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Kilkenni's diary

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Death threats and other thoughts

Posted by Kilkenni on 11 December 2018 in English (English)

First of all, Frederik Ramm suggested that DWG members may have received death threats.

It so happens that I live in a country seared by war. I have received physical threats in the past. Journalists in Ukraine have been threatened and even murdered before, the last widely known case being Babchenko’s staged death. Luckily law enforcements were able to prevent it and capture the criminal responsible thanks to timely warning.

I take death threats seriously. It is not a valid tool of argument. It is a crime. Using death threats for any purpose, both in and outside OSM, is unacceptable. Darafei here has a point, there is a reason to make such cases public.

PS. We have and interesting member here. I totally agree with the “firefighters” comparison. That being said, I believe >creating an exception in Crimea

is not the correct description to OSMF decision. On the contrary, an exception was created when this territory was included into the country that annexed it (look at how Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria (not to mention “LPR” and “DPR”) are all tagged within their legal borders - all of them are controlled by Russian Federation).

PPS. @Adamant1 Sorry to ‘spam’ again, but this is worse than bullying, and I can never tolerate nor ignore this. Discussing professional qualities is one thing, threatening is a completely different story.

What next?

Posted by Kilkenni on 6 December 2018 in English (English)

Our case revealed a serious problem. This problem is not only of ignoring international law, but also a problem of lack of transparency in an open community-driven project. The boil was present for a while now, but this case is where its existence became apparent. Data Working Group now is not what it was when it was created, and not everyone is happy with what it turned into. Currently it is a non-transparent OSM body that answers to no one but has serious influence on decision-making inside OSMF, as three out of seven OSMF Board members are also DWG members.

Our indignation and our actions have flushed out this issue into the open. We must, however, remain calm and patient. We should inform OSM community and draw attention to the issue as it is the only way to see it properly resolved.

This text is not mine but I agree. OSM currently lacks rigid rules or firm agreements concerning community, it lacks some sort of social contract. While this approach has certain advantages, it utterly fails in case of internal conflict in the community, and resolving such a conflict is challenging (to say the least).

(careful, language. I would use a spoiler tag if Markdown had one) Troubleshooting or, for English-speaking people, roughly

“System of assumed defaults” has serious benefits for rule-making in small communities as

  • it is fast to build, and
  • it allows jumping straight to business instead of paperwork

However, when such a system breaks causing a conflict, troubleshooting it is a clusterf–k because you’ll go nuts before you figure out all the defaults explicitly and find an error to blame.

Ad hominem

Posted by Kilkenni on 2 December 2018 in English (English)

A funny thing OSMWeekly mentions my posts as “ad hominem”. Whether it truly is or is not, I’m not sure.

However the thing I know is, this discussion is not about exclusively professional topics. It is not a “perfectly sterile scientific discussion”. We are talking politics since OSMF and DWG are essentially OSM politicians. OSM is heavily used by many organizations related to governments. OSM depends on grants offered by international organizations and corporate sponsorship, it uses infrastructure provided by corporations. It does not exist in a vacuum, and is related to the processes happening in the real world. It influences said processes and is, in turn, influenced by them, whether we like it or not. OSM’s independence is important - but it is independence from corporate politics, not public responsibility. Since OSM itself is not commercial, its success is greatly dependent on its reputation and public image. In this situation the one who makes decisions should understand that his decisions do not concern him alone. Like circles on the water from a thrown stone, these decisions cause consequences, both close and far-reaching, both for OSM and outside OSM, and it is paramount to understand these consequences. Legal consequences. Commercial consequences. Influence on mass-media and public opinion. In our century sources of information can start and stop wars, make or break a man. Or an organization, for that matter.

(Seriously though, I feel really uneasy now, as I perceive all of the above as self-explanatory, and it is extremely hard to explain something you see as obvious).

OSMF officials and DWG members like to call themselves volunteers. In a sense, they are. But they also are something much more than that, and I suspect they are still oblivious to that. OSM is not a small sandbox for a handful of programmer enthusiasts any more, it is an international project with thousands of people contributing to it and millions using it on a daily basis. Behavior that was acceptable for a small project is no longer acceptable of a large one. Any OSMF member, any DWG member is a public figure. He trades a part of his privacy for a chance to steer the project. This is politics. And just like common politics, this one requires total transparency, honesty and wisdom. If a judge or a police officer makes questionable decisions, people start digging information on him and pointing at questionable and suspicious details. It is a collective immune system of sorts, preventing corruption and ensuring the governing body is healthy. Can it really be called “ad hominem”?

When I criticize concrete people, I am driven by two ideas:

*1. If a person presents OSM on an official level, we should always ask ourselves if his actions benefit the project or harm it.

It is my firm belief that lack of transparency (and calls to “be quiet” and “avoid pressure on OSMF”) harms the project. Once again, it is politics. Organized peaceful actions, manifestations, petitions are all legit forms of politics. Complaining that these forms “harm someone’s feelings” show that these people are not ready for their position. While the protest stays civilized (and I’m all in for civilized) I see no reason why it should be avoided.

