Using the power of crowdsourcing, OpenStreetMaps (OSM) allows up-to-date satellite imagery to be used to generate accurate maps. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) organizes projects for updating the OSM database in anticipation of or in response to regional crises. Code for Burlington (Code4BTV) provides support for HOT projects by scheduling Crisis Mapping Events, and otherwise encouraging local citizens to engage in this humanitarian activity.
Each does a little, and together we all do a lot.
Currently, Code4BTV announces its Crisis Mapping Events on its MeetUp. However, no one should feel like they have to wait for an event to begin mapping! We have provided the basic steps needed to get started below (or scroll even further down for more detailed instructions).
1) Create an Open Street Map account
Visit www.openstreetmap.org and register as a new user if you haven't done so already.
2) Pick a task from the Humanitarian Mapping Task Manager
Go to tasks.hotosm.org and search for a project to begin mapping. There are always dozens of projects available to choose from.
3) Start mapping!
The most basic mapping is putting buildings and roads on the map. This is the most vital information for relief organizations, and the foundation of most mapping information. Just scroll down the project page and click the orange "MAP" button. You can select a specific region, or you can let the site assign you a random region. And you're off!
If you would like your contributions to be credited to Code for BTV, add the #code4btv hashtag in the Comments section when you save your work.
Crisis Mapping Detailed Instructions
Step 1: Computer
Set yourself up with a computer that can access the Internet, and open your browser. These tools do not work as well in Chrome, so you might want to use Safari or Firefox.
Step 2: OSM account - https://www.openstreetmap.org
Create an account with Open Street Map, or log into your existing account. If you are creating a new account, make sure you receive and respond to the confirmation email and read the welcome page.
Step 2A: Tutorial - Learn OpenStreetMap Step by Step
If you are unfamiliar with OpenStreetMap, this helpful tutorial can teach you how to navigate the OSM site and use the ID editor. You will probably want to set aside 20-30 minutes to complete it.
There is also a tutorial recommended by HOT, at https://mapgive.state.gov/learn-to-map/, which includes videos and written instructions.
Step 3: Getting started with HOT - https://tasks.hotosm.org/
In a new tab in your browser, navigate to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team's website. Click on the Start Mapping button.
Step 4: Selecting an HOT project - https://tasks.hotosm.org/
Step 4a: Grid view
Descriptions of projects are displayed. Generally those with the most urgent needs are displayed first.
Step 4b: Map view
Projects are displayed as numbered circles on a map of the world. The bigger the circle, the bigger the size of the project. You can use this to view projects in a particular area of interest.
Step 4c: Search
You can select a project by searching on a keyword, location, or project number.
Step 4d: Workshop
If you are attending a Code for BTV Crisis Mapping Event, your host will show you how to access the project specific to that event.
Step 5: Read the Instructions
Once you have selected a project, scroll down to find the project Instructions. Here will be listed the type(s) of mapping to be done. You will almost always be asked to map the buildings. As you get more experienced you might start designating specific building types or entering their features, although some of that information is not available to you here.
The major roads will likely already have been mapped, but there may be secondary access roads that should be mapped. In very rural areas, it is important to map all the roads and footpaths.
If you are attending a Code for BTV Meetup, the leader may have additional instructions.
Step 6: Select a task
To the right of the instructions there will be a map of the area to be processed. It will be divided up into squares, each of which is called a "task". Near the bottom of the map will be a legend, explaining the meaning of each color. You can use your mouse wheel or the "+" and "-" buttons on the map to zoom in and out, and you can click and drag to scroll the map.
If you click on any of the colored squares, you will see the work history for that task. You can look for tasks you and others have worked on previously, and track your/their progress this way.
Clicking on a task that is marked "Ready" (no color) will allow you to use the editor to map its features, per the instructions. It’s possible that the task you have selected is not available for editing. Click on uncolored squares until you see the message “This task is available for mapping,” then click on the “Start Mapping” button.
The first time you select a task, you may be asked to allow HOT to "login" to your OSM account.
When you click on the link, a new tab will open and you will see a request to allow your work on the HOT website to be linked to your OSM account.
Step 7: Map a task
Once you have selected a task that is available for mapping, click on the Start Mapping button.
This task will remain locked by you for 2 hours, or until you finish it or release it. This allows for short interruptions, but also allows others to continue work if you lose your connection or forget to release it.
Select the ID Editor, and click on the Start Editor button. In a new tab, the ID editor will be displayed, ready to edit the HOT task you selected. Keep the HOT task selection tab open, as you will want to use it later.
Use the drawing tools to mark the items (buildings, roads, and other structures) as described in the project Instructions.
You may find that some of the features have already been mapped. This can happen if the project includes a portion of OSM that has not been updated recently. It can also happen if another volunteer indicated a task was completely mapped, but on review it was discovered that there were additional features that needed to be mapped.
If you are having trouble identifying a feature on the map, it may be helpful to look at other images of the same location. On the right side of the screen is a menu of icons. Click on the "Layers" icon to reveal a side menu that will allow you to select other datasets.
As you complete each item, the number of items updated since the last Save will appear in a tab next to the Save button. It’s inefficient to Save after every change, but don’t go too long without saving. It’s frustrating to have to redo half an hour’s work!
When you click on Save, a sidebar will be displayed. The Changeset Comments and Suggested Hashtags fields will be prefilled. You can make additional comments here if you think it is helpful. If you are not sure your edits are accurate, you can request they be reviewed by an OSM volunteer. (All HOT tasks are reviewed by HOT volunteers, as well.) When you are done, click on Upload. If you would like your contributions to be credited to Code for BTV, add the #code4btv hashtag.
You will still have the opportunity to make changes (additions, updates, deletions) to your edits as you continue your work. These changes will be uploaded to OSM when you make additional Saves. You will also be given an opportunity to make comments when you release the HOT task. These comments will be read by the HOT volunteer(s) who review your work.
Step 8: Release the HOT task
When you select an HOT task, the task is reserved for you for 2 hours. In the event that your connection to the site is lost or you have to leave unexpectedly without releasing the task to other volunteers, all the edits you saved/uploaded to OSM will be associated with that task, but the reservation will expire.
When you are ready to release the task you are working on, return to the tab in your browser where you selected the task. Choose the option that best describes why you are releasing the task. Leave a comment if you feel it would be helpful to HOT volunteers.
Option 1: Split task
If the task has so many features to be mapped that the work cannot be completed in 2 hours, and it should be split into multiple tasks, select this option.
Option 2: Mark as bad imagery
If the imagery is blurred, dark, or does not have sufficient contrast to permit features to be mapped, select this option.
Option 3: Stop Mapping
If you are ending your edit session, but there are still features to be mapped, select this option. The task will then be made available to other volunteers to make additional edits.
Option 4: Mark as completely mapped
If all the requested features are mapped, select this option. The task will be marked as Mapped, and made available to HOT volunteers to validate the updates.
Step 9: Review the results - OSM Changeset Tool
It is possible to view aggregate results of work by an individual or a group using a tool that selects updates by the text and hashtags entered into the comment section of uploads. If you chose to identify your work as being part of a Code for BTV Crisis Mapping Event, use the above link and search for "#code4btv". Results will only be displayed after the uploads have been validated.
Volunteer humanitarian mappers are making a real difference on the ground in the areas we map. We can not thank you enough for your help and contributions.
~Blake, volunteer mapper and member of the OSM Training Working Group