State of the Map U.S. Conference Report

By Learon Dalby

I attended State of the Map US, the U.S. OpenStreetMap event, this past weekend in Atlanta, Georgia. This was a great opportunity for me to familiarize myself with this community. I have to admit I was a bit surprised. The participants came from across the U.S. but typical GIS users were not in the majority. I am not sure why this surprised me since OpenStreetMap is a voluntary effort. This group is dedicated! A number of the attendees paid their own way to the event, and several were using this as a vacation. The list of sponsors was also an interesting mix.

Paraphrasing State of the Map US conference planners Kate Chapman and Thea Clay, OpenStreetMap in the U.S. has a unique set of challenges to overcome: everything from how to deal with the quantity of open data available for import into OpenStreetMap to the sheer size of the area needing to be mapped. This conference was an initial step in the dialog of improving and growing OpenStreetMap in the United States. The diversity in the attendees, everyone from large commercial companies to small government GIS people to community mappers, allowed everyone to meet face-to-face and share their perspective.

Presentations ranged from policy to technical, and each presenter brought a unique perspective. As I review my notes from the conference I believe OSM in the U.S. faces two major challenges: first, engaging and retaining dedicated individuals to maintain the map; second, leveraging high quality data that are available for use via government sources. Each of these challenges is compounded by vision, mission and the vast range of active OSM mappers. I do not believe either of these is a barrier to success but they are obstacles that will need to be navigated. I believe these are the same obstacles nearly every national mapping effort in the U.S. has faced.

Several presentations were of particular interest to me. MapQuest had representatives at the conference all weekend and provided a couple of presentations on how it would like to use OSM. [MapQuest's recent announcement regarding OSM -Ed.] I had the opportunity to see a live demo of the ArcGIS 10 OSM editing tool and learn about specific uses of OSM data/services in schools and local government. It will be interesting to see how the OSM community responds to private and public sector participation.

From OSM Founder Steve Coast: "The first annual OpenStreetMap US conference, the state of the map, has been a fantastic success with attendees from across the continent. It's amazing to see a community coming together in the flesh to work on such an awe inspiring project - opening up the map to the USA."

My presentation is online; I have not found any of the others posted yet.

Published Friday, August 20th, 2010

Written by Learon Dalby

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