*2. Public figures either present their own opinions or collective opinions.

As I’ve said elsewhere in my blog and posts, a public figure takes full responsibility for his actions. We either hold him accountable, or we hold the entire collective accountable. I, for one, don’t think we should extrapolate responsibility of one man on the group without having facts supporting this. We should give everyone a chance to explain the situation. Still, I’ve yet to see detailed DWG explanation beyond their purely official “resolution”.

Another thing concerning individual and collective. I see some people calling not to question DWG decision but to explain its “non-political” ground. For me, this stance is a faulty one. As I’ve mentioned, OSM has many users, both corporate and private. Explaining it on a person-to-person level is not an appropriate way to resolve the situation. Nor is it right to tell people who do not support your decisions to essentially protect you from possible repercussions, shifting and extrapolating responsibility from a handful of people to the entirety of OSM community. If we talk about the future of OSM, it is especially questionable in corporate part. “You need it, you fix it” works good for small opensource projects. For global projects (and I see OSM as one) this approach is irresponsible and can do a lot of harm, seeing that we are said to value quality data.

Still, I once again stress that this discussion should remain civilized. If I allowed myself some rough words in the past, I apologize for them.

That being said, caution this is Internet.

Neutral ground

Posted by Kilkenni on 25 November 2018 in English (English)

No politics. So neutral.

Several hours ago three Ukrainian ships were attacked, shot and captured by Russians in Black Sea. Currently there are around 6 wounded on Ukrainian side. Ukrainian government considers declaring martial law. Make no mistake, we face war.

@SomeoneElse, Andy, stop changing the borders of Ukraine. I don’t care any more what you can possibly say. From now on, you are an accomplice. Stand down and leave DWG before you disgrace yourself, us and the project even more.

I call to DWG to publish a transcript of the vote on Crimean “resolution”. We need to know our heroes.

My thoughts on recent actions of DWG

Posted by Kilkenni on 23 November 2018 in English (English)

I should stress that this is currently my personal opinion and my personal view and not the opinion of OSM-UA.

In the recent days we’ve seen a number of interesting notions. First of all, the one by Frederik Ramm. Yes, that Frederik Ramm.

I think I don’t quite understand some ideas of Herr Ramm.

Herr Ramm seems to be misunderstanding the nature of OSM. OSM is not a business like Geofabrik. It is not enough to make a resolution to see it working. You have no army, no corporate security, no riot police. No way to one-way enforce a decision. You need (surprise!) to convince people.

First of all, “there was really not any doubt” is not an argument. It is a way to avoid presenting documents. Simply put, it is sophistic.

Next, the argument of “not silently” is simply false. You (and I mean DWG here) never posted the transcript of your discussion, neither did you make a statistic check on community to realistically evaluate if your decision is implementable. You were not elected by the community. We have no reason to trust your decision except your reputation, and reputation is a fragile thing.

Next, I do agree that “political map” is not the intention of OSM. But OSMF needs to take some political decisions into account, or risk being subjected to national and international laws. Putting disclaimers in your resolution doesn’t make it any better. We are not “misinterpreting”. We are extrapolating the effects of this decision, and evaluate your actions, not your words, just as one old dusty book teaches us. Russian propaganda (namely, rg.ru, the official state press of Russian Federation) already uses your decision and both you and I have absolutely no way to stop them.

Maybe I’m too rough here, but don’t expect me to clear your mess. Accept responsibility for your actions. I’m used to hear that it is your recurring notion that the fate of OpenStreetMap should be decided by common volunteers, not corporations. Maybe one day a certain founder of Geofabrik will take this belief to heart.

Next one is Andy Townsend. Yes, that Andy Townsend. More accurately, his interpretation of what “international recognition” means.

I must say, >I think that it is internationally recognised that Russia currently has control of Crimea

is a most peculiar way to interpret >Currently, we record one set that, in OpenStreetMap contributor opinion, is most widely internationally recognised and best meets realities on the ground, generally meaning physical control

from your policy. I am genuinely astonished with this new revolutionary vision of the concept of international recognition. My congratulations on this exemplary victory over yourself. I’m a fan of Eric Arthur Blair so I can properly appreciate it.

PS. I believe a fact that three members of DWG are also members of the OSMF Board which currently considers our appeal over DWG’s resolution deserves a separate mention. I genuinely want to be pleasantly surprised, but something tells me it is not meant to happen.

PPS. Working closely with the community to develop uniform rules for representing territorial disputes and ground control (occupation status, annexation status etc) would be a much more constructive decision of DWG’s part.

DWG authority on decisions over territorial disputes

Posted by Kilkenni on 19 November 2018 in English (English)

Original post

I believe we are entering dangerous grounds here, setting a very curious precedent, to put it mildly.

