OpenStreetMap

imagico's Diary

Recent diary entries

Today the OSMF board made the expected decision to formally roll out the behavior control regime that has been in the making for quite some time on the talk and osmf-talk mailing lists. Nothing surprising here - i have commented on the larger topic before.

As i have written in my previous commentary, creating communication channels where participants are protected from being exposed to cultural and personal communication style diversity beyond what they are able and willing to deal with is fine - and actually desirable. That for this purpose existing communication channels are repurposed is a bit rude, but that is something we can deal with.

The news is that the board in their decision also includes the intention to extend the behavior control regime to all international communication channels hosted by the OSM Foundation. While this has been the expressed desire of those pushing for community management and behavior control in OSM all along, this is the first time the OSMF board has actually indicated they intend to adopt this idea of a totalitarian behavior control system - not only creating spaces for those who are unwilling or unable to tolerate behavior diversity outside their personal and cultural standards, but projecting these standards on everyone and declaring them to be binding for everyone, everywhere within the domain controlled by the OSMF. This is not unexpected, given past articulations and actions from the board, but it is still sobering to see that becoming definitive - in the form of a formal decision - without any critical discussion or reflection on what that means.

For me it has been clear from the beginning that i will not subordinate myself to the behavior standards of someone else when contributing to what is an endeavor of egalitarian cross cultural cooperation like OpenStreetMap. Especially not if the codifications of those standards are written down in a way that is as vague as what has been adopted by the OSMF board now.

I have high standards regarding my interaction with other people and always welcome critical discussion of such interactions. But you have to convince me with arguments and reason to change my behavior - waving with some supposedly authoritative culture specific rules will never work.

Now i am in a position in OpenStreetMap where i could reasonably just ignore behavior rules and moderation attempts - preemptively killfiling everyone on the moderation team and just doing as i please. Or in other words: The moderation team would probably be more afraid of the potential fallout of trying to moderate me than i am of getting banned from OSMF channels.

But the thing is that this is a luxury not everyone has, especially not most of those OSM contributors who - due to their cultural background, personal style or neurodiversity - are more apart from the dominanting anglo-american-westeuropean mainstream dominating the OSMF and as a result run an even higher risk of catching negative attention from the OSMF community management. And the other question is: Why should i accept this? The main reason why i contribute on international communication channels hosted by the OSM Foundation - like these diaries, changeset comments or the OSM wiki - is to give back to the OSM community in situations where i think my experience and viewpoints are of value. But this is not something i need OSMF infrastructure for. And frankly, the atmosphere of fear that will inevitably develop on a channel where everyone at any time needs to expect to run afoul of some interpretation of rules that are deliberately designed to be vague, is not very supportive of providing valuable insights into a culturally diverse international mapper community - the other reason why i often enjoy conversations on OSM related channels.

So this is a good opportunity to critically evaluate my social investment in OSMF controlled communication channels like these diaries. Luckily, there are plenty of platforms and communication channels outside the control of the OSMF where the OSM community can converse more openly and in a more self determined fashion. And i am also hopeful that the evident interest in the OSM community in highly tolerant and inclusive cross cultural communication and cooperation will also lead to the creation of new opportunities of more inclusive channels as a replacement for what the OSMF has now indicated it no more wants to provide. I won’t rule out that i might also occasionally use OSMF channels in the future - as said there is no reason for me personally to be afraid of the behavior regulation. And it would be inconsistent with what i wrote above, that i think that creating culturally limited communication channels for those with limited ability and willingness of tolerating cultural diversity is desirable, to blanketly boycott any such channels. But i don’t intend to invest significantly into such communication any more now that the OSMF board has clearly indicated its commitment to all OSMF communication services to be culturally exclusive. Those who are interested in and value my input on OSM related subjects will find me on open channels committed to tolerance and inclusiveness in communication styles and habits, where it is the basic premise to value otherness instead of excluding it - either the ones we already have or such that might form and gain interest and support in the future.

In other words: What i value most about communication in the OSM community is the exact opposite of the people whose work we know and enjoy paradigm, namely learning about views and ways to look at and discuss things that are fundamentally different from my own ones or those of people who i already know. What decides how interesting it is for me to socially invest in a communication channel is if it invites and embraces such otherness in people or the communicative unknown unknowns so to speak.

What all this means for the role of the OSMF in the OSM community and its future is another story i will contemplate on another time - and likely on another channel.

When the current OSMF board some time ago spoke (during a board meeting) of the upcoming OSMF board election season as silly season i interpreted that as a indication of highly problematic collective and undifferentiated disrespect and loathing for the constituency (what we in German call Wählerbeschimpfung). I failed to consider that this would be prophetic regarding board members’ own actions during this time.

Compare:

https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Foundation/AGM21/Election_to_Board#List

and last paragraph of:

https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/mikelmaron/diary/391498

(in the not unlikely case of retroactive censorship here is the permanent record).

OTOH of course the saying is: In a democracy people (collectively) always get the government they deserve

Ein paar Worte zu den Plänen der OSMF zur Verhaltensregulierung

Posted by imagico on 20 August 2021 in German (Deutsch). Last updated on 21 August 2021.

Machine translation in English by deepl.com can be found below, should not be read under the assumption of semantic equivalence though.

Die OpenStreetMap Foundation OSMF hat vor kurzem angefangen, Ihre Pläne und Ideen zur Verhaltensregulierung auf Kommunikationskanälen unter Kontrolle der OSMF öffentlich vorzustellen. Und ich habe von mehreren Seiten die Erwartung kommuniziert bekommen, dass ich dazu Stellung nehme - vor dem Hintergrund, dass ich zu dem Thema Verhaltensregeln in OpenStreetMap sowohl ganz grundsätzlich als auch zu konkreten Ideen und den diesen zugrunde liegenden philosophischen Konzepten und Wertvorstellungen schon einiges geschrieben habe.

Ich tue dies hier wie bereits zuvor in meiner Muttersprache, insbesondere um klarzustellen, dass englischen Muttersprachlern zu diesem Thema keine Deutungshoheit über die Begriffe und Argumente zusteht. Eine maschinelle Übersetzung auf Englisch ist unten der Einfachheit halber angefügt, diese ist aber ausdrücklich nicht dafür gedacht, unter der Annahme der Bedeutungsgleichheit gelesen zu werden.

Wer jetzt ähnlich wie beim sogenannten diversity statement vor eineinhalb Jahren eine detaillierte Textkritik erwartet, den muss ich allerdings enttäuschen. Dies liegt zum einen daran, dass die vorgestellten Texte bis jetzt nur Entwürfe darstellen und noch keine offiziellen Regeln der OSMF. Vor allem aber werden diese Dokumente nicht wie das sogenannte diversity statement als allgemeine Regeln und Wertvorstellen für die gesamte OSM-Community präsentiert, sondern als Regeln für zwei Mailinglisten, welche von der OSMF betrieben werden. Wenn eine Gruppe von Aktiven in der OSMF gerne Kommunikationskanäle hätte, auf denen sie sicherstellen können, dass alle Teilnehmer dort und deren Kommunikation ihren kulturellen Werten und Vorstellungen von angemessenem Verhalten entsprechen und Menschen, die dies nicht können oder wollen, dort ausgeschlossen werden, dann ist daran meiner Ansicht nach überhaupt nichts dran auszusetzen. Und eine Kritik daran käme - egal ob sie grundsätzlich ethisch-philosophisch oder subjektiv aus Perspektive einer anderen Kultur mit anderen Werten erfolgt - einer Kulturkritik gleich. Und wenngleich eine solche Kulturkritik denke ich hier durchaus legitim wäre, würde sie vor dem Hintergrund der übergreifenden Frage, wie denn in OpenStreetMap Leute aus verschiedenen Teilen der Welt mit vollkommen unterschiedlichen Wertvorstellungen und sozialen Traditionen gleichberechtigt miteinander kooperieren können, nicht viel zur Sache beitragen.

Dass hier für die Einrichtung solcher kulturspezifischer Kommunikationskanäle existierende Mailinglisten, welche bis jetzt auch für Menschen weit außerhalb dieses Kulturkreises wichtige Funktionen erfüllen, umgewidmet werden sollen, ist natürlich keine besonders freundliche und rücksichtsvolle Vorgehensweise. Aber das ist nichts, womit die weltweite OSM-Community nicht klar käme.

Auch wenn es natürlich auf den ersten Blick recht skurril erscheint, wenn ein Regelwerk der Verhaltenskontrolle, welches als zentrales Element die unbedingte Intoleranz gegenüber bestimmten Verhalten kundtut (also dass bestimmtes Verhalten unbedingt sanktioniert wird unabhängig vor welchem kulturellen und persönlichem Hintergrund und aus welcher Motivation heraus sich jemand so verhält), als Instrument für mehr Vielfalt präsentiert wird, leuchtet dies beim näheren Hinsehen durchaus ein. Die Toleranz gegenüber anderen Kulturen, Werten und Verhaltensweisen, welche für die inter-kulturelle Zusammenarbeit in OpenStreetMap so essentiell ist, bedeutet nämlich letztendlich auch, dass wir diese Toleranz auch gegenüber Menschen aufbieten müssen, die nicht in der Lage oder willens sind, völlig reziprok unsere Andersartigkeit in Verhalten und Kultur gegenüber ihnen zu tolerieren.

Was mir jedoch Sorgen macht ist, dass im Zuge der Planungen für diese verhaltensregulierten Kommunikationskanäle Leute aus der OSMF, welche an diesen Planungen beteiligt sind, in Ihrer Arbeit völlig reflexions- und kritikfrei auf totalitäre Ideen Bezug nehmen. Ich denke hierbei vor allem an die Initiative von Steve Coast von 2010, welche von einem aktuellen OSMF-Vorstands-Mitglied verharmlosend als seems crazy today charakterisiert wird und welche Grundlage aktueller offizieller OSMF-Policy ist (wenngleich diese natürlich weitgehend ohne praktische Bedeutung ist) als auch ohne kritische Diskussion der fragwürdigen Herkunft dieser Konzepte wieder in die geplanten Regeln zur Verhaltensregulierung eingegangen ist. In erheblichem Maße gilt dies jedoch auch für das Ende letzten Jahres veröffentlichte Pampflet, welches in der OSMF ganz selbstverständlich als Grundlage für die Arbeit verwendet wird ohne dass es (zumindest in der Öffentlichkeit) auch nur Ansätze zu einer kritischen Auseinandersetzung mit den dort kommunizierten Ideen gegeben hat.

Vor diesem Hintergrund möchte ich eines noch mal ganz deutlich betonen: OpenStreetMap ist ein soziales Experiment. Die dahinter stehende Idee ist, dass Menschen von überall auf der Welt mit völlig unterschiedlichen persönlichen und kulturellen Hintergründen, die größtenteils aufgrund sprachlicher und anderweitiger Hürden kaum verbal miteinander kommunizieren können, über das gemeinsame Ziel der Sammlung lokalen geographischen Wissens über ihre jeweilige Umgebung gleichberechtigt miteinander kooperieren. Obwohl OpenStreetMap als Daten-Sammlung mittlerweile ohne Zweifel als Erfolg betrachtet werden kann, ist die Frage, ob OpenStreetMap mit der beschriebenen Idee als soziales Projekt erfolgreich ist, noch völlig offen. Wie das Experiment ausgeht, wird maßgeblich davon abhängen, ob die Gesellschaften und Kulturen, aus denen sich OpenStreetMap rekrutiert - und zwar jetzt und in der Zukunft - reif und tolerant genug sind, um die geschilderte gleichberechtigte Zusammenarbeit über kulturelle, sprachliche und persönliche Grenzen hinweg zu ermöglichen.

