The OpenStreetMap US Chapter – My Outlook For Next Year


It’s been almost a year since I was elected board member to the OpenStreetMap US Chapter. That means the next elections are just around the corner – actually, they are happening this weekend at State Of The Map US. If you’re a Chapter Member, vote! If not, it’s not too late to join.

I decided to run for re-election, and I want to take a moment to briefly reflect on the past year of serving on the board, as well as give my personal outlook for next year.

Reflection

My first year in the US community, and on the US Chapter Board, taught me a few important lessons. First, the US is a big place and for that reason, ‘community’ has a different meaning here than in the Netherlands where I come from. If you want to focus on things like ‘community support’ and ‘community development’, you need to define those things very differently here. More on that later.

Another important lesson I draw from my first year is that big plans are OK, but they need to be broken down into baby steps. The average board member doesn’t have a huge amount of time to invest, and as a result we don’t have the manpower to implement Big Things ourselves.

Finally, I feel that serving on the Chapter board comes without much of the public scrutiny and political constraints that the Foundation board has to deal with. I don’t know how I feel about this – on the one hand, it gives you more freedom to set your own agenda as a board, while on the other hand our mandate as a Chapter board is so flimsy (I was elected with something like a dozen votes) that it makes you think twice about what having a local Chapter actually means.

Outlook – My Manifesto

My most important personal objective in serving on the Chapter board was and remains supporting and growing the community, but I want to redefine that objective based on what I feel ‘community’ means here in the US. I am a strong believer in local communities that meet face to face, know each other, and get together and talk mapping over beers or coffee or shakes. I think there is far too little of that going on in the US, but I think the role of the Chapter Board in growing and building these local communities can only be fairly limited. You need active local mappers to build and sustain them, and we cannot conjure those up out of thin air. What we can do as a board is make these local communities more visible and give them a platform to present themselves and communicate. I want that platform to be our national web site: openstreetmap.us

The other dimension that defines us as the U.S. OpenStreetMap community is the map itself. We all strive to make it better, and this binds us together. I want to work actively to leverage the map, our data that we work together to improve and enhance, as a binding element for our community. The way to do that is to give the community projects to work on. That sounds mundane, but I want to take it beyond a ‘project of the week’. Taking inspiration from the Remap-a-tron that I built and ran, I want to provide the community with tools to work on specific problems. For example, the Remap-a-tron can be repurposed to work on things like connectivity errors, spaghetti ways, and TIGER deserts. I want openstreetmap.us to be the platform to organize these projects and report on their results. If you’re looking for something to map, head over to the web site!

In short, I want to transform openstreetmap.us into much more of a destination for mappers, both hardcore and casual. I want to be able to welcome new mappers by just saying: ‘hey, you want to start doing some useful mapping right away? Have a look at the web site!’.

Are we going to pull this off in the next  year? I don’t know, really. I would love to be able to say that we would, but I can’t even be sure of how much time I will be able to invest in it. There will also be State Of The Map US 2013 to organize, something I want to see happen as well. What I will commit to is investing at least 10 hours a month of my time on working towards these goals, and I believe this is a commitment that every candidate should be prepared to make for the board as a whole to be successful.