Dear MapQuest readers, today, we have a very special treat for you - a guest blog post by Richard Weait, a long-time OpenStreetMap and Open Source advocate. Enjoy the post and thanks for reading!

Welcome to the OpenStreetMap Community!

What is OpenStreetMap? OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a co-operative worldwide community of citizen-mappers, sharing knowledge of their surroundings with everybody else. OSM contributors combine their knowledge to be shared by everyone out of their own self-interest or from an altruistic sense of community. But they also participate because it is a lot of fun. It's simpler than you might think to become a member of the OSM community and to contribute to the world map of everything. What is the best thing that you can do for OSM? Add your neighborhood information! The park you played in as a kid, your favorite local restaurant, even the hiking trail you enjoy with your family, these are all important potential contributions to OpenStreetMap. You are the expert in your neighborhood and you see it every day. When you put information about your neighborhood into OSM you share it with everybody else. When your neighborhood changes, you can update the information in OSM.  Or, when a street is newly made a one-way, you can update that information for travelers. When a new school is constructed you can add it to OSM for folks moving to your town. What happens to my neighborhood information after I put it in OSM? Lots of things will happen to your neighborhood information after you begin contributing it to OSM. 1. Your contributions become part of OSM immediately! The first thing that you might notice is that something that you have contributed may appear on the OSM web site. You might add a gas station or correct the name of the next street over and you could see it at within a few minutes or hours. 2. You may inspire others. Other OSM contributors may notice your additions if they share an interest in your neighborhood. You might add one park and inspire another person to add in a new park on the other side of town. You might even decide to cooperate with other local mappers to put the local high school sport fields or college buildings in OSM. We call this cooperative mapping event a “mapping party” and they are a great way to meet interesting people and learn more about your neighborhood and OpenStreetMap.
3. Your contributions will be available to specialty applications built on You won't see it directly, but your contributions will be shared from the OpenStreetMap web site to other OSM users around the world. Within hours or days, they will have the latest information about your neighborhood and your information may start to appear on their maps, like (image on the left) which shows fewer details on the map, but provides local event information. Or (image below) which shows information of interest to cyclists, like bike lanes and bicycle repair shops. These specialty maps are one of the great things about OSM. They start with the same information from OSM but use it in interesting ways for audiences who require a different kind of map. Perhaps you are a German-speaking tourist, visiting Toronto, Canada, and you want to find a coffee shop that is wheelchair accessible? There's a map for that: (see below image). When you put wheelchair accessibility information into OSM you share it with the world. 4. And even more. Even more things will happen with your contribution as it is shared among the large and creative community of OSM contributors, developers and users. There are tactile maps for blind users, programs to find the best route from here to there on a bicycle, by foot or on public transit and OSM map images on your local restaurant's take out menu. So How Does One Contribute to OSM? This mini-tutorial will guide you through your first contribution to OSM. It will lead you through the steps to add a fast food restaurant to OSM. In order to follow this example closely, take a look at your neighborhood in OpenStreetMap and see if all of your favorite nearby restaurants are included. Find one that is not already in OSM, visit it and note the details of their location. This visit is important; it's important because this is one of your favorite local restaurants and you want to support them but it is also important from a technical point of view. When you visit the restaurant note their street address. How far are they from the nearest intersection? What is the full name of the place on the sign? Snap a photo to save this information or write it down for later. We created OSM from our own direct observations, not from information on other maps or web sites. Other maps have technical and legal restrictions on what we may do with them. One restriction is that we may not copy from them without permission and that permission is almost always explicitly denied by the terms of use of their web site. If you haven't yet got an account for OpenStreetMap, sign up now using the “sign up” link at the top right of the map. Once you have signed up and confirmed your email address you can log in with the “log in” link. Zoom in very close to the area you wish to edit, then select the “Edit” tab from the tab bar. This will start the Potlatch editor in your browser. There are other OSM editors as well. You'll be asked how you want to save your work and you'll want to “Edit with Save,” so click that option. Now you'll see your area of interest in the Potlatch editing window. In this case we see the intersection of Fisher Mills Road and Scott Road, plus some of the surrounding area. Notice the icons on the lower portion of the editing window? Those provide an easy way to add Tito's Pizza to the map. Drag the “fast food” icon on to the map and drop it north-east of the intersection of Scott and Fisher Mills. Consider using the “restaurant” or “pub” icons rather than “fast_food” if they better describe the restaurant you are adding. Once placed, you'll see the pizza slice icon on the map. If you used “restaurant” or “pub” rather than “fast food” you'll see a different icon. If it is the currently “selected” object in the editor, the icon will be surrounded by a yellow “halo”. If it is not selected, you can select the icon by clicking on it once. Select the new point of interest if it is not currently selected. The fast food preset icon has also pre-filled some information about Tito's pizza for you. OSM uses certain combinations of “keys” and “values” to store information for the map. The "fast food" preset has added these keys and values.
amenity = fast_food
name = (type name here)
This saves you re-typing and mis-typing common keys and values and the presets are clever enough to prompt you for common details to add to the point of interest. Let's follow the prompt and add the name of this pizza place. Click in the “value” field, to the right of the “name” key. Type the name of your pizza place. International characters from the UTF-8 character set are supported, so it is "Tito's" with an apostrophe.  You can also add in the street name and street address with other information by clicking the "+" symbol to get more name/value pairs.  With our restaurant information complete, all that is left at this point is to submit it to OSM. Click the “Save” button in the lower right corner and your contribution will be sent to the OSM servers. You'll be asked for a comment about your changes; you should use these “changeset comments” to summarize your editing session for other mappers. When your upload is complete Potlatch will play a confirmation sound and display a message on screen. Congratulations, you've completed your first edit! Thanks and welcome to the OSM Community! References You might find these links useful: • This mini-tutorial is adapted from one of a series of tutorials for OSM beginners. Find more tutorials here. • Would you like to know about a great book about OpenStreetMap? • OpenStreetMap web siteOpenStreetMap reference material including commonly used tagsOpenStreetMap licensesHow do I credit OSM when I use the data / images?OpenStreetMap help forumSign up for an OSM newcomer mailing list Credits Map images and data © 2010 CCBYSA OpenStreetMap and contributors. Photo and article © 2010 CCBYSA R. Weait. Thank you, Tito's, for a delicious lunch. Thank you,, and for example screen shots. Thank you OSM community.