This a guest blog post featuring OpenStreetMap community member Ross Thorn. Ross is a GIS Analyst/Developer with North Point Geographic Solutions in Duluth, MN. He stays active in the cartography community by occasionally tweeting about video game maps, D&D maps, and attending the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) meeting every year.

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The company I work for, North Point Geographic Solutions, wanted to do something special for #GISDay this year and we went through a list of ideas. I was excited when my suggestion of a mapathon garnered interest from everyone on staff. I reached out to my friend Jonah Adkins, an awesome cartographer on the board for OpenStreetMap US, and he provided some great direction on how to organize such an event. Before long, we were all prepped and ready to map! We sent off invitations to everyone we knew in the area.

It was a cold and snowy November the 13th in Duluth, Minnesota, but we were hoping that wouldn’t stop local geographers from trekking to the warm atmosphere of the Hoops Brewing taproom for some beverages, pizza, and maps. After all, Duluthians (like most Midwesterners) often pride themselves on their hardiness and resistance to cold damage.

I started off the evening by setting up a monitor and my laptop facing a few benches in an area we reserved in the taproom. This was my first mapathon and I wasn’t sure how many people to expect. One by one, folks showed up with laptops in tow and brains full of local knowledge that they were ready to transfer to OpenStreetMap (OSM). Before long, we had a group of nearly 20 people! The best part was that almost everyone was completely new to OSM. I briefly introduced what OSM is and demonstrated how to add and edit data in the browser and they were off!

The attendees picked up on it so quickly and were very engaged in it! Asking questions, helping one another, and discussing how they could use something like OSM for their next project. Everyone stayed for the entire scheduled duration and some folks exchanged cards and information. It was such a cool experience to put on a successful mapping activity and see how many people in the community are as passionate about maps and open data as I am. We hope to do another event like this in the near future!

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