Directed Editing Policy

This document is undergoing consultation, and not yet an OSMF policy.

The OSMF Policy on Directed Editing

OpenStreetMap is a project powered by its community. While originally supported by individuals, the continuing growth and popularity of OSM have also spawned organised mapping efforts. These have taken shape in the form of not only companies setting up paid data teams to improve OSM data in specific regions or for specific use cases, but also unpaid groups like school classes that are directed to work on OSM.

Organised mapping efforts are an integral part of today's OSM contribution landscape and, when done well, help make OSM better and more widely known.

In order to maintain good communications between, and a level playing field for, individual community members and organised editing groups, the OSM Foundation has created the following guidelines.

When talking of "contributions", this policy is mainly aimed at map editing, but can also be applied to editing the Wiki or contributing to other aspects of the project.

The terms "must", "should", and "may" are used in this text in accordance with RFC 2119; we're also using the term "encourage" to offer suggestions how organisations can be exemplary citizens of the OSM community.

When does this policy apply?

This policy applies as soon as someone is

a) required to edit OpenStreetMap by a third party, and/or

b) directed by a third party exactly what and how to contribute to OpenStreetMap.

Note: In many cases one will follow the other; if someone is required to edit OpenStreetMap for example as part of their paid job or because they participate in a school class, they will usually also be told what they are to edit. However there can be cases where you are required to edit but not told exactly what to do (say, a very liberal school class), or where you are not required to edit but still told exactly what to do (say, as a newcomer at a mapping event).
If you are unsure whether (b) applies to a particular situation, phrase it as a question of responsibility: Does the organiser take responsibility for what its mapped, or does the participant? It follows that, at the very same mapping event, you could have people who are "directed" and people who are not. This is expected.

In the following text, "director" is a generic term we use to refer to the person or group of people who require someone to edit OpenStreetMap, or or give them instructions, or both. The person who is required to edit, or receives instructions, or both, and contributes to OpenStreetMap, is called "directee".

It is possible that individual mappers offering their contributing services under commercial auspices, such as SEO firms or brand managers, carry out both director and directee roles.

Examples: The "director" could be the company who employs a mapper, or the teacher or professor who runs a class, or someone who organises a mapping event. The "directees" could be employed mappers, or students, or participants in a mapping event. If someone pays an OSM-experienced freelancer to add something to the map, then the freelancer would likely be both director and directee at the same time.

A. Duties of the Director

1. You must set up, or have someone set up, a Wiki page named Directed Editing/Activities/Name of your Activity for the particular activity, and record the page in the list under Directed Editing/Activities. (A sample Wiki page is here: t.b.d.) This page must truthfully describe

  • the goal of the activity, explaining also why the goal is being pursued,
  • the timeframe for the activity,
  • any non-standard tools and data sources used,
  • the executing organisation,
  • a way to contact the director (see "Communications" below)
  • a unique hashtag (to be used in the "hashtags" field of changesets, or another form of changeset tagging) for linking and
  • the participating people

where applicable. If your organisation has many different activities, you can create one page for the organisation that lists the common elements, and point to that from each activity page.

Note: This is an evolving policy. It might not always be easy to check all the boxes, for example if the director is a university and the directee is an employee who is asked to "spend one half day per week improving OSM". What is the time frame here, and what is the goal? In cases like this, a best-effort approach is expected and sufficient.

2. You are encouraged to add to this Wiki page

  • if you are measuring the success or performance of participants in any way, a description of the metrics used for this;
  • if you are providing training material or written instructions to participants, a copy of, or link to, these materials;
  • after the activity has completed, a description of the results; and
  • links where the community can access any non-standard tools or data sources you are using.

3. You should, after setting up the Wiki page and before commencing the activity, inform the affected OSM communities through a suitable post the general-purpose "talk" mailing list or, if your activity is limited to one country or region, on a regional mailing list or other channel which the community uses, give them reasonable time to discuss, and you should carefully consider any suggestions for improvement made by the community.

Note: The recommended time for discussion is not less than 14 days.
Note: For the avoidance of doubt, an explicit go-ahead from the community is not required. Ignoring justified criticism and pressing on regardless or failing to consult the community in what later turns out to be a controversial contribution can, however, lead to your activity being stopped.

4. You must ensure that the people you are directing have the training they need to successfully perform their work in compliance with the rules laid out below - either through providing that training to them yourself, or by selecting only participants that already have the necessary skills. You must tell the people you are directing that the "Duties of the Directee" (as laid out in the next section) apply to them.

5. If you are running an activity that introduces new mappers to OSM, you should allocate resources for a "post-event clean up" in which you direct experienced people to repair any damage that might have been caused.

Note: "Resources" here can mean a time allocation for experienced staff, or perhaps a commitment of the local community to help; this just means you cannot let 100 students loose on a city without any plan about what to do if things go wrong.

6. You must respond in a timely and sensible fashion to communication attempts made in good faith by other mappers on the channel detailed on your project page, or to communication escalated to you by directees.

Note: "timely" means that you should reply within 24 hours while the activity is ongoing, and "sensible" means that your response should actually answer any questions and not just say "thank you".

B. Duties of the Directee

1. You must ensure that people looking at your edits know that they are part of a directed mapping activity, by pointing to the Wiki page under Directed Editing/Activities/Name of the Activity (as described in A.1) on the user profile page of the dedicated account you are using as a directee, or in the "hashtags" field (or another form of changeset tagging) of the edit you are making.

If your relationship to the director is longer-lasting (e.g. if you are an employee) then you should use your profile page; if your relationship to the director is temporary (e.g. a mapping event) then you should make the link in the "hashtag" field of the changset or another form of changeset tagging.

2. You must aim to comply with the community's expectations of good mapping practice as expressed for example by the wiki page Good practice. Specifically, using Good changeset comments is an important part of good mapping practice.

Note: A hobbyist "newbie" mapper might often make many mistakes before they become a good contributor. It is likely that your first steps will not be flawless either, and that is ok. However, because you have a director to turn to and explain things to you, the community will expect a little more from you than it perhaps would from a new mapper finding their way in OSM on their own!

3. You must not try to hide your activities or make them difficult to follow on purpose, for example by using many different accounts or misleading changeset comments.

Note: Other unwanted ways of harming transparency are, for example, selecting misleading user names, changing your user name frequently, contributing very large or very small changesets, being dishonest in discussions, or specifying wrong sources. All of this can happen accidentally but doing it on purpose is not ok.

4. You must respond in a timely and sensible fashion to communication attempts made in good faith by other mappers through changeset discussions or direct messages (or e-mails in case you have made your e-mail address available). If you cannot respond, you must escalate the matter to your director.

Note: "timely" means that you should reply to any pending messages before starting a new changeset, unless this is an undue burden on your productivity in which case you can set aside a block of time during your work day where you respond. "Sensible" means that your response should actually answer any questions and not just say "thank you".


All mapping-related communications (whether by directors or directees) should use channels that are

  • open (no non-OpenStreetMap registration required),
  • public, and
  • archived.

Discussions on the OpenStreetMap forum, mailing lists, wiki, or using OpenStreetMap changesets will typically fulfill all of these requirements. Private messages (for example OpenStreetMap messaging or eMail) can be used but they should remain an exception; specifically, you should not attempt to "move" any discussion from a public venue to a private conversation unless it is about a personal matter.

Violations of this Policy

Violations of this policy can result in reverts of edits or an escalation to the Data Working Group. In cases of severe and repeated violations by an organisation they may be banned from editing OpenStreetMap.