Brandon Rozek

Photo of Brandon Rozek

PhD Student @ RPI studying Automated Reasoning in AI and Linux Enthusiast.

Contributing to OpenStreetMap

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2 minute reading time

Last year I made my first foray into contributing to OpenStreetMap. I find the concept of contributing data to enhance mapping very appealing as an open source enthusiast. Now when you think about editing a map, staring at satellite imagery and drawing traces may come to mind. But what if I told you that’s not the only way to contribute to OpenStreetMap? What if we can both contribute to an open source database of knowledge, and get fresh air at the same time?

Mobile apps StreetComplete and Vespucci make it possible for me to go out to my local community and survey my surroundings. In fact, I often upload my edits while I’m outside. There’s no need to write things down and upload at a later date.

The absolute easiest way to get started is with StreetComplete. It’s a great way to start because not only do they simplify the experience, but they also provide gamification elements to help get started.1 The quests are missing metadata within OpenStreetMap. For example you’ll get questions like “How many lanes are in this road?” or “Is this sidewalk lit?”. As you use the app, it also tells you more features of OpenStreetMap and community services over time.

Since StreetComplete only provides quests about missing metadata, there will come a time where that feels restrictive.2 For example, what if a shop changed owners recently and changed names? This is where our next app comes in.

I’ve only recently started using Vespucci and from what I can tell you can edit just about anything on the app. This means that it’s not as intuitive to pick up as StreetComplete and does have a bit of a learning curve. I recently used Vespucci to add business locations that were not already in OpenStreetMap. I was able to do this by editing the metadata of a node. A node represents a latitude and longitude, but through adding metadata we can insert things like type of business and hours of operation.

Vespucci also includes presets which help you know which fields to include. For example there’s a preset called “Restaurant” which provides fields such as cuisine, hours of operation, delivery available, and others. I encourage you to try it out and help provide information about your area!

  1. Fun fact, on my profile at the time of writing, it says I have 46 achievement levels. ↩︎

  2. It appears that recent versions of StreetComplete features overlays which helps address some of these concerns. I have yet to try them out, however, I still encourage people trying out Vespucci for advanced editng. ↩︎

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