In my manifesto for last year’s OSM US board elections, I spoke of doubling the amount of mappers in the US.
It looks like I failed miserably.
Daily active mappers in the US show almost no growth at all. Things look a little more hopeful if we look at global metrics for Weekly and Monthly active mappers:
There are no metrics I know of that show me how many weekly or monthly active mappers for the U.S. alone.
How I failed
I outlined a few ways in which I thought we could achieve the desired growth in active mappers: more and smaller OSM US events, putting local mapping groups first, and encouraging companies to publish more useful tools. I still believe that getting more people to map should be our #1 priority, so let’s review.
We did not see smaller events supplant or supplement SOTM US this year. Instead we had another monolithic SOTM US. That sounds negative but in fact, SOTM US played its part very well this year. We have a superb local team to thank for that: Chase, Ari, Joel, Clifford, Paul and others. As I stated last year, I do not think organizing SOTM US is the best use of our time as a board, so if anything we should be more hands off, overseeing the program but delegating everything else to the local team and perhaps an event planner.
In putting local mapping groups first, we made some progress. We now have a small grants program through which we sponsor local groups who want to organize mapping parties or start other local initiatives. We have not done a great job advertising it (or even properly formalizing it) but I do strongly believe this is a role OSM US can play very well.
Encouraging companies to publish more useful tools proved to be an easier ‘promise’ to keep. Quite frankly companies do not need all that much encouragement to create useful tools that help mappers: MapRoulette, ImproveOSM, Metro Extracts, OSM Navigation Map are just some that come to mind. What these tools do excellently is serve the existing community of already-invested mappers, but getting new people to map they do not. In the end, we as a community are better off if companies just give us money so we can achieve our goals on our terms.
How I may do better
In an attempt to learn from this and scratching an existing itch or two while I do so, here’s a revised laundry list for 2017:
- Create a great small grants program that mappers can use to build their local communities. Advertise it. Report back on how the grants are being used.
- More broadly, define the benefits of being a mamber of the OSM US organization better.
- Build a new web site that can be a true community hub. Get professional help so we can make it great.
- Become an official Chapter of the Foundation. I would like to evaluate the benefits of this against any constraints / limitations this imposes on us as OSM US to independently pursue our own local goals.
- Be available. That seems obvious but is easily overlooked. I want to be there for everyone with the help, encouragement, mediation, and in whatever other way I can support you.
It may sound as if I want to do these things on my own. I don’t and I can’t. I am looking forward to a new term on the board where we can collaborate to reach the goals we set together. I merely hope that this statement may inform those common goals, and give you, the voting members of OSM US, a reason to (not) vote for me. Regardless of the outcome, I will continue to serve the OSM community in any way I can. Be well, map, and vote!