The State of the Map US conference was held at the United Nations headquarters – an impressive compound overlooking the East River. SoTM has been held each year since 2007, and is the annual conference of OpenStreetMap. This was my first SOTM in the US, and the sheer number of people was overwhelming. The conference brought together 850+ OpenStreetMappers, which made navigation a bit difficult at times, but there was no shortage of networking opportunities and there was a gorgeous rose garden on the grounds for those times when one might need peace and quiet. It was a great turnout, especially when you think that SOTM had 65 people in attendance in 2010. Much of Saturday was spent networking and meeting new people, and while not chatting in the lobby there were 3 tracks and many sessions to choose from. Saturday night the group took buses to Studio Square in Astoria, a large restaurant with a beer garden, a plethora of taps, and the chance to relax and talk even more about maps.
Sunday brought more sessions showcasing the diverse uses of OSM, including Missing Maps, Peace Corps and OSM, OpenMapKit, and Getting OSM Schools Through Geobadges. Topics were thoughtful and inspiring, and they reinforced my belief that OpenStreetMap will grow and continue to transform lives through education, disaster relief, navigation, community development - really, the applications are endless! Sunday evening a large group headed to the Staten Island Ferry to cruise past the Statue of Liberty – it was quite a feat to get that many people herded onto subways and into the same ferry! Most of the group did a u-turn as soon as we arrived at Staten Island, but 3 of us stayed behind and caught a later ferry, which allowed us to see the lights come on in the city and float past Lady Liberty ensconced in her evening glow. A fitting finale to the official conference.
At the last minute a few colleagues were unable to make the conference, so I stayed Monday to help facilitate a TeachOSM session. We had a decent turnout, and despite having half of a voice the session was a success. The idea for TeachOSM was born at the 2014 SOTM US, and it was inspiring to see this first educational session come to fruition. The TeachOSM mission is to promote and advocate the use of the OpenStreetMap platform to teach the fundamental concepts of geography and mapping - apropos!
That night was the closing session with GeoNYC at Mapzen off of Broadway, complete with pizza, beer, and more chances for noisy networking. Around 8:30 I decided to call it a night and was on my way to the subway, when a few congas, a keyboard and a xylophone in the window of a neighboring sushi restaurant caught my eye - of course I took a closer look! A nice guy out front informed me that it was Toshi's Soul Night, and the “best soul night in the city!” It was free, and his enthusiasm lured me to stick around for a few tunes. Well, despite my impending 9am flight, I couldn't seem to pull myself away. The music was fantastic, the crowd was engaged, and I had also sat down next to a lovely young woman who had performed the first set and was happy to fill me in on all kinds of fun details about the music scene and idiosyncrasies of a life in NYC. By the second set I found myself on the dance floor, and in the end my new friend and I shared an Uber to the Upper West Side, making promises to meet up again soon; a sweet ending to a busy and exciting weekend in the Big Apple! That 7am cab to JFK felt even earlier, but my thoughtful cousin had packed me snacks for the plane, check in was painless and I had no complaints - I was headed to St. Lucia for my first major TeachOSM project – this time for the World Bank!
A big thank you to the OSM Foundation for organizing such a great gathering. I am already looking forward to the next one!