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Feasibility of Telegram channel as a major matter of communication for Russian OSM community

Posted by Dzertanoj on 17 April 2018 in English (English)

As it has been mentioned before, establishing a Telegram channel as a major matter of communication for Russian-speaking OSM community is a questionable step itself since it creates an additional fragmentation and benefits only a certain group of people within this community.

However, this situation got some development recently. Russian communication regulator authority, RKN (actually, the government censorship agency) officially started blocking Telegram messenger communication protocol. Ironically, at the same time, iD got Russian OSM Telegram channel listed on its sidebar, above the link to OSM Russia forum section (which was always the main method of communication), giving a hint of its greater importance.

So, from now on, only those Russian users of those rare internet service providers who haven't started following the order of RKN or those who are able to set up and use network tunneling services (soon they will be illegal in Russia too) will have an access to Telegram.

Most likely, some commenters might argue that it is so easy to set up a VPN and so on, but that's not the point. The point is that any random OSM user from Russia should not have to violate (obviously, stupid and unconstitutional, but still existing) law or learn how to be an IT specialist to have an access to community communication channel. It doesn't mean that some people can't keep using that channel privately if they want to, but it should not be listed anywhere as a major or preferred channel of communication.

Non-English keywords in English iD interface.

Posted by Dzertanoj on 18 January 2018 in English (English)

I just noticed an interesting thing. If you want to create a point indicating a garbage dumpster (trash container or whatever similar) using iD with the English language interface, you add a point geometry and then start typing "garbage" in the Search field. Once you've typed "gar", found tagging options will be related to anything "garden" and "garbage", but there will also be a "ॐ Hindu Temple" as a sixth item. If you type one more letter and make it "garb", you'll have everything "garbage", but Hindu Temple will jump to the second place.

I'm not claiming that I know how it works, but I assume that there are keywords tied to an interface language and to every tag or set of tags for a specific object. They seem to be language-dependent (while it is still possible to type something in German, like "wald", and get Wood as an option), otherwise, there would be a lot more confusion with similarly spelled keywords from different languages.

However, I don't see any logic in this specific situation. As Wikipedia says, "Garbhagriha" is a Sanskrit word for a part of a Hindu temple (not even for a temple itself). How often might it be typed in Latin alphabet by iD users? Does it really belong to English interface, keeping in mind that English is not the main language in any of those countries where Hindu religion is prominent enough? It definitely belongs to Hindu and some other languages, but English? By the way, if you try typing "altar" (also a part of a temple in many religions) - nothing related to temples or cathedrals will pop up. Considering this logic, Hindu Temple should not show up on a list after typing "gar" or "garb" in a search form.

Just to be clear: I don't care if it will continue popping up - it looks amusing to me, not just "wrong". I'm not going to dig into iD's complicated structure and register on any translation services to fix that.

Communication channels

Posted by Dzertanoj on 29 December 2017 in English (English)

Being a distributed crowdsourced project, OSM strongly depends on communication channels to bring the desired level of coordination within communities. However, since there is a high level of independence and autonomy in these communities, it might lead to a situation of scattered and fragmented communication. I'm not proposing anything here, but I still want to bring this issue to attention.

Every technology used for communication (mailing lists, forums, messenger channels, IRC) might have a certain advantage over others, but the thing is that it has nothing to do with its popularity. The dominance of a certain channel within a community has historical roots and relies on a habit. An existing choice might have a justification, but that is not a reason for a particular choice. For example, why Russian-speaking community prefers forum over the mailing lists? Just because several people started using it many years ago. It's not because it's easier to search through it or because it has better message formatting features. But there is nothing wrong with it. However, there is one significant bad side.

Commonly used communication channel might get a "fork" just because several people (or even a single person) want to take over it or just because they have different habits. That's exactly what happened in Russian-speaking community starting a Telegram messenger channel. Those who don't want to use Telegram or who prefer non-real-time communication (forum or mailing list) over a real-time chat technology, become deprived of a significant part of a communication process.

Moreover, "forks" like that might be used to make certain decisions look more legitimate. For example, a certain tagging practice or a change of a Wiki page might be discussed in a limited circle of people using a new communication channel. Others, who use a different channel, stay unaware of that. While someone who participated in that discussion could later use an argument that something has been discussed and there was no objection, so let it be this way. This is a practical example of using an existing selection bias to justify something because it is easier to pick a channel of communication where a certain opinion prevails and to get an approval of any idea that correlates with that opinion (also, look up "Gerrymandering" in Wikipedia).

I am perfectly aware of the fact that there is no real approval procedure for any kind of decisions forming a structure of the OSM project. But it doesn't mean that using technicalities like that for "political" matters is something totally acceptable. I hope that someone will, at least, think about it for a minute.