Anton Belichkov: “The easiest way to understand the power of OpenStreetMap is to start editing the map yourself”
Anton Belichkov (az09) is a programmer from Magnitogorsk who, like almost all the heroes of my interviews about the OSM world, came to this project 10 years ago. He is the warm wisdom and firm spirit of the RU-OSM community. Why is the mentoring institute so important, how do we catch up with America, and what does OSM want from the authorities? He told all this in an interview.
- How did you hear about OSM?
- My boss told me about this project, who was already keen on cards. It was almost 10 years ago. He then drew a map of our city - Magnitogorsk. I don’t remember the details how he did it, why and in what format, but I remember that I constantly ran to him and asked for something to be fixed on this map or, conversely, to add. At some point, apparently, he was tired of it and he suggested that I make the changes myself. So I found out about OpenStreetMap. By the way, exactly 10 years ago on the map of Magnitogorsk in OSM almost all houses and addresses appeared.
- What did you like about this project? Why did you stay in it?
- I do not know why. Drawing a map in OSM is just a good thing. Then your edits may be useful to someone: for work, travel or research. I am pleased to be aware of this. You are doing something useful and other people can use it.
Why do people write articles and upload pictures to Wikipedia? Exactly for the same, someone draws houses or puts dots in OSM - this is a way to tell about the world around you.
- What was the RU-OSM community then? How does it differ from the present?
- It was fun and there were a lot fewer people. We talked not in Telegram, but in IRC. I think that quotations from our correspondence of those years can tell about how the community was then. It is carefully stored in WikiOSM.
Now more and more serious, to some extent trying to hold each other's hands. What do I want to say? There is more talk about how it is worth doing something or not, what is right and what is not. Fewer experiments. More stability and predictability. This is a sign of maturity or growth problems - time will tell.
- Do you use data from OSM in your personal life or at work?
- Yes, I’m using it. At work: as a substrate or as raw data. My work is related to railways, we are engaged in logistics, therefore without maps - nothing. In his personal life - traveling. I even have my own tradition: as soon as I am going to go somewhere, I look at the area around the hotel or the places where I plan to visit. If they are poorly rendered, I correct it - I’m mapping by satellite. To a certain extent, I get acquainted with the place and its features in this way before I got there. I note all sorts of little things, but in any case it makes my trip more interesting even before it starts.
- How in Magnitogorsk with OSM? Do you have meetings? Do all Osmerians know each other?
- We are few, we almost all know each other, but, unfortunately, do not meet in person. Everyone in their area maps: draws tracks, points to POI or indulges in Simple 3D. Besides, maybe for many this will seem like a strange problem, but I don’t even know such places in Magnitogorsk where we could easily meet and talk. It is probably even easier to go to Chelyabinsk.
- You noted that before the RU-OSM community was more fun, that is, you can assume that now it is less fun. Some believe that it is at all in stagnation. Do you agree with that?
- Personally, I do not feel stagnation. There is still a lot of unrealized potential in the OSM project itself, and therefore it cannot be that the community somehow “dozes off”. It develops as it develops. There is nothing to be done. We are growing together. I am sure that on the basis of OSM you can still make hundreds of different services. Moreover, they gradually appear and each time become more serious and serious. And no new API 0.7 is even needed.
But it seems to me, if it is, it is worth looking in the direction of working with multipolygons, namely, routing for them. Despite the fact that many people consider the cartoons as a strange invention, nevertheless, to make such a map so that it does not contain empty unallocated territory is the dream of all the mappers. This is possible only through the use of "cartoons."
Well, and, probably, if another coordinate appeared in OSM - height - this would be a new round of project development. But this is absolutely not fundamental. I'm fine as it is. Master everything that is already in OSM.
- How can OSM benefit society?
- Already a lot of people are using it. In Russia, most likely, it has been mastered by social activists and small companies, because it is free. Overseas, OSM has already made it to government agencies.
OSM is quite flexible and versatile. This is not only a map, but also a database. Because someone is planning transport routes along it, someone is analyzing with it the territories around the accident and another million examples. By the way, many analytic companies associated with geoinformatics, in any case, do not pass by data from OSM. It is possible that not everyone publicly acknowledges this, but what they take is for sure.
The easiest way to understand the power of OSM is to start editing the map yourself. Then you will see everything from the inside and be surprised that it was always there, but you did not know about it. Therefore, I always offer everyone to become mappers. Editing OSM is easy. Absolutely.
- Germany and the United States overtake Russia in the number of users who make changes to the map every day, I also heard that the OSM communities in these countries are more active. Why do you think so?
- A few reasons. Firstly, they have a well-developed mentoring institution, and therefore there are much more mentors themselves. This seems to be a trifle, but it is not. A novice needs to be "led" and help him. Otherwise, he will make mistakes, they will point him out, he will be upset and will leave the project. In addition, if we talk about Germany, then OSM is already taught there at colleges and universities.
Secondly, it affects the size of the country and the population. We are the largest in the world in area, but not in numbers. We have great distances between cities. If the guys are doing some kind of a meeting or a seminar in Moscow or St. Petersburg, then most likely the residents of the Urals or Siberia will not be able to attend there. Well, the inhabitants of the province are less active. Timofey Subbotin tried to do something in Chelyabinsk. How many people did he gather? At the first meeting with a dozen, and at the second - only he. Unfortunately, this is all happening. Cook in your juice. I don’t know how to bring people together and get them out of their comfortable apartments. Probably need some kind of super or super task. On the other hand, he drew attention: “couch cartoons” come in with a bang.
Thirdly, they flood much less. They talk mainly about the case. Maybe they really have it in society? Does the habitat leave its mark? I know little of the traditions of other countries.
