Founded in 2004 by Steve Coast (Sterling, 2014), OpenStreetMap (OSM) uses User Generated Content (UGC) to compile its visual data. Since OSM is an open data source, any individual or company can access and add to the data within OSM. Any information added becomes immediately accessible to OSM users. OSM currently has an Open Database License (McDonough, 2013), which means that OSM along with all its data can be shared and used once all the data within OSM is made available to all OSM users. In this way it differs to outlets such as Google Maps and Google Map Maker, which is a closed system. Any information submitted becomes the property of Google (McDonough, 2013). OSM is ultimately a community-engaged project to collect geographical data for public use.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap tasking is a collaborative mapping tool. Its objective is to map areas that are not mapped sufficiently. Through the use of the OSM task manager, important humanitarian initiatives can be met. I participated in mapping the Morrumbala District in Mozambique as part of the Africa Indoor Residual Spraying Campaign. The goal of this particular humanitarian initiative is to help indoor residual spraying programs in the area, which will help control and ultimately stop the spread of Malaria. The mapping of the Morrumbala District in Mozambique will help Peace Corps Volunteers to complete Field Papers to determine where to spray in the district.




The OSM task manager provided useful information with regard to mapping the area. I was evidently unfamiliar with the landscape and structural layout of the area. The OSM task manager provided me with a tracing guide, which I reviewed. I found this guide to be extremely helpful with regards to recognising houses and roads in the Morrumbala District.  This particular task focused on mapping a complete transportation network, as well as identifying buildings and waterways.

I also participated in mapping the Togo area in West Africa. The aim of this mapping initiative is to help contain the Meningitis outbreak. In order for the Togolese Red Cross and the government to contain and control the outbreak, mapping of roads, buildings and residential areas is a priority. Comparing this experience to mapping the Morrumbala district, I found the Togo area to be more straightforward to map with regards to noticing structural and geographical features. However, the Togo mapping task did not supply a tracing guide, the Morrumbala district task did supply this as well as alternative information.




Mapping an unfamiliar area proved difficult, I could only map on an indefinite basis. I could not be entirely sure if a road was secondary, residential or tertiary. The only guideline I could follow were the ones provided. Comparing the experience of mapping an unfamiliar area versus a very familiar area was interesting. Mapping through the task manager proved to be more stimulating and there were definite objectives for each task. The user could also see the percentage of progress made on each task. This reinforced the idea of OSM being a community engaged project. The task manager made it possible to view the contributions other users had made. Users can also validate and leave comments on other user’s work. I validated mapping by a user in the Vanua Levu area, which requires mapping after the Winston storm. Users were encouraged to map roads and buildings that had not already been mapped.

With regards to the additional features of OSM, a “User Diaries” feature is easily accessible to all OSM users. Users can contribute to these diaries by sharing their personal experiences using OSM as well as viewing other user’s comments. OSM also offers a feature called “GPS Traces”. This particular feature allows users to upload their recorded GPS traces directly to OSM. The collected data from the GPS traces are displayed as a background of dots and lines. These can help the user recognise map features while editing which adds to the functionality of OSM. These two additional features add to the interactive nature of OSM and reinforces the idea of OSM being a community engaged project. Not only is the site’s data compiled from user generated content, but users can interact and work collectively on an online platform.

To present all perspectives fairly, the limitations of OSM must also be considered. Since anyone, anywhere can contribute to OSM, the accuracy and reliability of the data inputted can be questioned. From my own personal experience with OSM and being an unexperienced mapper, attention to detail was required to ensure the mapping was as accurate as possible. It is apparent however, that OSM’s validation function can help counter this problem, work can be reviewed and validated accordingly.

Ultimately, OSM is a largescale crowdsourced map and its data is constantly evolving due to its thousands of contributors. Their contributors vary from GIS (Geographic Information Systems) professionals and engineers to enthusiast mappers and casual cartographers. Having experimented with OSM and its functionalities, it is evidently a resourceful, interactive digital tool that encourages the use of digital tools to meet important humanitarian initiatives. OSM could definitely be used for academic purposes. Its efficiency and simple functionality makes it a very appealing tool which could ultimately be adapted to research projects or portfolios. For example, research in relation to geographical space and its influence on cultural development and human behaviour would make use of a tool such as OSM. To conclude, OSM is a unique digital tool and promotes community engaged projects on a digital platform.


