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Harry Wood

Voting Member


I was heavily involved in OpenStreetMap since the early days, as a mapper, developer, documenter, wiki gardener, and communicator within the community. In 2010 I got involved in the Haiti earthquake response, and then with HOT as it formed. It was my honour to serve on the board of HOT from July 2011 until stepping down March 2015.


I remember the chaotic but beatifully organic nature of the Haiti mapping response. It's still one of the best stories to tell. How the OpenStreetMap community came together quite spontaneously (before HOT existed), and produced detailed maps which aid workers then stumbled upon, almost by accident, and found fantastically useful. But I remember two big frustrations at the time. The main priority mapping had been done, and so the huge influx of beginners who arrived keen to help with mapping, were given confused instructions about how to find missing patches to work on. The HOT Tasking Manager was since developed to tackle this, but it was with Typhoon Haiyan onwards that I saw the team really coalesce around some processes with this tool, resulting in really huge disaster responses, welcoming contributions from thousands of new mappers (Described in my Typhoon Haiyan talk). The other frustration at the time of Haiti was that, despite some great responses from some aid agency users, there was a feeling of huge untapped potential when it came to map usage. That was the main focus of a blog post I put out at the time. This remains a problem, although in general the toolsets around OpenStreetMap are improving and becoming less difficult to use all the time. The other fantastic change we have seen, is far more direct involvement from some big humanitarian organisations. MSF and the Red Cross in particular have noticed the benefits of OpenStreetMap to the extent that they're directly involved in getting more people contributing through programmes like The Missing Maps 


It's fantastic to observe these things happening, but I've also enjoyed getting stuck in and helping to make these things happen over the years. We're a very open organisation, particularly at the level of practical improvements, so "getting stuck in" is something anyone can do!


In the past I have taken a leading coordination role in many activations. But I like to lead by example. I think it's always good to ground ourselves in doing lots of mapping. The simple thing which we ask new poeple to do, we should be familiar with doing ourselves. Personally I love the simple pleasure making mapping contributions. I don't always have time to do a lot, but I try to do a little, as a sanity check, to ensure our instructions make sense.  In addition I often end up doing a lot of wide-range validation (so trying to ensure quality results by doing very broad checks). I think we still need more of this, although The Missing Maps project, and the HOT community are getting smarter when it comes to validation processes driving up quality.


I like to see the wiki being used as a way for us to collaborate on coordinating activations. I think we should make a wiki page per disaster, and link it from the "country" pages on the wiki. Then begin collaborating and organising as necessary from there. Anyone can do that, so it's a good way to spread the workload and get people helping organise things. I actually feel like the Tasking Manager has become too much of a central touchpoint in our processes. Instead we should coordinate on the wiki. I'm very confident with wiki editing though, and I appreciate that not everyone is. The idea would be to assemble some ideas first. Use the Tasking Manager when it's needed. Use other tools, such a bunch of notes, when that works better. But I can see that note-like features could be built into an altnate "project type" in the Tasking Manager. Will be interesting to see if it develops that way.


Harry Wood homepage



Nepal earthquake. We have maps

Since the earthquake struck in Nepal five days ago, 3679 mappers have made 62587 edits to the map (latest stats) It’s an amazing groundswell...

1 May, 2015

Interview on BBC World News

Last week we had a television interview, with me appearing alongside Andrew Braye from the British Red Cross, and with Pierre Béland joining us...

27 October, 2014

London HOT Congo Mapathon

What happens when you bring together people from Médecins Sans Frontières‎, with some people who are experienced OpenStreetMappers, and a bunch of people who...

8 May, 2014

Some editing stats from the Typhoon Haiyan response

On Friday I presented a talk at the Open Data Institute on "Typhoon Crisis Mapping With OpenStreetMap". You can see the slides and notes...

14 January, 2014

Thank you Lokku and Happy New Year

HOT is fortunate to have generous supporters around the world. We are a small non-profit that is mainly funded upon projects. Every contribution and donation is...

4 January, 2014


I presented the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team at PICNIC festival in Amsterdam. See the video here: Thanks to the European Journalism Centre for inviting HOT...

30 September, 2012

Finishing off the refugee camp mapping

Last month we asked people to help map refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia.It was an excercise in coordination using the HOT Tasking Manager, but this was initially also an experiment testing out various workflows and organisational interactions as part of a "Camp Roberts" excercise for the acquisition and setting up of imagery. We were working with the U.S. State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development using special aerial imagery from NextView. They wanted to see how, given this imagery to trace from, our community could map the refugee camps in a short space of time.

22 June, 2012

Christmas donation from nestoria

Nestoria have given a very generous donation to the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team In a blog post CEO Ed Freyfogle explains: "...rather than sending our...

7 January, 2012

Schuyler Erle and John Crowley join the board

We'd like to welcome two new members to the board of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team: Schuyler Erle - Long time pioneer of open Source...

21 December, 2011

Meeting face-to-face at SOTM Denver

Many members of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team have managed to come together in Denver for the State Of The Map. Things are always a...

11 September, 2011

Schuyler Erle's presentation at State Of The Map EU

The organisers of State Of The Map Europe have done a great job of rapidly publishing videos of the conference presentations (little camera icons...

18 July, 2011

Bevölkerungsschutz und Katastrophenhilfe

On May 28th members of the OpenStreetMap community met with employees of the Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance ("Bundesamt für Bevölkerungsschutz...

16 June, 2011

Japan earthquake and tsunami

OpenStreetMap used as a basemap for live disaster reports We've all been too busy for blogging lately, but the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team is of...

21 March, 2011

The new HOT logo

It is my pleasure to present the new Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team logo: Throughout December we held a logo design competition, inviting the community to...

25 January, 2011

Pakistan SPOT imagery coverage extended

The coverage of the SPOT imagery has recently been shifted and much extended, to cover a great deal more of the flood affected area...

4 September, 2010

Pakistan floods

In July Pakistan was hit by massive flooding. Monsoon rainfall continues to feed the floods and the flood itself has killed tens of thousands...

25 August, 2010

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