Improving the OpenStreetMap Profile Page for more Social Interaction

A few weeks ago at the OpenStreetMap Hack Weekend that we hosted at the GeoIQ offices a small group of us chose to focus our time revamping the user profile page. Our goal is to improve the engagement of new as well as long-time users. There is a large number of new OSM members that have no, or a single, edit. Through the community the best way to engage users is to locally run parties and collaborate to improve their local areas.

Mikel recently shared his own thoughts and wish list in terms of making OpenStreetMap more social. A public community of 500,000 members should feel pretty vibrant to the world. And there is no shortage of incredible engagement among the numerous mailing lists, wikis, projects, IRC chats, meet ups, conferences, and general social media interactions.

OpenStreetMap | ajturner-1.pngOpenStreetMap | ajturner-1-1.png

Currently, the profile page includes a lack of very much information. Basic information on when I joined, when I accepted the new terms, and an optional description of myself. There is little to no information on my activity, contributions I've made over the years, groups I'm work with such as MappingDC, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap. That I have been active in mapping areas in New Zealand, Kenya, UK, and very active and located in Washington, DC. Arguably the page is nearly useless.

When signed in I can see some more information such as all mappers nearby me but the interface is a bit lackluster and not really useful for connecting with people or seeing recent edits I may be interested in seeing and updating.

OpenStreetMap user statistics.pngCompare that with Richard Weait's project where you can visualize the contributions, types of editors, activity, and more. While the data are arguably merely interesting it at least provides a measure of my engagement that I can be use for my own information and remind me to help out more, or provide others insight into my experience and where I might be able to offer help to others or receive help to become a better mapper.

Goals and Inventory

OpenStreetMap | test-2.png

As a group we derived an overall goals of what the issues are and what might be possible. We posted our "UI Inventory" on the OSM Wiki to share some of our thought process.

A primary goal of the weekend was to really just get my hands into the code, understand the structure and get experience through implementing some new features. The platform is built in Ruby on Rails, so it's fortunately very familiar to other projects I help develop.

Within two days we made a good first pass development of a new page that cleans up some of the general display, highlighting some of the user's statistics. More prominently we brought out a "Stream of activities" the member has done such as written an diary (blog) entry, contributed a map edit, or friended someone. These are still a bit preliminary but laid the ground work for bringing forth more activities in order to convey to visitors about the user's contributions and also for the user themselves to see and reflect on their efforts.

We're early in this process, primarily sketching out ideas and improving some simple features and issues with the pages. If you would like to share your input, leave a comment or join the mailing list.

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About the Author

Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.