Our look at OpenStreetMap communities in different regions of the world continues today with a chat with Matthias Meisser who runs the OpenStreetMap Mecklenburg-Vorpommern twitter account. For those without a perfect command of Baltic geography, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is Germany’s sixth largest Bundesland (federal state), and lies in the north east of the country on the Baltic coast.  

1. Who are you and what do you do? What got you into OpenStreetMap?

This is Matthias (aka OSM user:!i!) and I contribute in Mecklenburg Vorpommern (North/East Germany) and help the local community to keep OSM growing. Personally I contribute esp. here in Rostock and Schwerin, but also at the countryside.

My journey through OpenStreetMap began with (just another) article at heise online that introduced OSM. The quality was pretty low (just some major streets mapped in Rostock), but I wanted to checkout how the editor looked and I signed up for an account. One minute later I added a postbox close to my flat and was amazed, that it appeared one day later at the online map. This was seven years ago but the fascination with how easily (and detailed!) you can add to your knowledge about the neighbourhood kept me at the OSM universe.

2. What would you say is the current state of OSM and the OSM community in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern?

Today most cities and towns (M-V is a pretty wide land) are added with far better details than Google Maps. Dozens of users helped to create not only (mostly) complete network of roads and cycleways, but also buildings and housenumbers. And POIs of course, as our state at the baltic sea is very common for tourists. We have some nice cooperation (for example city of Rostock) to exchange some data.

On the other hand, there are still some villages, which are just a raw landuse area, without any more details than two crossing roads. We made some progress to reduce these ‘deserts’, but yes the work goes on…

3. What are the unique challenges and pleasures of OpenStreetMap in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern? What aspects of the projects should the rest of the world be aware of?

As said the state is large and just a few cities have universities to bring new people to the community. The countryside is still a work in progress and far from complete (esp. housenumbers and POIs). What makes it more difficult is the lack of bandwidth in the villages, so it’s not pretty easy to attract inhabitants to share their information :-(

A photo from an M-V mapping party in 2011

4. What is the best way to get involved? Isn’t Germany “done”? Why do we need more mappers at all?

I can’t tell much about completeness, as I know this question can drive you insane. Is a country complete, when you add all roads? Or all buildings? And does time of your data matters?

From my point of view, here in Germany the community is grown from scratch. So there are mappers who contribute for years and some do it very intensely. The community is pretty friendly and in the biggest cities we organize local meetings to introduce new people, we celebrate mapping parties, or get in touch at conferences (e.g. FOSSGIS conference).

Why we still want more contributors and users of OSM? As every organization, people come, stay for a while and quit some day. Same is for crowdsourcing and VGI projects as OSM. IMHO it’s very essential that we have always people ‘on the ground’ in the neighbourhoods, which help us to keep the data up to date. Every location changes over time, there is no freeze on a city-wide scale :-)

OSM M-V mapping party 2009

5. What steps could the global OpenStreetMap community take to help support OSM in regions like MV?

That is a pretty difficult question to answer and I just can speculate. I personally was involved in different kind of communication (esp. from OSM to externals) and tried to introduce OSM to new local people. So for example, if you do ‘chairmapping’ and add a village just by arial imagery, you could try to find local contacts. Here at M-V you could try to find references to social facilities, the local firefighters, or even the officials of a county and ask them to please check what you mapped. Sometimes this works great and people start adding notes or even to edit on their own. Also it’s good to keep the motivation and work as team e.g. if you start mapping parties. Of course you can work for your own, but it’s great fun, if groups work together to get things done and to exchange about mapping techniques and style.

6. Last year OSM celebrated its 10th birthday, where do you think the project will be in 10 years time, both globally and in MV specifically?

I can’t tell much what will happen in a whole decade ;). But I think more and more companies will replace commercial datasets with OSM. This might encourage more and more organisations to help, because they recognize that it’s important to present their area and offer details and update them regularly. Maybe we will establish better process to deal with imports and to benefit from open data in both ways. I have a strong belief, that OSM will still exist in a lot of years and maybe it’s the second biggest crowdsourcing project, right after wikipedia.

Thanks Matthias! Great to read that OSM continues to thrive even in mature regions of the world. Good luck and thanks for all your efforts. Anyone interested in learning more should follow @OSMMV on twitter

You can see all the Open Geo interviews here. If you are or know of someone we should interview, please get in touch, we’re always looking to promote people doing interesting things with open geo data.