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How to conduct an OSM SkillShare event?

A few months ago, I’ve conducted an OpenStreetMap Skillshare event in my home city. The bad news: no one bothered to show up. To make time go fast, I made a checklist-slash-guideline on how to host an OpenStreetMap Skillshare event.

Initial stages

Ask the nearby contributors if they’re cook with the skillshare event. If yes, proceed. If not, take your time. Maybe they’re too busy with IRL stuff.

Announcing the event

First, announce the skillshare event on the right mailing list. If nearby OpenStreetMap contributors use certain social networking sites/tools/platforms, invite them using those services. Checking your userpage in OpenStreetMap for nearby contributors won’t hurt either.

When making an announcement, take note of the time and date of the planned event. Make sure that you announce the event 2-3 weeks in advance to give you (and other organizers and participants) enough time to prepare and scout for a place where you can hold the event. If possible, as the other contributors for other possible meetup sites.

Scouting for locations

When looking for the right place, take note of the following:

  • A good internet connection
  • Plugs for laptops and other gadgets
  • Ambiance/feel of the place
  • Smoking areas
  • Accessibility (fire exits, wheelchair access)
  • Consumables offered (food, drinks, etc.)
  • Mode of transportation used by contributors
  • Distance of the place from contributors
  • Public safety and the surrounding environment

As much as possible, visit the sites at least 1-2 weeks before the event.

Items to bring in the Skillshare event

  • Laptop with OSM-related tools & programs (JOSM, Merkaartor, Mapsource, Maperitive)
  • Batteries for laptops and/or an AC connector
  • A GPS device or a mobile phone with GPS capabilities
  • Miscellaneous writing materials
  • Promotional items (leaflets, tarpaulin, stickers, pins & business cards just to name a few)
  • Camera and/or mobile phone with in-built camera
  • Some examples of OSM Maps

Announcing the event, part 2

Now that you’ve initially announced the event time and date and scouted for initial sites (and made a decision whether to select one place or another), it’s time for you to  announce the location of the Skillshare event on the mailing list and other social sites/tools/platforms.

Final preparations

Here are some questions that will guide you in the final preparations for the Skillshare event:

  • Have you create a checklist containing things to bring in the skillshare event?
  • Have you visited the place? Have you made any reservations (if required or necessary)?
  • Is the area safe enough?
  • Have the participants confirmed their attendance (or non-attendance) to the event?
  • (For retail areas) Will big events [mall tours, sales] affect the ambiance of the event? Are you willing to postpone it for another day?

If you’re done with the final preparations, then it’s time for you to host the event [and hope that nothing wrong will happen on that day].

The event itself

When meeting mappers, introduce yourself, and vice versa. After the introduction, have a brief chat. [Possible discussion points: What brought you to OSM, did it change your life, were you diagnosed with OCOSMD] Once the chat is over you may want to make an intro that the Skillshare event has started.

To start the Skillshare event, introduce yourself to the participants, then explain to them that they’re attending an OpenStreetMap Skillshare event (it’s an event where experienced OpenStreetMap contributors give hands-on tutorials to newbies mapping techniques and other fun things you can do with OpenStreetMap data). After that, explain to them what is OpenStreetMap, its origins and the evolution of the map in various places – London, Berlin, Paris, Atlanta, Kibera, Gonaives, Sendai, Tandale, and your local area/s.

Once you’re done with explaining the origins of the map, explain and expand the reasons why we should use OpenStreetMap. Below are my suggestions – you can freely add your own.

  • It costs less and has less copyright restrictions compared to other maps
  • Anyone can contribute to it
  • It’s crowd-sourced and community-based
  • The data in the map can be improved

Once we’re done with the reasons part, go to the part where you’ll explain the challenges met by OpenStreetMap contributors. You can add more concerns, if needed.