Im Grunde ist dieser Grundsatz von Toleranz ohne die Bedingung der unmittelbaren Reziprozität (will heißen, dass man Akzeptanz und Respekt gegenüber Andersartigkeit in Werten und Verhalten gegenüber anderen zeigt, unabhängig davon, ob diese im selben Maße Toleranz zeigen) der Kern von dem, was bereits seit den frühen Jahren von OpenStreetMap als assume good faith/intentions zu den wenigen Grundwerten des Projektes gehört.

Schaffen wir es nicht mehrheitlich individuell wie auch kollektiv, diese soziale Reife und Toleranz aufzubringen, dann wird OpenStreetMap als soziales Projekt scheitern. Dies wäre nicht unmittelbar sichtbar, OpenStreetMap als Daten-Sammlung ohne dies geschilderte soziale Komponente der gleichberechtigten kultur-übergreifenden Kooperation könnte natürlich zumindest eine Zeit lang fortbestehen. Aber es wäre dann halt im Grunde nichts anderes als eine Neuauflage der Internationalen Weltkarte im digitalen Zeitalter unter Nutzung von Crowdsourcing - mit ähnlichen kolonialen und kulturimperialistischen Tendenzen und damit langfristig auf dem Weg, vom selben Schicksal ereilt zu werden.

A few words about OSMF’s plans for behavioral regulation

The OpenStreetMap Foundation OSMF has recently started to publicly present your plans and ideas for behavior regulation on communication channels under OSMF control. And I have been communicated from several quarters the expectation that I comment on this - against the background that I have already written quite a bit on the subject of behavioral regulation in OpenStreetMap, both quite fundamentally and on specific ideas and the philosophical concepts and values that underlie them.

I do so here, as I have done before, in my native language, especially to make clear that native English speakers have no interpretive authority over the concepts and arguments on this topic. A machine translation in English is added below for convenience, but this is expressly not intended to be read under the assumption of equality of meaning.

However, if you are now expecting a detailed textual critique similar to the so-called diversity statement a year and a half ago, I must disappoint you. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the presented texts are only drafts so far and not yet official rules of the OSMF. Above all, these documents are not presented as general rules and values for the whole OSM community like the so-called diversity statement, but as rules for two mailing lists which are operated by the OSMF. If a group of active people in the OSMF would like to have communication channels where they can make sure that all participants there and their communication conform to their cultural values and ideas of appropriate behavior, and people who can’t or don’t want to do that are excluded there, then I don’t think there is anything wrong with that at all. And a criticism of this - regardless of whether it is fundamentally ethical-philosophical or subjective from the perspective of another culture with other values - would be tantamount to cultural criticism. And even though such a cultural critique would be legitimate here, it would not contribute much to the overall question of how people from different parts of the world with completely different values and social traditions can cooperate with each other in OpenStreetMap.

The fact that for the establishment of such culture-specific communication channels existing mailing lists, which until now have fulfilled important functions for people far outside this cultural circle, are to be repurposed here, is of course not a particularly friendly and considerate approach. But this is nothing that the worldwide OSM community would not be able to cope with.

Even if it seems quite bizarre at first glance, when a set of rules for behavior control, which as a central element announces the unconditional intolerance of certain behavior (i.e. that certain behavior will be sanctioned regardless of the cultural and personal background and motivation for which someone behaves in such a way), is presented as an instrument for more diversity, this makes sense on closer inspection. Tolerance towards other cultures, values and behaviors, which is so essential for inter-cultural cooperation in OpenStreetMap, ultimately also means that we have to offer this tolerance towards people who are not able or willing to tolerate our difference in behavior and culture towards them in a completely reciprocal way.

What worries me, however, is that in the course of planning for these behavior-regulated communication channels, people from the OSMF who are involved in this planning refer to totalitarian ideas in their work completely without reflection or criticism. I am thinking in particular of Steve Coast’s 2010 initiative, which is belittlingly characterized by a current OSMF board member as seems crazy today and which is the basis of current official OSMF policy (though of course largely without practical significance) as well as having been reincorporated into the planned rules for behavior regulation without critical discussion of the questionable origins of these concepts. To a considerable extent, however, this also applies to the pampflet published at the end of last year, which is quite naturally used as a basis for work in the OSMF without there having been even the beginnings (at least in public) of a critical discussion of the ideas communicated there.

Against this background, I would like to emphasize one thing again very clearly: OpenStreetMap is a social experiment. The idea behind it is that people from all over the world with completely different personal and cultural backgrounds, who for the most part can hardly communicate verbally with each other due to language and other barriers, cooperate with each other on an equal footing over the common goal of collecting local geographic knowledge about their respective surroundings. Although OpenStreetMap as a data collection can now undoubtedly be considered a success, the question of whether OpenStreetMap with the described idea is successful as a social project is still completely open. How the experiment turns out will largely depend on whether the societies and cultures from which OpenStreetMap is recruited - both now and in the future - are mature and tolerant enough to allow the described equal cooperation across cultural, linguistic and personal boundaries.

In essence, this principle of tolerance without the condition of immediate reciprocity (that is, showing acceptance and respect for otherness in values and behavior toward others, regardless of whether they show tolerance to the same degree) is the core of what has been the assume good faith/intentions among the few core values of the project since the early years of OpenStreetMap.

If we do not manage, individually as well as collectively, to bring up this social maturity and tolerance by a majority, then OpenStreetMap will fail as a social project. This would not be immediately visible, OpenStreetMap as a data collection without this described social component of equal cross-cultural cooperation could of course continue at least for a while. But it would then be basically nothing more than a new edition of the International World Map in the digital age using crowdsourcing - with similar colonial and cultural imperialistic tendencies and thus in the long run on the way to be met by the same fate.

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

A few words on the OSMF attribution guidelines

Posted by imagico on 23 June 2021 in English (English). Last updated on 24 June 2021.

The OSMF board has finally published the draft for the OSMF attribution guideline they have been working on - together with the firm intention to approve that in the next public board meeting without changes. This is unfortunately reminiscent of previous cases of the OSMF board developing policy and documents internally among themselves without public scrutiny and presenting them to the public as a done deal, ultimately with often very sub-optimal results.

So these comments are less in the hope that the board will revise their work style and discuss policy openly and publicly with the community from the start because they realize that this yields objectively better results and more to help the community understand the (in large parts somewhat confusing and difficult to understand) text and its provenance and implications.

The background of the attribution guidelines

I will not present a full history here - largely because it would make this text too long to read in a reasonable amount of time but also because much of that history has not been open to direct public observation and can only be reconstructed from minutes of LWG and board meetings which inevitably only show a selective record of history.

Many years ago some OSM community members have started developing some practical guidance documents explaining how to use OSM data practically in compliance with the License - thereby explaining the relatively abstract text of the ODbL and what the OSM community considers this to mean in practical terms. In 2014 Michael Collinson started organizing these more systematically in what was called the Community Guidelines and engaged in fairly elaborate public discussions with the community to design guidance that reflects community consensus on OSM data use. These guidelines however were only discussing specific aspects of the ODbL and do not represent an exhaustive guidance to the License. In particular they were missing any substantial practical guidance on the two core principles of the ODbL, namely the attribution and the share-alike principles. These were mentioned in passing in the other guidelines (i.e. that you have to attribute and you have to share derivative databases under certain conditions) but there was no guidance how to actually do that.

Over the years corporate data users have essentially tested with how little attribution (and share-alike) they can practically get away with and OSM community members became increasingly annoyed with that. In particular the services of Mapbox and Carto became heavily criticized for encouraging their customers for only providing OSM attribution that is hidden by default. The matter was discussed frequently on OSM channels - in particular here.

Back in 2019 then the LWG (with most of its members being lawyers on the payroll of corporate OSM data users) started writing a guideline on attribution. When this was presented to the larger OSM community it received very critical comments regarding the leniency the draft showed with commercial OSM data users - essentially allowing them to make their attribution of OSM contingent on compatibility with their business model. A revised draft was not much better and again received substantial critique.

In 2020 the LWG continued working on their draft - but without much further discussion in public with the larger OSM community. Instead they sought input from visitors of SotM conferences (which of course tend to have a higher fraction of voices sympathetic to the corporate interests). The OSMF board also got involved in the process and they themselves worked on a modified draft - likewise without open public discussion with the larger OSM community but focusing on consulting with representatives of corporate OSM data users. During that time the only not corporate affiliated members of the LWG left (Nuno and Simon) so the LWG was a corporate only working group until Dermot McNally (from OSM Ireland) joined. During early 2021 further internal work ensued, the OSMF board apparently also got external legal advice (but neither the questions they asked nor the answers received were made public) until in June the draft the board intends to become the final version was published (without an edit history - apparently the board writes this on Google Docs).

A lot could be critically discussed about this whole process (and i hinted at a few concerns in the above outline what happened) - but this is not what i want to focus on here. I will try to comment on the text itself ignoring as much as possible how it came into being (though i will mention this when it helps understanding why the text is written the way it is).

I also like to mention that in light of this process and the realization that the OSMF board does clearly not intend to write a Community Guideline in the original sense of the word as a guideline representing the consensus view of the wider mapper community i have some time ago made an attempt to formulate independently a guidance document that attempts to do exactly that - the Community Attribution Advice.

The guideline text

Back at the end of last year when i looked back at the developments in the OSMF and looked forward at the upcoming year i discussed the attribution guidelines and in essence i mentioned that the board has the choice between deciding on a guideline that serves the interests of the OSMF financiers or a guideline that reflects community consensus on the interpretation of the ODbL in practical use. What the board tries now with their draft is a compromise between both and to be honest: They did a better job at that than i expected them to be able to do. Note however this is less of a compliment than it might seem because the attempt at a compromise between two diametrical positions like that is clearly doomed of course. As a result the text is what you would typically call a lame compromise, fairly full of contradictions - both with itself and with the ODbL. You can see quite well how the formulations were honed to reflect the balance of interests as perceived by the board members in their consultations with each other and with the corporate stakeholders. Relatively little regard seems to have been given to the inner logic of the text and the consistency of the statements made. As a result of that the text lacks an overarching principle and is therefore hard to read and it very difficult to derive guidance from it beyond the specific use cases the authors had in mind when writing the text (and even that in many cases seems to contain contradicting messages).

This issue is in particular visible in the introduction which consists essentially of a list of mostly unconnected statements. Most of them deal with the attempt of explaining the supposed relationship between the guidelines and the ODbL. This is somewhat self contradicting since presenting the guidelines as a “safe harbour” and having a prominent disclaimer that compliance with the guidelines does not guarantee compliance with the ODbL and that the OSMF reserves the right to demand more attribution in the future do not really work together.

