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MapRoulette: the roulette wheel is spinning mighty fast

I posted this on Facebook earlier and people were demanding that it be put on the public web. Here is something for Wikimedians and others I know to contemplate: a little story from the OpenStreetMap world.

Last year, a system called MapRoulette was set up. It is basically a website that assigns you a random simple map error that needs fixing. The primary error we use it to fix is connectivity issues, which is when you have two roads that should join up but aren’t actually properly connected to one another.

In October, the guy who runs MapRoulette dropped 70,000 map connectivity issues into it. That is, all the connectivity issues he could find in one rather sizeable country, the United States. All 70,000 tasks got done in three months. This is quite impressive. Each task probably takes 1-2 minutes for someone who is familiar with the software to do. If you were paying US minimum wage, you would have had to spend at least $25,000 plus overheads to get those done. And good luck with employee retention: MapRoulette tasks aren’t fun or exciting, they are just donkey work that needs doing.

Yesterday, MapRoulette was updated with 55,000 new map connectivity tasks, this time for Mexico and Canada..

In just over 24 hours, almost 20,000 of them have been done. At the time of posting, we have 37,502 to go.

At our current rate, it probably won’t take more than a week or so to have the road connectivity issues in Canada and Mexico done. I hope the MapRoulette guy picks some European countries next.

We’ve got the peer production line so well-tuned. We seem to be burning through the tasks quicker than the MapRoulette guy can add new tasks to the system. This is a good problem to have.

If you want to see how mad crazy busy the OpenStreetMap community is building the map, check out