An Incomplete History of Companies and Professionals in OpenStreetMap

Room: Track 1

Saturday, 18:00 UTC


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  • Mikel Maron

I want to reset the vision of companies place in OSM, starting by connecting back in time to when it was all more fluid in our community. For example, a month after I met Steve Coast in 2005, I was setting up meetings with Google. Helped secure Yahoo! maps imagery in 2007. Companies hosted many of the early days mapping parties. Professional cartographers were among the projects most original enthusiasts. The point was to change how mapping was done – including and especially at companies.

Only later did some draw a sharp distinction between volunteer and professional activities in our project. The reality of the relationship of companies and professionals in OpenStreetMap from the very earliest days until today is … complicated. There”s incredible mutual benefit and purpose. There are super hard issues to address when large amounts of resources are mustered, among the constellation of many kinds of actors and motivations in OpenStreetMap, whether they be hobbyists, developers, students, researchers, non-profits and on and on. The reality is that OpenStreetMap is transformative, and that companies in OSM first come for the data, then stay for the mission. There are of course fumbles along the way.

But as a community we”ve lacked a way to take a clear eyed view of the challenges and vital role companies and professionals have played in what OSM has become today. In part that fault lies with companies themselves, who are risk averse to delving into our wild and wooly communications. Those that do, can take a lot of heat.

This talk with survey the bright and dark history of companies and professional involvement in OpenStreetMap, lay out the challenges that we face now, and chart steps forward to figuring this out together.