OpenStreetMap

Announcing the DWG's new Organised Editing Guidelines

Posted by Stereo on 12 October 2018 in English (English)

Our new organised editing guidelines, as the DWG is now calling them, are on the agenda of the next OSMF board meeting.

I will attend it to present our guidelines and answer questions. In the meanwhile, here is my report. I'm also happy to answer any comments below.

We at the DWG are, first of all, thankful for all the constructive input we have received, from the advisory board, the humanitarian mapping initiatives and the mapping community.

This version of the organised editing guidelines took a lot of work to prepare. We have received and integrated a lot of feedback to reflect consensus and existing good practice.

We have looked at what similar policies would exist, on OSM or in other organisations. I believe that no other project, open or proprietary, has faced this exact issue before. On OSM, contributors generally understand the current policies on automated edits and imports. We have written the organised editing guidelines in a similar way, while adopting a slightly softer approach – not following the organised editing guidelines isn’t an offence per se. Elsewhere, Wikipedia has numerous policies some vaguely similar, but the problems they face are quite different, and their policies tend to be a lot more complex.

Internally, we have looked back at past problematic edits. We have carefully written the guidelines and defined the scope to prevent those problems without creating loopholes or negative incentives like encouraging salami tactics. They are not meant to apply to community activities like mapping parties between friends or making a presentation on OSM at a local club, but only to ‘sizeable, substantial’ activities. We want something that doesn’t scare casual events off while letting us regulate a geography class gone berserk or a misguided volunteer mapathon.

We also don’t want to set hard limits in stone since they would have to go back to the Board constantly if we need to refine exactly what falls under the guidelines.

Humanitarian activities deserve our fullest support. We have therefore adapted the guidelines for them, both implicitly, by requiring only a best-effort approach, and explicitly, by exempting emergencies from the two-week discussion period. Some humanitarian edits have been problematic before, and the guidelines are easy to follow; a blanket exemption would send the wrong signal.

We see the amount of corporate good will at SotM, the tensions in the community, and the (dis)organised edits that mappers refer to us. Publishing the guidelines will be good for everyone. Good actors, existing and new, will be able to trust clear expectations. The community will be confident that this is the consensus that will be respected. Confused newcomers will get a blueprint for a successful organised edit.

We have written guidelines that will be easy to read and follow and provide clarity on how good organised edits should run without having a chilling effect on them. DWG proposes that those guidelines should now be officially published. OpenStreetMap needs them now more than ever.

Location: Geesseknäppchen, Hollerich, Luxembourg, Canton Luxembourg, 1265, Luxembourg

Comment from imagico on 12 October 2018 at 19:06

As already indicated on osmf-talk i am deeply disappointed by how the DWG now proceeds in what originally was a promising process. I have already pointed out some of the most obvious deficits in this draft there.

You have essentially whitewashed the whole idea of a directed editing policy to a point where a reader unaware of the context will inevitably wonder why you would want such a document in the first place. The new draft in my eyes lacks any precision in language and clarity of the ideas and concepts presented.

And i frankly don't see a basis for the claim that this draft is "based on discussions with the community". Can you point me to any discussion that led you to design any of the rules the way you did?

Since you say you designed this draft in a similar way as you perceive the automated edit and import policies - could you please point me to a number of recent imports where you think our import policy demonstrated to be effective?

It is in particular also saddening that you use Wikipedia as a positive example here because the failure of Wikipedia in creating a productive globally egalitarian and not culturally imperialistic community for many in the OSM community is a strong warning in what direction OSM should not go.

The whole idea is to regulate organized editing activities in a meaningful way in the interest of local craft mappers. This is inseparably connected to the need to step on people's feet. If you try to avoid that at all costs and primarily try to please those you want to regulate you end up with a meaningless regulation which in return would spawn an irrelevant community of opportunists with no convictions, no values and ultimately no purpose.

The first draft was a good start, in particular because it was actually the result of discussions with and inquiries of the community and learning from the problems we have with the existing regulations of automated edits and imports. Further discussion of this draft revealed some problems which should have been worked on (and which could have been worked on) but this went in the right direction and especially if you now compare it to the second draft in comparison it looks really quite excellent - independent of how in substance you want the regulation to be.

Comment from RobJN on 12 October 2018 at 23:26

Thanks. At first glance this is looking good. Compromise was always going to be needed and this seems to strike a good balance. We can always tighten bits if the desired effect is not seen.

One question though. Here in the UK we run quarterly projects. In these we pick an area for the community to work on (e.g. footpaths) but leave the details to the community. A tracker tool is often built but nobody if forced to work in a particular way. So how does the new policy apply to these projects, if at all?

