Inside the Validation Hub: Thoughts and Reflections From Current YouthMappers
George Washington University, also known as GW, is the base for the YouthMappers Validation Hub. The Hub is filled with passionate mappers who love both the social and technical aspects of working with OSM software. Members of the Hub mostly ensure that data added to OpenStreetMap (OSM) by other mappers is as high quality as possible. There are currently five students working at the Hub and three of these team members have been with the Hub since February 2022. Read on for their personal testimonials about their time with YouthMappers (YM) and the multitude of valuable experiences they’ve gained while being a part of the organization!
I first learned about YouthMappers through the GW YouthMappers chapter: The Humanitarian Mapping Society (HMS). Originally, I was drawn to the organization through a passion for humanitarian work and a desire to further develop my GIS skills. After a few months with HMS, I wanted to become more connected to the YM community and decided to apply for a position with the Validation Hub!
When I began, my first steps were to get familiar with the Java OpenStreetMap (JOSM) editor interface & workflow. In order to develop these skills I spent my first two weeks just learning how to map in JOSM - without validating a thing! However, I found the program to be very intuitive and caught on quickly. From there, I was able to use the validation tool to start comparing users' edits in the OSM platform to Maxar, Bing, and other satellite imageries. Through these comparisons, I could check for the accuracy of buildings, roads, and other features that were mapped by OSM users.
Becoming a validator helped me grow my GIS skills exponentially. I’ve learned the tools and workflows provided by JOSM and how to make my mapping more accurate and effective. I’ve also further developed my leadership and professional skills in the GIS field. Most importantly, I’ve helped others become better mappers and connect with a broader community of respected GIS enthusiasts. These experiences are irreplaceable and I will always be grateful to have been a part of this group!
I found out about the Validation Hub right after I finished my first introductory GIS course and I was immediately interested in a chance to expand my GIS skills. I had done little open source mapping previously, but I’ve since learned how to use the JOSM editor and know more about the best practices for mapping.
Now that I’m a seasoned mapper (Advanced mapper status on the HOT tasking manager, nbd), most of the work I do is validation. We try to focus our validation work on recent projects that YM community members are still actively mapping. This gives us an opportunity to provide timely feedback on tasks that have up-to-date imagery and where consistent edits are being made which helps mappers improve while the project is still ongoing. Recently, Hub members have been given the opportunity to mentor individual chapters and learn more about specific mapping projects. We keep in contact with the chapter leaders via their project managers and give constructive feedback and advice to the chapter members on their mapping techniques. I’ve really enjoyed being a project mentor because it feels a little more personal than our traditional validation work.
I’ve grown as a mapper through the Hub, but I find myself discovering new tools and ways to improve my mapping all the time (Recently discovered the Improve Way Accuracy tool, highly recommend!). Learning how to work with open source spatial data and software has been beneficial to my academic career and helped me discover GIS-related interests I never would have known about.
I became a part of YM because I wanted to use my GIS skills to help put the world on the map and YouthMappers aligned with that vision. I was especially excited by the idea of using open source software - available to anyone with internet access - because it means that the work we do is interactive and helps to cultivate mapping skills and communities anywhere on the globe.
Our responsibilities as a member of the Validation Hub extend beyond individual map edits and encompass a broader scope. I’ve led virtual trainings on how to use the JOSM editor and how to validate using the Tasking Managers, which are attended by mappers from all over the world. We do this at the Hub to increase the size of the OSM community, but these training sessions also make our work easier! This is because as more and more people become experienced, knowledgeable mappers, data quality across OSM increases and the editing work of a validator decreases. This work shows the true purpose of what we do: building mappers and mapping communities apart from ourselves.
The Hub is a good, small group of mappers and I think we add a lot to the OSM community. Our work varies based on what is needed, but we always do our best to improve the data we and others contribute to OSM.
In conclusion, the goal of the greater YouthMappers network - to not only build maps, but also build mappers - is reflected in all of the Hubs work. All three of the testimonials provided above display that whether your desire is to further develop your GIS skills, or to connect with the broader YouthMappers community, being a part of the validation hub can help you accomplish these goals. Additionally, the Hub works to develop the skills of all interested YouthMappers, helping to expand the OSM community, and promoting the addition of more consistent, accurate GIS work onto the platform.