Recent diary entries
I am running for the elected position of Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team’s Chair of Voting Members.
Voting Members are the core of HOT’s work and values; I see the position of chair as one that facilitates the Membership in many of the actions that lead and grow the organisation. A number of the responsibilities are procedural, such as the calling and convening of meetings, but I also believe the Chair should foster and encourage individual volunteers to become Members, Mappers, Working Group contributors, Board candidates and more.
I have previously served on the Board of Directors, and have most recently been a member of the Governance Working Group. I have been a Mapper, have lead mapathons and have spoken publicly about our work. As such I believe I possess the range of experience required for this position.
HOT Members are a incredible group of humanitarians, mappers, hackers and creatives: I would like to efficiently and productively help these wonderful people lead the organisation.
GraphHopper will now route cars over fords recorded in OSM, as confirmed here.
I was aware of this when the change was made because I’ve been keeping track of the GraphHopper driving distance from N’Djamena to Mongo, a route that is something like this:
The sudden rise in distance was caused by a mapper adding a ford between the two places; the drop is when GraphHopper started to route across it.
More details on the recording of routes to follow; for now I just wanted to show this practical usage example.
Quite a subject, I know, so please let me explain my feelings.
There’s a news story that “Facebook admits it poses mental health risk”
The story includes a previously reported comment from an ex-Facebook executive saying: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.” In my opinion this applies directly to OSM provided resources, specifically the mailing lists.
Now, people will say straightaway “I’m not on Social Media, I don’t do it; I’ve done emails since before you were born. Facebook is stupid and listserv is how we do it”. The point is, many OSM provided services, including the mail lists, are, for all intents and purposes, Social Media. People are using the OSM services for the same dopamine hit that they use other forms of Social Media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. The difference is we don’t share photos of our lunch on the mailing lists. The end result, however, is the same; No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth.
I am a long term subscriber to 3 OSM mailing lists (talk, since 2009, I think; HOT since day 1; OSMF-talk since 2012) and all three have recently been dominated by a very small group of people engaging in the short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops described above. There have been examples of racism, bullying, harassment, as well as a number of conspiracy theories and statements made that are bizarre to the point that they have to be outright questioned to make sure we’re all reading the same words. Engaging with these comments only provides an opportunity for another instant dopamine hit, or opens the door for others to engage in the same behaviour. I am unwilling to post any links to demonstrate this; it shouldn’t be too hard to think of recent examples.
OSM provided resources are currently unsafe: To the majority of users they provide an opportunity to be harassed or abused; the mailing lists are unwelcoming, nonconstructive and noisy. To a small number of users, the mailing lists are a place to develop a dangerous feedback loop of inappropriate behaviour. I can’t see anyone currently doing well from being a mailing list subscriber.
My early New Year’s Resolution is to ask two questions of anything I post to an OSM provided mailing list: Am I encouraging others? If I’m describing a perceived problem, can I propose a solution?
So then, to finish asking for help; if the above is accurate, can we improve this situation? What can the individual do to help?
I love OpenStreetMap. I joined in early 2008 because I wanted to map the village I grew up in. Since then I’ve mapped around the world, both from knowledge of places I’ve visited and from the wonders of aerial imagery. OpenStreetMap was small when I started to contribute - it was a hobby for people who liked computers and geography - but it has since grown into a leading example of Open Data and online collaboration. I am standing for the OSMF Board because I would like to see OpenStreetMap grow further; I believe that the database behind our osm.org homepage can soon become the basis of the default map that people view online.
If the world is going to move to defaulting to OpenStreetMap for its map data the OSMF is going to have to facilitate the process. I see two elements to this: Increasing the quantity and quality of data entering the database, and encouraging data consumers to take these contributions and use them as the basis for their mapping.
The OSMF should be encouraging worldwide participation in mapping via the strengthening of local chapters and the empowerment of traditionally under-represented or marginalised groups. The OSMF should be working to increase the power of international stakeholders who contribute to OpenStreetMap for their own niche interests, as long as these interests improve the map for everyone.
At the same time the OSMF should be promoting the data we have and making it more readily available to organisations, for profit or otherwise, who wish to build products and services from our data. Our data - the thing we all work to improve - is an incredible resource and the OSMF needs to be doing everything it can to foster and promote it.
The OSMF needs to work effectively with the resources available to it. The current working of the OSMF, I argue, could be improved to not only produce better results, but also do so with more accountability and transparency. For example, if required, the OSMF should employ staff or contractors for work that is needed to be undertaken. This is just one pragmatic decision that could be made to improve the map for everyone. The OSMF needs to move away from the hobby attitude that kick-started OpenStreetMap in the first place; at this stage of the organisation’s development we don’t need individual egos and personal histories, we need effective leadership and representation.
I am putting myself forward for this position in the hope that you will agree with my sentiments and choose me as one of the next Board members. I have previously served as a member of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Board and learnt a great deal from what was a challenging position. This experience ensures that I know that serving on the OSMF Board would also be a challenge and, at numerous points, presumably not an enjoyable role to undertake. I am sure, however, that by working on the Board I could, with my fellow members, develop the OSMF for all.
I love OpenStreetMap as it is an incredible patchwork of niche interests and groups that collaborate towards an ecosystem that benefits everybody. This amazing spirit of cooperation not only needs to be encouraged further within the wider OSM community, but embraced tighter within the OSMF itself. If we work with this goal in mind we can create the best technical output, the best working environment, and the best community for everyone.
I have been nominated to the HOT Board, something I am extremely grateful for. I have written some brief and incomplete thoughts on the Board and my potential role in it here:
A quick note about the recent OpenStreetMap Oxford meet-up and a bit of encouragement for people to organise their own local get togethers:
I initiated a meet-up for Oxfordshire based OSM folks via Lanyrd and sent a few tweets around. By the end of the evening we had about 10 people in attendance, representing everyone from the new-to-OSM to the very-experienced-indeed. A good time seemed to be had by all and there was much discussion of what future events, and mapping activities, might look like. I was especially pleased to get a copy of Richard Mann’s fantastic Oxford Bus and Cycle Map (I Googled up some photos here). If you’re interested in joining us next time, probably at the start of February 2013, keep an eye on Lanyrd Oxford and the Oxford talk list.
If you’d like to meet up with fellow mappers in your area, get arranging yourself a meet-up! Put something up on Lanyrd, tweet some people, email your local list and message nearby mappers. If your days are short and cold, as they are in Oxford, don’t try to map anything, just go to a local pub. Presumably your local mapping colleagues are like minded, interesting and enjoyable folks.
Sociable mapping is much more enjoyable than going it alone!
Apologies for the blog spam, but I've just written this out and thought some readers here may be interested:
Apologies for the blog spam, but I've just put a brief post up looking at how route finding software can show us that OSM's Africa coverage is improving. All you need is CloudMade's routing service and this post from the archives of 27 Months.
The numbers still seem to be at c.38%, but this time I've made a map.
That's how I worked it out at least.