There is also a statement that is clearly factually wrong in the form of “Note that attribution is only necessary when a Produced Work is used Publicly (as defined by the ODbL)” - the ODbL also requires attribution for public use of the database/derivative database when no produced work is involved (see section 4.2). That attribution requirement is different (and more extensive) than that for produced works but the above statement is clearly misleading the reader to believe that attribution is only required for produced works and not for other public uses of the database.

The section “Why attribution is important” seems to reflect the new business like attitude of the OSMF regarding OSM, caring primarily about market share and usefulness of the data but not viewing OpenStreetMap as a social project that much any more. No mentioning of the significance of attribution as part of the social contract between mappers and between mappers and data users beyond “encourages them to contribute more” and “maximises the quality of the map”. Everyone is encouraged to compare that to the Community Attribution Advice.

The section “Requirements to fit within OSMF’s safe harbour” is the good part of the document (apart from the fundamental flaw with the “safe harbour” concept of course - see above). Here the board clearly departed from the corporate wish-list ideas in the LWG drafts and is asking quite clearly (even if a bit convoluted) for unconditional attribution. Since i frequently have criticized the board for the lack of backbone in dealing with corporate OSM data users i would like to point out clearly that this is a bold statement that - in light of the OSMFs financial dependence on corporate donations - took quite some courage obviously and i am positively surprised by that.

My main critique of this part is that it focuses too much on visual applications and attribution in static text form to be visually read by the user. The ODbL is agnostic in that regard, it only speaks of making people aware. Since this section is aimed at formulating generic attribution requirements (more specific examples are discussed later) it would have been good to keep it more generic and not imply that a valid attribution has to be visual (through formulations like “placed in the vicinity”, “legible”).

The same critique applies to the next section, “Attribution text”. What is written there is mostly good and important advice - but it is on specific (even though common) use cases and not suitable as a universal ‘must’ requirement for any and all OSM data use. Presenting it as such IMO weakens the message rather than emphasizing it.

My positive comments end here because what follows in “Safe harbour requirements for specific scenarios” is what we in German call “Verschlimmbesserung” of the LWG draft. It is really unfortunate that after having the courage to replace the lenient generic attribution ideas drafted by the LWG with concrete hard requirements they could not get themselves to rewrite this part from ground up. Maybe that is because they wanted to retain something from the LWG draft to not ostentatiously disregard all of their work. I don’t know for sure. What i do know is that the flaws in this part significantly diminish the positive impression from the previous. But lets get to things one at a time.

Databases

This section unfortunately fails to make a distinction between using and distributing databases.

Interactive maps

Unfortunately the same screenshot that has been used since the early drafts for the guideline is still in there - showing a map that prominently features non-OSM data (for landcover rendering) - kind of contradicting the statement that “OSM does not wish to claim credit for data or other material that did not come from it”. And while mentioning that it is ok to have a mechanism that allows users to hide the attribution the text unfortunately does not mention that this is only allowable in single user viewing situations. If on a public map display the technician starting the display routinely hides the attribution and all users subsequently do not see it that is not in compliance with the ODbL.

Static images

Unfortunately despite clear critique in the past this section still gives data users a blank cheque essentially saying that any subset of OSM data covering less than 10000 square meters (that is 100m x 100m) is considered to be insubstantial no matter how substantial it is in terms of the volume of data. This is even more concerning since the rule of thumb that any use with less than 100 features is mentioned to be considered insubstantial as well. Hence the additional inclusion of the 10000 square meters rule (which - as i mentioned previously - is fabricated out of thin air here without any argumentative basis in reality) explicitly weakens the premise that if an extract of OSM data is considered substantial is a matter of the volume and complexity of the data and the investment of mappers’ time that went into it. The OSMF board here essentially declares nearly all indoor mapping in OSM on its own to be not subject to any ODbL protection when used individually for individual buildings only - no matter how sophisticated the mapping is. You could argue that the OSMF this way also betrays their own mission statement by declaring certain types of mapping (the detailed and substantial mapping on a scale of less than 100m x 100m) as out-of-scope for OSM and thereby effectively drive(s) mapping in a particular direction.

Machine learning models

Like in a good thriller the guideline draft is building up tension slowly to come to the big finale here. This point had been in the first LWG draft already and the board kept it without major modifications - despite it being completely off-topic in a guideline on attribution. The only change they made is quite clearly an attempt to superficially pacify some of the critique that was being made regarding this section in the LWG draft by specifically declaring the example that was given in that critique (the possibility that ML/AI algorithms can under some circumstances reproduce parts of the training data - like a translation algorithm spitting out snippets from the texts it has been trained with when being fed with garbage data in use) as being not covered by this section. That does not change anything in substance about the message of course since that was just an example to illustrate the critique.

Given the sweeping critique of this section and its presence in a document on attribution it seems odd that the OSMF board decided to keep this in the guideline. I am not completely sure why. The most likely explanation is that they have not fully realized the far reaching implications of this section and they - as mentioned above - wanted to give the corporate data users something to balance having cut their wish-list on attribution rules. This would match the overall paradigm of the board in the last years to consider policy development as a negotiation of interests rather than a matter of arguments and reasoning.

What this section does is essentially declaring an exception of the license for use of OSM data in the design of data driven algorithms (meaning algorithms the behavior of which is not primarily defined by a human programmer but by feeding it some data and the algorithm incorporating that data to define its behavior). The guideline draft uses different terms which are used in different meaning elsewhere (like training) but the way these terms are used in the guideline is very generic - hence it is more clear to speak of data driven algorithms. Now the ODbL is very clear on the matter in principle: If you use a substantial amount of OSM data in a way that is a derivative work of the data the results of that are either a collective database, a derivative database or a produced work. And despite some people claiming that there could be cases where a substantial use of OSM data could be neither and as a result magically could be used without any restrictions that idea has no solid basis in either the law or the ODbL and the intention of the ODbL is clearly to only have these three possibilities.

Now what the guideline draft says is the following:

  • the data used in the design of a data driven algorithm is a derivative database.
  • the data driven algorithm (called a model in the text) is subject to attribution requirements - but only to attribution requirements. The guideline interestingly does not say how it regards such models in terms of the ODbL. That is because requiring attribution only would mean it can only be a produced work. But a produced work according to the ODbL is clearly something meant and used for human consumption (like an image, video, text etc.). An algorithm (or model) meant and used to generate data - typically without a human being involved in that process - quite evidently cannot be a produced work.
  • the output of the data driven algorithm (which practically often constitutes a database itself of course) is declared to be “not implicated by ODbL”.

If you look at this logic carefully you can see that this is essentially the wild dream of Facebook & Co. Creating the legal basis of designing data driven algorithms with extensive memory that you can feed with any copyrighted, proprietary or confidential personal data you can get into your fingers and that you can then adjust to produce any kind of economically valuable data without any legal or economic implications towards the data you use. The OSMF board here essentially gives a universal permission to do that with OSM data. The only constraint they added (that you cannot use this to exactly reproduce the training data) is insignificant because no one who creates a derivative database wants to exactly recreate the original data anyway, you want to create something with additional value for you.

My impression is that this point could be - for the corporate data users who primarily wrote the original LWG text - of higher strategic importance than the practical attribution leniency the board has cut out. And it has potential implications even beyond OSM and the ODbL. My impression is that the OSMF board has not realized the potentially far reaching consequences of handing this as a pacifying gift to the corporate data users and financiers of the OSMF.

Or let me put it in a different way: The discussion on the ethical context and implications of data driven algorithms in our society as a whole has just started and the OSMF board making a drastic statement prejudicing that discussion is something i can only characterize as reckless.

The other scenarios

The rest of the specific scenarios discussed in the text mostly suffer from what i would describe as URL fetish. The OSMF board wants openstreetmap.org/copyright to be shown everywhere and considers this (which is not in any way mandated by the ODbL) more important apparently than what the ODbL actually asks for, namely to make the users aware that the data is licensed under the ODbL. Falk has nicely pointed out this weird preference in his recent FOSSGIS talk. The traditional interpretation of linking to openstreetmap.org/copyright has always been that this is considered to be a compact form to satisfy the requirement of the ODbL to make the users aware of the license in interactive online applications (if it actually is can be open to discussion of course). That is for example explicated in the Licence and Legal FAQ of the OSMF. And in offline or non-interactive use cases this is not sufficient and you have to explicitly mention the ODbL instead (like with the Contains information from OpenStreetMap, which is made available at openstreetmap.org under the Open Database License (ODbL) i suggest in the Community attribution advice). So the OSMF board is with their new attribution guidelines in this aspect quite clearly at odds with both the ODbL and with their own previous guidance.

Conclusions

Overall there are - as discussed - good and bad things about this guideline draft. I want to emphasize again that i am positively surprised how far the OSMF board has come to push back against the hands that feed them so to speak. So my explicit respect and acknowledgement for that. But as also shown there are a lot of deficits in the text beyond that. By

  • designing this in the closed circles of the OSMFs communicative echo chamber and
  • not exposing their ideas early on to the critical scrutiny of the wider OSM community and
  • treating policy development as a negotiation of interests rather than a struggle of arguments and reason

they came up with many of the same problems as in previous similar cases leading to sub-optimal results and missed opportunities.

I can understand and to some extent even support Frederik’s take on the matter that this as is represents important progress compared to the direction the attribution guideline went before and it would be important to cash in on this progress and not loose it due to remaining deficits in the text. But still the amount of unused potential, the thought of how much better these guidelines could have been with just a little more open scrutiny and a tiny bit of copy-editing for readability and consistency, makes me sad, especially considering how much of a déjà-vu that is from previous cases.

There is going to be an OSM-Carto map reading workshop run by me at this year’s virtual State of the Map conference on July 11 at 12:15 UTC. This is going to be a new, experimental format i would like to try where i will explain the cartography and the reasoning behind styling decisions of the standard style shown on openstreetmap.org based on case examples you can submit beforehand.

For that purpose i have created a wiki page as well as an Etherpad where you can submit such examples. In the simplest form such an example is just a link with the URL pointing to a certain place on the map you would like to see discussed and explained. Ideally you should add a few words on what specifically you would like to see discussed because often there will be other things visible in the map as well.

I plan to make this an interactive workshop allowing those who submit an example to participate in the discussion if they would like to (though this is strictly optional of course). But to allow me to prepare for the case examples it would still be desirable to submit those in advance.

You can submit your case examples on any topic and any place on the map but of course i reserve the right to pick those examples from the submissions i consider most interesting for a wider audience (and you can also indicate if you are interested in examples submitted by others on the wiki/pad). If there are more examples submitted than can be covered in the workshop i will try to discuss them on the wiki after the conference.

Feel also free to add any comments and thoughts on the workshop idea and format here or on the wiki talk page.

When the OSMF board started their survey i posted here some critical commentary on the design of the survey. Now that the results have been published (and the board should be commended for doing so in a fairly comprehensive fashion) there has been analysis and interpretations presented from various sides. I also already made a few comments as part of my report from the advisory board and although i don’t want to do any more elaborate numbers processing i wanted to share my overall impressions of the survey taking into account the responses as well. As before with my comments on the questions and also in contrast to most of the other analysis that has been presented so far this is focusing less on technical analysis and more of overall qualitative considerations and methodological critique.

