Next #geowebchat, March 18: Paid Contributions in #OpenData Projects with guest host @mpmckenna8

The next #geowebchat will be on Tuesday, March 18 for one hour, starting at 12pm PDT, 3pm EDT, 7pm GMT. (Note the time change due to Daylight Savings Time in the US)

[Guest post: reposted from Matthew McKenna’s blog]

The World Wide Web was conceptualized at CERN to help scientists collaborate on a project in which a bunch of people had to share a lot of information to try to make sense of it.  Since then, I’d argue the internet’s main contribution to humanity is the ability of almost anyone to access or share amounts of data at a scale that only science fiction writers would have imagined 50 years ago.

Wikipedia, which is part of the Wikimedia Foundation, is one of the best examples of a tricky collaborative data project and it has faced a lot of hurdles to gain the acceptance it enjoys today. Likely the biggest detractor to Wikipedia is special interest editors who are pushing a certain view because if others adopt that view they think they will benefit financially. For this reason Wikimedia is amending their terms of use with the reasons being given on the following page:

Maybe other collaborative data projects should consider something similar?

I’d like to pick up my editing game on Wikimedia (in a voluntary capacity), but lately I’ve been spending more time on the collaborative mapping project OpenStreetMap (OSM).  The community around it is great, but at times it seems like the map is driven by people with financial interests in it.  With many of the edits in areas I’ve looked at coming from employees of companies (such as Mapbox) making use of OSM data.  Most of the time it’s even posted in the User Profile that the given user works for the given company and there should be even more people who depend on the quality of OSM data.

Along with the highest number of contributions of edits coming from people with a financial interest in OSM I’ve also seen the highest number of edits which hurt the quality of the map and its data. That’s not to say that intentions aren’t usually good, but if I wasn’t good at complaining on social media and Mapbox staff ignored me I’d probably be done helping OpenStreetMap and would feel as inclined to use Google MapMaker.

I hope this #GeoWebChat can transcend just geo a bit and discuss what happens as collaborative data projects on the internet go from mostly volunteerism to having dollar driven interests also involved.

I’d especially like to hear experiences either as a paid helper of OSM (they’ve made a lot of the map possible and even more usable) or a volunteer who feels it’s just not an accessible community for beginners. Or people who think beginners might just use Google MapMaker at this point.

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