Aug 26 2014 Tue
3:51 am PHT
Harry Wood, CC-BY-SA 2.0
Many of my friends and colleagues know that I spend much of my free time contributing to OpenStreetMap and to the Wikimedia projects, of which Wikipedia is the most famous. I get a real sense of fulfilment in knowing that my voluntary work—whether online by contributing freely-licensed geographical data or encyclopedic content and media, or offline by organizing events, running workshops, or giving presentations—provides a tangible benefit to the whole world.
So, it was a really amazing opportunity that I got to celebrate an important event in each project at the same time in the beautiful city of London earlier this month. First was Wikimania, the annual international conference for the Wikimedia movement. And second was the tenth anniversary of OpenStreetMap. It’s a fortuitous coincidence that both events happened on the same weekend and that Wikimania was held in London, the very same city where OpenStreetMap was born.
Fortunately, my Wikimania presentation submission was accepted and so it was that I found myself in front of the Fountain Room at the Barbican Centre on the morning of August 9 talking to packed room about the two open-content projects that I am most passionate about. I have been to two previous Wikimanias (2011 in Haifa and 2013 in Hong Kong) but this was the first time that I became a speaker instead of just an attendee.
My presentation tackled the history, status, and challenges of collaborations between Wikimedia and OpenStreetMap. Both projects have many similarities and it is a fact that OpenStreetMap was inspired by the success of Wikipedia and it is not unusual that OpenStreetMap is often introduced as “Wikipedia for maps”. It is therefore no surprise that there is a lot of interaction between the two projects, ranging from enhancing Wikipedia articles with dynamic maps sourced from OpenStreetMap to a joint activity between Wikimedia Indonesia and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team to map and write articles about Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo. Of course, as with many other collaborations, there are challenges and problems encountered. The difficulty in further collaborations between OpenStreetMap and Wikimedia (namely, sharing of geodata) is mainly related to the incompatible licensing and legal norms adopted by the two projects.
I think my presentation was well-received because a few people approached me afterwards saying that they liked my presentation. Harry Wood, a prominent member of the OpenStreetMap community in the United Kingdom, stated that I did a great job during the Q&A, while Luis Villa, the Deputy General Counsel of the Wikimedia Foundation, told me that he enjoyed listening to my talk—which was really great because I took it that I didn’t mess up the legal points during my talk.
Throughout the conference and during the OSM 10th birthday party in a nearby pub (this deserves a separate blog post), I got to meet a lot of people from the OpenStreetMap community in the UK and elsewhere—many for the first time and some again from past events. Among the people who are also active in Wikimedia were Katie (User:Aude) from the US (currently residing in Germany), a lady hacker whom I’ve met several times already; Tim (User:Kolossos) from Germany and Liang (User:Shangkuanlc) from Taiwan, both of whom I ate noodles with last year in Hong Kong; Holger from Sweden, whom I first met at the OSM Mapping Party in Haifa; Susanna from Finland, who is spearheading Wikimap (aka the maps with a time slider); and Andy (User:Pigsonthewing) from the UK, whom I met for the first time and who gave a presentation after me introducing OpenStreetMap and proposing tools to automatically add links between Wikipedia articles and OpenStreetMap objects. Other members of the OSM community that I met for the first time were Harry (whom I mentioned above); Jerry (User:SK53) from the East Midlands community; Grant Slater, OSM sysad extraordinaire; and Frederik Ramm, arguably the most vocal OSM contributor from Germany. There were a few other people I’ve met but I already forgot their names (sorry!). All in all, I had a really great time chatting with these people and learning what they were up to and what activities they were pursuing.
I would like to give my sincere gratitude to the Wikimedia Foundation and the Wikimania 2014 Scholarship Committee for selecting me as one of the travel scholarship recipients. I wouldn’t have been able to come to London without it, and I wouldn’t have had the amazing experience of celebrating and sharing my passion for OpenStreetMap and Wikimedia with other like-minded people.