Cheers, Rob

Comment from Stereo on 15 October 2018 at 10:54

Hi Rob! I had a look at https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/UK_2018_Q4_Project:_Addresses_and_Postcodes_revisited and it seems to me that the UK quarterly projects actually already do most of what the guidelines recommend! The UK community seems to have decided by itself that doing this kind of thing is a good idea. What should be done in addition to that and what is unnecessary is up to the local community to decide, really.

Tangent: we should look at integrating https://raggedred.net/codepoint/ in editors. If you make a PR to the Editor Layer Index, I'll merge it.

Comment from Stereo on 15 October 2018 at 11:17

Hi Christoph! As you say yourself, there were discussions before and after the first draft. There were many posts to the mailing lists, and I actually have some of your contributions printed out and annotated here on my desk. You and I were in Karlsruhe last spring when Frederik and I very openly brainstormed on these with whoever wanted to join. I've asked pretty much every mapper I've met this year for their thoughts. I think it's unfair to me and ungrateful to everyone who helped me to suggest that there was no dialogue.

I did not say good or bad things about the other existing policies, on OSM and elsewhere, in my report. What I'm saying is that we looked at what people are familiar with (and got rid of the unfamiliar RFC-style writing), and what solutions people elsewhere have come up with (which doesn't fit OSM for many reasons). If we hadn't done this, you would (rightly) be accusing me of having written something that doesn't fit in the existing ecosystem, and of having reinvented the wheel by ignoring the world outside.

I understand that you would have liked us to be less compromising in our compromise, but I describing the result as toothless shows a misunderstanding. The "Informing the community" section, in particular, guarantees that local mappers won't get steamrolled and strongly encourages a constructive collaboration.

Comment from imagico on 15 October 2018 at 12:52

I think it's unfair to me and ungrateful to everyone who helped me to suggest that there was no dialogue.

I have not said there was no dialogue but i have put into question that the new draft is based on discussions with the hobby mapper community. This is of course a not falsifiable statement but it does not have to be - i just challenge your statement and it is up to you to point me to where discussion happened that led to this draft.

I have had plenty of discussions on directed editing regulations - among them fairly specific ones regarding how to best design a policy for that - but that was mostly before or soon after the first draft. I don't know what you remember in Karlsruhe and how this was advertised for people to participate. If that was at the hack weekend it was lost to me. I cannot find any announcement of such a meeting on talk-de or the Karlsruhe mailing list either.

I did not say good or bad things about the other existing policies

You wrote "We have written the organised editing guidelines in a similar way" - which implies a positive perception of these - why else would you want to write in a similar way?

I understand that you would have liked us to be less compromising in our compromise

I think i have pointed out very clearly that my critique is for the most part completely independent of what kind of regulation you want to have in substance. Reducing my critique to a certain perceived political view indicates you have not actually understood what i criticize.

To make it absolutely clear: A single sentence policy like "As far as the OSMF is concerned you may do organized editing without any constraints." would be better than this new draft.

The "Informing the community" section, in particular, guarantees that local mappers won't get steamrolled and strongly encourages a constructive collaboration.

I am sorry but you have got to be kidding me. I specifically criticized the wording of this paragraph on osmf-talk in multiple aspects. To me this part also demonstratively ignores the lessons learned from the import guidelines - that a vague 'informing the community' requirement (even as a strict requirement and not just a vague 'should' with exceptions like here) does not in any way ensure responsible behavior from those covered by the policy.

and got rid of the unfamiliar RFC-style writing

The funny thing about this is that i have never seen this kind of argument when it comes to other OSMF documents - like the terms of use or the privacy policy or the AoA. Those are full of convoluted legal language that is very difficult to understand even for well educated readers (which the first policy draft was not!). None the less this is almost universally accepted. But when it comes to formulating technical requirements on mapping you worry about precise language and clear rules being 'unfamiliar'. For me this is a clear and rather euphemistic strawman argument. Of course those the policy is meant to regulate are unfamiliar with meaningful regulation of their activities. That is the whole reason why mappers see the need for having a policy.

Comment from woodpeck on 15 October 2018 at 16:34

Christoph, I'm afraid the political situation in OSM is such that the "hobby mapper community" punches way below their weight. I was the one who published the results of DWG's initial survey which was promptly rubbished as being one-sided and non-inclusive, and I also published our first draft of a policy. In the discussion, the number of "hobby mappers" who supported the draft was countable with the fingers of one hand, while people involved in corporate and humanitarian mapping cried havoc on Twitter and the mailing lists, demanding either my head on a platter or at the very least the whole policy to be re-written from scratch. The problem with the "hobby mapper community" is that it is just that - people whose hobby is mapping and who are otherwise not very much interested. They might be the majority in OSM but they certainly don't participate in democratic opinion-forming like a majority.