Retrospective questions (F1-F5)

The first five questions of the survey were asking for retrospective approval or disapproval on some specific decisions of the OSMF board. I already commented on the issues of these questions in detail while the survey was running. My primary impression from the results on these is that the approval in the resposes is actually weaker than i anticipated considering the leading character and selection of the questions. In other words: Despite the questions specifically not being of a nature that is likely to evoke strong negative reactions the answers show a remarkably broad spectrum of views.

What should be clear though - and i hinted at that in my comments on the design of the questions already - is that the reduction of complex multi-dimensional matters to a simple one-dimensional approval/disapproval scale inevitably aggregates very different attitudes to identical answers. In question F1 for example (the diversity topic) the strong disapproval voices probably contain both those who consider the whole diversity topic to be esotheric touchy-feely snowflake mumbo-jumbo and want the board to ignore the whole matter as well as those who think the board is doing way too little with creating committees and should simply ban all white European males from OSM for life (yes, i am exaggerating here - but most will get my point). Equally the ‘neutral answers’ will consist of those who have no opinion on the matter and those who have a strong opinion which however is fully orthogonal to what the board asked specifically. And finally the approvals most certainly consist of people who think tasking some committee is a good way to deal with the problem without changing anything of substance as well as those who project their desire of what meaningful measures such committee should propose in their opinion into their answer to the question.

So as i said a long time ago - if the purpose of these questions was for the board to pat themselves on the back and reassure themselves they did good that would be a very wasteful use of the instrument of a survey. If the goal is to critically evaluate past decisions with the aim to potentially adjust or revise them and to make better decisions in the future those questions and their answers are decidedly non-helpful.

Future oriented questions (S1-S3)

The other three topical questions of the survey were targeted at future decisions of the OSMF and the results show a noticably stronger differentiation across demographics than with F1-F5, which is noteworthy because the board concentrated on F1-F5 when they tried to argue for the lack of bias and for the poll allegedly being representative for the OSM community.

Like with the retrospective questions i already presented my critique of the question design while the survey was running. The analysis of the results the board has now presented allows me to illustrate that critique more clearly. The first question was asking respondents to prioritize a number of tasks (or more accurately: topics, because they are too unspecific to be actually called tasks) and the board in their analysis averaged these prioritizations. Such determination of an average of ratings of a set of items is inherently based on the assumption that the set is complete or in other words in this case: That these are the only significant topics to consider for the OSMF board and that there are no other topics of importance. To illustrate why that is the case here a short abstract example:

Imagine you have a set of five topics/tasks given to be rated (A,B,C,D,E) and another three topics/tasks (X,Y,Z) considered by the respondents to be worthy of inclusion in the set. And we have seven respondents in the survey who would want to rate the topics like this:

AXYZBCDE
AXYZBCDE
AXYZBCDE
XYZBACDE
XYZBACDE
XYZBACDE
XYZBACDE

Now if you calculate the average using the method the board used you get to

A: (3*8 + 4*4)/7 = 5.714
X: (3*7 + 4*8)/7 = 7.571
Y: (3*6 + 4*7)/7 = 6.571
Z: (3*5 + 4*6)/7 = 5.571
B: (3*4 + 4*5)/7 = 4.571
C: (3*3 + 4*3)/7 = 3.0
D: (3*2 + 4*2)/7 = 2.0
E: (3*1 + 4*1)/7 = 1.0

so topic ‘A’ is rated higher on average than topic ‘B’. However if you now would not include topics X,Y,Z in the survey you would get the responses

ABCDE
ABCDE
ABCDE
BACDE
BACDE
BACDE
BACDE
A: (3*5 + 4*4)/7 = 4.429
B: (3*4 + 4*5)/7 = 4.571
C: (3*3 + 4*3)/7 = 3.0
D: (3*2 + 4*2)/7 = 2.0
E: (3*1 + 4*1)/7 = 1.0

so topic ‘B’ in this case would appear to be rated higher than topic ‘A’. Apart from that of course also here the vagueness of the options is an issue. For example with the topic “Attribution guidelines” this is quite evident. So far the OSMF has indicated the only kind of guidelines they are considering is something very lenient and corporate friendly. Most knowledgable respondents will have likely assumed that giving this topic priority would mean giving a corporate friendly attribution guidelines priority. Hence the repondents giving this topic low priority probably consist of those who think such guidelines are not necessary or not desirable as well as those who would like a meaningful guideline reflecting the views of the OSM community on attribution but who do not believe the OSMF would create such guidelines so they prefer the OSMF not to pursue this topic at all to pursuing it primarily in the interests of corporate OSM data users.

The main technical issue with the other questions was as mentioned the lack of a ‘none of the above’ option so when you look at the responses it is important to consider what answers will likely have been chosen in lieu of a ‘none of the above’ option.

In case of the AI mapping question that choices would probably have been the ‘continue to take no position’ option (39.6 percent) - except for those who explicitly would want the board to get active but in a way that is neither approving not banning these methods who would have possibly chosen the ‘no opinion’ option (9.7 percent) despite them having an opinion on the matter.

In retrospect you can say the question could not have been designed better to accomodate the interests of the large corporate interests in the OSMF. The main interest of those is to prevent meaningful regulation of such activities. And the logical option ‘adopt a policy to regulate use of ai/ml tools to ensure the primacy of local knowledge and the local community’ is explicitly missing. It is almost certain that such an option would have gained more support than either of the radical options and potentially even more than the moderate options offered. So independent of the question if this selective set of possible answers was a conscious choice of the board to engineer a certain outcome or not (i would assume not - Hanlon’s razor) this is a great example how you can design a survey in a way that ensures a certain overall outcome (no support for meaningful regulation).

And in that regard the third of these three question is actually the most interesting one because despite all the deficits i have mentioned about it, it is asked in a fairly open form. And it is also the question yielding the most surprising results. I would have expected there to be more support for the ‘paying developers’ options, especially on a topic that is of practical interest for many. But i have probably underestimated how well many in the OSM community understand the dynamics of paid development and that this is not so likely to develop in a direction beneficial for the larger community and how many, especially also newcomers, value the volunteer work in the community.

What i wonder is if that sentiment is specific to map development or if a similar view is prevalent regarding paid development in general. One really interesting question for the survey would have been: Do you overall prefer OSM related software being developed exclusively by volunteers (like in case of the JOSM editor) or do you prefer development to be led by paid developers (like in case of the iD editor).

As i have said before the prudent thing to do in this field (new map rendering technologies) would be to look into strategic investment and cooperation with free software development projects (for example through organizations like OSGeo) to support development of tools suitable for community map design projects with a long term future perspective. But i am not sure if the OSMF at the moment has the capacity to act strategically on that time scale. So the choice not to rush doing something concrete at the moment, that seems to be the current approach of the board on this, is not a bad initial choice despite this specific option only being chosen by 8.7 percent of the respondents.

Free form answers

Unfortunately so far the board has only published English language translations mixed with original English language comments without indicating which of the comments are just approximate representations of a comment and which are actually genuine articulations. This makes more detailed analysis impossible unfortunately (you would analyse the design of the translation tool just as much as the articulation of the respondents). What the free form comments however allow is getting an anecdotal impression of the mindsets with which people have participated in the survey - which was helpful in better understanding the answers and this way contributed to my analysis above.

Conclusion

To conclude i want to go back to the starting question of the survey and the matter of diversity.

There is an irony in that on multiple levels: The key to substantially supporting diversity in a society is to protect minorities and provide them the space they need to flourish, even against the articulated interests of a majority. Yet the subject of diversity is covered in the survey in form of a single question asking for retroactive one-dimensional approval or disapproval on a decision of the board that has been made without broader input from the OSM community in all its diversity, that has no immediate effect on the matter of diversity at all and so far has also not led to any decision of substance in that field either. And in interpreting the answer to that question the board is looking exclusively at the average, in other words: The majority opinion. It is at the very core of the idea of doing a statistical survey to look primarily at the statistical average and not at the outliers.

But the irony goes a step further: The justification for supporting minorities even against the articulated interests of a majority is evidently an ethical argument. And ethics is obviously a domain rooted in and depending on reason - the same reason the board seems to reject when countering reason based critique of their actions not with arguments but by presenting survey results that seems to indicate majority support for their actions.

The bottom line is genuine bottom-up diversity in the OSM community is fueled by the openness, tolerance, generosity and reason of the individual OSM community members giving each other the space and freedom to express themselves according to their individual preferences and values - no matter now much away they are from the statistical average determined by some survey. If a survey helps people to realize this, that is great but the OSM community cannot depend on survey results telling wannabe community managers how exactly they need to engineer the community to achieve the kind of pseudo-diversity on paper someone somewhere has thought up to be desirable.

Heute hat der OSMF-Vorstand ein Treffen mit dem Advisory-Board abgehalten. Anwesend waren Vertreter der Local Chapters (so weit ich mich erinnere Italien, Irland, Belgien, Tschechien, Kozovo, Slovakei, Schweiz, UK, US und Deutschland), ein Firmenverterter (Andrew Turner, ESRI) sowie der OSMF-Vorstand (alle anwesend außer Tobias). Im Grunde war es also ein zweites Treffen zwischen dem Vorstand und dem local-chapter-Teil des AB (nach dem ersten Treffen am 5 October 2020) - wenngleich ich es ausdrücklich würdigen möchte, dass Andrew Turner teilgenommen hat, während die übrigen Firmenvertreter durch Abwesendheit glänzten (und vermutlich ihre Separat-Treffen mit dem Vorstand bevorzugen). Ich will das heutige Treffen hier noch mal detailliert kommentieren, da es mein letztes Treffen dieser Art sein wird (ich trete auf der Mitgliederversammlung des FOSSGIS im März wie bereits erwähnt nicht mehr für diese Funktion an) - in der Hoffnung, dass die geschilderten Erfahrungen für andere in der Zukunft von Nutzen sind.

Es gab eine Tagesordnung mit fünf Punkten und einem engen Zeitplan, der - durchaus erwartbar - am Ende um 50 Prozent überschritten wurde. Abgesehen von der Runde zu den Plänen 2021 der Local Chapters (wo jeder was gesagt hat) war das Treffen von den Gesprächsanteilen vom Vorstand dominiert, gefolgt von den englischen Mutterprachlern aus den LCs (insbesondere Rob und Dermot). Ich hab von den nicht englischen Mutterprachlern vermutlich am meisten geredet, aber insgesamt wohl nicht mehr als etwa 3 Prozent der Zeit.

