Thoughts on OSMF Election 2019

Posted by SJFriedl on 2 December 2019 in English (English).

TL;DR - I recommend voting for Guillaume and against Mikel.

Though I’d been in the Membership Working Group for some time, it was mainly as a hobby mapper wanting to help with housekeeping and back-office support and without any real sense for OSMF governance or politics.

The Global Logic incident changed everything for me.

Using my day-job skills as an internet security guy, I dove into the investigation with my fellow MWG members, and at the time I didn’t know if this incident was a bad thing or not.

Guilllaume was running for the Board at the time, and as I didn’t know him at all, was very much on the lookout for any attempt to spin this into some kind of election advantage, and I would have had no part of it. I had no dog in this fight and wanted this investigation to be scrupulously fair and neutral.

To his credit, so did he: I never once saw even a hint of electioneering, and I promise that I was looking for it. He proposed many avenues of investigation that could have been exculpatory, looked for alternate explanations, and never once attempted to cast any shade upon GL (or anybody else) that the evidence did not fully support.

His fastidious attention to detail and to integrity of process earned my profound respect, and is why I am voting for him again.

But once the report was released to the board, I got to learn how things really work around here.

I’d been warned that our report would not be well received, and Mikel led the charge on pushback with what could only be described as throwing his weight around, bordering on bullying. It was shocking. Our investigation was not within the “remit” of the Membership Working Group? Really?

I’m not willing to publish private communications between MWG and the board without the permission of all the participants.

Another MWG member commented: “MWG did not expect this level of abuse”.

We always welcomed feedback and alternate explanations, but this was not about a legitimate difference of opinion. This was a bully trying to get his way.

To be fair, Mikel did make what I took as an honest effort at mending fences, we had a nice and productive phone call to figure out where each other was coming from, we were able to share some nice six-degree-of-separation connections, and it was entirely pleasant.

Eventually I believe he did come around to the idea that Global Logic was a bad actor, working with the rest of the board to move that process along, and he clearly has a long and very important history in OSM that I still feel warrants our appreciation and respect.

But his initial reaction was so bad and so hostile to the enormous efforts of the MWG, that I believe he should not be trusted with a leadership position with OSMF. I will not be voting for him.

Minor notes:

  • Speaking for myself only, certainly not for MWG
  • Mikel was not the only board member unhappy with our report, but he’s the only one on the ballot this year
  • I have opinions about other candidates, but those opinions are far less informed than these two.

Comment from mikelmaron on 3 December 2019 at 17:04


I don’t expect to get your vote, and I’m not trying to convince you otherwise. I’m sorry you feel this way about me, and I’m sorry about how the entire episode went down. I really do want to resolve this and put the relationship between the Board and MWG, and you and me, on much better footing.

But I can’t sit by while you disparage me as a “bully” with a very partial retelling of the situation with the Global Logic. Hot headed and rash, I will take. But I won’t accept such categorizations of my character.

This entire situation was unprecedented. What bent me out of shape was that you set a very short deadline of release of a very extensive report right after the holidays to hold over the head of the Board, in order to goad us into action. You admitted yourself that this was the purpose of the deadline, that you didn’t believe the Board would take action, and would try to bury the report. Basically an ultimatum that undermined the legal structures of the OSMF. There was very little time to read through the report carefully. Mixed in was an assumption of bad faith on my part, because of an entirely false belief that my employer had any kind of business relationship with Global Logic.

Did I go too far by starting a pissing match about governance? Yes. Did you go too far by giving the Board an ultimatum? Yes, I believe so. What I wished had happened is that the MWG approached the Board, giving us time to discuss and give feedback, under structured processes that respect everyone involved. As I state in my candidate manifesto and answers, I will help develop rules of order that describe how the Board and Working Groups, well, work together; that would help immensely.

I do highly value the analytical work you put into the report. It’s pretty amazing. And I know you put in immense hours putting it together. I found issues with other parts of the report, particularly the email “interviews”, some of the cultural assumptions, and the mixing of evidence and conclusion. Nevertheless, your analysis was convincing that it was not a group of individuals registering for OSMF, but an optimized process. I’m happy with how it all got resolved in the end.

I also don’t have reason to think of Guilllaume playing unfair in the election, and I’m glad you were aware of that issue and keeping an eye on things. But I do think it’s not the best judgement to mix working group activities that have a direct impact on election results, while also standing as a candidate. Admittedly, it’s hard to draw a line here on what’s ok or not.

More than anything, I’m personally disappointed that even after our phone conversation, and an open door on my part to talk more, that you continue to harbor such a negative impression of me, and can’t let go of selective statements even when there’s been ample opportunity to clear up the misunderstandings. That door is still open.


Comment from imagico on 4 December 2019 at 11:27

@Mikel - the whole my door is open story is kind of hollow. There is substantial critique that many of your actions (and i am not just talking about the GlobalLogic incident here of course) are bad for OpenStreetMap. This critique has been articulated with solid support through arguments - not only here but on countless of other occasions. If you neither acknowledge the critique as being valid nor present arguments and reasons against it the offer to talk in the form of superficial platitudes (put the relationship […] on much better footing, etc.) is not worth much. In other words: Every public critique of your actions on the OSMF board - whether it is Steve here or Nicolas or me for example - is an offer for an open discussion based on arguments and reasoning. It is you who continuously rejects those offers by - if you answer at all - dragging the discussion to a personal level, telling only your world view without listening to and engaging with what others say or, as you also often do, trying to move conversation away from the public channels.

