In his recent article in Wired, Greg Miller compares the crowdsourced OpenStreetMap (OSM) with GoogleMaps, and finds OSM to be superior in providing detailed maps of the game sites at the Sochi Olympics. In the article, Miller directs readers to the Map Compare Tool, which allows users to easily compare up to eight mapping tools at once and that he used in determining OSM’s scope of detail.
While OSM currently lacks many features available through GoogleMaps, its advantages include being community driven—with currently 1.5 million local users creating map data based upon direct knowledge of an area—and that it is open data. OSM provides evidence of a successful and expanding crowdsourcing effort and is a testament to the potential power of crowdsourcing and the importance of open data. As libraries, museums, and archives seek new ways of involving patrons in the work of gathering and applying metadata to objects in their collections, they may want to look to OSM for inspiration. By harnessing metadata from a wide community of users and making this metadata linked open data, new connections can be discovered and cultural heritage collections can be better understood, strengthening their utility.