Nachdem ich beim vorherigen Treffen den Eindruck hatte, dass dieses vor allem auch wegen fehlender Vorbereitung wenig produktiv war, hab ich dieses Mahl ein bisschen Zeit in die Vorbereitung investiert und meine Notizen dazu den anderen vorher zugänglich gemacht. Diese sind auch im folgenden auf Englisch enthalten. Geholfen hat das nicht allzu viel, eine tiefer gehende Diskussion zu den Themen kam kaum zustande. Das ist jetzt nicht wirklich verwunderlich und auch nichts, wo man irgendjemandem jetzt individuell einen Vorwurf draus machen kann. Meine Schlussfolgerung ist aber im Grunde, dass für die Aufgabe, die das Advisory-Board meiner Ansicht nach haben sollte und hat, live-Audio/Video-Treffen ein wenig geeignetes Format sind. Selbst mit umfassender Vorbereitung aller Teilnehmer auf die Themen und unbegrenzt verfügbarer Zeit wäre so was in Anbetracht der kulturellen und sprachlichen Vielfalt im AB eine riesige Herausforderung. Und in einem eng getakteten Zeitplan mit 10-Minuten-Slots für die Themen ist das praktisch unmöglich.

Board to share themes & plans from the 2021-02 Board Screen2Screen meeting - Rory (Board)

Der Vorstand hat hier ein bisschen von seinem internen Klausur-Treffen berichtet, aber recht allgemein, weniger ins Detail eigentlich als die veröffentlichten Notizen.

Gab dazu keine Fragen oder Kommentare.

Meine Notizen aus der Vorbereitung

  • suggest to discuss the matters openly with the community, ideally before they are discussed in depth within the board and plans have already been made.
  • comprehensive discussion of all the individual topics probably far outside the scope of an AB meeting, board should be specific on what they seek advice on from the AB.

roundtable update: 2021 plans from local chapters and companies? - Mikel (Board)

Hier wurden die Vertreter im Advisory-Board Reihe um gebeten, die Pläne ihrer Organisation für das nächste Jahr vorzustellen. Jeder hatte dafür maximal eine Minute, war also nicht viel zu sagen. Ich hab im Wesentlichen meine Notizen wiedergegeben:

  • first virtual FOSSGIS AGM in March
  • virtual 2021 FOSSGIS conference in June
  • further explore and improve on use of virtual meetings to maintain social connections within the OSM community (both locally in Germany as well as across borders)

Delegating some microgrant decision-making to Local Chapters - Jez (OSMUK)

Das war ein Punkt, der von OSMUK vorgeschlagen worden war. Meine Vorbereitungs-Notizen dazu:

  • could be of value if there is substantial delegation of decision making powers, not if it just means the LCs - like the microgrants committee - do the work but the board has the ultimate decision on everything.
  • so far there has been complete silence from the OSMF on the microgrants after the announcement of the recipients.
  • subsidiarity - local microgrants should be prioritized over OSMF ones.
  • learn substantially from LC microgrants for OSMF microgrants (missed opportunity during first round).

Die Diskussion war nicht sehr konkret. Ich hatte ein bisschen den Eindruck, dass es in erster Linie um die Idee ging, für das eigene LC ein Kontingent oder ein Stimmrecht oder schlicht und einfach einen Batzen Geld zum Verteilen zu bekommen. Ich hab noch mal kurz beschrieben, wie im FOSSGIS das Förderprogramm läuft und ansonsten auf die Punkte in den Notizen verwiesen.

Positiv zu erwähnen ist, dass der Vorstand hat durchblicken lassen, dass er sich bewusst ist, dass da bei den Microgrants eine ganze Menge unbearbeitete Hausaufgaben bei der OSMF liegen (Details).

How will OSMF ensure progress is made on infrastructure things that are stuck? See examples below. - Rob (OSMUK)

  • Translations on diary posts (this was an action from last year’s OSMF Board & LC meeting). How to move the issue on?
  • Mailing lists migration to Discourse (GH issue)

Das war einer von zwei Punkten, die Rob eingebracht hatte, der andere war die OSM-Webseite, der hat es aber nicht auf die Tagesordnung geschafft. Meine Notizen sind deshalb aus beiden Punkten aggregiert:

  • decisions on the OSM website are traditionally made through do-ocracy and community consensus and out of scope of the OSMF. That means if someone makes a concrete suggestion to change something on the website, discussion will attempt to reach consensus on this. For larger changes this has historically been a wider discussion.
  • unless the OSMF board decides to take control of the website i would not be comfortable discussing this on the AB and subvert do-ocracy and community consensus building. Discussion of OSM website design questions should happen in public, be open to everyone and be based on concrete do-ocratic proposals.
  • the OSMF could of course support translations in general by supporting development and access to translation tools and sevices.
  • in any case mind the FOSS policy (https://wiki.osmfoundation.org/wiki/FOSS_Policy: “All software used to run the core website and API services of OpenStreetMap will always be open.”)
  • the OSMF providing a new communication platform/channels (discourse) - it seems that matter is currently in the stage of early consideration of feasibility. Volunteer support for OSM systems integration would probably be welcome but without the OWG stating that other forms of support are explicitly wanted there does not appear to be anything the AB can productively do.
  • the question if individual communities using certain communication channels in OSM would like to migrate to a new platform. While there have been some preliminary discussions on this on the forum IIRC that practically can only be decided through consensus of the specific community on every single of the communication channels after it is clear and can be tested what functionality the new platform will offer practically.
  • i would strongly advise against trying to forcibly unify and homogenize different communication channels with different social traditions, conversation styles or subcultures - see also Andy Allan’s comment on github on this (https://github.com/openstreetmap/operations/issues/377#issuecomment-602457045)
  • diversity is a major asset of OSM - also in communication channels.

In der Diskussion ging es in erster Linie um Discourse wenngleich Rob auch versucht hat, das Webseite-Thema mit anzuhängen. Die Diskussion blieb aber oberflächlich (Notwendigkeit eines Ersatzes für die aktuelle Software auf help.openstreetmap.org und dem Forum, wenngleich die eigentliche Motivation bei manchen recht klar primär zu sein schien, das bei ihnen verhasste Medium Mailigliste aus OSM zu verbannen). Gab auch natürlich wieder das bekannte Framing der Fragmentierung in der OSM-Community (Context). Kurz zusammengefasst: Im Westen nichts neues.

Dankenswerterweise wurde von Guillaume zumindest erwähnt, dass die OSM-Webseite eigentlich nicht zum Aufgabenbereich der OSMF gehört. Interessant war auch zu hören, dass es anscheinend konkrete Pläne vom OSMF-Vorstand gibt, jemanden für Arbeit zu Discourse zu engagieren (der verwendete Begriff war ‘hire’ - es ist aber schon bekannt, dass der OSMF-Vorstand diesen auch für unabhängige Ausftragsnehmer (contracting) verwendet) - etwas, das bis dahin nocht nicht öffentlich bekannt war.

Report on OSMF Survey - Allan (Board)

Hier hat Allan die Ergebnisse der vom Vorstand durchgeführten Umfrage der OSM-Community vorgestellt und es wurde zum ersten Mal deutlich, wie der OSMF-Vorstand anscheinend beabsichtigt, die Ergebnisse politisch zu verwenden. Ich hatte die bis dahin veröffentlichten Ergebnisse schon angeschaut und auf Grundlage davon folgende Notizen gemacht:

  • Preliminary comments based on what has been published so far on (https://wiki.osmfoundation.org/wiki/2021_Survey_Results) - which looks very promising in terms of plans to transparently publish results as far as possible while preserving anonymity.
  • already commented in details on issues with the survey design (https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/imagico/diary/395471), lack of outside review has led to serious missed opportunity.
  • survey results will reflect communication differences (variability in understanding of the questions, variability in baseline for the answers and how to articulate ‘none of the above’ answers in the absence of such option) at least as much as sentiments regarding the subject matter.
  • surveys are not a suitable substitute for argument based discourse, on most of the subjects the board has not engaged in an open argument based discourse with the community so far.
  • missing in published data so far: Free form answers in original language and identification if the text is a translation.
  • p-test indicates probability that the results can be explained by null hypothesis, nothing else.
  • beware influences of undertermined demographic biases. The composition of respondents from one country/gender or other group could for example differ significantly from the rest in terms of education levels, wealth, social environment or other factors and the difference in response could be due to the latter and not the former.

Allan hat in der Präsentation recht viel Zeit und Energie darauf verwendet, die Behauptung zu untermauern, die Erhebung wäre weitgehend frei von Verzerrungen (Bias) und würde ein repräsentatives Meinungsbild der OSM-Community darstellen. Weiterreichende Schlussfolgerungen wurden noch nicht gezogen, aber wesentliche Punkte schienen zu sein:

  • Der Vorstand sieht sich in seinen Entscheidungen aus dem vergangenen Jahr bestätigt.
  • Der Vorstand sieht sich auch in seiner Priorisierung von Zielen für die nähere Zukunft bestätigt, wenngleich Details in der Reihenfolge der Prioritäten ein bisschen Erstaunen hervorgerufen haben.
  • Bezüglich der Frage zur Verwendung von Maschinenlernen im Mapping wurde konstatiert, dass eine Mehrheit der Befragten die Entscheidung dazu den lokalen Communities überlassen möchte.
  • Bezüglich der Frage zu vector tiles auf osm.org war die Schlussfolgerung, dass es keine klare Mehrheit für aktive Maßnahmen der OSMF gibt.

In der Diskussion habe ich erwähnt, dass ich der These, dass die Erhebung keine wesentlichen Verzerrungen (bias) aufweist, nicht zustimmen würde. Allan hat zum Beispiel eine signifikant höhere Zustimmung von Frauen aus Deutschland und Frankreich im Vergleich zu Männern zur Diversity-Politik des Vorstands konstatiert. Abgesehen davon, dass hier Deutschland und Frankreich herauszugreifen, wärend zu keiner anderen Region eine vergleichbare Analyse durchgeführt wurde, einen recht merkwürdigen Schwerpunkt setzt und dass eine Zustimmung zur Frage F1 kaum als allgemeine Zustimmung zur Diversity-Politik des Vorstands interpretiert werden kann, ist die Annahme, dass die männlichen und weiblichen Teilnehmer an der Umfrage abgesehen vom Geschlecht vergleichbar sind natürlich nicht belegt. Folglich: Auch wenn es durchaus einleuchtend wäre (um icht zu sagen: naheliegend), wenn Frauen und Männer zum Themengebiet der Frage F1 im statistischen Mittel eine unterschiedliche Haltung haben, steht die Behauptung, dass die Umfrage-Daten dies für Deutschland und Frankreich belegen, auf sehr dünnem Eis. Praktisch ist dies in diesem Fall nicht so sonderlich wichtig, da es sich wie gesagt nicht um eine wirklich überraschende Schlussfolgerung handelt, es besteht aber eine erhebliche Gefahr, dass die Interpretation der Umfrage nach diesem Schema hochgradig zu einer Kaffeesatz-Leserei ausartet, wo jeder das in die Daten hineinliest, was er da drin sehen möchte.

Es gab zur Umfrage eine ganze Reihe von durchaus interessanten Kommentaren verschiedener Teilnehmer, die ich aber aus dem Gedächtnis nur ungenau wiedergeben könnte - deshalb sei hier auf das offizielle Protokoll der Sitzung verwiesen, wenn dieses verfügbar ist - wie auch zu Details zu den übrigen Punkten.

My would-be answers to the OSMF board survey

Posted by imagico on 18 January 2021 in English (English). Last updated on 19 January 2021.

