Although I’m a casual mapper and I did know some things about OSM and its core technologies, this was my first in-depth immersion into that world. Note also that during the conference I followed a specific path into the multiple choices we had so, do not expect me to write a complete summary of the conference neither a hands-on guide on “How Mapnick stylesheets were ported to CartoCSS” (enjoyed a lot that talk by the way!). I’ll focus on the community side of the conference.
- Growing: the conference was a happy party for a growing community of mappers. Two of the main vectors for that growth are the steady switch to OSM from Google Maps and the fantastic work the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) is doing. You don’t have to be in the conference to know that but, you cannot feel it until you do: the talks were fun, the conversations were about the future to come, the “Introduction to OSM for GIS Professionals” was completely booked, etc.
- Healthy: there are a number of big players in the mapping arena already involved in the community. To name a few in no particular order: Ordnance Survey, Mapbox, US State Department, ITO, OpenGeo, etc. But there are also a myriad of others engaged: from councils releasing their data directly to OSM to people using UAVs to map Haiti! So, as far as I’ve seen, the contributions range from individuals to companies, from governments to universities.
Other that that, OSM is strugging with growth. For me, there is a subtle line which connects Alyssa Wright’s “Changing the Ratio of OSM communities“, Richard FairHurt’s “You are not the crowd“, the tools built by the Mapbox guys for the next generation of contributors, the world-class documentation the HOT team is creating and the multiple talks on gamification during the conference: they’re all talking about how should OSM growth. Being it the social side of it (how could we engage new contributors?) or the technical one (what tools do we need for people to find easy work with OSM?). That is a challenge, but a challenge that most of the communities I know would like to have.
As an outsider, I got the impression that OSM is like a teenager that still has to define itself in some aspects. And my belief is that it it manages to do it in a smoothly fashion, it will have an even brighter future ahead.