I’m running for reelection to the OpenStreetMap U.S. board. I’ve been contributing to the OpenStreetMap project as a volunteer since April 2008, mostly as a mapper and an advocate for the project. (My day job, writing iOS software at Mapbox, also intersects with OSM to some extent.) Last April, you elected me to the board to fill Maggie Cawley’s seat after she became our executive director. Thank you for taking a chance on me – I’d be humbled to continue to serve the community in this capacity.
I like to think I left things a little better than I found them. By the time I began nine months ago, board meeting minutes hadn’t been published publicly for over two years. As secretary, I’ve published minutes of each monthly meeting as soon as the board approves them at the following meeting. It may be some of the least exciting stuff I’ve ever written for the Internet, but published minutes are an important way for the OSMUS organization to stay in touch with its members. In conjunction with the monthly newsletters that I can’t take credit for, you know what’s on our radar and – just as importantly – can find out if something isn’t. Whoever wins this election, I hope the board will keep up the momentum. (If you have any feedback about the contents of these minutes or know of something else the board should take up, please let us know.)
Robert’s Rules aside, I could tell you about my work to train new mappers, improve documentation, advise on tagging proposals, and moderate thorny disputes, each of which have picked up to some extent over the past year. But the truth is that none of these activities strictly requires a seat on the board. What a seat on the board affords is a platform to steer the organization and use it to promote a vision for the broader project.
My ongoing priorities for OSMUS, which I outlined in my previous position statement, can be summed up as
bridge=yes. (Building bridges, get it?)
Last year, I had the privilege of attending and speaking at State of the Map in Heidelberg. People warned me that I was going to hear an earful from people who didn’t have much good to say about the U.S. community. In fact, more than anything, the folks I met were curious about the Americans and wanted us to be better integrated into the global project. To the extent that there are unresolved issues preventing, say, OSMUS from becoming a local chapter, they seem finally solvable and the right discussions with the right people will get us there. The U.S. community as a whole already has an outsized, if soft-spoken, role in OSM, but reducing friction and increasing cooperation between the local and global communities will enable U.S.-based individuals and corporations, mappers and developers, users and advocates to participate more fully in the project.
Building bridges is important because we have a lot of room for improvement. Our meetups don’t reflect the diversity of the country we map. We constantly have to explain why our project matters when people find the competition so convenient. Our map contains a lot of cruft, and the processes and resources needed to clean it up aren’t always readily available. There are technical approaches to each of these problems, but they can only go so far unless we also step outside our comfort zones and connect with more people. As a board member, I would support and advise the executive director in engaging with community organizations, corporations, and program sponsors.
Our project’s ambitions are broad but at times difficult to articulate. For one thing, we can improve by being more than a traditional map and embracing unconventional methods. Whatever our tactics for advancing the project, it’s critical to keep our eyes on the big picture, as if we have nothing to lose.
(© capk11, CC BY-SA)