Happy New OSM Year
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The start of the new year is a time of reflection and planning for many. It is for me as well. In this edition, I will do just that, but I promise, there will also be a useful tip :)
This newsletter has been going for two months now, and I have built a modest audience of about 140 subscribers. Thank you for trusting me to occupy your inbox with regular emails about OpenStreetMap. The original idea was to have daily, short emails with quick tips about mapping with OSM and interesting tools and community activities. I realized quickly that a daily newsletter was not sustainable, and I reduced it to a few times a week and then to once weekly, focusing on longer form writing. You have indicated that you prefer this format, and that you're generally very happy with the quality of the tips. Thank you!
I have been involved with OSM in many different ways since 2007. Maps are my passion and I have always believed that OSM can change the world. I think we can now safely say that it has: not only is OSM used by some of the largest companies in the world for some of the best known apps and websites, OSM data has also helped improve and save lives thanks to the efforts of the World Bank, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, YouthMappers and Crowd2Map Tanzania, to name just a few organizations I know that have used, and contributed to, OSM to make an impact.
Being involved with one project as a volunteer for such a long time takes its toll. I have seen great people burn out and lose interest in OSM, and I have been on the verge of burning out myself multiple times. Each time, I realized that I need to make more deliberate choices about where I direct my passion and energy in this project. Lately, MapRoulette has taken up a lot of my time. I started MapRoulette in 2012 to focus community efforts on needed data cleanup. Today, it is used by thousands of mappers every month to solve small mapping tasks that meaningfully improve OSM. With this growth comes more responsibility, not only for MapRoulette to be an exemplary citizen in the world of OSM, but also that the project continues to exist and thrive. That means building a better governance structure, diversifying support and funding, and generally reducing the project's reliance on me.
That means less time to spend on other things OSM. Still, I contribute to the map itself almost every day, participate in community discussions, write blog posts, run a local OSM mapping group, help plan OSM conferences, and try to keep up with a couple of other OSM-related open source projects I maintain. as I was writing a post summarizing my OSM activities for October 2022 I realized that it may just be a little much. To keep myself from burning out, I need to be more deliberate in how I involve myself in OSM.
That brings me back to this newsletter! I enjoy writing and sharing my knowledge about OSM and its community. So this is something I want to keep doing. However, it's not something that I can put high on my list right now as I focus on moving MapRoulette along and giving it the attention it deserves. So, expect less frequent newsletters for the time being. When I do write one, I expect to spend more time on it, so I hope that results in emails that are really worth reading! My hope is that, in the process, I can also build a more meaningful relationship with readers. I love receiving your responses to these emails, and I read every one of them even if I don't always (promptly) respond.
That out of the way, let me share an OSM tip! This time, I would like to highlight the new Community Forums. As a crowdsourced project with a large community, OSM contributors have a strong need to be in touch with each other. There are many different channels for people to talk to each other. Just click anywhere on this map to see the most popular channels for that place in the world. (As with everything in OSM, this list is crowdsourced and you can contribute things you think are missing!) Last year, OpenStreetMap tested and launched new Community site to replace an ageing forum website and old email lists. After a slow start, this new site is starting to gain good traction, and I am enjoying many of the discussions happening there. So if you have a question or something to announce to the OSM community, this site is a great place to start! I used it recently to announce the monthly MapRoulette community meetings, asking for feedback on proposed MapRoulette features, learning about where people like to map, and many other things. There is a moderation team and a code of conduct in place to ensure that discussions stay civilized, and that seems to work well so far.
Thanks for reading this longer missive! Please forward this email to a friend, and let me know what you think of the newsletter. You can simply respond to this email to get in touch.