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News — 20 September, 2011

HOT Tasks! Get Your HOT Tasks!

A couple weeks ago Patrick Meier wrote about HOT's new tool for tasking, the OpenStreetMap Tasking Manager. Now it has finally moved to its permanent

update: please note that the URL of the imagery in the Padang task has changed to: the previous URL is no longer in use

A couple weeks ago Patrick Meier wrote about HOT's new tool for tasking, the OpenStreetMap Tasking Manager.  Now it has finally moved to its permanent home:

One of the challenges of remote responses to events has been coordination.  Usually this happens through mailing lists and the OpenStreetMap wiki.  These types of collaboration tools have been pretty successful within the existing OpenStreetMap community.  Usually someone defines something that needs to be done and everyone pitches in to help.  There is a certain level effort lost though in not using the ideal tool for coordinating tasks, it can also be very difficult for new people to get involved.

An example use of the wiki to assign tasks has been the road import in Somalia.  A simple wiki table was set-up with links to each file to imported, the person importing a file would put their name in the table and then mark when the import was done.  This technique works, but there is a bit of effort to set things up and it can be difficult for a new person to jump in.

In the first week after the earthquake in Haiti I made a video on Youtube about how to digitize roads in OpenStreetMap to help.  The goal was to make it easier for people to assist in adding information from all the freely available aerial and satellite imagery that became available.  An additional barrier I didn't anticipate still remained, people weren't sure where to actually look at the imagery.  At that point the advice was to pick an area and pan across until you found somewhere where features were missing.  While this technique works it can be extremely difficult for novice OpenStreetMappers to get started.  Since that time ways to assign tasks to people has been discussed.  It has been fortunate through our work with Australia-Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction (AIFDR), the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) and Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana  (BNPB) that HOT has been able to begin tackling this problem.

When I was looking for solutions to this tasking issue I came across OSMQA2, an application built by Pierre Giraud and François Van Der Biest of Camptocamp.  I really like the clean interface and grid system, as well as the fact that the tool was very easy to set-up and start hacking on.  The one issue though was that the workflow didn't fit what HOT was trying to do.  We were fortunate to be able to work with Camptocamp to create the OSM Tasking Manger though.  Very similar in some ways to OSMQA, but allowing defining sets of tasks for people to work on.

Now we are going through the process of testing the new tasking application and we can use your help.  As part of our work in Indonesia HOT purchased imagery of Padang.  Padang is situated in Western Sumatra and at risk for both tsunamis and earthquakes.  Currently it is still recovering from a 2009 earthquake.  A task has been set-up to digitize the imagery in order to add buildings and roads.

The information collected can then be fed into Risiko, the risk modeling software build on top of GeoNode in the Risk in a Box toolset.  Additionally by digitizing information first then field collection can be made easier as well.  Someone can easily add attribute information to buildings using Walking-Papers for example and then this information can further feed into the models.  Needless to say we are pretty excited about the potential for data collection that the Tasking Manager provides and how it can feed into disaster risk reduction projects.  Additionally if something bad were to happen the coordination of data collection can be done more easily, instead of the ad hoc way it was performed in Haiti. If these ideas excited you please help us try things out.  Are you a developer and want to see more into the way things work?  Checkout the source.