OpenStreetMap

Separate account requirement for all imports, even small ones (erg, what is small ?)

Posted by Pieren on 19 October 2012 in English (English)

Currently French community members importing buildings into OSM are blocked by the DWG (Data Working Group) if they don't use a separate user account. The problem is that the French community explaines since weeks to the DWG why this requirement, altough making sens for big mechanical import, does not make sens in this case because the imports are limited on small areas (villages), in numbers (between 1000 up to 10000 buildings in worst cases), in types of objects (only buildings) and damages (none if the user follows the import guideline) and more importantly, is crowdsourced, means that everyone is invited to participate to the import if they have a mimimum of experience in JOSM. The funny thing is that the imports are performed like this since years without problems. Until the DWG set-up its own tools detecting big changesets. Whatever is good or bad in the changesets, they request a separate user account, some rule established im a totally opaque way. In early days, when we got problems like users failing to upload or not following our guidelines, the French community was big enough to check, communicate and fix things himself. What is even more funny is how the dialog with the DWG members is:

-- hey, DWG, we import buildings since years. Your request for a separate account is painful for a delta contributors who is maybe uploading just his village and next one into OSM (a second user account requires a second email address, you cannot use the same email as your first account)

-- (DWG) : no, the rule is "use a separate account for imports"

-- but we accept and use this rules for big imports or when it is completely mechanical. Here we ask people to verify on JOSM and integrate with the existing. Most of the time, it will improve the old data and improve the future contributions. Uploads are rarely isolated with 100% original data.

-- (DWG) : no, the rule is "use a separate account for imports"

-- but the process implies that we should constantly switch from one account to the other (since we also contribute manually for the integration). This would be very painful...

-- (DWG) : no, the rule is "use a separate account for imports"

-- and you send a warning message to contributors in English when our public is the crowd. Most of them will not understand your message...

-- (DWG) : then translate our message saying the rule of "use a separate account for imports"

-- but, hey, who decided that the separate account is not mandatory when it was just a recommendation for years ? Is it not a gouvernance problem in the project that a very small group, the DWG, decides for all of us ? Does not the foundation claims everywhere that they do not interfer with contributions ?

-- (DWG) : We can discuss gouvernance in a couple of months or years. But till then, the rule is "use a separate account for imports".

-- and what do you think about the compromise coming for a third party saying that we could identify such uploads with a specific tag on the changeset itself, thus, it would not require to switch from one account to another ?

-- (DWG) your building imports takes so much resources. Cannot you not make this effort to follow the rule "use a separate account for imports" ?

As you can see, the dialog is impossible. It is very sad that the only group able to block users, DWG, is behaving like this. We really get the impression that DWG is a teacher admonishing children. The OSM gouvernance is really going to the bad way.

Comment from Tordanik on 19 October 2012 at 18:31

I agree that a separate account should not be required for small-scale, manual integration of accepted sources. But is there any example where an user was in fact blocked by DWG for making a small(!) edit based on such sources?

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Comment from lyx on 19 October 2012 at 21:25

Well, reading the talk list I did read quite often from members of the DWG that they do NOT require a separate account for users doing a manually checked import of a small amount of buildings and have no intention whatsoever of blocking someone for doing this kind of work with his own user account. And I see often other people repeating again that it is really unfair that the DWG requires separate accounts for doing a small import of manually checked building data. So, obviously either at least on one side of the discussion there are people in write only mode that totally ignore anything written by the other side or someone is lying or someone thinks that a small import is something on the order of a few hundreds of buildings while others consider a few hundred thousands buildings still a "small" import. Whatever it is: please accept that the other side (whatever side that might be) does want the best for the project as you want as well (hopefully), and if something sounds rude or aggressive then that is probably because neither they nor you write in your or their native language and it is easy to misunterstand something.

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Comment from Harry Wood on 20 October 2012 at 03:52

To me it seems french community leaders are failing to take in the simple message and adjust the advice to french mappers accordingly. There aren't enough French language speakers working with the DWG to get the advice right on how to carry out this import. Instead there seems to be all kinds of french language discussions resulting in frustration and people working against DWG

I see Frederik (DWG and the OSMF board) very patiently replying and discussing in the talk-fr mailing list: here, here, and in particular he is also frustrated with the cyclical nature of discussions here. It's clear from both your perspectives that DWG are repeatedly stating the rules, and people are repeatedly ignoring them. But the line taken by DWG is not hardline as you seem to be suggesting.

DWG have a very difficult task, because they do have the ability to block users and they are expected use it to protect our database from problematic edits, but of course that is difficult to do without upsetting people. This goes for any language, and inevitably inches towards awkward issues of project governance. Thankfully the friendly OpenStreetMap community has so far mostly avoided going too deep into the kind of policies and power structures we see in wikipedia, but every time things get unfriendly, things nudge in that direction.

Let's keep it friendly.

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Comment from Zkir on 20 October 2012 at 08:33

Looks to be a communication problem indeed. If these edits are 1) small, 2) manualy checked 3)are integrated with existing data, why are they called "import" and recognized as import by DWG?

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Comment from Pieren on 20 October 2012 at 10:58

Remember that the story started by messages sent by DWG saying "if you don't follow our rules, we will block your account". So, it's not what we could call "a friendly approach"...

A remember that many rules are well accepted by the French community because they have good arguments. But when nobody is able to justify such a rule in this kind of import, it is impossible to convince people to adopt it. C'mon, it is not a question of "leaders". We don't have "leaders" followed by ships, we just have a group of people talking on the french mailing list but most of them are not directly concerned by this dispute. We just try to defend a method of importing stuff (done by the crowd and not from one GIS expert).