McDonough, M. (2013) Google Map Maker vs. OpenStreetMap: Which mapping service rules them all? Available at: [Accessed 1 March 2016]

Sterling, G. (2014) Founder: OpenStreetMap Already As Good Or Better Than Google Maps. Available at: [Accessed 1 March 2016]



Reviewing a digital tool: CiteULike


Locating information for academic purposes is already challenging, sorting the information found is another common struggle among students and academics. Availing of the internet and online search engines for sources has become increasingly popular as supported by Reiger’s (2009) study. Collecting and sorting references can be a time consuming process, CiteULike is a digital tool that helps make this process more efficient. CiteULike allows the user to store, organise and share the scholarly papers they have sourced. Citation details are extracted automatically from the users’ personal library, where the selected papers are stored. CiteULike works from within the users’ web browser, adding to the accessibility of this tool. For the purpose of this review, CiteULike will be evaluated under a set of criteria;

Sustainability: How long has the tool been available for? Is the tool widely used? Can data be exported?

Efficiency: How easy is this tool to navigate? Does the tool supply adequate information for new users? Does this tool perform as it claims to?

Contribution to Knowledge: Does this tool contribute to the efficiency of the users’ research process?  Can data collected be shared with others?

Firstly, the tool will be evaluated in terms of its sustainability. CiteULike has been available as a free web service since 2004. As of 2007, there were 33,000 registered users, this number was reported to be growing at 100 users per day (Emamy & Cameron,2007). CiteUlike has accumulated a large community of users and is continuing to grow. The unique combination of a bibliographic management tool and a social bookmarking service is what makes CiteUlike so appealing. There are currently over 8 Million articles stored via CiteULike , compared to over 2 Million in 2009 (

CiteULike users and their selected articles are not confined to their web browser, the users’ personal library can be exported to their computer in various formats (ie. PDF,RTF,Plaintext). Since CiteULike is an open source tool, the content available depends on the amount of active users and the type of papers they are storing. CiteULike is evidently a very sustainable, viable tool that promotes the sharing of knowledge and has a large community of users.

Secondly, CiteULike will be evaluated in terms of its efficiency. The basic navigation and functionality of the tool is simple, step by step assistance is offered for new users. Scholarly papers can be stored instantly once the CiteULike browser button is installed. Users can organise their papers in their own personal library, which can be organised by user generated tags. These tags enable users to navigate libraries and discover new papers that have mutual tags. Users also have the option to prioritise papers of superior importance, adding to the efficiency of this tool. CiteULike also offers an alphabetical listing of journals as an alternative for users who decide not to locate their own articles.


Another addition, is the subject specific pages where the latest papers are listed according to the subject they are classified under. This enables the user to explore papers under a specified category in an efficient, easily accessible way. “Citegist” displays the most popular articles in the past seven days within CiteULike. In this way, it is easy for a user to uncover new, popular articles that may be of relevance. CiteULike is unquestionably a highly efficient tool for collecting, storing and sharing scholarly papers.

Finally, CiteULike will be evaluated in terms of its contribution to knowledge. This particular tool facilitates the sharing and consumption of academic literature (Emamy & Cameron, 2007). A function entitled “neighbours” is incorporated in CiteULike, users who have bookmarked the same articles are shown here, connections can be made between users. Researchers in similar fields can build up professional networks, thus promoting knowledge sharing.


Since every users’ bibliographic database is web based, users can browse each other’s collections. Of course this is not favourable for every individual, but gives users the opportunity to share and consume new academic information. The use of user generated tags also contributes to CiteULike’s contribution to knowledge. Users can explore academic papers under tags that interest them, which enables them to uncover articles others have collected.

In terms of CiteULike’s contribution to the efficiency of one’s research process, it succeeds in making the collecting and sorting of sources an easy task. It is an added bonus that the collections of others can be viewed. Not only does CiteULike act as a social bookmarking service, it also efficiently extracts the relevant metadata required for the bibliographic database (Emamy & Cameron, 2007). This contributes to the efficiency of the research process, sources can be cited almost effortlessly.

To present all perspectives fairly, the limitations of CiteULike must also be considered. Since CiteULike is an open source, their success is dependent on input from their users. CiteULike also has visible competition, Zotero being one of them. It is notable that it is mainly only articles available to store in the users’ personal library (Suhrstedt, 2009). It would be beneficial for CiteULike to be compatible with other forms of sources such as audio and video.

To conclude, CiteULike encompasses much more than just a bibliographic management service. It allows for professional networks to be built among users who share similar academic interests. CiteULike’s simple functionality and accessibility makes it an appealing outlet for those conducting academic research. Having evaluated this tool under the set of criteria (outlined above) it is evidently a beneficial digital tool that could be used universally.


-Emamy, K. and Cameron, R. (2007) Citeulike: A Researcher’s Social Bookmarking Service. Available at: [Accessed 9 February 2016]

-Rieger, O.Y. (2009) ‘Search engine behaviour of students and faculty: User perceptions and implications for future research’, First Monday, 14 (12), pp.1-5. Available at [Accessed 8 February 2016]

-Suhrstedt, L. (2009) Citeulike. Available at: [Accessed 9 February 2016] [Accessed 9 February 2016]