You may know Waze as the navigation app with fun, community-centred features, that makes your daily drive easier and a more pleasurable experience (Batman theme anyone?). Waze is indeed powered by its community – and a big part of this community? Map editors. Yusmizan Ag Kirah (fondly known as Yus) and Lee Zhong Zhen, two active Waze editors shared what it’s like to be part of this close knit group.
First things first – who are these map editors and what do they do?
If you’ve seen dead ends or one way streets marked on the map, or if you have gotten help with editing your business location, you have the editors to thank for that. Locally, the app is maintained by this passionate team of volunteers which make up just 1% of the global network of roughly 30,000 editors updating the Waze map each month. Not only that, they can be found on the Waze Malaysia Facebook group sharing information and are quick to lend a helping hand when needed. They play a huge part in how we experience the app.
How it started vs how it’s going
While each editor has had their own story of how they come to be part of the local group, for Yus, a Level 6 Country Manager, Global Champ, and Country Coordinator based in Sabah, the app’s gamification features first caught his interest but he quickly became excited about the editing feature once he found out about it. And so in 2013, this full-time lecturer from Sabah made his way in, and has never looked back since. He finds the time before and after work to balance map editing and communicating with the community.
Yusmizan (left) and Lee Zhong Zhen (right) play special roles in the community. The levels 1 – 6 are map editor ranks earned based on their editing contributions while special community roles are given to help coordinate and organize the community.
Zhong Zhen, a Level 5 Country Manager and Local Champ based in the Klang Valley, came in from a different place. Five to six years ago, there were no roads on the Waze map connecting to his place and those new to his area would often get lost. He became frustrated and wanted to know the right person from Waze, to confront. To his surprise, he found out about this group of volunteers. “Hey, anyone can become an editor and take action,” he thought, and that’s how he became an editor himself. He has since fixed the mapping issue in his area, and also continued to make more edits to his hometown in Seremban.
Community at work: COVID-19 & special mapping projects ie. Beacons at SMART Tunnel and Tun Razak Exchange
When the pandemic hit, and commuting took a drastic dip especially in the early days of movement restriction, the community were still busy marking road blocked areas.
That’s not all, within the span of this year, Malaysians enjoyed uninterrupted GPS navigation in the SMART Tunnel and in underground roads leading to and from the Tun Razak Exchange (TRX) – thanks to the installation of bluetooth-enabled devices called Beacons. TRX was the first in Southeast Asia to enjoy the benefits of this technology and both Yus and Zhong Zhen were part of mapping segments of this road.
Mapping these areas posed different challenges from their regular activity. In the case of the underground basement structures in the TRX, they had to be very accurate when overlaying drawings into the map editor – what made it tricky was the fact that there was not a very big height difference between the road above the ground and the part which starts to lead underground. Doing it wrong could lead to people being routed to the wrong place. 300 metres of area mapped, took them roughly 3 days and 15 hours to complete.
While both were not as involved with assessing the situation on ground in the SMART Tunnel, another one of the local Country Coordinators – Ahmad Kamal Effendy – was, and the community continues to do their good work with keeping the map updated.
A case for the community
Holidays are a time for being with those near and dear. The global pandemic has made it even more important to be with a community of shared interests, friendship or even someone close enough to be called ‘family’.
It turns out they’re not just fanatics who only discuss maps! They come from a wide range of industries and bond over other shared interests and goals, for example running virtual marathons, turning to each other for help, or even coming together for a good cause. Quite recently, they ran a blood donation drive, an activity they make a point of doing at least twice a year.
A blood donation drive organized by the local Waze community of editors, just an example of the different ways the close knit community bonds over their shared interests.
What’s in it for them?
So why do they spend so much time and effort on improving the Waze app when they’re not getting paid?
“I really can’t stand spending time in traffic, sometimes hours at a time, when I can be doing something useful or productive. When someone comes to me, telling me that Waze routed them away from traffic, that makes my day,” shared Yus on aspects which make being an editor most rewarding.
For Zhong Zhen, it was the ability to correct an error on the map. “That frustration that I had in the beginning is no longer there because now I have the power to change and fix what is not right and I don’t get lost anymore.
“But it’s not just that, I feel that we can easily rely on each other for support and it is a great way to make friends who have become very dear to me.”
As editors, they get to be the first to try new features, being part of the beta tester group. This is especially true for localized features that do not go out to all users at once. And even though they do not expect it, they see it as a nice gesture from Waze when they get special swag and merchandise every now and then – it’s things that can’t be bought from a store.
So who can become an editor?
When asked to share their thoughts on what qualities are needed to be an editor, Yus was only half joking when he said:
“You must be a Waze app user – or else, you won’t understand the issues faced. Patience and the desire to help people is also key. While knowledge in mapping is not required as there will be more experienced editors to guide you, it can be helpful.”
Zhong Zhen agrees, adding “You need to have the passion to contribute and a certain level of selflessness. But I’m not going to say it’s all give and no take. Join in to have fun – all the better if you are a sociable person.”
The Waze Community is always looking to welcome more individuals to the community. Interested in joining them? Head to https://www.waze.com/editor and learn how to start editing from the Community Wiki. Also, get in touch with our community of editors through the Waze Malaysia Facebook group.