The problem is that DWG denies this type of import, denies the fact that forcing contributors to create a separate account is a show-stopper for some of them (we already got feedbacks showing this). Not mainly because it would be so hard to do it but mainly because DWG/foundation is forcing them to work in a particular way without any valid reason.

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Comment from Harry Wood on 20 October 2012 at 21:31

The story doesn't start there though. Before that a user for some reason uploads many thousands of objects. Users who do that have been receiving such a message from DWG (only a douzen or so users).

Before that these users have read information on the wiki about how to peform a Cadastre data import. Maybe it's information and advice laid out by the community leaders, or maybe it's information you're collectively muddling towards agreeing upon. Or maybe they learn how to upload cadastre data from chatting to people on the mailing list... "community leaders", or just others who've figured it out.

It seems a little bit false to blame so much drama on this terrible insult of (a douzen users) receiving an email written in English. But speaking of language differences, from a quick sampling of French language discussions via google tanslate, I see people bad-mouthing DWG/foundation and talking about the arrogant anglox-saxon hedgemony. I can hope that google translate is getting that wrong, but it looks very much like battle lines being drawn, all of which is ridiculous and entirely unnecessary. Everybody, DWG included, are volunteers working to make OpenStreetMap better. If nobody speaking French is willing inject some sanity into these discussions then that is a very sad thing indeed.

But I want to look beyond all of the hot air of debate and understand why these users are uploading so many objects in the first place. I think you've said that the Cadastre data is being brought in carefully, importing small areas, applying manual checks, and preferably trying to back up contributions with local knowledge and surveys. I've just been using google translate on the the Cadastre import information I can't see anywhere cautioning users about the problems of bulk imports, and explaining the way data should be brought in carefully. Is that information there? and could it be made more prominent?

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Comment from Vincent de Phily on 22 October 2012 at 23:12

Harry, check that wiki page again, I added a link to the page that explains more toroughly how to do the building import, and it makes a real effort to be clear on the fact that this work is for experienced contributors and requires a lot of work. Maybe that page isn't as easy to find as it could be (it better now, anyway), but on the other hand the french community has been monitoring for the tell-tale cadastre errors long before the DWG stepped in, and educates users when necessary.

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Comment from Vincent de Phily on 23 October 2012 at 00:03

I completely agree that there has been a lot of unjustified drama (mainly from the French, but from the DWG too) in this subject. A lot of heated discussion, with some arguments that are just opportunistic "debate ammunition", but also some real core issues.

The single most important one in my view is that the reasons behind the "use a dedicated account for imports" rule are dubious. All other quibbles, the fact that it complicates contributing, the fact the rule started to be enforced only recently after years of happy cadastre workflow, the emotions about being contacted in a foreign language and be acted uppon by "authority", the anger from endless threads where everybody seem to stand ground... They would all fade away if the rule had a clear benefit that matched the cadastre use-case.

However, I have yet to see a clear argument that shows that dedicated accounts must be used.

  • "It's an established rule" is self-referencing and irrelevant.
  • "contributors should map highways first / the building that is a huge unwanted bloat / imports are full of errors" is off-topic.
  • "It is needed for quality assurance and licencing issues" is very tempting but doesn't seem to hold technically, because a changeset tag (for example) seem to provide the same functionality (to my uninformed self it even sounds better because simpler to use and easyer to automate). The DWG does a very important job and we should facilitate it as much as we can, but this doesn't seem to be a good tool.

I have always seen the separate account thing as a semantic tool rather than a technical one. If this changeset isn't really my work (because it is fully automated or because I am using unmodified data from someplace), then it is cleaner to use a different account. Not a requirement, just a nice thing to do. And the distinction between my work and work that needs a different account is a subjective thing. Maybe I want to distinguish the mapping I do for my day job from the mapping I do as a hobby ? I'd use a separate account for that. But you can't create a hard rule out of that.

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Comment from Harry Wood on 25 October 2012 at 12:19

"If the changeset isn't really my work". Yeah that sounds like a reasonable way of looking at it to me too. I don't think that is really at odds with what DWG have been saying actually. Because of the hostile nature of discussions, they're seeming to take quite a hard stance on this, but the fact of the matter is, if everybody using this data had been doing it carefully, importing small areas, applying manual checks, and preferably trying to back up contributions with local knowledge and surveys (i.e. uploading their data with their account) ... DWG would never have stepped in. It might even not be classed as an "import". There's fuzzy line there somewhere, and fuzzy lines are bad news when it comes to making rules and enforcing rules (so besides the hostility of the situation, this is the other reason DWG have repeated a clear rule) But no matter how fuzzy the line is, some people have been stepping way over it, importing massive numbers of buildings and clearly not doing any manual checks i.e. very definitely "bulk importing".

I reckon this is actually failure of the documentation and advice being given to these people. Thanks for making some wiki edits. I think we can go further with this:

You will have noticed that on a lot of english wiki pages we have this warning template, linking to the import guidelines. This will seem a little overbearing to people doing imports and the people who created the wiki pages in the first place, but it has been established as a way of framing the issue of imports and setting the tone for careful and considered behaviour regarding imports. I would expect this to be replicated on French language wiki pages too. We need a translation of that template, and I would expect it to appear on the 'cadastre' homepage there. It's good that the import guidelines have been translated into french, so let's link those more prominently.

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