Mapper of the Month: Mishari Muqbil (Thailand)
01.08.2021 - Pierre Parmentier
Hello Mishari! Would you like to briefly introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m Mishari Muqbil, based in Bangkok, Thailand, and I attribute much of who I am to the open source movement. Presently I’m an InnerSource coach, which is I help organisations and teams adopt open source principles and methodologies.
I co-organise Open Tech Summit Thailand, an international open source conference, co-founded CoderDojo Thailand, a free programming community for kids age 7-17, co-organise Bangkok Scientifique, a meetup to improve science literacy, and am a part of the Homeschooling community because I always felt learning in communities (such as OpenStreetMap) was more impactful than learning in school.
I’m also an Angel Investor, having minor interests in real estate, agriculture, social commerce, etc.
How and when did you get to know OpenStreetMap?
I’ve had an account since 2012 but have probably been active since about six years ago. I was introduced to OpenStreetMap by jandetlefsen.
How do you use OpenStreetMap?
I use OpenStreetMap mainly for bicycle routing and for finding facilities when I’m out with my children. I also use the data for analysis, such as logistics costs, and find optimum real estate locations. When I travel, I often find walking routes in OpenStreetMap as they tend to be mapped better than other providers.
What kind of contributor are you, and in which area do you map?
I tend to map wherever I am at the time, which is mainly Bangkok CBD and Thailand’s southern border provinces. Whenever I go to a new place, I’ll also try to add contact information, opening hours, etc.
What are you mapping? Do you have a specialisation?
I map a lot of bicycle and pedestrian facilities around Bangkok. Apart from that, I like to map things hidden in plain sight, such as phone booths and post boxes which few use anymore, but I feel it should be documented somewhere as having once played an essential part in our society. Then I map facilities that may be useful for other parents, such as playgrounds, restrooms, etc. Lately, I’ve enjoyed going out with StreetComplete and doing quests.
What is your greatest achievement as a mapper?
My most significant contribution has been adding data from the insurgency torn South Thailand to the map and starting efforts to make data available in Kelantan Pattani Malay [language].
As a community member, my most notable achievement is engaging Grab [company] when their contribution was problematic and then collaborating with them on a new process that puts the community in charge, hence significantly improving map data and decreasing friction in working with the community. I hope this also serves as a template for future large scale edits.
Why are you mapping? What motivates you?
Firstly curiosity, it’s fascinating to look at maps and see how civilisation has expanded and evolved, from the old city to modern developments. Through maps, we can often see the way different generations have applied their vision to a city. I also like to look at how people move around, the limits of our town planning, and how people have hacked it by creating accessible shortcuts through private property.
Secondly, for cycling, I consider that the more data I feed into OpenStreetMap, the more I can get out of the algorithms that process bicycle routing, making cycling more enjoyable.
Thirdly, I don’t know what exciting services would be created out of my contribution. Perhaps one day, I will need to rely on wheelchair routing. Maybe someone is looking for a vegetarian or halal restaurant in my area. Perhaps there’s a parent out there looking for a restroom, a tourist looking for a landmark, or a logistics company optimising their routes to make parcel delivery cheaper and reducing energy consumption. Things built on the data I’ve helped contributed can make my life better.
I also see that schools and offices will become less critical in the future, and we will choose facilities that are most suited to us. To plan our days and our lives, we will need high-quality map data to do so. In a way, a good map means more freedom, more opportunities, and more choices.
But at the end of the day, I map because it’s fun.
Do you have any ideas to expand the OpenStreetMap community, to motivate more people to contribute?
I would like to see more development in tools like StreetComplete that are specialised and simple. These tools would allow new contributors to start contributing simply and intuitively.
Meetups and local but globally connected activities, similar to how the crypto community is handling their expansion, might also be a good idea for community building.
Speaking of which, crypto linked to OpenStreetMap contribution is interesting. Gridcoin.us gives out GRC token to BOINC contributors, and OSMAnd had a program giving out BTC to contributors. I think there’s a vast untapped and unexplored opportunity at the intersection of open source contribution and crypto.
Do you have contact with other mappers?
I am in touch with the community in Chiang Mai [the largest city in northern Thailand], and I hang out on the OpenStreetMap Asia Telegram Channel.
What is in your view the greatest strength of OpenStreetMap?
OpenStreetMap as a form of self-expression, its flexibility and its community.
The map is constantly evolving and growing and allows mappings of things relevant to individuals and communities. This allows for heavy customisation of the output and makes it beneficial across a wide variety of uses.
I also enjoy hanging out with people from the community, and some of my best friends are also actively involved in OpenStreetMap. To paraphrase, I came for the data, stayed for the community.
What are the largest challenges for OpenStreetMap?
The challenge is in bringing in more contributors from Asia, where there’s a lack of interest in the benefits of open source contribution. Most contributors here are either Westerners or Western-centric. We can do better to bring more diverse perspectives to the world of mapping.
The other challenge I see as the quantity of data grows is making an environment welcoming to new users. There will inherently be a conflict between new users who have a different interpretation of the map and more established mappers. Sometimes this is overwhelming for newcomers and a source of much anguish for established mappers.
How do you stay on top of news about OpenStreetMap?
Mostly via weeklyOSM, OSM Thailand Forum, and the OSM Asia Telegram channel.
To conclude, is there anything else you want to share with the readers?
I want to thank everyone who has collectively helped make OSM the great project that it is.
Thank you, Mishari, for this interview.