The OSMF board started a survey of the OSM community and in tradition from previous surveys i wanted to publish my answers here. However as the title indicates already i did not actually participate in the survey this time because in most of the eight main questions i did not feel like the form of the survey gave me the ability to accurately answer the question. And answering the questions is mandatory, i could not participate in the survey without answering them. Therefore i decided to refrain from submitting answers which would in the majority of the question not have correctly represented my view on the question.

I will explain why that is the case and what my answers actually are in the following.

Just to avoid any misunderstandings - just because i did not submit the survey does not mean i suggest to anyone else to not do so either. On the contrary, if you feel like you can articulate your view on the questions in the survey in a meaningful manner then you should do so.

For reference - the full survey in English can be read without registration on https://imagico.de/files/survey_osmfboard_2021.png

Question F1:

I already commented at length on the so called Diversity Statement issued by the OSMF board and the Committee created in that context. But the question is not about the Diversity Statement (which is not even mentioned in the notes for the question) but about the creation of the committee and about tasking the LCCWG with recommending a response to a recently published pamphlet critical of the OSM community.

As i have written in my comment on the Diversity Statement i saw chances in the creation of that committtee but evidently the committee so far did not live up to these hopes. That however does not make the creation of that committee in itself necessarily a bad decision. Equally, i think the board asking a working group for advice on how to react to critique of the OSM community is not a bad thing to do. It is evidently not appropriate or wise as the main reaction to the mentioned pamphlet though.

I think the board has so far not made meaningful efforts to address the OSMFs own failure to adequately represent the OSM community in its full, in particular cultural, diversity in its internal structure and culture and even further has in the past year turned into a culturally more narrow organization focussing more on representing special interests in the OpenStreetMap project rather than providing a neutral supportive environment for the whole OSM community to profit from.

So i am definitely not neutral on the question, i have a strong opinion (and strong arguments) on the matter of diversity in the OSMF - yet as said i neither agree nor disagree with the specific measures the question refers to. Hence i can’t give an answer to the question as asked that properly represents my view on the matter.

Question F2:

The question is a bit difficult to parse because of the amount of partly ambiguous subtext contained. First it is centered about the framing of “increased costs of maintaining the platform”. That increase in expenses is of course the result of specific decisions made by the board. The question however frames these costs as a matter of fact not subject to discussion and asked for agreement or disagreement with the way these expenses are meant to be financed by large targeted donations.

The list of things included in the costs is also a bit weird and prone to misunderstanding. It separates ‘software’ and ‘personnel’. I strongly hope that the OSMF does not pay any singificant amount of money on licensing software and by ‘software’ in this context they mean paying developers for doing open source software development - which in my eyes is the same as ‘personnel’.

My answer to the question as i explained i understand it would be that i have a differentiated opinion on the decision of spending more money. In the way the OSMF board has approached this it is in large parts counterproductive because it massively interfers with the social dynamics within the project (and within the OSMF - see here and here for a discussion of parts of the problem). More generous spending for neutral infrastructure for everyone in the OSM community to use under their own initiative i would OTOH see rather positively.

The sourcing of money from external business interests i see very critically - so on that dimension i would be inclined in answering the question with a strong disagreement. But that critical view is not limited to the targeted donations, it in a similar fashion applies to the income received from corporate memberships. And i don’t think it necessarily has to be a problem to receive money from outside interests if the organization does not depend on it and has the structural robustness as well as internal checks and balances to avoid the money having an influence on policy decisions. Both the framing of the question and OSMF politics during the past year however indicate that the current board sees financial dependency on corporations (and therefore their economic influence on OSMF politics) as inevitable.

So again i have a strong opinion on the whole matter but again that goes in a dimension more or less orthogonal to the question asked.

Question F3:

In this case i do not only consider the framing of the question a bit weird but outright inaccurate. With the exception of Potlatch maybe the specific contracts made with the developers of the mentioned software products were on anything but small-scale, one-time, limited-scope, short-term projects, they were small-scale, short-term financial contributions to rather long term projects of extensive scope. Also i don’t think the statement that “these products had previously been maintained wholly by volunteers” is accurate. At least in case of osm2pgsql i think Jochen (and possibly in the past also Paul) have done osm2pgsql development as part of paid work.

I explained my thoughts on the decision to hand pick these three projects from multiple perspectives already and as said here while i consider it definitely valuable to support these three developers for their work on these projects i consider the way the OSMF board approaches this as an ad hoc decicion to support people “whose work we know and enjoy” highly problematic.

So in this case my anwer would have been quite clearly a strong disagree - though i see a serious risk that this would not be interpreted in the differentiated fashion it is meant.

Question F4:

Here the framing of the question is once again prone to be misunderstood - and in this case also strongly leading the respondent to a certain desirable answer. Historically at least two people (Bryan and Quincy) have been working on iD development while being paid by external interests. And putting into the foreground that control of iD maintenance is shifted from a third party to the OSM community (which still remains to be seen if that is de facto the case) is massively leading the survey participant to a positive answer.

My answer to this question is again more differentiated than the simple one-dimensional black and white “you are either for or against us” design allows me to formulate. I think the key here is - and this has been discussed at length in the past already - that the OSMF board did not look at the matter broadly enough to make a qualified decision considering how much influence this is going to have. The dispute about the dominance of iD in OSM editing, what problems this brings with it in the long term and how this can be dealt with is both older and broader than the narrow perspective the board took on that. And much of this problem will still exist after Quincy is being paid by the OSMF and will come back to us in the future in the long term.

So like with the previous question my answer here would be a strong disagree - which again however would insufficiently communicate my opinion on this matter.

By the way - i would like to mention in advance that it would be very interesting to know how the answers to this question correlate to the question if the respondent has ever used an editor other than iD and if they are even aware that such editors exist.

Question F5:

My spontaneous reaction to this is that based on what happened it seems that on multiple levels the board disagreed with their own decision here. I mean both the current board evidently disagreeing with the framework for the microgrants program as put in place by the previous board but not being willing to revise that framework as a result of that and the board disagreeing with the decisions of the committee they tasked with the decision to issue the microgrants to applicants as evidenced but financing some of the applications not chosen outside the program essentially overruling the committee.

But i am digressing. I think the microgrants program failed to live up to its potential so far by not sufficiently involving the overall OSM community in the whole process - which was largely caused by practical implementation being much less transparent than originally promised and by the fact that contrary to the original plans of taking inspiration from the FOSSGIS microgrants (Förderanträge) it was ultimately modelled mostly directly on the HOT microgrants program.

If no lessons are taken from this experience through an honest critical analysis of the failures of the first round (for which i see no indication so far) i think it will not have been much more than a waste of quite a lot of money in the long term. In principle however i think the concept of microgrants has a lot of potential when used well.

And i don’t see any way to enter this view into the survey as it is designed.

Question S1:

This question asked me to rank seven tasks for the coming year in their order of priority. I have two big problems with that:

  • First it implies that these are the only tasks of importance right now. Why don’t i have the possibility to specify other things that i think should have priority?
  • Second none of the tasks specified is actually a task in the sense that you can objectively determine if the task has been fulfilled or not. They are topics at best - and fairly vague ones in addition. Different survey participants will read very different things into each of them and they will end up ranking very different things which still get aggregated into the same survey result.

But none the less i will try to do my best briefly commenting on each of the topics here:

  • Stability of core infrastructure (hardware, software, human capital). If you read this together with question F2 it seems quite clear that the board views this as code for spending money. I don’t think that this should have priority. If i ignore this coded meaning i think core infrastructure in the narrow sense (i.e. the infrastructure necessary for the main OSM data pipeline API -> main database -> planet files + diffs) should have very high priority for the OSMF. But because of that this high priority work should also not be conflated with the other lower priority functions the OSMF covers although we do not depend on the OSMF for them.
  • Takeover protection. I stated my view on that already in the pointed way that the takeover has already happened. So it does not make much sense to focus on trying to protect against some external hostile takeover attempt. The important thing would be to restructure the OSMF to a more federated design with less centralized control over things to avoid special interests which are already fairly massively present within the OSMF to gain a lot of influence on key assets of the OSMF (data rights, contributor database, policy and other official public communication).
  • Outreach to Local Chapters and Communities. I am afraid this is fairly vague. What the OSMF board should invest much more energy in than in the past year is symmetric, two-way, open channel communication with the people from different parts of the community. Listening to what people have to say and engaging in open, argument based discourse with the community members. It seems however the term “Outreach” is indicative for a much more top-down, asymmetric communication and it is aiming at organized interests rather than talking to individuals.
  • Attribution Guidelines. Well - i summarized the problem here already. The OSMF board needs to decide if they want to follow the money that feeds them and clash with large parts of the OSM community as a result or if they want to decide representing the OSM community and risk an open conflict with economically powerful special interests. What you should not do is invest a lot of time in finding a way to do neither. That will not lead to a long term solution.
  • Recruitment for Working Groups. Again - i discussed that topic already at length. This is largely a home made problem. That fact that the board thinks about the need to recruit people for working groups which traditionally form and recruit themselves on their own is indicative of that. Like with the previous topic you need to decide if you want to view this as a numbers game and try to recruit people through external interests or if you want to address the problem that the OSMF becomes increasingly unattractive for large parts of the OSM community in substance by changing the OSMF to become more attractive again for hobbyist volunteers who are not motivated by external interests.
  • Fund-raising: I think framing this as a task on its own fails to see that the need for it stems exclusively from the declared need to spend large amounts of money. IMO an open discussion on the spending of money (which i think has not really happened yet) needs to preceed any plans for organized fund raising. Otherwise you will end up with a vicious circle of spending and fund raising that will detatch itself from the question what the overall justification for it is.
  • Brexit: Brexit itself is history so this very much depends on what problems exactly you want to address here. I have mentioned that i would consider the idea of moving the OSMF from the UK to the EU as a good opportunity for implementing important structural changes for a more resilient and more decentralized OSMF. If the board is willing to address that this would deserve to get high priority IMO.

Which leads me to the list of tasks that i find missing on that list:

  • serious corruption prevention that does not rely on the constant ability of everyone in the OSMF to recognize if they have a conflict of interest (which as evidenced multiple times in the past year does not work).
  • more transparency - essentially rolling back the roll-back in transparency that has happened during the past year.
  • actively breaking the English language and Anglo-American cultural dominance in the OSMF.
  • fundamentally restructuring the OSMF to decentralize the power structure and give local communities a substantial (and not just ceremonial) say in OSMF decisions.
  • moving back from seeing every decision as a negotiation between interests to having an argument based discourse and trying to find the best decision based on arguments and reason.

Question S2:

This question was one that made me really angry reading it.

As a general rule whenever someone starts a statement with “Some OSM community members…” i would say what follows is almost certainly incorrect. It implies that what follows is a common sentiment without being willing to specify who the purported community members are and what the arguments behind their view are. It also often, as also in this case, reduced a complex and multi-faceted question on which many community members have a differentiated views to a simplistic and one dimensional black and white decision.

What makes me specifically angry about this question is that i have pointed out the error of this simplistic look on the matter and that both the motivation of those pushing for automated data generation in mapping in OSM and those being critical towards these efforts (though typically not in general of use of computational methods in mapping) are not as one dimensional.

