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How did OpenStreetMap start from nothing and build into a global map? The story and community interviews by the founder, Steve Coast
How did OpenStreetMap start from nothing and build into a global map? The story and community interviews by the founder, Steve Coast
How did OpenStreetMap start from nothing and build into a global map? The story and community interviews by the founder, Steve Coast
212 backers pledged $9,853 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

The Book of OpenStreetMap

$9,853

212

The OpenStreetMap Success

OpenStreetMap is the open and free map of the world made by people like you. It's like wikipedia, but for maps. Instead of writing text articles, we build map datasets that are then made available free to anyone.

Berlin Zoo on OpenStreetMap
Berlin Zoo on OpenStreetMap

OpenStreetMap was started ten years ago in London by me, a broke college dropout. Since then it's exploded in to a global powerhouse of mapping data, approaching two million registered accounts.

People from around the world use phones, laptops, GPS devices and cameras to capture facts about the real world and then turn them in to map data.

The Presidio in San Francisco on OpenStreetMap
The Presidio in San Francisco on OpenStreetMap

Who uses the maps? Practically everybody from Craigslist to Apple. OpenStreetMap is much more than just streets. It includes anything you can map, including footpaths, restaurants, biking trails, ski areas, trees, beaches. If you can think of it, someone has probably already mapped it.

Attendees of the State of the Map US conference in 2013. Photo copyright Justin R. Miller.
Attendees of the State of the Map US conference in 2013. Photo copyright Justin R. Miller.

OpenStreetMap has an annual conference, The State of the Map. I started this with others in the UK and it's since spread all over the world with local events.

It's not easy to summarize a decade of mapping (hence the book!) but here's a recent talk I gave about OpenStreetMap at the Telenav Scout launch, and you can also find out many ways to get involved:

The Book of OSM

I've been noodling a long time about how to structure and write a book about OSM. I never wanted to write a book about how to use the project, there are many now available of those in any case. I'm more interested in the stories and the people. How the project got going, the twists and turns, the 'ah-ha' moments and so on.

The blocker for me was figuring out how to give a voice to the community. I may have started the project but without thousands of other people it wouldn't be where it is today. A friend showed me a book of interviews with designers and that solved the problem. So to give that voice, why not interview a number of key people?

What will be in the book

The book will be split roughly as 25% history (which may be in interview form) and 75% interviews with key people through the projects history, with those numbers subject to some change.

  • Your name, as a type of producer (see rewards)
  • The story of the project, from the early days to today
  • Discussion of why some technical decisions were made (usually for a non-technical reason)
  • Which things worked, which didn't
  • Interviews with 15-25 key project members, including a favorite map for each of them and where possible, a picture of them

What won't be in the book

Anything that will easily obsolete or get out of date won't be in the book. That means:

  • How to map things and use the software today
  • How to use the website today
  • Deep technical, licensing or tagging discussions (as much fun as those things are)

Sadly it also isn't physically possible to list every single project contributor.

What might be in the book

A number of companies have been involved in OSM over the years, and their contributions have been both interesting and extremely interesting. I need feedback to figure out how to tell those stories in an unbiased and open way, which just might not be possible.

Design & Technical Stuff

The cover of the book you can see above. There's a chance it will change based on feedback from you.

For the internals I want to highlight a map for each interview. Something the person mapped, or a favorite place to give some context. I'm not sure if these will be in the background, on a facing page or what right now. It will come together over the course of writing the book and take in to account printing costs and design recommendations. I also want to include a photo of each person, where that's possible and they agree.

The PDF will be relatively easy to produce. I'll explore other formats too (e.g. Kindle & EPUB) with the caveat that it won't necessarily make sense to include all the images in those formats for rendering on eInk devices.

After the project is done, the book will be available in some combination of print-on-demand & kindle formats, and your name will still be included in that edition.

Updates

If you look at my first kickstarter project you'll see frequent, rich and interesting updates. I am not a fan of kickstarter projects that take your money and then disappear for a year or two and then mail you a widget. You will be part of the journey of the book.

Risks and challenges

The first thing you should know is that I've already successfully shipped a great kickstarter project, my GPS ART POSTER. It raised nearly $15k and shipped hundreds of posters all over the world, you can read the very positive comments there (this box sadly won't let me link to it).

The open question is the size and design of the internals of the book. A bigger page size means fewer total pages. I'm going to work with a designer to nail these down as the project progresses. I have several great designer friends, and there are many freelance designers in the world, so I'm not concerned, but it is an open question. The outcome of the interviews will be another factor; their length and style and so on.

We also need editorial help. I have two plans for that. First, engaging you. If you have the time and inclination you'll see drafts and be able to provide feedback. I won't keep it all to myself until it's perfect and then send it to you, the warts will be exposed. Second, hire a freelance editor to polish the work as needed.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    Ride-along with project updates, a twitter shoutout and listed as book assistant editor.

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    Pledge $20 or more About $20

    Digital edition. DRM-free universal PDF of the book. You are listed as an associate editor.

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    Physical edition. Get a physical book and a DRM-free universal PDF of the book. You are listed as a editor.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Physical, limited signed edition. Get two physical signed books and a DRM-free universal PDF of the book. You are listed as a story editor.

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Personal Q&A with you over Skype. Get five signed copies of the book and a DRM-free universal PDF of the book.

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    Pledge $2,000 or more About $2,000

    I'll come speak at your event about OSM, the book or anything else. Get ten signed books and a DRM-free universal PDF of the book. You are listed as a managing editor.

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Funding period

- (30 days)