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Advancing to Validation Stages in OSM – Challenges and Opportunities from the Regional Validation Hub: Philippine Camp


Ever wonder why the ratio of beginners and intermediate/advanced mappers is significant in OSM? 🤔 Let's unpack this intriguing question.

I have been a volunteer of OSM since 2013, and I’m aware of the unequal ratio between beginner to advanced and intermediate mappers. This observation is particularly evident in the "slow" validation process attributable to the limited number of validators available. But what else constitutes the unequal ratio?

Firstly, the ratio stems from people's widespread attraction to OSM, often pushed by the presence of various community groups engaging in outreach and advocacy efforts for the OSM project. These initiatives contribute to increased sign-ups within the OSM community.

Registered OSM users, generated by Pascal Neis (04212024)

However, it's important to remember that registering only sometimes translates to long-term active participation. Despite the initial interest sparked by these outreach activities, many registrants may need to engage more actively in mapping activities. Read Pascal Nei’s A comparative study between different OpenStreetMap contributor groups – Outline 2016

Secondly, advancing to higher levels of mapping proficiency (as tagged by the HOT Tasking Manager as Beginners, Intermediate, and Advanced) necessitates meeting a substantial set of mapping requirements, often equated with "mapping experience." But does this metric truly capture proficiency? While reaching the Intermediate/Advanced level grants the ability to validate tasks, it poses a significant hurdle for those who need to meet the criteria. The challenge lies in bridging the gap for individuals interested but still need to reach the required level. The only solution is to increase mapping contributions, though this will take a significant amount of time and effort among contributors.

Launching the YouthMappers Regional Validation Hub: Philippine Camp

Recently, I introduced a Regional Validation Hub: Philippine Camp, as part of my technical program as a Regional Ambassador for YouthMappers in Asia and the Pacific. Initially targeted to select participants based on their contribution statistics through OSM Teams, the camp evolved into an inclusive initiative open to all Filipino YouthMappers, running concurrently with a similar camp in Bangladesh. While the original intention was to leverage mapping statistics to identify students with extensive mapping experience (e.g., higher number of objects mapped in OSM – similar to how HOT Global Validation Teams run), challenges in obtaining data led to the decision to welcome all interested participants. Despite this adjustment, the overarching goal remains to establish a Regional Validation Hub for Asia, with attendees of the Philippine Camp poised to become members of this broader initiative. 🌏

Participants from the Philippine Camp: Session 3

During the four Saturday sessions, participants gained a deep understanding of the importance of validation and the tools necessary for conducting validation activities. They were introduced to JOSM and OSMCha (Special thanks to Wille Marcel!), alternative tools for error detection, and engaged in practical exercises focused on data validation. This hands-on experience contributed to enhancing the quality and accuracy of open mapping projects. Beyond skill development, the establishment of the Validation Hub in the Philippines fostered a sense of community among participants, creating a supportive environment for learning and collaboration.

This initiative serves as a local initiative and a potential model for replication in other regions. While initially conceived as a targeted program, the adaptable nature of the camp allows for its expansion to accommodate broader participation in the community, especially to those who have high interest in enhancing their mapping skills. By embracing inclusivity and flexibility, similar camps can be established in diverse geographical contexts (for example, regions in West Africa, Latin America, etc.), catering to local communities' unique needs and interests. This scalability opens up opportunities to promote validation techniques and community engagement on a larger scale, contributing to the growth and sustainability of the YouthMappers network globally. 🤝

Undoubtedly, challenges were encountered in the Philippine Camp, including the need to retain interest and sustain inspiration. The participants’ attendance and personal encounters with burnout throughout the four sessions were clear indicators of these challenges. Despite this, their dedication was commendable, and they deserve special recognition for their perseverance and contributions to the program.

Among these committed participants, only two are Advanced Mappers, with the remaining three classified as Beginner Mappers. In hindsight, their commitment is a testament to the potential of such initiatives to inspire and engage, presenting a valuable opportunity to bridge the gap for interested individuals.

On a personal note, managing the demanding schedule of five 2-hour sessions (including the kick-off meeting) has presented its own set of challenges. As the primary facilitator of the training program, maintaining energy and focus over an extended period has led to feelings of burnout. Sustaining the energy to host these sessions also proved taxing. This highlights the necessity for mentors like me to match the dedication required to host such an initiative. After all, students must feel the same commitment and enthusiasm to truly benefit from the camp.

Reflecting based on the Camp experiences

Despite these stringent technical and mental requirements, it's essential to reflect on whether we are actually bridging the data quality gap through these initiatives. Moreover, volunteer-driven initiatives like this, while noble, inherently face challenges due to their reliance on individuals' time and commitment as the sole capital. This dynamic underscores the critical need to acknowledge and navigate the limitations imposed by these constraints.

As we reflect on the efficacy of our current efforts, it becomes increasingly evident that innovative strategies must be developed to mitigate these challenges effectively. This also requires a collaborative effort among communities to identify and implement initiatives that inspire participation and provide sustainable support structures for volunteers, ensuring their continued engagement and impact.

💌 Interested in hosting a similar initiative or collaborating with me? Feel free to reach out!