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, this is Internet.