And then it gives you four options to answer or ‘no opinion’ and does not even have the courtesy to allow for a ‘none of the above’ option. That communicates that people have to have either one of the views on this matter the board has come up with or they have to have no opinion on it. Any other opinion is considered essentially invalid.

Like many community members i have talked to about the topic i see a lot of potential and in the long term a lot of room for increased efficiency in and better accessibility of mapping in use of more sophisticated computational methods in mapping (or in other words: Methods that allow mappers to document their local knowledge on a higher level of abstraction than placing individual nodes and tags and to use computer ressources to better support this). At the same time i am highly critical of attempts by organized actors in the OSM context to use the increasing demand for tools in that domain to increasingly try to proprietarize mapping technology as well as to abuse the influence control over mapping technology has to steer volunteer mappers in their interest. Despite the widespread openwashing corporate actors practice in that domain they universally keep training data and methodology proprietary. I am not aware of any practical cases where so called machine learning or artificial intelligence technology is used for mapping in OSM where the local hobby mapper has full control over the technology. That is the core of the problem - which the question does not even mention - not the technology itself.

So my answer to the question would be:

… inform themselves about the differentiated opinions on the subject within the OSM community and the motives behind pushes for these methods into OSM from outside actors in pursuit of their own short term economic interests and the long term risks these pose to OpenStreetMap in terms of control of mapping technology and based on that to consider regulating use of such methods (obviously after fixing the current non-effective regulation of organized activities in OSM in general).

Question S3:

After the previous question has already caused me getting upset this one is just the icing on the cake now. Like the previous it starts conspicuously with “Some OSM community members…”.

The question does not even show a hint of understanding of the cartographic or social challenges of community map design on the side of those asking the question nor does it indicate that such understanding is a necessary condition for giving a qualified answer. The way the question is posed indicates this to be purely an economic question - which completely ignores the technological, artistic and social reality of community map design.

Obviously you could write a lot on the whole matter (and me - and also others - have done so in parts already). Discussion on what the term ‘vector tiles’ could refer to alone is a very extensive question. But i will try to keep it brief. All of the options offered as answers would fail to address the issue the question is about - no matter what exactly that issue is.

As so often my anwer here would be the suggestion to start by having an open discussion. In particular in this case that discussion should start by establishing the difference between the map layers featured on osm.org and the map style(s) hosted on OSMF infrastructure (which the question as is simply conflates into one). For the latter the first aim of the discussion should be to determine what the goals of the OSMF hosting one or more maps actually are. In OSM-Carto i had after i became a maintainer created a document explaining what the purposes and goals of the style are and that document is still valid today. But it is us describing as independent OSM-Carto maintainers what our goals in style development are. There has never been a public discussion in the OSMF what the goals of the OSMF are in hosting this style on OSMF infrastructure (in the context of tile usage policies we have had plenty of discussion on what the aim is of the OSMF offering tiles for external use are but that is a different matter of course). If we in OSM-Carto would suddenly decide to pursue very different goals with our project or if a different style development project would approach the OSMF and request that their style is rendered on OSMF infrastructure instead of OSM-Carto it is not clear based on what considerations the OSMF would make a decision. And if, and only if there are clear goals established for the OSMF on hosting map styles on their infrastructure we could start discussing in a meaningful and productive manner what technological means are most suitable for serving these goals (which is what the question seems to ultimately aim at in substance) and if the OSMF can do something productive to support either technology development in that domain or use of existing technology by community map style development projects.

Question D1-D5:

I am a male OSMF and local chapter member (and also a ‘member’ of a commercial company using OSM data - or more accurately owner and manager) currently located in southwestern Germany. I occasionally map, communicate, use data, develop software and operate hardware and am involved in the project for 5-10 years.

Conclusions

As i have already mentioned on the talk mailing list the OSMF board evidently put quite a lot of work into this survey. Therefore it is particularly regrettable that no review happened on the survey design to iron out the wrinkles that i pointed out above. Relatively little work in tuning the answering options and rephrasing some of the questions to less ambiguity, to being less leading and more neutral and supplementing the provided background information to be less selective and maybe adding a few topical knowledge questions to gauge from what background respondents approach the questions asked, could have helped immensely to generate more valuable and meaningful results.

The most fundamental issue with the design of this survey is probably asking for an agree/disagree answer on specific yet complex and multi-faceted political decisions of the board. As understandable as it is that the board wants to know what opinion people have on these decisions it is doubtful that this will in this form yield meaningful results because (a) as illustrated above many people will have more differentiated opinions on these matters than a simple position on a one-dimensional agree/disagree scale and (b) because of this.

In any case - in conclusion i would like to point out again, and i hope my comments on the questions above illustrate that further, that even a very well designed survey is no substitute of actually arguing and reasoning with people from diverse backgrounds to determine the best course of action. As i have written in my survey comments back in 2019 already:

What you have to keep in mind […] is that a survey always exclusively transports wants and desires, it can by design never serve as an instrument of arguments and reasoning. Reducing communication to a survey cuts you off from arguments and reasoning and prevents you from understanding the underlying motives for people’s desires.

So maybe the survey can serve as an encouragement to people to engage in more open discussion on matters of OSMF politics because they realize that a survey like this alone does not really allow them to articulate their views on such matters nor does it allow you to understand in substance how others think about these things.

Letzter Bericht aus dem Advisory-Board

Posted by imagico on 18 January 2021 in German (Deutsch). Last updated on 19 January 2021.

Der FOSSGIS wird voraussichtlich im März seine Mitgliederversammlung veranstalten - dieses Jahr natürlich virtuell - was ich ungeachtet der oft durchaus netten Atmosphäre, die auf FOSSGIS-Versammlungen traditionell herrscht, für eine gute Entwicklung halte, da sie deutlich mehr Leuten, insbesondere auch aus der OSM-Community, die Chance gibt, daran teilzunehmen.

Für die Mitgliederversammlung möchte ich hiermit, diesmal aus Gründen, die ich erläutern werde, schon deutlich im voraus, meinen traditionellen Bericht als Vertreter des FOSSGIS im Advisory-Board der OSMF geben.

Dieser Bericht fällt dieses Jahr sehr knapp aus, denn wie schon im letzten Jahr erwähnt, ist das Advisory-Board der OSMF als Ganzes so gut wie tot. Der Vorstand konnte sich bis jetzt nicht dazu aufraffen, das Gremium tatsächlich offiziell zu schließen, aber seit der OSMF-Vorstand mit den Firmenvertretern im Advisory-Board regelmäßig nicht öffentliche Gespräche führt, hat im Advisory-Board als Ganzem nichts mehr von Substanz stattgefunden.

Was im letzten Jahr neu eingeführt wurde, sind die 10-Minuten-Präsentationen der lokalen OSM-Communities in den öffentlichen OSMF-Vorstands-Sitzungen. Wir waren da im August dran, Interessierte aus dem Verein waren vorher zu einem Mumble-Meeting eingeladen, um zu diskutieren, was wir da präsentieren wollen. Die Präsentation hat Hanna aus dem FOSSGIS-Vorstand gehalten. Neben dieser regulären, dauerhaften Rolle der lokalen Vertretungen, welche zunächst im Grunde die einzige Rolle war, die aus dem Advisory-Board erwachsen ist (die Unternehmens-Vertreter bekamen ein monatliches Privat-Meeting, die lokalen Vertretungen einen 10-Minuten-Präsentations-Slot in einem öffentlichen Meeting) gab es dann im Oktober noch ziemlich ad hoc eine Einladung zu einem Live-Meeting der Vertreter der local chapters mit einigen Mitgliedern des Vorstands. Es gibt von diesem Treffen noch kein Protokoll, anwesend waren von den lokalen Vertretungen neben mir so weit ich mich erinnere Rob von OSM UK, Dermot von OSM Ireland und Edoardo von OSM Oceania. Es wurden einige Themen angeschnitten, aber auch aufgrund der Tatsache, dass nur wenige Vertreter der lokalen Vertretungen anwesend waren und da kein klares Mandat existierte, welche Funktion diese Art von Treffen haben soll, gab es keine Ergebnisse von Substanz oder einen detaillierteren, vorbereiteten Austausch von Ideen, wie es für ein Berater-Gremium wünschenswert wäre. Ob das zu einer regelmäßigen Veranstaltung werden soll, ist noch nicht klar. Daneben gibt es jetzt in der OSMF auch eine wieder neu geschaffene Arbeitsgruppe LCCWG, wo einige Vertreter von lokalen Vertretungen sich engagieren, deren Funktion in der OSMF aber auch recht unklar ist und wo anders als im Advisory-Board nicht alle lokalen Vertretungen gleichberechtigt eine Stimme haben, die kulturell und sprachlich viel homogener ist und und deren Aktivitäten bis jetzt auch recht spezielle Interessen vertreten.

Insgesamt kann man die Situation der lokalen Vertretungen in der OSMF derzeit also als recht fluide und undefiniert betrachten. Das birgt Potential, Entwicklungen anzustoßen aber keine Verlässlichkeit was Rollen und Einfluss-Möglichkeiten betrifft. Vor diesem Hintergrund hatten wir im letzten Jahr schon ein paar Ansätze gemacht, von Seite des FOSSGIS außerhalb des Advisory-Board Stellungnahmen zu aktuellen Themen in der OSMF abzugeben. Dazu haben wir einige OSMF-Stammtische auf Mumble abgehalten. Als tatsächliche Stellungnahme des FOSSGIS wurde am Ende nur etwas zu bezahlten Kräften in der OSMF veröffentlicht (auch auf Englisch), aber auch die Diskussionen zu anderen Themen waren nützlich. Ich war an diesen Diskussionen beteiligt, aber nicht federführend - Hanna und Michael (Nakaner) haben hier auch erheblich zu beigetragen. Der Unterschied ist natürlich, dass sowas immer nur das Resultat einer Diskussion in der deutschen OSM-Community unter sich ist, während die Idee des Advisory-Board es ursprünglich war, durch einen Austausch zwischen den verschiedenen lokalen Vertretungen Ratschläge und Ideen zu entwickeln, die darüber hinaus gehen, was aus den einzelnen lokalen Communities für sich genommen entwickelt werden kann.

Auf der Mitgliederversammlung des FOSSGIS steht auch die Wahl der Vertretung des FOSSGIS im Advisory-Board an. Und auch wenn das Gremium wie erläutert als Ganzes weitgehend tot ist, fungiert diese Vertretung für den OSMF-Vorstand doch als Ansprechpartner und sollte deshalb vom FOSSGIS und der deutschen OSM-Community produktiv genutzt werden.

Ich verrichte diese Aufgabe jetzt seit drei Jahren und habe schon letztes Jahr angekündigt, dass ich es gut fände, wenn da jemand anderes übernehmen würde und frischen Wind in die Rolle einbringt. Das möchte ich jetzt forcieren und kündige deshalb an, dass ich für die Rolle bei der Wahl im März nicht mehr antreten möchte.