And at the end of this topic I will say one more thing: they respect the rules and administrators. If there the admin makes a comment, then everyone obeys. We can make a lot of comments and debaters will not stop anyway. It also happens that someone is sent to a ban. But the man is already returning "scientist." He already knows that there is a framework that cannot be crossed in this community. Nobody is learning anything from us. Everyone remains not only with their opinion, but also with manners of behavior.
- How much the map of Russia has become more accurate or complete over the 10 years that you are in the project? How can you rate this?
- If you collect all our achievements in ten years and shoot a video about it, then it will be impressive and beautiful: there are so many forests, roads, hydrographies and much more. Previously, this was not all. But to put it bluntly, there is still nothing. The map is still empty. Try using the map of Russia from OSM for agriculture. Not in life. Why? There is simply no data.
Why go far? Recently, my colleague and I tried to build a route between two lakes. And they couldn’t - it wasn’t being laid. We then thought that this was due to the fact that this is the Yamal Peninsula, where very little has been drawn. Repeated this operation in the Chelyabinsk region. And also failed. Although much more has been drawn here, it is still not enough.
- Is it because we are the largest country in the world?
- Including, but not only. We need to try to talk more about the project and its capabilities, because many still believe that OSM is just a Mapnik render located on the main page of the project website. If there is more attention to OSM, there will be more data users and, most importantly, mappers, those who draw this map. Of course, they are not enough. There are too few enthusiasts in Russia who would like to do this. So we still have to map, mapit and mapit again. And don't think about any new API. It's unhealthy.
We should also look towards conscious community building. This can be learned from business. How does he behave in similar projects where people draw maps? If someone showed activity - they will say a good word, they will offer to become an ambassador and they will give a T-shirt. This is a significant support for user activity. What are we doing? Alas, we are not always friendly. We are quick to speak, but as far as the manifestations of wisdom are concerned, let’s say, there is still room for improvement. Someone will say that this is a business, it is in his interests, he pays community managers, they coo with users, but nobody forbids us to be polite people right now as participants of an open source project.
In addition, I would like to draw your attention to the following point - the interaction of the RU-OSM community with the state, because it is another source of information. So far, there is no interaction at all. For example, the same inventory. When will it be open? How many years have we been talking about him? Why is this hard to do? I do not know. At the same time, I believe that the state could also benefit from OSM. Because OSM is one of the links in the digital economy, which is so much talked about and trying to develop.
- What other benefits can OSM bring to the state?
- The state, like all other market participants, will be able to get a free map and a bunch of data that they can use for their own purposes without any extra problems. The scope is huge: utilities, road facilities, transport, etc. Based on the data, you can draw conclusions, make decisions and make forecasts.
In addition, the OSM-RU community is not just people, but active people who do not sit on TV and do not husk seeds. They are ready to do something and improve. Yes, this applies only to the world of maps and GIS technologies, but this also needs to be done by someone. Active literate people - this is a great potential. It seems to me that the next stage in the development of OSM-RU is the acquaintance of people from the world of GIS technology and power among themselves. If they find common ground, it will be wonderful. As a result, everyone will benefit from this: both the community and the authorities of Russia. (smiles)
- In Russia there is a business that makes money on OSM. Why is he not investing or developing the RU-OSM community? After all, is it in his interests?
- Our business is very dependent on the state, and the state does not make such requests to society. The state believes that it itself copes with everything. And therefore, everything is good without us there, and so no one needs us. People feel this and remain on their own, do not want to communicate either with business or with the state.
Why did I suddenly talk about the state? But let's look at what business in Russia is? Start understanding and you will come to the conclusion that one of the main customers of a project is a large state corporation. That's the whole business - it is built around budget money. What is typical for this type of business? Just take it. What is development? It is a contribution to the future, that is, when you yourself give something away. The first and second incompatible things. Therefore, we cannot find common ground so far.
Timofei Subbotin a couple of years ago held the “Open Data Day” in Chelyabinsk. Representatives of the local administration came to him at the event. They listened to him, shook their heads, but it turned out that they did not need anything. They are doing well.
- How should the authorities react to the “Open Data Day” in Chelyabinsk? Was the OSM-RU community request for it somehow concretized? What exactly did you want then? Or is it just an abstract dream: do we want everything to be good for us? Did you invite them? They came.
- Yes, probably you are right, there was no such specific request. But this only suggests that the RU-OSM community should learn to work with authorities, politicians, educational institutions and many more with whom. Unfortunately, now the majority of Russian osmeri are programmers who provide the technical infrastructure of the project: they write programs, make validators and beautiful renderings. I suppose that, most likely, none of them will be able to do anything else. It is simply not in their nature. These are people who are used to what they have from the idea to get the result does not take so much time. It is possible they are not ready for the fact that social processes are so slow and long. In addition, they require a lot of communication.
After all, how does this happen to a programmer? I have an idea, I sat down, wrote a code - that's it. The result is obtained, the goal is achieved. In life, of course, this does not happen. I understand that in order to communicate with officials, a completely different approach is needed. Therefore, I regret to say that we - participants in the Russian segment of OSM - see that we can be useful to society and the authorities, but we can not always convey this correctly.
- What would you say to the person who just came to OSM?
- First, I would find out why he came to the project. Based on his answer, I would try to help him navigate in the part that interests him. There can be no general recipe. In addition, newcomers are different,
Communication of Russian OpenStreetMap participants is in the Telegram chat room and on the forum .
There are also groups on social networks VKontakte , Facebook , but they mainly publish news.
Previous interviews: Elena Balashova , Ilya Zverev , Timofey Subbotin , Sergey Golubev .