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'Citizen cartographers' map the microcosms of the world

MappingDC, formed last summer, holds such "mapping parties" on a semi-regular basis; previous events have been thrown in Bethesda and Silver Spring.

Serge Wroclawski, one of the local group's leaders, admitted that the outings aren't absolutely necessary, since anybody with a computer connection and a few skills can contribute to OpenStreepMap on their own. But such events are a decent excuse for the project's enthusiasts to get together, and maybe spread the word.

It was also, on that Sunday, an opportunity to confuse the locals.

After the morning meet-up, where members and guests divvied up the areas they would be covering, MappingDC participants hit the streets for hours. A woman stopped and watched as Chris Covington snapped a picture of a bike rack outside the Federal Triangle Metro station and his friend Wade Duvall made a note on a printout of the area.

Washingtonians are used to seeing camera-wielding tourists snapping away at the sights -- but bike racks and park benches?

Later, Covington and Duvall spent hours sorting out the dozens of snapshots parked on his GPS-enabled smartphone and uploaded the bounty from the morning's expedition. And instantly, Washington's map was a little more complete.

"It's about making a better map than Google," Covington said. "It's about making the best map possible."

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