About - Oliver Wipfli

Oliver Wipfli


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Hi, I’m Oliver and I am MapLibre’s Coordinator.

I came to mapping because I created a hot-air balloon tracking device which would show the location of the balloon on a map (https://ballometer.io). At the time, I used Mapbox GL JS and when I heard that I could not use that library anymore without paying, I was happy to see that Petr, Luke, Yuri and others created MapLibre to maintain an open-source fork.

I never contributed to an open-source project before but I really wanted to join a community, help others make maps, and be part of something bigger. I read a bit about how open-source works and learned that one of the best ways to contribute for newcomers is to help with documentation. So my first big contribution was then to migrate the documentation website to MapLibre (thanks Yuri for patiently reviewing all my pull requests).

We had a good start with MapLibre but then there came a bit of a dip. And then, there was this one person who really wanted to contribute an “addProtocol” function to MapLibre GL JS but nobody wanted to review his pull request. I pinged people from the Technical Steering Committee and finally someone approved that pull request. The person behind “addProtocol” was Harel and it would not be his last contribution. He came back and turned the whole code base up-side-down migrating it from Flow to TypeScript. That was a big effort and again nobody wanted to review it all the way through. In the end, I went through every single file, reviewed TypeScript without knowing TypeScript, and eventually became the single person to approve Harel’s pull request. It was clear for me that there would be bugs but I was also sure that Harel would fix them. I think the migration to TypeScript gave Harel and myself a feeling of ownership which is really valuable.

Time went on, we improved a lot of things around Jest and testing in MapLibre GL JS, and at some point Yuri and Petr said in a meeting that we should finally go after the big companies and ask them to become our sponsors. I thought that this was a great idea and joined the initially self-elected Governing Board. Together with Luke, Petr, and Yuri, I designed the MapLibre Sponsorship Program and started pinging random people from companies if they would be interested in sponsoring MapLibre. And to my surprise, some of them actually said “YES”. It was a great experience to get support and see so much goodwill from different sides.

MapLibre was created from the beginning to be a community-governed project, but we were facing the problem of how to elect a Governing Board when the community actually has no clear boundaries. After all, everybody can contribute to our projects on GitHub. So we needed some sort of governance process and I set out to write again together with Yuri, Luke, and Petr our Charter which defines how elections work and what Voting Members are. Writing the Charter, getting feedback from many sides, and organizing the first Governing Board elections was quite a cool experience. It was good because the people involved in MapLibre are just somehow all excellent people and I feel we have quite a unique community – so let’s take good care of ourselves.

With the arrival of the sponsorship funding we were ready to pay somebody for the coordination of hiring maintainers and building further partnerships with companies that use MapLibre. The Governing Board appointed me for the coordinator role and I became the first freelancer working for MapLibre. I was worried that switching from a hobby to being paid could be bad, but wasn’t – again because the people who contribute to MapLibre are all excellent and supported me throughout the process.

I am proud to have hired Bart and Ovi as maintainers for MapLibre Native and Harel as maintainer for MapLibre GL JS. They make the projects a better place and help contributors achieve their goals. The partnerships with companies keep solidifying and we see that our libraries are production-ready and are being used in the largest consumer apps and websites in the world.

My personal wish for the future is that MapLibre stays a project that welcomes new people. I found it always faciating that new people could come to MapLibre and have an impact. Let’s keep it like this and remind ourselves always that we also once joined the project and were newcomers.

MapLibre’s software is useful but the real value of MapLibre is in its people.