Surveying OSM contributors: Learning from the community

Sunday 10:00, S.1.3

Zoe Gardner ¹, Peter Mooney ² 30 minutes

¹ University of Nottingham, School of Geography, Nottingham, UK; ² Maynooth University, Department of Computer Science, Maynooth, Ireland

In recent years, the academic research community have conducted various types of research into trying to understand the motivations, profiles and personalities of contributors to OpenStreetMap (OSM). This research is often completely quantitative - usually by considering ONLY the edits and interactions with the OSM database itself. In August 2017, after some discussion with the OSM community via mailing lists and blog posts, an online demographic survey [1] of OSM contributors was launched with the aim of understanding the impacts of user demographics on the data itself by linking these indicators to their editing behaviours. Over a four week period the survey garnered 326 responses which, given the advertising and dissemination strategies, constituted a low response rate.

During SOTM 2018, to both acknowledge the valuable contribution made by the users as well as demonstrate the potential of the community as a resource for understanding the deeper dynamics of OSM, we want to share the survey results with the OSM community. As well as updating quantitative estimates about the demographic profiles of OSM contributors (about which relatively little is known) we believe the survey contributes to the collective empirical knowledge about OSM contributors.

As well as these results, this paper will share some qualitative insights of working with and learning from the OSM community in this context. Topics will include the nature and role of mailing lists and their administrators; maintaining user anonymity in OSM; and mitigating language barriers for maximum inclusion. Through sharing our experience of these issues, it is hoped that during our paper presentation we can initiate a collaborative discussion about best practice in learning from OSM contributors themselves, as well as developing strategies to positively engage and develop a productive dialogue with OSM contributors for the benefit of both the scientific and OSM contributor communities. This will hopefully result in an ongoing dialogue post-conference focussed on how to improve academic engagement with the OSM user community. In these dialogues the potential further exploration of OSM as source of quantitative as well as rich qualitative data on its contributors will be discussed.