I'm super happy that Stereo had the stamina to continue the process, talk to various "stakeholders" and listen to their issues. The resulting guidelines are miles away from the strict "hobby mappers tell organised mappers how to behave if they want to play" rules that I had initially hoped for, but the fact is, hobby mappers are not organised enough to tell anyone anything. That's a political reality and we must live with that.

Even these guidelines will still be questioned by some, and I hope that we can stand firm on what we want. Shooting down this policy on the grounds that it is not precise enough, that it is not "executable code" but rather a wishlist, would be a mistake. Even if we don't write "you must do X" but "we would like it if you do X" is much better than not writing anything because I can point anyone who wants to be our friend to this wishlist and say "well if you want to support OSM as you say, here's a list of things we would like you to do". Even if this is not the law but just as wishlist.

I know how much work Stereo put in this process and it pains me to see this work attacked by people who are critical of organised editing. I think these guidelines are as far as we can go in the current political climate, and the alternative is not a stricter policy, but no policy. And that would certainly be worse.

Comment from imagico on 15 October 2018 at 18:00

If the self image of the OSMF is to represent those who shout loudest (in English language i would like to add) then your logic indeed carries. But that is not an OSMF that in my eyes serves a positive goal and frankly that is also against the mission of the OSMF as i read it. And this of course has nothing to do with democracy.

Ultimately in the long term if the OSMF ignores the interests of the hobby mappers because they don't articulate these interests loud enough compared to the 'stakeholders' these hobby mappers will increasingly withdraw over time - from the OSMF, maybe also from OSM altogether. This possibility might have a positive appeal to those shouting loudly but it is not these opportunists who in the long term carry the project.

In the whole process i have always pursued what i perceived to be the interests of the local hobby mappers in OpenStreetMap - which i don't perceive to be to ban organized activities or to regulate them particularly harshly but to create a meaningful regulation (meaningful in the sense that the policy actually has a defined objective real world meaning) that ensures a local hobby mapper is able to interact with any people involved in organized activities with at least the same sovereignty as they can with a fellow hobby mapper. It is not necessary for those mappers to articulate these interests for me to be able to assess what these interests are and to try voicing them.

The proposed draft does not do anything towards this goal as i perceive it - and beyond that it creates counterproductive incentives.

Overall i think our analysis of the political situation does not differ much but our assessment of the different options to proceed is quite different. I don't think giving in to the cacophony of anti-regulation voices is an option with a significant likeliness of resulting in a striving OpenStreetMap project in the long term future. The best outcome you can hope for in that scenario is that said regulation will quickly become irrelevant because local mappers and local communities put in place more meaningful rules for organized activities. I completely agree that this is unlikely given the low degree of organization local hobby mappers have but still i think this is the best case scenario.

Comment from imagico on 15 October 2018 at 19:00

Also would like to add that my critique of the suitability of this draft as OSMF policy and as a method of the OSM community to regulate organized editing activities in OSM is in no way meant to express disrespect for Guillaume's work in writing this. I know writing this kind of compromise document meant to not offend anyone is something of significant importance in our society and i can only try to imagine how difficult it is to write this because myself i am quite incapable of doing that (i have occasionally made attempts in that direction in the past in much easier cases but failed miserably).

So i appreciate the achievement in itself but this does not change my strong critique of this document as a document of policy for the OSMF and the OSM community.

Comment from woodpeck on 15 October 2018 at 21:39

I think the current guidelines are better, not worse, than not having guidelines. Because they are a compromise, they also have more weight: They are the core that (almost) everyone can agree to. This means that if you fall foul of these rules, then you won't have many friends who say "yeah, those rules are biased anyway" etc. And yes, the rules are not rules but a wishlist so it is technically impossible to "violate" them, but honestly, if the community says it would like you to do the following 10 things and you cannot be arsed to do a single one of them, you really can't claim that what you are doing is "following best practice" or anything. These guidelines are not meant to be a legal document, they're more a value signifier, telling potential organised editors: If you don't share our values, fair enough, but don't expect us to become friends then. Implementing these guidelines, weak as they might be perceived by some, is a step in the right direction, an explicit agreement that a problem exists and some regulation is required... and if these rules don't solve the problem, they can pave the way for stricter rules down the line.

Comment from imagico on 15 October 2018 at 22:56

I disagree with the idea that a vague policy is better than no policy at all - for reasons i explained on osmf-talk.

