Back in October in we had a London pub meet-up in the Monkey Puzzle pub. It was pretty well attended. There were three or four people I hadn’t met before. For example I was pleased to meet user okwithmydecay. This username was familiar, I think because I’ve just seen him doing lots of editing in London. Good reason to recognise somebody’s username! We like that!
I took along some OSMUK leaflets which I have received a pack of (Order OSM UK leaflets here). I say leaflets, but they’re more like postcards. Single sheet of card. I think there’s five different designs with five different messages/target audiences. Me & Andy (gravitystorm) were critiquing them in the pub, although on the whole we decided they’re rather good, and certainly good that people have organised this.
Andy had been in charge of producing/printing/distributing OSM promotion leaflets in the past of course. There’s still some of these around (I had a bundle of these a the pub too), but they feel very out-of-date now, so great that OSMUK folks have had some new designs printed.
We were chatting about my job hunting experiences, looking for a new Ruby on Rails roles, and so naturally the conversation came onto development of the OpenStreetMap website. Although the site might not seem to change much, development of this Ruby on Rails app is actively ongoing (see the commits to master), and there are some priority areas receiving some attention. The folks doing most of the “maintaining” work i.e. reviewing pull requests and setting direction of things… were in the pub! Andy & TomH. Pull requests still come in from quite a few different people, which is great although I think it presents a triaging/tidying challenge for them. Andy was suggesting I could try to help with this, by commenting on PRs to help people towards something merge-able. It’s an area where it’s good to be opinionated on Ruby on Rails coding and issues of code/commit tidiness. I think there are quite a few people trying to help do that too, but maybe I should try to wade in more.
He was also saying that some ideas / PRs, require somebody to take a step back and think about the direction we want to go in, for example with information pages, the help page, the welcome page, the new ‘communities’ page and other ideas for new pages, it’s not always clear if anybody is taking an overarching view of how best to design and name these things and structure their navigation. Things like this are tricky because we’d sort of welcome somebody to sweep in and come up with a plan, but only if they manage to do it competently and persuasively. Otherwise it becomes just another idea that we need to find a way to gently reject.
In fact more generally I think that kind of awkward tension is the eternal struggle. Stuck between wanting to encourage the right kind of contribution and needing to triage contributions that don’t always cut it.
Not wanting to make things worse, I’ve tended to stay out it! But being in a ruby-on-rails job-hunting situation, and having some time to do so, I have in fact made the effort to do some rails code pull requests recently. I’ve found it best to make small changes, seeking areas that are uncontroversial. It still requires patience waiting for them to be reviewed, but quite satisfying to get things merged.
I made some tweaks to Notes, and to the way the “report this note” link is presented, to try to discourage people sending too many reports for DWG to deal with. This issue was one of several pain points reported by DWG. I think it’s good to do some changes to help that over-worked team of volunteers if we can! I’ve seen a list of some other gripes they have, including various issues in the mysterious nobody-gets-to-see-it admin interfaces of the website.
EWG were talking to me about paid ruby development work, paid by the OSMF, which initially included these DWG issues hence I started looking at them. I decided being paid to do these pull requests might be a bit problematic/stressful. I dunno. Maybe I was worrying too much, but the work itself seemed quite interesting to chip away at anyway as a good old-fashioned volunteer developer.
More recently though, I have ended up being paid for a bit of rails development work after all. Not on the OSM website, but coding of the “discourse” fluxBB import script. Hopefully this work will be used soon to bring all the https://forum.openstreetmap.org/ posts into https://community.openstreetmap.org/ . You can see what I did in these discourse PRs and ruby-bbcode-to-md PRs. We don’t need these PRs to be merged before we use them ourselves, which is lucky because the discourse team seem to be ignoring them, or they’re a lot worse at keeping up with PRs than we are! It’s a bit disappointing because I went to a lot of trouble to produce clean well-tested commits which I’d hope can be merged, but …well I guess I should just be patient.
Anyway being paid by the OSMF is a strange feeling after years of being a volunteer only. I’ve often celebrated the fact that OSMF is “entirely volunteer-driven” too, but the fact that we have the funds to pay people these days is a maturing milestone I guess, and it’s an honour to be one of those people! If you fancy getting involved in this kind of thing, especially if you’re a ruby coder, there are more opportunities to do paid development work being organised by EWG. I hope that ends up being a success.
It was nice to be doing a focused couple of weeks of ruby coding work too. I’ve been trying to keep my head in the coding zone, but nothing like being employed to do it! And a little bit of more recent “work experience” to mention on my CV. Who knows, maybe it was important in sealing the deal on the job offer I have just accepted! (Exciting news! I shall blog about this soon)
Anyway. Right now London is enjoying a bit of snow, or my kids are enjoying it at least. I’ve got a horrendous cold. Next week the snow will be gone and the cold will be gone (I hope!) and it’ll be time for…
The OpenStreetMap London Christmas Pub Meet-up! So if you want to join in this pub map chit-chat (we don’t only talk about coding. All manner of mappy conversations!) …then come join us in the Parcel Yard pub, Kings Cross Station Monday 19th from 7pm. All the details on the wiki.