(Français) Ce que nous apprend la communauté OpenStreetMap

On June 1, 2 and 3 the national meetings around the OpenStreetMap project took place in Bordeaux (France). Tango (developer of Communecter) and I (Tom) were there. It was also a strong moment since I am now the only one of the association to have met Tango in flesh and blood since he lives in New Caledonia while a good part of the team lives on Reunion Island. This is also the SotM: bringing together people who sometimes have never met physically.

During 3 days, contributors, users, representatives of communities and companies gravitating around the Web and geographic information, researchers, but also people curious to discover this “free map of the world” that represents OSM, will meet to share their experiences, stay informed, learn, discover the ecosystem and the multiple applications – existing or to imagine – around OpenStreetMap.

On the program: 80 presentations from 30 minutes to 2 hours. You might as well say that even with a group it is difficult to see everything. Fortunately some were filmed and are already available on the community PeerTube.

It started out pretty strong with an intervention by two researchers entitled “OpenStreetMap is dead, long live OpenStreetMap!“. Through a quick history of mapping and various examples, stakeholders make us realize that producing a map is never neutral. Making an area inhabited by an indigenous people appear allows it to exist in the eyes of all. Still today many militant cards flourish through the web. There is also a huge stake around the toponymy of places that has given rise to quite a few controversies, especially in Guyana. Personally I had never thought that giving the name of a place in a certain language rather than another, or refusing a Unicode character could be the object of conflicts with institutions (the IGN – National Institute for Geographic and Forestry Information – in this case).

Later, a user will explain how he moved a border… by mistake :


To conclude this beautiful introduction, the researchers highlight the institutionalization of OSM which could, if we are not careful, marginalize visions of the world which may seem minority, but which are in reality very progressive.

After this community presentation, three very rich days followed. Some presentations were technical and very related to cartographer issues. Others concerned the OSM project, the community, and the interactions that can have with other actors (Cartography and Urban Policy, the OSM community in Haiti, When research works with/on OpenStreetMap…). Vincent Bergeot (co-president of OSM France) told us about his desire to blend into the ecosystem of common goods:


Moreover, one of the reasons why we were present at SotM was that a round table was organized with our friend Sebastian from Près de chez nous about the interoperability between our different databases. In other words: how can contributions to Communecter and “Près de chez nous” complement OpenStreetMap? It was very informative, and we sincerely thank those present for their insights. Something concrete should happen in the coming months.

Any help is welcome to assist us in creating links between our commons and our communities.

A strong community of these tools

OpenStreetMap is above all an open data database. The ecosystem of applications that has been structured to visualize, improve and feed this database is quite impressive, here is a small overview.

First, you can view the database in different ways. We all know the rendering of Mapnik software since it is the one used to display the main map (openstreetmap.org). But there are many other ways to view OSM data. Here is a small selection of projects re-using OSM data (and not just the background map):

There is also a range of services that use OSM such as GPS (OsmAnd, Maps.me).

But where it gets super interesting is the possibility offered by some applications to easily contribute to this database. Participating in a common good can be complicated and even boring, but thanks to Jungle Bus or StreetComplete it becomes simple and fun. Quality assurance tools also facilitate this work. In particular, they automatically detect potential errors and track changes made to an item. Finally, software allows collaborative mapping of an area or type of element synchronously (during a map party for example) or over a longer period (MapCraft, MapContribPic4Review).

Finally, I really liked the WeeklyOSM initiative, which publishes a weekly summary of what happened in the community.

Conclusions and perspectives for Communicating

I learned many lessons from this quick meeting with the OSM community. First, I realized, once again, that it is illusory to think that a tool can be neutral. There is some subjectivity in the way we present information on a simple map alone. It is therefore in our interest to think carefully about the meaning we give to this free social network so that our technical choices match our values. On this subject I invite you to read the excellent article “From the inconvenience of being born”… connected.

I also realize the importance of thinking not only about how information is presented, but also how any individual can potentially contribute to an open, free and participatory database such as Communecter. I don’t think it’s desirable to have as many data integration tools as OSM. However we can imagine a first tool that is simple, fun, and effective so that we are ready the day we are given the means to develop it (or that a human pixel feels ready to do it :p).

The development of interoperability between OSM and Communecter is obvious. I’m not going to get involved in the technical part because I don’t master it well enough, but maybe it will be the subject of a new article on this blog.

The OpenStreetMap community has flaws of these qualities. The application ecosystem is rich, but we don’t understand which tool to turn to. The wiki is abundant, but it is difficult to understand its structure. The community is large, but you don’t necessarily know where to find it. Let us take stock of these problems now. The advantage we have over OSM is that we are at the beginning of our adventure. It is therefore still time to correct what might be a problem in the future.

In any case, I think our communities have everything to gain by having a place to discuss these issues. Tango and I presented Communecter to part of the newly elected OSM Board of Directors. We think that it is the platform on which local groups can meet, discuss, develop their projects, andHello @TomPom the English translation comes here. It is without weblinks, if you want the text linkyfied then tell me, I’ll do it until tomorrow.

organize themselves (listening to the OpenStreetMap presentation in 2050 is a real need). Thus, we hope to be as useful to this community as it is for the common good.

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