Meet the people who put San José on the map

For those who are interested in San José, Silicon Valley, or the South Bay area, a bunch of us locals meet every other Thursday evening for a video chat on the OpenStreetMap Foundation’s BigBlueButton server. We use these meetings to show off our latest mapping adventures, figure out tagging conundrums, debate OSM current events, and coordinate larger-scale projects.

Since we first met in person in 2017, we’ve held mapathons, rigged cars to collect street-level imagery in partnership with the VTA, and convinced coders to switch their projects from proprietary maps to OSM. With help from many individuals in the broader OSM community, we’ve imported hundreds of thousands of buildings and addresses and thousands of points of interest and miles of sidewalk. More than a numbers game, these efforts have contributed to more robust representation of the South Bay and its diverse population than would’ve been possible otherwise.

These meetings are not just for power mappers. We devote the beginning of every meeting to a friendly OSM tutorial. Whether you’re hearing about OSM for the first time or running out of ideas of things to map, we make sure everyone leaves the meeting having learned something new.

We couldn’t have sustained this group for almost six years – through a pandemic, layoffs, and more – without the support of the local civic technology community. We only exist as a group because the folks from Code for San José found several of us back in 2017 and coaxed us to come out to real-life meetings with promises of free pizza. Ever since then, their Civic Action Nights have been a steady source of new faces eager to get hooked on mapping.

This year, Code for San José and similar organizations across the country are facing difficult decisions as Code for America cuts ties with all their local chapters. CfSJ is rebranding as Open Source San José, to emphasize the importance of open source software and open data in their projects. But their commitment to the local OSM community has not changed, and we look forward to collaborating with them for years to come.

Looking down East Santa Clara Street at San José City Hall in Streets GL (© OpenStreetMap contributors, Esri)

If you’re mapping in the South Bay and haven’t said hi yet, please swing by sometime. Even though the South Bay is our home and our focus, we also welcome folks from elsewhere in the Bay Area and California who don’t have another local OSM meetup to attend. You can find a schedule of upcoming events on OSMCal, Bay Area OSM’s Meetup page, or OSSJ’s Meetup page. You can also subscribe to OSSJ’s Mastodon or Twitter account for updates. Hope to see you soon!