Open Street Map Participation

Our project was to contribute to Open Street Maps┬áby either┬áresponding to an Humanitarian needed cartography initiative or mapping our local neighborhood on Open Street Maps (OSM for short). I chose to participate in initiative #1623 which included mapping Fiji (the island of Vanua Levu from the city of Lekutu to Naduri) as the Island had recently been hit by one of the most powerful storms recorded to date in the Southern Hemisphere. We were tasked with mapping three “blocks” or sections of the map, this included hand drawing roads, buildings and farmland in the affected areas the storm affect Fiji. We were also tasked with reviewing the work of another member of the OSM community and validating there work as correct.

This was the first time I ever attempted to use software such as this and of course, I started off pretty confused. I stumbled into locking myself to Task #300 and edited this area using Bing Maps and ID Editor. I noticed someone more experienced had already filled out a secondary road on this area, which was a boon to someone as inexperienced as I. Knowing this could affect people in that area, I wanted to map this as precisely as I could, so I spent well over an hour mapping ever dirt road, building, farmland and one lake no one else had marked on a nearby adjacent block. Feeling that I had confidently filled out this block, I saved it and marked it as complete. I may also mention that upon starting this the map was 70% complete and had two more experienced members of the community working on nearby blocks with me, this gave me much more confidence in the case of an error being made (by an inexperienced member such as myself) it would be corrected.

After gaining some confidence in using the software I moved onto Task #299 and Task#352. While the task only asked to map roads, I also marked down houses, farmlands and any water features I could find. Though it may not have been required it may certainly be useful knowledge to locals of the area. It certainly is an enriching feeling to know you may be helping emergency services around the world find routes to areas and potentially saving lives. All of my tasks have been set as complete but not yet validated, I am eagerly awaiting validation so I can either see my mistakes and improve from there or potentially even be praised for using the software well as a first timer! (Though I expect the former much more likely than the latter)

Gaining confidence on the software, I decided to validate Task#350 which was submitted by another member of the OSM community. After reviewing their work I noticed they had omitted several roads and had forgone mapping buildings and farmlands completely. I personally edited as many omissions as I could find, when I believed to be finished I validated the work as complete. However, within an hour I received a message from another member of the OSM community. This message stated that they had noticed I was a new account so they checked my validation and noted I had also omitted a road. They added this in and allowed me a second chance to validate Task#350 again. My second validation was accepted as correct.

However, this experience really showed me the community of OSM, they are extremely diligent and keen to fix mistakes as soon as possible. If not, my mistake and omission of that road could have been critical in an emergency service making it to a site in time and not. I was surprised for the level of scrutiny the community shows the mapping but also very thankful for it as it is only after many iterations that a map is charted to complete accuracy.

As a consensus, while OSM is not the easiest to access community, due to the learning curve and figuring out the level of accuracy expected of members, the members are extremely active and welcoming. When criticism occurs, it is only to help each other improve our mapping skills and never an attack on another person. It is exciting to view your interpretation of a map to become locked into place as the true routes of that area. The community strives for accuracy and collaboration. After helping out on this project of mapping Fiji I believe this community is both noble and extremely important. I am impressed by the more experienced members the most of course, the re-correction of my validation and allowing me to submit it again did not turn me away, it made me want to try harder and be more precise with my maps in the future. I firmly believe that as long as members of the community uphold this standard then OSM may even replace google maps in terms of usefulness one day as the members on OSM constantly update everywhere they can.

 

Open Street Map Participation