and Sunday Code Sprints:

Join Saturday’s code sprint
Join Sunday’s code spring

There are many mapping projects that you can get involved in within the greater OSM community. It has been such a pleasure to get to know them via the Humanitarian OSM community. I’d encourage you to find your special niche and map away!


HOT membership and Board proposal

The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) is in election mode. I hope to become a member pending approval and am proposing to join the board. More on that in a bit.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team

What is HOT and Why is it so important to the Digital Humanitarian Ecosystem

HOT grew with the need to recognize emergency and crisis mapping. Over the past almost 3 years, I’ve watched the team grow, I’ve worked on projects that benefited from HOT contributions and I’ve been continuously amazing by their talent and strengths.

More about HOT

Become HOT

The process: You need to be nominated to be a HOT team member. (This window is closed now)
Current Membership

You can still join the mailing list and contribute.

Their HOT Tasking tool is one of the best micro-tasking tools I’ve seen in digital volunteering. You can get started here.

HOT Board

In the coming week, HOT members will be voting for a new Board.

I am proposing to join the HOT Board pending acceptance as a HOT member.

Here are some of the things I can offer

1. Fundraising, Outreach and Storytelling skills.
2. Advocacy: While I may not be an active OSM contributor, but I am a big advocate of HOT and OSM in most of the work and volunteering I do.
3. Mapping organizations like Ushahidi need OSM to have the free imagery just as much as OSM wants it. I would essentially be an end-user in your corner.

In my job at Ushahidi, we changed our base map to OSM this year. When I talk with deployers, especially those working in crisis or conflict areas, they advise that they can’t use OSM as a base layer because the map is empty. One most recent example was planning for the .ke Elections in 2013. I want to join the HOT team and be an active more formal supporter to fill this gap. There has got to be ways to get imagery and to match the HOT team to these citizen science mappers. The map should not be a deterrent but a benefit in their journey to share stories of what they see and what they hear.

Thank you

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