I won’t comment here on your and the other corporate representatives’ agendas to impose tighter control over the working groups from the board and making the OSMF a more centralized, hierarchical and more secretive organization - that is something for another place. But given the inability/unwillingness of the board to act - on this and on countless other topics (license violations anyone?) i very much applaud the MWG’s initiative and bold stand against a board that is non-constructive on matters like this. The fact that you feel pissed by such boldness to me is confirmation that it is advisable and necessary to do things like that. The MWG would clearly very much have preferred not to present the board with a deadline.

Comment from mikelmaron on 4 December 2019 at 15:31

I included personal notes in my comment because Steve’s post felt, in parts, personal. If that’s inappropriate for this thread, please excuse it. I accept the substance of what Steve is saying, and I take responsibility for the discussion between the MWG and the Board going badly. In my comment I tried to focus on substantial parts of the episode that were raised here to contribute to a full picture and can go into more detail if there’s a particular question on that.

There’s not much point in addressing the majority of Christoph’s comment that’s just a weird characterization of me. Essentially the comment here doesn’t read as very reasoned to me, but mean and insubstantial.

One more thing. I’m not aware of any corporate agenda. If there’s any shared world view I’ve detected, it’s simply for a more predictable OSMF, and I think that’s shared by many. As for the OSMF Board, the current posture on attribution is pretty clear from the last Board meeting, and was a consensus from all. There are three current Board members who work for corporations in OSM (Frederik for Geofabrik, Paul for Amazon, myself for Mapbox), but none of us claim to represent those companies. I think it’s ridiculous to think that the four other Board members are under our tight control.

Comment from SJFriedl on 4 December 2019 at 20:53

@Mikel this wasn’t a misunderstanding.

You were an authoritarian who completely lost sight of his duties to the Foundation.

Global Logic tried to game an election, lied to the board about it, and multiple members of the OSMF board acted as if the Membership Working Group was a bigger problem than attempted election fraud.

There were others, but you were a bully about it. I still have all the emails.

Yes, Guillaume and I pushed the timeline aggressively, and I’m sorry you didn’t like that, but we were concerned that:

  1. the board would sit on / bury the report
  2. the report would leak prematurely
  3. the membership had a right to know this (aka transparency)

The only deadline we imposed was for public release to the members, which we believed was our duty. We never demanded that the board actually DO anything, that being beyond MWG’s remit.

More than one one person has suggested that you singlehandedly ruined any chance of MWG and the board working cooperatively, and no doubt you’d say the same about me.

I don’t believe you should have the opportunity to do that again.

Comment from mikelmaron on 4 December 2019 at 22:09

I understand how you think all this based on the parts of the email conversation you saw. If you want to stick with just that, it’s fine. Obviously I disagree with parts of what you say, and feel the interaction on all sides was handled unprofessionally. Yes I readily admit including me. At no point did I not take the situation with GlobalLogic completely seriously and as top priority, but only wished for breathing space for the Board to read and discuss a detailed 20 page report without an ultimatum. No matter. We may or may not need to work together after the election, let’s see.

Comment from dieterdreist on 10 December 2019 at 01:27

It is impossible for outsiders to tell what’s behind the bullying accusation, whether they are made up, or based on actual facts or misunderstandings in the communication. Mikel, would you authorize Steve to cite from the internal communications the two of you had concerning the GL incident and the MWG report?

Comment from SJFriedl on 10 December 2019 at 14:32

This is a personal diary entry meant to communicate with those who know me or my work, and I don’t want to turn it into a tribunal. I’m afraid the best you can do here is asses the words as written, perhaps disregarding claims you feel are too unsupported to warrant your support.

Comment from SJFriedl on 10 December 2019 at 15:05

After some private conversations, I want to clarify a bit about the term “bully”.

Mikel never called me ugly, stupid, used an ethnic slur, or pulled my gym shorts down in front of all the other students cough bad memories cough. That’s definitely not Mikel.

I’m using the term for “throwing his weight around”, which I completely stand by even if one might reasonably claim I’m overusing the “b” word.

Comment from mikelmaron on 10 December 2019 at 15:58

Thanks for clarifying @SJFriedl. I can accept “throwing his weight around” … and recognize it was not appropriate. Also agree, this isn’t a tribunal, and I’m not interesting in dragging this out more.

Comment from SJFriedl on 14 December 2019 at 19:35

I’d like to offer my genuine congratulations to both Guillaume and Mikel for being elected to the OSMF board this year (along with Allan and Rory).

Though I certainly have had my differences with Mikel, there cannot be any doubt to his dedication to OSM and open data, especially with respect to underserved communities.

I lift my glass to toast the new board, looking forward to 2020!

Comment from dieterdreist on 15 December 2019 at 00:42

Great, I’m also happy that all 4 seats go to (true) community members with lots of dedication for OpenStreetMap!

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