Reinvigorating Working Groups

rweait's picture

Are you an OpenStreetMap contributor with a yearning to do more for the OpenStreetMap project? Consider participating in an OpenStreetMap Foundation Working Group. Working Groups were established to implement the wishes of the larger OpenStreetMap community particularly where individual mappers are less effective.

Working Groups execute tasks on behalf of the greater OpenSteetmap community and tend to operate along thematic boundaries.

Working Groups are seeking members?

Why, yes they are. A new Working Group is forming to address OpenStreetMap Foundation membership services. Several other Working Groups have solicited for new members in recent months. Matt, Michael, and Harry, have each opined that having more volunteers serving the Working Groups will improve Working Group effectiveness. I believe that they are correct.

I don't have the right skills for a Working Group

Perhaps you don't. Yet. Participating in a Working Group requires motivation, some background and a willingness to learn.

You might not have the right skills for a Working Group, but if you are reading this far into my latest Word Salad, you might just have the right background to become a helpful Working Group volunteer. Ideally, you should be familiar with OpenStreetMap and have a good grip on the basics of contributing data, consuming data, and participating in the community.

You can expect to learn more about OpenStreetMap by serving on a Working Group. I would even go so far as to say that if you don't expect to learn more about OpenStreetMap by serving on a Working Group, you might just be "Too Expert" to be a useful volunteer. The co-members of your Working Group won't drop you into projects that you can't handle. Everybody has a chance to come up to speed, and the Working Groups act as groups; they expect to help each other along.

Communication skills are important within the Working Groups as well as between groups and to and from the wider OpenStreetMap community. If you are ready to communicate, co-operate, share, and learn, you might just be ideal to help with a Working Group.

Administrative positions

Working Groups require some administrative maintenance, to keep them running effectively. Most groups run better when they have people to regularly do things like:

  • Schedule the next meeting and notify attendees
  • Take notes to record as minutes, publish the minutes promptly
  • Organize the meeting in progress by keeping agenda items in mind, and moving discussion to decision when appropriate
  • Prepare and circulate an agenda in advance of the meeting

These tasks are largely without glamor or recognition, beyond the appreciation of your group mates. If you find that some or any of these sort of organizational tasks fit your personality then you might be a very welcome addition to a Working Group that is short on organization. These should be longer-term commitments for the greatest benefit to the members of the Working Group. The administrative tasks might be shared among members or one members might adopt more than one task. Effective and prompt communication within the group will make the group more effective.

Project-based postitions

Some Working Groups have periodic tasks to execute. These tasks can vary widely and will depend on the Working Groups that match your interests. Project-based tasks may be long or short duration, and differing time committments will be required. Some tasks are reactive while others are scheduled. Some tasks are one-off, and others are repeating. Contact the Working Group to get details of how to participate.

  • Operations might seek expert advice on configuring a particular piece of support software. If you have that expertise and experiences in the OpenStreetMap context, you might be really helpful by offering advice at a single meeting.
  • You might serve as a local member of the State of the Map Working Group if you live in the host city and have event organizing skills.
  • If you are already submitting patches for core OpenStreetMap code, and you enjoy peer coaching, you might assist the Engineering Working Group at a developer event by offering a workshop or coaching enthusiastic attendees.
  • Add more project-based working group tasks in the comments below!

Ad-hoc positions

Some Working Group tasks crop up rarely. Other tasks benefit from subject matter expertise that is outside of that held by the group members. Pitch in and help on a specific task or project.

  • Follow the meeting minutes of a Working Group that interests you. Offer feedback via email. Consider sitting in on a future meeting.
  • If you are multi-lingual, you might translate a wiki page, blog post, or software documentation for one or more Working Groups.
  • If you have design skills, you might offer a submission for a logo contest like the recent JOSM logo contest. Or you might update and extend a set of icons. State of the Map events typically seek distinct logos and branding.
  • If you know of a story item for an OpenStreetMap Foundation blog, you could draft it for the Communication Working Group, or write it with their assistance.
  • Add more ad-hoc tasks for working groups in the comments below.

"Just do it"

There are ways that you can help the community, the foundation, and Working Groups that require little planning, no long term committment and no previously negotiated permission.

  • Be interested and involved. Read the meeting minutes of the Working Groups that pique your interest.
  • Spread the news about something interesting in the OpenStreetMap world. There are many communication channels with an overlap of interests with OpenStreetMap. If you learn of something interesting in one channel, consider sharing that information in another channel. Share or republish on your favoured social media. Translate an announcement into another language and share it on a language-based list.
  • Help cross communication channels. Has somebody asked a question on one of your channels that was asked and answered on another channel recently? Provide a link for the person asking.
  • Organize and host an OpenStreetMap community event. Invite newcomers and curious onlookers to participate. Offer peer-coaching and encourage questions. Alternate "answering" questions, with demonstrating the resources for self-learning, such as taginfo, the wiki, lists and the help site.
  • Say, "Thank you." Working Group members are volunteers and they are attempting to execute tasks on your behalf. They aren't paid. Some contribute as many hours to Working Groups as a devoted mapper does to surveying. Offering them a note of thanks, can be highly motivating. Thank a volunteer in private email, with a note to a Working Group, with a post to a mailing list, social media or blog posting.
  • Add more "Just do it" tasks in the comments below.


  • Photo credit Raising Leckie's Barn. Copyright expired, public domain. Found here