How do I join the Cool Kids?
Pssst. Hey, You. You over there feeling left out. Want to know the secret to joining the cool kids?
The secret is,
you're already a cool kid.
Disappointed? Don't be. You're already one of a small percentage of the world population who knows how to improve their local geo data and share it through OpenStreetMap. Think that isn't a select group? Think again. Only 30 - 50% of those who think they might like to contribute by signing up, actually contribute their first changeset. Only a few thousand people per day contribute, out of a planet of 7 billions. Pretty cool.
Want to be even cooler?
How do I learn what is going to happen before it happens?
Become a coder of some sort. Contribute code to one or more OpenStreetMap-related software projects. You think mappers are a select group? They are. Now let's count coders who contribute on a daily basis. It isn't a few thousand per day. More like a few dozen. And those are divided among dozens of projects.
So pick a project that interests you; any one you like. Rendering, storage, UI, translations, accessibility, web site, QA, anything at all in the huge and varied OpenStreetMap tool chain and contribute.
- find a long outstanding bug and check to see if it is (still) reproducible.
- write some documentation for a beginner.
- improve performance.
- test a patch on different hardware.
- triage a new bug.
- try some OpenStreetMap related apps on your favorite device and write a comparative review
Or even pick a project that you think needs to do more outreach, and help it do that outreach. Follow their project communication channels, and translate their bug reports, feature requests and design discussions into something suitable for a wider audience, then publish it to the appropriate wider comms channels.
Learn more about what interests you. Share what you learn with others.
An OpenStreetMap tag line from some of the early mapping party banners read,
It's fun. It's free. You can help.
But, I don't know anything about Mapnik
Start somewhere. It doesn't have to be Mapnik, it can be any project that piques your interest. But if Mapnik does interest you, there are examples of how to get started with Mapnik. You can even find out about the many meanings of
Mapnik and how to decide which definition applies in which context.
 /me waves hands to distract from wild guess number.
This article started life as a reply on one of the OpenStreetMap mailing lists, where an author asked how decisions were made in a particular OpenStreetMap related project.