Microgrants/Operation Cowboy

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To pay for food at the Operation Cowboy event, an OpenStreetMap "map-a-thon" in London on November 24-25 (venue to be confirmed).

The purpose of the event is to try and increase coverage of the United States in OpenStreetMap. There are a number of other events being planned for the same weekend in other places. Currently there are plans for two events in Germany and one in Oklahoma.


£150-£250 depending on number of attendees.


Two days. The event will start on Saturday morning and run all night through to Sunday afternoon.

Expected outcomes

Pay for food for volunteer contributors.

The Operation Cowboy event hopes to dramatically increase coverage of the United States in OpenStreetMap. OpenStreetMap has been quite popular in the UK and Europe, but has not been as popular in the United States. Operation Cowboy is an attempt to do "armchair mapping" of the United States, which reduces the amount of work for local volunteers in the United States, so they can focus on mapping tasks that require real-world contribution.

Wikimedia UK volunteers and members of the general public who are not experienced OpenStreetMap editors will be able to attend and they will be able to get one-on-one tips from OpenStreetMap contributors.

Metrics: I will try and ensure that we keep track of the OpenStreetMap usernames of participants. This will allow us to work out how much got contributed during the weekend in terms of the amount of edits, the number of points added and the diversity of types of things that were added. I have drafted a rough metric to try and work out who the most active users are at the event (so we can allocate any prizes): this basically works out to:

(number of affected nodes + (number of affected ways * 3)) * number of tags used

This rewards contributors who add a diversity of different types of things and who tag data they add with a wide range of tags.

Who I am

I'm an English Wikipedia administrator, English Wikinews administrator, Wikimedia UK member (and have been involved in WMUK outreach projects) and OpenStreetMap contributor.

  • Thanks for writing this microgrant application, Tom. :-) Please could you add a bit more about what the funds would be used for beyond 'food and other expenses'? Please note that we can't pay for alcohol. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 16:04, 12 November 2012 (UTC)
    Yes, I spoke to Katharine about it yesterday. Alcohol would be provided by either attendees (bring your own) or using any sponsorship we get from commercial sponsors. —Tom Morris (talk) 16:32, 12 November 2012 (UTC)
  • I just want to add that, although it needs a little clarification as to food costs. That said, it seems like a very good idea, and I don't see any issue with supporting a 'non-wiki' project. It's still adding free knowledge! Richard Symonds (WMUK) (talk) 17:57, 12 November 2012 (UTC)
  • This sounds like a good project, and something worth WMUK supporting (branching out from just Wikimedia stuff would be good - Wikimedia is only one way of spreading free knowledge). I do have two questions, though:
    1. You mention commercial sponsors in your response to Mike above. Can you elaborate on that? If you have commercial sponsors, why do you need WMUK's sponsorship?
    2. What is your long term plan for funding OpenStreetMap events? Do you intend to request funds from WMUK on a regular basis? If so, it would probably be good to come up with some specific funding arrangement rather than using microgrants. (There is no reason why this one event can't be funded with a microgrant while that is being discussed, however.) --Tango (talk) 18:18, 13 November 2012 (UTC)
  • I'll answer your second question first. I don't have a long term plan for funding OpenStreetMap events. In a fit of Wikipediaesque boldness, I saw that Operation Cowboy was going on and thought it'd be cool to have a London one. Wikimedia UK seemed like an ideal way to get sponsorship for an event that is happening so soon. I think the London OpenStreetMap community is such a natural ally with Wikimedia UK's mission, and it'd be great if we could have more people from the Wikipedia/Wikimedia side explore OpenStreetMap. Operation Cowboy seems like a good way of doing this given that no special equipment or prior expertise is really required: just a laptop, an Internet connection and a mouse.
    I currently have not successfully gotten any commercial sponsors. I am approaching potential commercial sponsors to provide alcohol and an optional prize, on the basis that those two things are both optional. Food is essential, but if we don't get matching commercial sponsorship, then instead of running it as a two day event, instead we'll just have a one day events without on-site alcohol and go to a pub or bar afterwards. Given that this is an unproven event, I'm not exactly sure that we are going to get lots of commercial sponsorship. If Facebook turned up and said "here's £5,000, do what you will", then there would be no need for Wikimedia UK sponsorship. What is more likely is that we might be able to rustle up £50 from a sponsor to buy a crate of beer and maybe another £20 to buy an Amazon voucher for the most fanatical mapper... —Tom Morris (talk) 15:28, 15 November 2012 (UTC)

Thanks Tom! I'm very happy to be able to approve this microgrant, up to a budget of £250 as needed. :-) Please liaise with the Office with regards the reimbursement of the expenditure. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 10:40, 18 November 2012 (UTC)

Thanks, Mike. So far, I've spent about £30 on food and drink, and another £24 on my train travel. So, instead of £150, it'll probably be more like £55. I'll put together a brief report tomorrow. Can I just put it here, or do I have to email it to someone? —Tom Morris (talk) 16:44, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
That's good to hear - hope the event went well. :-) Please post the report here, no need to email it to anyone. Thanks. Mike Peel (talk) 10:31, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
See here for a report. Richard Symonds (WMUK) (talk) 15:57, 1 July 2013 (UTC)