Though contributing to the map is interesting, many contributors have faced many challenges in their mapping experience. Some of them are:

  • The lack of high-resolution imagery.
  • Not enough contributors
  • “Broken edits” done by some contributors. To quote a more experienced OpenStreetMap contributor, “You spilled the milk, you wipe off the liquid with a cloth. If you notice it, email the concerned user.”
  • Contributors who aren’t active
  • Places that can’t be mapped. Some countries like Israel and Russia have strict rules when it comes to cartography-related concerns. For example, military installations, power generation and distribution facilities and other places are omitted on some maps due to security-related issues.
  • Misconceptions. From comparison with Wikipedia to association with other companies (CloudMade, MapQuest) to data inaccuracy. Fortunately, they can either be clarified or corrected.

“Despite the challenges, I believe that they can be overcome through patience, trial and error, cooperation and consensus. Besides, we all want OpenStreetMap to succeed.

From this point, you’ll explain some reasons why should people contribute to OpenStreetMap. Again, you can add more examples.

  • Tourists, backpackers, and other travelers will use it to find their way towards their destinations and related facilities.
  • People from the education sector can use it to teach cartography, point out the notable places in their local area, and increase the awareness of their respective neighborhood and communities
  • Persons employed in service and logistics-related companies can use it to aid their delivery of various goods and services
  • Businesses can highlight their online presence [without resorting to online advertisements] and put the neighborhood/s that host them on the map

Now that we’re done with the benefits part, explain to them the process of contributing to OpenStreetMap.

  • Create an account on
  • Edit [will be discussed in a few moments]
  • A more experienced mapper introduces you to the local OpenStreetMap community
  • You’ll learn from other mappers and vice versa
  • You’ll improve your mapping skills and have a somewhat unique editing style
  • Your work will be featured in OpenStreetMap, for the right reasons
  • You’re contributing to OpenStreetMap! Keep up the good work!

Once we’re done with that, go ahead to the part where we get GPS traces and uploading it to the OpenStreetMap database

  • Open your GPS and/or a GPS-enabled phone
  • Get a reliable signal
  • Go to your destination
  • Take notes
  • Extract GPS traces from your device
  • Clean them using Mapsource or JOSM
  • Upload them to OSM for tracing

Once we’re done with this part, you’ll teach them how to get POI’s using their gadgets.

  • Enter waypoint
  • Take notes
  • Extract waypoints
  • Convert to GPX if necessary
  • Upload to OSM for tracing

To be fair with those who don’t have a GPS [as in the case of some OpenStreetMap contributors], introduce to them the concept of “Walking Papers”

  • Go to
  • Scroll to the “Make a Print” section below
  • Go to the area where you want to map
  • Once satisfied, choose the orientation (portrait or landscape)
  • Once done, click on “Make”. It will take you to a page that you to a page that says “Preparing your print”. Don’t worry, you can bookmark that page and re-enter that site in 15-30 minutes.
  • Once you re-enter that page, you’ll notice that there’s a link that says “Download map PDF for print”. Click on that link, then save it. After saving the PDF file, print it.
  • Once you’re done printing, go outside and map!
  • If you’re done mapping, scan the map as a JPEG file with a 200+ DPI resolution. You’ll use that JPEG file to edit OpenStreetMap.

Once you’re done with the waypoint/POI/note/trace gathering part, it’s time for you to introduce the editing part.

First, introduce to them a basic yet powerful OpenStreetMap editing tool – Potlatch2. [For more details go to the Potlatch2 Primer on the OpenStreetMap Wiki] After that, introduce to them a more powerful (yet memory intensive) editing program – JOSM. [For more details, go to the JOSM page on the OpenStreetMap Wiki. For the guide on how to use JOSM, go here.] You may also discuss other editors (like Merkaartor and Mapzen), if time and enthusiasm permits.

If you still have the time, invite them to participate in the talk-ph mailing list ( If they are not part of it, then invite them. You may also invite them for another meetup or a mapping party in the near future. If they need more help (which tag to use, how to fix errors), send them the link to the OpenStreetMap help page (

And remember: Be friendly and courteous, even if some of them messed up a huge part of the map at some point.