Also think about what this kind of policy document with the lack of clarity and the loopholes i pointed out communicates to mappers, organizations who potentially fall under this policy as well as the public in general. Even as a wishlist it kind of communicates you don't really know what you want. You kind of wish how you want the world to be but you can't even formulate a clear request targeted at specific people but instead use passive formulations as i pointed out. You know the German saying "Wie man in den Wald hineinruft so schallt es heraus". Communicating in this style says that you like others to communicate to you in the same fashion - and i really don't want to communicate on this level of non-committal vagueness.

and if these rules don't solve the problem, they can pave the way for stricter rules down the line.

I don't think that is a realistic scenario. As already indicated the most likely effect of not solving the problem is people turning their back to the OSMF and possibly OSM in general. This is typically not a reversible process. And those who have a problem with organized edits leaving would make it less likely that the remaining people perceive it to be a significant problem.

Comment from Mateusz Konieczny on 19 October 2018 at 10:29

If the activity is a response to an emergency and no advance discussion is possible, the community should be informed as soon as is practical.

This is utterly unacceptable and absurd. It is a perfect excuse for HOT and there is an already problem with low quality mapping and undiscussed imports in this area of an organized mapping.

Can someone give an example of any real problem that this would solve? Because for me it is massive "feel free to ignore all weak suggestions here".

All related communications should use channels that are

Using "should" instead of clear "must" is unacceptable here.

the affected OSM communities should be informed

Again, weak "should" is absurd and will lead to weaseling.

Comment from Mateusz Konieczny on 19 October 2018 at 10:34

The "Informing the community" section, in particular, guarantees that local mappers won't get steamrolled and strongly encourages a constructive collaboration.

I can announce plans on my private closed forum, treat lack of reaction as agreement. And if anyone complains I can find some emergency anyway.

And that would not violate anything in "Informing the community".

Comment from Mateusz Konieczny on 19 October 2018 at 10:36

The first draft was a good start

Can anyone explain reason for changes since that first draft? Because I see no improvements anywhere, but maybe I missed something.

Comment from rorym 🏳️‍🌈 on 19 October 2018 at 14:03

I don't think "urgent emergency" is as big a loophole as might be expected. I presume this refers to cases like the 2010 Haitian earthquake, which you cannot predict in advance. Some of the 2017 hurricanes only existed about a few days before HOT started working on it. But lots of HOT work (e.g. Global Mapathon to help end female genital mutilation), wouldn't fall under that "urgent" case. You can't fake a earthquake!

Comment from Mateusz Konieczny on 19 October 2018 at 15:14

So to be clear - the policy was rewritten as demanded by

people involved in corporate and humanitarian mapping

who

cried havoc on Twitter and the mailing lists

?

Comment from imagico on 20 October 2018 at 08:39

@rorym - as i tried to explain on osmf-talk this is in particular about the idea of OSM to subordinate itself to a supposed moral absolute of the humanitarian mapping community. It is fine if individual mappers engage in emergency response mapping but it is IMO not acceptable if the OSMF requires every mapper to accept the primacy of emergency response trumps the values of the OpenStreetMap project. It does not matter that much if this is an exception that is practically used as a loophole to circumvent the rules, this is more about the message of values and their priorities behind it.

Comment from Stereo on 20 October 2018 at 12:40

Of course a private closed forum would violate the guidelines. I think the technical term, if you did that and claimed an imaginary emergency, would be "taking the mickey".

For transparency's sake, here are the questions I got from the board on Thursday. Some questions were on the exact same paragraphs, but from the opposite angle. This shows, once again, that we listened to all sides, and chose compromise over confrontation to get something that everyone could live with.

Comment from imagico on 20 October 2018 at 13:54

This shows, once again, that we listened to all sides, and chose compromise over confrontation to get something that everyone could live with.

As already said this is not about who you formally listen to but whose input you take into account when writing the text. When you chose compromise over confrontation that to me translates to adjusting to the interest of those who shout loudest and threaten confrontation while sacrificing the interests of those who appear more influenceable or expendable.

The board questions being dominated by those board members with the most obvious conflicts of interests because they are employed by corporations involved in organized editing activities is just embarrassing. Of course the responsible approach of them would have been to refrain from participating in the discourse as board members but in absence of that the responsible thing for you would be to treat their commentary the same as any outside input from a corporate representative.

Comment from Nakaner on 21 October 2018 at 21:25

Thank you, Stereo, for publishing the questions. I would like to see these questions be part of the official minutes of the board meeting. That's the location where I would look up them in future.

