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News — 20 June, 2013

Faces of HOT: Heather Leson, newest board member

This week we caught up with Heather, the newest board member of HOT. She joined the board in March 2013. For the past few years Heather has been working at Ushahidi’s Director of Community Engagement. Heather stays busy organizing and managing programs for Ushahidi’s diverse community. She gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Combined Political Science and History from Carleton University in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, and a Library and Information Technician diploma from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto. You can read more about her on her textontechs blog. How did you get involved with HOT/OSM?

This week we caught up with Heather, the newest board member of HOT. She joined the board in March 2013. For the past few years Heather has been working at Ushahidi’s Director of Community Engagement. Heather stays busy organizing and managing programs for Ushahidi’s diverse community. She gained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Combined Political Science and History from Carleton University in Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, and a Library and Information Technician diploma from Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto. You can read more about her on her textontechs blog.How did you get involved with HOT/OSM?
I first heard about HOT/OSM before it was created. Truly, I was impressed by the collaborative effort from Haiti, the creation of HOT and all the subsequent HOT projects. Since that time, I have cited HOT as one of the most important community projects in the Open Source Tech for Good space.

How did you get involved with Ushahidi?
After the Haiti earthquake, I had heard about the efforts of the Ushahidi community. Then, the opportunity to join and contribute to the community started in the post-Chilean earthquake response. My first day volunteering was building out user documentation for the deployment. After a year of participating in the community, I was hired as Director of Community Engagement. Since that time I have built the international community supporting both software developers and topical users who have map projects ranging from elections to protests to environmental and more.

What had been your experience with learning/teaching OSM?
My experience involves teaching Ushahidi, which often involves OSM as a base layer. It has been exciting to be part of the decision to change our default layer to OSM and be an advocate within the Ushahidi community for OSM use.

I think my Ushahidi experience is very much applicable to helping HOT grow.

What are some ideas you have for expanding the OSM community? Or motivating more people to map?
Motivating people to map means lowering the barrier to entry. LearnOSM is a great program. I think we need a similar one for HOT to inform people about what HOT does and how to get involved.

One idea would be to have a "why we map or how to map" video series. Community works best when you have global leaders by region to activate folks in their own language.

Kate and I will be at OSCON sharing community stories as part of a panel. It is a key place to expand HOT support from our OS friends.

What is the greatest challenge you have with OSM?
I think that OSM has the same challenge as most technology for good communities. It is still a very niche community. This is very beautiful. Honest. Mapbox and other organizations are doing a great job of working on ways to lower the barrier to entry. We are all at the nascent stage of knowledge sharing for collaboration at a global community level. The more we teach and share while activating new members, the more pervasive we become.

What do you think OSM greatest strength is?
OSM's biggest strength is the community. As someone building communities, it is a dream to see the organic and collaborative spirit like OSM.

What is you goals for being on the board?
My goal on the board is to help the team focus on fundraising, communications and community growth.

How do you feel about being the only woman on the board... Does that get tiring to be asked that...?
I've worked in technology for over 15 years. I am used to being one of the few women around. It just means that I have a closet full of software tshirts. Seriously, though, we need Akirachix or Girls in Tech for Mappers to eliminate the gap.

We look forward to seeing what the board accomplishes this year.