Learning about the crowd behind OpenStreetMap through interactive visualization of the project history


Sterling Quinn 30min

Penn State University
This talk was transcribed.

An examination of OpenStreetMap’s rich metadata reveals that the “crowd” behind this crowdsourced project is a mix of casual mappers, bots, importers, and systematic mappers, with some working for fun and others for profit. I provide a new look into these influences with an open interactive web map called Crowd Lens.

As a proof of concept of what can be done with the publicly available history dumps, Crowd Lens enables exploration of the OpenStreetMap contributor set in a given place, while allowing an analyst to fetch details about any particular contributor of interest.

Using data from towns around the world, I demonstrate how Crowd Lens can help us understand the activities of one-time mappers, bots, power mappers, and other little-understood influences. I also show how Crowd Lens can reveal sources of local expertise improving the map in a given place. Crowd Lens is publicly visible at http://sterlingquinn.net/apps/crowdlens/.