Comment from Stereo on 22 October 2018 at 16:33

Christoph, yes, the conflict of interest question is a relevant one that the board urgently needs to answer. For clarity's sake, even though you're not accusing me of it, I don't have any even remote conflict of interest in this game. I've only ever organised one tiny mapathon years ago, and organised mapping rarely if ever occurs in my areas of interest. My goal has been to do first what's best for the map and second reach the best possible compromise that can be accepted by the board and as many as possible.

I understand what you're saying about regulatory capture. The procedure has deliberately been transparent, and the DWG and the Board check and balance each other nicely.

I have neither ignored anyone nor capitulated to anyone. You've read Mikel's questions; it seems unlikely to me that he would accept what you're suggesting, just as you would not accept what he's suggesting.

The consensus in DWG, and I believe in general, is that this is a good compromise everyone could live with.

The board is democratically elected by the OSMF members. Its questions and suggestions have been handled impartially as such. If you don't like what it's doing, convincing as many craft mappers to become OSMF members and to vote in December is the best way to go. Peter, Mikel and Martijn are up for reelection this year.

--

Michael, you're right, it would be good to have the questions and my answers in the minutes.

Comment from imagico on 22 October 2018 at 17:48

I would suggest to leave the democratic legitimacy of the OSMF out of the discussion - this is a subject a lot could be said on and the outcome of such discussion surely would not look good for the OSMF. But it has very little effect to the subject at hand. It is my understanding that whatever regulation or non-regulation of organized activities the OSMF decides on it is up to the individual mappers and the local communities how to use this. Unless the OSMF wants to enforce such a policy against local mappers (i.e. protect organized activities against resistance from local communities) the primacy of the local mappers and the local community would be unaffected. In other words: The OSMF can't really order local mappers to accept organized activities under their rules.

I have not said and i don't think you have any external interests influencing your views here. But as already said i think the attempt to try pleasing everyone more or less proportional to the intensity with which they voiced their opinion (this is approximately how i interpret the new draft) is a very bad idea because not taking into account the interests of the many thousands of active hobby mappers who would never voice their opinion on this matter directly is a big mistake. It would further deprive the OSMF from what it needs most, namely support and engagement from the OSM community. In light of most of the working groups looking for members this to me really seems fairly obvious.

Because for a hobby mapper it is not a matter of if they can live with it, it is a question of if they want to live with it.

Comment from Stereo on 23 October 2018 at 10:40

So far you're the person who's voiced their opinion the strongest :)

Comment from imagico on 23 October 2018 at 11:42

Frederik indicated something different above with:

In the discussion, the number of "hobby mappers" who supported the draft was countable with the fingers of one hand, while people involved in corporate and humanitarian mapping cried havoc on Twitter and the mailing lists, demanding either my head on a platter or at the very least the whole policy to be re-written from scratch.

Anyway - i would be perfectly fine with you ignoring my opinion but it would probably be wise to take into account my arguments. What i argue for here with emphasis are not my personal or business interests of what i would like a policy to say but what i think a policy should be designed like independent of what it specifically regulates in substance in the interests of the mappers, the OSMF and the OpenStreetMap project as a whole.

And you should also not forget that Mateusz and muramototomoya also voiced their opinion and that the way this new draft is presented is also not exactly high profile so far.

My impression from talking to people about this matter recently is that not speaking up on it should not be interpreted as being fine with the draft (or being specifically opposed to it in a certain way for that matter). Mostly it seems to be that people don't have the impression that articulating their opinion would have any positive effect on what the OSMF does. I think for the OSMF this is a much more significant problem than how much regulation of organized activities exactly is best to lead to the least opposition. Or in other words: If despite investing a significant amount of time in presenting arguments, with the background knowledge of the OSMF to support these arguments and with the ability to present my reasoning consistently in English i am not able to convince the OSMF that i have a valid point at least in some aspects how much do you think the average local hobby mapper is motivated to present their perspective on the matter here?

Comment from JBacc1 on 26 October 2018 at 20:46

Christophe, merci d'avoir eu la patience et la hargne de maintenir le débat. Effectivement, pour moi « petit » contributeur qui n'aime pas débattre en anglais, ta résistance est particulièrement bienvenue. Vu d'ici, l'OSMF semble avoir pris une bien triste direction sur le sujet, orientée entreprises et non communauté.
Danke sehr, Christoph, für deine lange antworten.

Comment from imagico on 27 October 2018 at 13:46

Merci pour le soutien. Es ist schön zu sehen, dass das Thema auch in anderen Sprachen auf Interesse stößt und diskutiert wird. Avoir le courage de donner ton opinion en français.

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