January 12, 2015

January Missing Maps Mapathon

Mapathon Tweet Screenshot

There was a great turnout of folks for last Saturday’s Mapathon on January 10th, most of whom were new to using OpenStreetMap (OSM). I found the various backgrounds of the people who came fascinating as well as challenging to teach. There was the former Peace Corps volunteer interested in humanitarian relief and already well acquainted with HOT, the Portland State University Academic interested in sharing and exporting data and the GIS Analyst interested in learning more about Open Source mapping tools. Many folks there heard about the event through a PSU GIS email list-serve.

##Preview of the Day Mele started by giving a presentation introducing OSM and sharing her practical experience mapping much of Portland in OSM for Trimet. Tanya then shared about other learning resources for using OSM and other ways to plug into the GIS & Open Geo community in Portland.

After we had a break for lunch I shared about HOT, how to get involved, and about the Missing Maps Project. I gave a demonstration on how to contribute and find some beginner friendly mapping tasks.

Finally, Darrell explained the PDX Building Imports process and some of the technical and political challenges of importing data. Afterwards, we invited people to stay and map for either the Missing Maps project or the PDX Building Imports with live troubleshooting help available. Sadly, few people stayed for this part of the day.

##Lessons for Future Mapathons

I’ve been wondering if we could have increased participation in the mapping part of the day if we divided time and communicated the agenda differently or if I had more explicitly invited people to start mapping with me during the demo I gave. Dividing the room into beginners and more experienced users also might have made instruction easier. I feel like I am getting a taste of some of the logistical challenges of teaching a large group of people with various experience levels to use software tools.

I think it might have been easier to have seperate mapathons for different projects or at least divide up the room. As organizers we also could’ve benefited from communicating more with each other about the agenda in more detail beforehand. More generally, the Mapathon helped me learn how other people interact with the existing learning materials, including the learnosm site and wiki pages.

##The Next Mapathon

I would like to implement some of these ideas to improve participation for a future mapathon. This month I hope to meet with MaptimePDX organizers to plan for another HOT focused Mapathon for later in the year. If I learned anything from this mapathon it’s that the event was much better for the diverse group of organizers participating and their experiences.

I definitely couldn’t have pulled off the event on my own; I am very grateful to the other organizers who brought their own practical experience and supplied the contacts, knowledge of how to publicize the event and spacious and comfy event space at Urban Airship. I also gained a lot more contextual understanding of how people interact with OSM in the GIS, Academic and Developer fields.