We just returned from an incredible weekend in San Francisco for the State of the Map US conference, the annual American edition of the OpenStreetMap community conference. Nearly 400 were in attendance – developers, cartographers, enthusiasts, educators, and more – to talk about new ideas in OpenStreetMap, collaborate on new tools, and generally discuss how we as a community can take the OSM project to the next level and make it even more amazing.
My talk on Monday reviewed the state of Pushpin, the mobile OpenStreetMap editor we built back in late 2012. Since its release 8 months ago, we’ve seen incredible adoption – over 43,000 edits and additions to OSM from 100 countries – and have sparked hundreds of new contributors by offering the community a simpler tool to lower the complexity curve for editing. As a result, local knowledge from the field is empowering a level of map data detail that’s been hard to kickstart among the greater community outside of the core power users. Data such as detailed place addressing, routing issues, and local place name information is the sort of hyperlocal content that OSM excels at, and its what will enable commercial developers to build incredible tools powered by OSM data. (video + slides from my talk).
Jumping off from the discussion about editors like Pushpin and iD, the topic of community growth and engagement resonated throughout a number of presentations. Martijn, Richard, and Alyssa each had excellent discussions of the state of the community in general. Mikel and Saman presented great ideas about how to bring to the forefront more of the social aspects that make OSM such a fun and rewarding project. All this great discussion around community improvement also included a Birds of a Feather session led by Kathleen and Steven, with the focus on making the community a more fun and inviting place to be, both physically and virtually. As much as the regularly scheduled talks, the ad hoc BoF sessions are amazing for the collaborative atmosphere they provide for getting together and discussing specific issues. I heard great things about other productive sessions around the OSM hardware infrastructure, the ODbL licensing issues, and how OSM can be used as a teaching tool.
SotM US has become my favorite conference, combining the fun, energetic community with lots of creativity and interesting work. Out of two full days of talks, not a single one felt out-of-place or slapped together. The high bar set by the presenters in the OSM community makes me honored to get to be one of them. Other highlights included Artem demoing the “world’s smallest tile server” on a Raspberry Pi during his talk on Mapnik, Steven showing the cool work being done at the US Census Bureau with OSM data, and Tom & Eric’s showcase of the 2013 “OpenStreetMap Report”, like a shareholders meeting for the data community. Ryan Closner’s look at using Minecraft 3D worlds to explore OpenStreetMap, with a project called voxel.js (using 3D-gameworld-as-presentation-software) was so cool, I might just have to try some “unslides” for my next talk.
If you haven’t already, I also encourage the US OpenStreetMap community to join the Facebook group and follow the blog for announcements of OSM activities in the US. Video of the sessions is up now on the conference website, for those that couldn’t attend. A huge thank you goes out to the OSM US board and all of the volunteers who helped put this thing together, even getting live video of each talk for those that couldn’t attend (available here). Each event is better than the last, and I’m looking forward to continuing that trend.
(Photo credit: Justin Miller)