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Is it possible to turn yourself in without causing an outbreak of paranoia and fear?

Posted by Dzertanoj on 25 June 2018 in English (English)

Recently, user DeadAngel started a thread on Russian community forum to inform other community members that for a long time, he had been copying addresses from multiple unacceptable (commercial mapping services) and disputed (state property registry) sources. He also used local administration development plans, allowed for use in OSM due to its legislative nature, while he wasn't aware of that, assuming that all sources aren't acceptable. He said, that he sent a letter to DWG asking to delete his illegal contribution because he eventually understood and acknowledged his wrongdoing.

This is a questionable situation because it is unclear, which edits were based on illegal sources (development plans aren't an illegal source), but the reaction of community members was totally surprising and barely relevant to it.

Indeed, one or two people tried to ask for a clarification. However, others came up with a paranoid suspicion that it is not the "real" DeadAngel, but someone who uses his stolen account to harm OSM data, serving interests of commercial mapping services. They demanded a "proof" that he is a "real" DeadAngel, accused him of making a scandal (while there is no scandal), blackmailing the community (how exactly?) and so on. All for the sake of discrediting a user who acknowledged his unacceptable actions and keeping the precious address data.

In addition to that, there was a statement saying that if it is impossible to tell that address information comes from a commercial service (by pointing at hidden "watermarks" in a form of intentionally modified information like wrong or non-existent addresses), this information must be kept intact. This is an exemplary Russian legal nihilism usually brought up to advocate theft. Later, several people started lecturing DeadAngel about the idea that every OSM contributor has no "property rights" on information he added. This is obviously irrelevant because DeadAngel doesn't demand deletion of his contributions based on "property rights", he does that based on an illegal nature of his sources.

All that turned into a heated discussion and, as a result, thread is now closed by Zverik (Ilya Zverev), infamous for his refusal to fulfill the responsibilities of a moderator (arbitrator and mediator, according to a dictionary definition) and for being very quick to shut down any "unfriendly" discussion on Russian OSM forum.

So, I have a question: is it possible to acknowledge a possible wrongdoing within a project in a formal way without being accused in a paranoid manner, heckled, lectured with irrelevant demagoguery, suppressed based on greed and legal nihilism?

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.