I received an email from Noam (redviper26) inviting me to share our community's story. So here is how Waze has changed our (driving) lives and how new friendships were made from our side of the globe
I found out about Waze sometime around 2011 when I was looking for a free GPS app for my Blackberry when I read from Gizmodo about Waze. I installed it, went to the Waze website, created my account, and browsed the forums. There were Waze users within the Philippines but they were only a handful and the map editors only laid out the major thoroughfares within Metro Manila and other highways near the capital. Unfortunately, Waze was unusable back then, navigating just a few kilometers did not work because segments were not connected. Turn restrictions were disabled or enabled when they shouldn't be, lots of roads did not exist, and road direction errors were some of the major map issues. I reported update requests one after another with hopes that errors will be fixed, but updates back then came too few and far in between. Later on I found out that I could fix the issues I saw so I did and applied as an Area Manager for Metro Manila.
The Waze community for the Philippines did not really exist back then, there were some users on the Waze map and oftentimes it would take some time before you see another Wazer on the road. There were also map editors but they were not organized and not really following any guidelines. The only way they communicated with each other was through the forums and it was rare if they did, based on the sparse Philippine Wazer thread. My post on the thread was the 13th and almost a year after the 1st post.
I became active on the Waze forums particularly the Philippine Wazers thread, drumming up interest and welcoming new Wazers as well as helping them out with questions that they have on Waze usage and map editing. This was even though I was only using Waze and editing for only a couple of months. I met on the forums the other Wazers that would become first members of the Philippine Waze Users community which were iceden (Jason Liao) and SpeedDzel (Louis Agaloos).
While driving home one night, I had a chat with one of the Wazers (iceden) and he suggested that I create a Facebook group for Waze users from the Philippines. Since Facebook is very popular here and we were sure that most if not all Waze users are on it, it would be the best social medium to promote, connect, inform, and build the Waze community here. On April 26, 2012 the Facebook group Philippine Waze Users was created.
I invited the others from the forum to join and at first there were only a dozen of us in the group and only three were actively posting. We invited everyone we knew who were Waze users and we even posted map chats on Waze inviting users to join the group. It took a while but eventually the group grew to a hundred and it was then that scheduled the very first Philippine Waze Users meetup.
The June 9, 2013 meetup was attended by a dozen Wazers, some were active editors and others were just Wazers on the road. I have become good friends with them and we now have had three meetups and are planning a fourth one this March or April. We have decided to do it regularly every quarter so that we could hang around and talk about Waze issues, get to know each other better, and to welcome new Wazers to the community.
When we started, the group had only around a dozen members, 10 area managers, and no country manager. SpeedDzel (Louis) and I became the interim country managers for the Philippines because we were the highest level editors back then (Level 4) and were the most active on the forums. Now we have two more L5 country managers, baldugaras (Dionefil Tumulak) and rider111 (Eddie Magnayon) and 50 area managers who are helping out with mapping and fixing update requests all over the country. There are also around 700 members of the group now. The largest batch of Wazers, around 200, joined late October last year when the group was promoted on the official Waze Facebook page. The membership also grew when Waze partnered with Smart Philippines, the largest telco in the country. However, we have yet to inform and invite the other 300,000 Waze users in the Philippines about the group.
To keep in touch with each other, the local country managers, area managers, and champs have a Facebook chat group. We get to talk to each other there if we have concerns and issues. It's also where we get to discuss and plan things even if we don't physically get to meet. We can just chat or leave our messages there and have a reply when someone else comes online. We have also created map editing guidelines which were specific and tweaked for the Philippine roads as well as a review process for Wazers applying as area managers.
A couple of years ago I would get excited when I see other Wazers on the map, now whenever I launch Waze, I would see that there are 3000+ Wazers around me. And on days where traffic is really bad, there would be 5000+ Wazers around... and that makes me happy, in spite of the crawling traffic around me, because I know that Waze will get me to my destination on the fastest route
Everyone is welcome to join the Philippine Waze Users group, we have Wazers from different countries as members (english is primarily the language we use). Unfortunately it's a closed group because of the size so you have to request to join, but we approve all requests when they come in