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News — 25 June, 2013

Faces of HOT: Jeff Haack, content writer of www.learnosm.org

Jeff Haack has been working on and off for HOT since its establishment. He has traveled the globe working on mapping projects-- from the Georgia to Gaza Strip to Indonesia. The Californian studied history at University of Evansville and joined the Peace Corps in Georgia shortly after. For the last couple of years, he has been involved on and off with the Indonesian project and has devoted much time and energy to the content of www.learnosm.org. Here is what he had to say about his experience working with HOT and using OSM. [inline:Image 1.png] How did you get involved with HOT/OSM?

Jeff Haack has been working on and off for HOT since its establishment. He has traveled the globe working on mapping projects-- from the Georgia to Gaza Strip to Indonesia. The Californian studied history at University of Evansville and joined the Peace Corps in Georgia shortly after. For the last couple of years, he has been involved on and off with the Indonesian project and has devoted much time and energy to the content of www.learnosm.org.

Here is what he had to say about his experience working with HOT and using OSM.

How did you get involved with HOT/OSM?
In 2008 I began working with JumpStart International, an American organization that primarily did projects in the Middle East. In the same style as many current HOT projects, we mapped streets and POIs for all of the West Bank, utilizing OSM software and methodology, but running our own system so that the data could be released as public domain. HOTtie Mikel Maron was involved in the project and led the pilot mapping of Bethlehem. Not long after there was a large bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip, and Mikel and others were able to raise funds for satellite imagery. The OSM community rallied and did remote mapping of Gaza. I went in with JumpStart soon after, working with local engineers and GIS students who collected some phenomenally detailed data. This was later integrated into OSM.

HOT got going, meanwhile JumpStart launched a large mapping project in Georgia (the country). We were doing pretty similar things, and using the same software. The Georgia team created a pretty extensive OSM handbook, and so did several HOT members, and it became clear that there was no sense having the same training materials written over and over again. Since getting more involved with HOT a couple years ago, I've devoted most of my time to training, and in that time we've managed to create a more uniform set of training materials on learnosm.org.

What had been your experience with learning/teaching OSM?
There's always something new when teaching OSM. I've trained mappers in quite a few countries, and it's always a different experience, on account of varying cultural aspects and environmental factors. Mappers in Gaza worked with incredible precision - half had at least one Master's degree. In Indonesia I've been impressed by the diligence of those attending trainings. Even when participants have little or no computer experience, it's amazing to see them try so hard and learn how to map. One of my favorite moments was in Kupang, where the 20 year-olds were helping along the older folks. They were shouting and pointing at everything on the computer screen, and everyone was laughing hysterically. In the end everyone was able to keep up, and they had a fun time helping each other along.

What are some ideas you have for expanding the OSM community? Or motivating more people to map?
People want to map when they see the value in it. Everyone who starts mapping experiences that first proud sensation when they see their edits appear on the slippy map, and it's that gratification that keeps people mapping. We can motivate mappers by providing more tools that make it easy for them to see their work and the value of it. New tools should be designed with simplicity and ease of use in mind. Too often open-source tools are difficult to understand, even for those who know their way around a computer, and we need to keep in mind that OSM is essentially a community tool, and the easier the tools the more their use will grow.

What is the greatest challenge you have with OSM?
Learning British English! I understand the dilemma non-English speakers face when trying to understand the tagging conventions. It's often just as confusing for me.

What do you think OSM greatest strength is?
The community. Without such a strong community of mappers and enthusiasts, OSM wouldn't be nearly what it is. We see the impact most noticeably when folks around the world organize and help map important locations. We saw it in Gaza, Haiti, Indonesia, Africa. Hundreds of volunteers offering just a little bit of their time and helping tremendously, alongside stalwart local efforts, have produced great results.

www.learnosm.org is gaining momentum after the new launch earlier in the year. Please check it out, contribute on github, or translate content!