Community Spotlight: Meet Waze Champ “Sketch”

Community Spotlight takes a behind-the-scenes look at the contributions made by local communities and Map Editors on Waze. The community is made up of volunteers with a shared vision, working together for the common good. The Waze community is a special thing; everyone contributes, everyone benefits. In addition to traffic and road reports, many features on Waze including translations, voices, and road closures come directly from members of our passionate community. This community of 360,000+ global volunteers is also actively involved in keeping the Waze map accurate and up to date. We wanted to get a better idea of what makes these Map Editors tick, so we spoke with Sketch. With nearly 1.5 million (!) points, he is one of the most veteran and active Waze Map Editors.
Q: What's your Waze story? How did you hear about the app? 
A: I heard about Waze back in August 2009, in a Gizmodo "Apps of the Week" roundup they did every Friday. The concept of a GPS app where you could drive around and munch dots like Pac-Man seemed like fun, and the notion that those "munching" drives would be translated into real map data was pretty mind-blowing at the time. You gotta remember, this was back when the iPhone 3GS was brand new and the only Android phones were the T-Mobile MyTouch series—"apps" were only about a year-old concept and weren't doing the kinds of things they're capable of today.
A screenshot of Waze from 2009.
Q: What compelled you to start editing the map and get deeply involved?
A: Most Wazers won't know this, but at the time, the Waze app was literally useless for navigation. It was in alpha for a year or two. The map would automatically learn what was possible and legal as you would drive around, and I was clearly one of the first drivers in the New Orleans area... none of the roads were navigable at the time, I couldn't even get a good route 2 miles away. But I kept driving and driving to teach it. There are some things that could not be taught by driving, however, such as road names, classification of roads, turn restrictions, and so on. Waze would learn one "turn" at a time, so you'd have to go straight, take a left, take a right at every single intersection for it to learn. Or, you could hop into the editor and make it work that way, as long as you had driven by once to open an area to yourself! I started driving more, not just to teach Waze, but to open up more areas to myself as well.
Q: How many map edits have you made? A: I've made "only" 286,227 map edits, which is not a lot compared with many of my fellow Waze Champs! But I make up for edit count in other ways; I try to be involved in policy decisions, formation and creation of map editing guidance, app and editor beta testing, and so on. I go for quality over quantity ;)
Q: How much time a week do you spend editing the maps? Why do you do it?
A: I've recently started a job which keeps me busy a lot of the time, so I can only give Waze a couple hours a week these days. I used to do a lot more, but a lot of my Waze time has been poured into forums and other discussion channels for policy making and documentation, things like that. But I do edit, and I have several projects of my own. I edit for myself and for everyone—having been involved with Waze for nearly 8 years now, and having told so many people about it, I take pride in Waze. I try to ensure that it works the best it possibly can so that it might live up to or even surpass expectations. In part, I see the map of my area as a reflection of myself, so I like everything to be as good as it can be, with excellent navigation, uniform naming, realistic geometry, and so on. And I will admit that some of my edits have been partially self-serving! If I'm about to take a trip somewhere, I will check the map of that area and make sure it's up to snuff, so that Waze can do its job for me. I did this in anticipation of a trip to Wichita, Kansas a few months ago, and found that the map in that area was not quite as well-maintained as my area, so I did some major edits in the area. It benefited me for the 2 days I was there, but it will benefit Wazers in Kansas for much longer than that, so I feel okay about it ;)
Q: What's your favorite part of editing the maps? A: I love the feeling I get when Waze gets me exactly where I need to go, as quickly as possible, and with good instructions on how to get there. Translate that feeling to every other Wazer out there, and I feel like I'm playing a part in making a lot of people's days a lot better. As far as actually editing the map, well, I find that the editor is well-designed and very pleasant to use—not like in the early days! Editing the map is pretty relaxing for me, especially where I am just chugging along and making sure everything is up to spec. Participating in Map Raids with hundreds of other editors is a lot of fun, but the best times are between me, the editor, and the roads.
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Q: What feature would you love to see added to Waze? A: Features like HOV lane handling would be great for Waze's mission, although it wouldn't be a big help to me personally. What I'd really love to see are a few things that would bring Waze up to industry standards in GPS—especially advanced lane guidance, like "Stay in the 3 right lanes", with a synthesized image of the interchange you're coming up on. Don't get me wrong, Waze already gives the best routes in the business, but it would be really nice if their directions were brought to the next level.
Q: What tips would you give to a new editor? A: Get with your community. Find the local editors in your city, state, region, country, or whatever, and don't be afraid to ask them for help or guidance. Waze cannot work without the Waze map, and the Waze map cannot work without people. The people are Waze's greatest asset, and we want to help you to help us help Waze!
Q: What's one thing you want people to know about Waze? A: It may seem silly to use GPS every time you get in the car, especially if you know "the best way" to get home, to work, to the store, to your favorite restaurant, but believe me—it will save you so much frustration if you use Waze every time you get in the car! The day you decide not to use it is the day you get stuck in a traffic jam because of an accident. Waze reduces stress, it's good for your health!
Big thanks to Sketch for taking the time to speak to us. If you’d like to get involved with map editing, you can you can learn how to edit the map or get help from experts in our Waze Map Editor forums.

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