Now with 100% more imagery

*1. The way I see it, the authority of DWG is focused on vandalism

Nowhere in the description of DWG on OSMF wiki we see that it is entitled to make decisions about territorial disputes. The way I see it, it was and is intended for preventing copywrited uploads, vandalism and edit wars.

As we can see from DWG’s resolutions, the only existing decision concerning disputed territories (or at least the only one published) is about Crimea. That raises questions such as “why making a decision about this at all?” and “why revising it 4 years later?”

*2. DWG is not transparent in what it does

In case of Crimea DWG clearly failed to explain what it expects to achieve and how its decisions are made. To a volunteer-driven community such as OSM transparency in decision-making is an integral part of building trust. Trust is the currency of such communities. Trust brings authority and respect, and both are required to enforce decisions made.

*3. DWG clearly failed at communication

DWG is not nearly a court, but even if we look at it as one for a moment, it cannot boast much public activity to add to its own credibility. As its description states, “Probably the single most common action that we take is to try and help mappers to communicate better with one another.” In case of Crimea, helping communicate is a poor description for what was done.

First of all, one needs to understand that in case of Crimea, two countries are de-facto at war, which is recognized as such by the UN Council despite the lack of official declaration of war. That suggests that two communities within OSM, namely Ukrainian and Russian, are highly polarized, and any action must be taken with extreme caution, lest you alienate your fellow OSM editors. If done wrong, a war of edits is all but guaranteed. Under these conditions DWG didn’t think of anything better than first one-way informing us that they are revising their previous decision on Crimea, and then actually revising it without any proper discussion with the community.

I should note that the policy for such disputes (which we didn’t vote for, but that’s beyond the scope here) states 1) Wide international recognition and 2) generally physical control (the accent is mine) as guidelines for decisions over territorial disputes.

In case of Crimea, one needs to understand that while Russia retains physical control over the peninsula, it is internationally recognized as a part of Ukraine not only by most countries, but by the entire United Nations (and, surprisingly, several treaties Russia itself prevously signed), and Russia is recognized as an occupying power (look up “20 recommendations to the Russian Government, urging it to respect its obligations as an occupying power, uphold human rights for all, and effectively investigate alleged torture, abductions and killings”).

One should also take into consideration that in our time, maps not only serve as a tool of navigation, but also as means to convey information. They are both descriptive and educational, among other things. The effects of this are several. As was mentioned in the policy, while dealing with disputes we have to take into consideration several, potentially conflicting, legislatures. In this case

  1. Russia considers Crimea its territory, and calls to “change” its allegiance are considered a criminal offense in Russia

  2. Ukraine and most of the world consider Crimea Ukrainian territory. Sanctions are imposed on Russia to cease the occupation.

  3. Commercial dealings with or in Crimea are outlawed. Legal dealings in Crimea are outlawed (at least, by Ukrainian laws). The only airlines supporting trips to Crimea are minor Russian ones.

  4. Russia does not, to my knowledge, limit access to Crimea for foreigners. However, according to Ukrainian and international laws, entering Crimea anywhere but in the Ukrainian (continental) posts is outlawed (and, if done by Russian citizens, is now considered a criminal offence)

  5. Seawaters around Crimea (namely, the Sea of Azov) have a questionable status. Russia uses sea resources in violation of international laws, but does not control the sea in its entirety and refers to not-yet-violated treaties with Ukraine most of the time. In short, it is a military stalemate (I say “military” due to constant presence of Ukrainian ships and US naval forces in the region).

All territorial disputes are in some way different. But, to my knowledge, in no case was the dispute “resolved” in OSM via showing exclusively physical control. I’ve mentioned international recognition from the OSMF policy for a reason. Cyprus and Kosovo, Jerusalem and Kurdistan, Syria with its civil war, ever-changing ISIS - all of these regions are problematic border-wise, but all of them are represented on the map with the help of international agreements. Even if we take exclusively Russia and the regions it invaded and currently physically controls, like Transnistria (part of Moldova), South Ossetia (part of Georgia), DPR and LPR (parts of Ukraine), none of them are marked as parts of Russia in OSM. The only difference with Crimea is Russia declared it her property, while in all the other cases it did not. I wonder if this was the thing that predefined DWG’s decision. In its current lack of transparency, wondering is all I can do. But if that’s the case, I believe I should get my position straight.

  • I as a member of the Ukrainian OSM community think DWG is not entitled to make such decisions

  • I as a member of the Ukrainian OSM community do not see this decision as justified

  • I as a member of the Ukrainian OSM community am deeply concerned by this blatant irresponsibility and unprofessionalism shown by DWG, to the point that I question the validity of its existence in its current state

And somehow I think many more people are deeply concerned about this, or will be concerned about this in the nearest future.

We were the one who made this community what it is. Citing one of our writers, we can unmake it as easily. I can’t help but wonder if that is what Data Working Group truly wants.

Location: Lypky, Клов, Kyiv, Pecherskyi district, Ukraine