Vor diesem Hintergrund möchte ich noch einen kritischen Gesamt-Rückblick auf die letzten drei Jahre anschließen. Bin ich mit dem, was ich während dieser Zeit erreichen konnte, zufrieden? Sicherlich nicht in jeder Hinsicht. Was mich im Rückblick am meisten ärgert ist, dass ich es nicht geschafft habe, mit anderen lokalen Vertretungen ein Gegengewicht zur englischsprachigen Dominanz in der OSMF zu organisieren. Dies hat sicherlich viel mit der Sprach-Barriere zu tun. Dem FOSSGIS käme hier als dem mit großem Abstand größtem nicht englischsprachigem local chapter eine zentrale Rolle zu, dennoch wäre es für eine solche Initiative essentiell, sich mit anderen nicht englischsprachigen lokalen Vertretungen zu koordinieren, hier insbesondere natürlich die französische, was durch entsprechende Sprachkenntnisse deutlich einfacher wäre.

Ich habe allerdings auch den Eindruck, dass im FOSSGIS der Wille und die Bereitschaft, eine solche Rolle als Gegengewicht gegen die englischsprachige Dominanz in der OSMF einzunehmen, recht begrenzt sind und viele mit der Situation wie sie ist eigentlich recht zufrieden sind und wenig Bedarf nach substantiellen Änderungen sehen. Meine Wahrnehmung, dass aus der Größe und Bedeutung der deutschen OSM-Community hier eine moralische Verpflichtung resultiert, sich für mehr sprachliche und kulturelle Vielfalt und Repräsentation in der OSMF generell einzusetzen, ist eher ein persönlicher Spleen von mir als eine im FOSSGIS verbreitete Überzeugung. Und natürlich sprechen viele im FOSSGIS Englisch besser als jede andere Fremdsprache und die meisten fühlen sich auch der britischen und amerikanischen Kultur näher als den meisten anderen einschließlich der europäischen Kulturen.

Positiv verbuchen möchte ich vor allem, dass es mir während der drei Jahre recht erfolgreich gelungen ist, zu vermeiden, dass das Advisory-Board zu einer Lobbying-Plattform für Unternehmens-Interessen verkommt. Die Bedeutung dieses Einflusses der Repräsentanten der lokalen Communities ist denke ich vielen erst in Nachhinein klar geworden, als, nachdem der OSMF-Vorstand begonnen hat, sich separat mit den Unternehmensvertretern zu treffen, diese sofort begonnen haben, diese Treffen rücksichtslos zum Lobbying und für Einschüchterungs-Versuche gegenüber dem Vorstand zu nutzen. Dass der wichtigste Verdienst aus meiner Zeit im Advisory-Board es also möglicherweise ist, etwas verhindert zu haben, anstatt positiv etwas erreicht zu haben, ist natürlich etwas bedenklich. Überspitzt-kritisch zusammengefasst könnte man auch sagen, dass das Advisory-Board ein vierjähriger Stand-off zwischen den kurzfristigen Profitinteressen größtenteils amerikanischer Unternehmen und den Wertvorstellungen größtenteils europäischer Craft-Mapper-Communities war. Ob das ja jetzt definitiv eingetretene Ende dieses Patts langfristig zu positiven oder negativen Entwicklungen führt, wird sich erst noch herausstellen.

Was sollte ein Kandidat/eine Kandidatin für diese Rolle an Qualifikation mit sich bringen? Neben Verständnis für und Erfahrungen mit der deutschen OSM-Community und Erfahrungen mit der OSMF halte ich möglichst breite Sprachkenntnisse für recht bedeutend. Ich glaube, dass meine eigene Wirksamkeit, im Advisory-Board positiv etwas zu bewirken, vor allem auch dadurch begrenzt war, dass der Austausch und die Koordination mit den anderen lokalen Vertretungen nur auf Deutsch oder auf Englisch möglich war. Wer hier zusätzliche sprachliche Fähigkeiten vorweisen kann, wäre enorm im Vorteil. Daneben sind denke ich vor allem ein gutes Urteilsvermögen und eine Unabhängigkeit von wirtschaftlichen Partikularinteressen im OSM-Umfeld sowie eine Fähigkeit, sich in der englischsprachigen Kommunikation mit Muttersprachlern artikulieren und behaupten zu können, von Nutzen.

Was ich auf jeden Fall anregen möchte, ist, dass diese Funktion des FOSSGIS nicht nebenbei von einem Mitglied des FOSSGIS-Vorstands übernommen wird, sondern eine separate Rolle bleibt.

Wer sich für die Aufgabe interessiert, aber nicht sicher ist, ob das zu ihr oder ihm passt, kann mich gerne nach meiner Meinung oder zusätzlichen Informationen fragen.

In the last board meeting the OSMF board has revealed specifics of their plans for paying people for software development work. These plans have apparently been in the making for some time - but so far the board had in public been very quiet about the details - it was first publicly mentioned in the June board meeting but just vaguely and without any specifics. That was the same meeting in which the microgrants selection has been approved.

The details were now made available just minutes before the meeting started (deja vue) - the plans amount to about half the volume of the microgrants program - but there are apparently further plans to also get financially involved in iD development - this has been hinted at in the meeting but details of this have not been revealed.

I want to share a few thoughts on the plans that came to light now - both on the procedural/policy side of them based on the perspective of for many years having critically followed OSMF work and also on the practical side and the likely implications this has on volunteer work and volunteer projects in the OpenStreetMap world based on more than five years of volunteer work on one of OpenStreetMap’s core projects - the OSM-Carto map style - and on more than 10 years experience as an entrepeneur in the cartography and geodata world.

On the procedural aspects

My critical view of the OSMF board moving more and more to making and deliberating decisions outside public scrutiny is well known and obviously applies here as well. But even if i accept this as a given and as how the OSMF works these days no matter how sharply this contrasts with OSM community values there is still significant peculiarity in the whole thing. This centers on how the three projects the board has selected now were chosen. There is no substantial communication about this but from context and from what has been communicated i see mainly the following options:

  • the projects were chosen from the microgrants applications and were invited to submit a new proposal privately to the board based on that. That seems logical for the osm2pgsql and Potlatch projects for which there were microgrant submissions that got not accepted by the commitee. This however cannot explain the inclusion of the Nominatim project (which is financially the biggest of the three). If this is the case that bears the questions (a) if the board was dissatistied with the selection of the committee - to a committee member this would be a logical conclusion and (b) that willingness to apply to the microgrants program was apparently either a prerequisite or at least a strong plus for being chosen to receive this kind of project support from the OSMF board later. Given the specific constraints of the microgrants program that made it certainly unattractive for quite a lot of people in principle in need for financial support for OSM projects that would be an odd choice. In any case this would have huge implication on any future microgrants programs in the OSMF.

  • the projects were invited based on the board members’ personal selection which projects they consider deserving and/or in need for support like this and/or essential for OSM. That would certainly be the board’s prerogative - it is the OSMF’s money and they are the board of the OSMF. But still it would be remarkable that the considerations of the board based on which this choice was made are completely outside broader scrutiny.

  • in a similar fashion - and the comments in the June board meeting point in that direction - the selection of these projects might have been meant as a personal stipend/grant to people considered valuable/deserving by the board rather than financing of projects independent of the people involved. This possibility comes with the same issue as the previous one - while the board certainly has the right to do this the lack of public documentation of the criteria and the considerations of selection would be remarkable.

  • these projects were not actively chosen by the OSMF board but had actually proactively asked for money and were granted this request. Even if that did not involve a selection by the board that would still bear the question what criteria were used to approve these requests (or if you look at it from a different side: would the board just give money to anyone asking for it?).

That leads me to one other central procedural question: Were there any other projects considered or invited to submit proposals and not chosen?

To be clear - these critical considerations do not mean i find the outcome of the process - however it took place - necessarily questionable. I know Sarah and Jochen and think they are doing good work and although i never used Potlatch i have met Richard and find his views and perspectives on things very valuable. My critical questions are on the procedure and if at all i am concerned that questionable procedure and the possibility of inproprieties involved in that might stain Sarah’s, Jochen’s and Richard’s good work. And i think a well defensible outcome does not justify a questionable procedure to get there. In the same way it does not matter how the board might retroactively justify their decision now that it has been made public - what would have been important to know is how the selection and decision process actually took place (another deja vue).

On the practical effects of financing select projects in the OSM community

What the board has publicly communicated in the meetings is that - independent on the procedural questions discussed above - the justification for supporting these three project is their significance for OpenStreetMap. I think this could have pretty far reaching consequences for volunteer work and the social dynamics around it in the OSM community in the future and this is what i want to discuss in the second part of this post. I try to keep this compact and not go deeply into the overall dynamics of the interaction between paid and unpaid, economically and not economically motivated work in the OSM community. So the following will necessarily be somewhat sketchy.

As i already hinted above when mentioning my own volunteer background in OSM-Carto there are a lot of volunteers involved in projects in the OSM community that were not selected (and probably not even considered) by the OSMF board for receiving financial support and they will all take note of that. For OSM-Carto i can say while i would not have applied for receiving money from the OSMF for OSM-Carto development even when invited to do so there might have been others who might have. The same applies probably for a lot of other projects - think of JOSM or many smaller under-the hood software projects that are not very prominent in public awareness but that none the less play key roles and are often severely underdeveloped.

In projects like OSM-Carto or JOSM of course the problem for the OSMF in financing specific design or development work would have been that they could not be sure that it would actually be accepted by the project maintainers. That is not a problem for the projects that are now supported by the OSMF where decisions are made by the same people who receive the support. Naturally for a centralized organization like the OSMF projects with more centralized control and decision making are more compatible. But that just as a side note.

What will be visible to any voluteers in projects in the OSM community - and to be clear: I am not only talking about software development here - is that the OSMF board now expresses how they value certain activities for the OpenStreetMap project by giving money to them. Many volunteers in the OSM community of course could not care less if their work is valued by the OSMF board but still it is a statement and the OSMF is sitting on quite a lot of money to make this statement with a lot of emphasis - both in where they give money to and where they don’t. Where i think we can already see this clearly foreshadowing is volunteer work directly in the OSMF - the working groups are desperately looking for people to contribute but people naturally will think if they don’t volunteer someone might be able to earn some money for doing the same work. And if not - well, then that work probably was not that valuable after all. No one wants to volunteer for something that is ultimately considered superfluous. That is the situation for hobby contributors - of course for corporate employees that is a bit different since they are not practically eligible for receiving financial support from the OSMF anyway. At the same time volunteering and the potential influence this might result in could be encouraged by their employer. And of course some professional contributors might consider working for the OSMF as a possible alternative to their current job and start viewing their volunteer work as something like an unpaid internship and a possible lead-up to paid employment. All of this massively changes the social dynamics between volunteers in the projects.

Self employed people like me are somewhere in the middle here. I tend to separate my volunteer work on OSM from my professional work quite strictly. And hence as i said i would not be very interested in receiving money from the OSMF for my OSM-Carto work. Like many hobby contributors in OSM i value that in contrast to my day job in my OSM-Carto work i don’t have to make decisions based on economic needs and the wishes of my employer/client. And even if i was willing to make an exception i would not give a discount to the OSMF like Jochen and Sarah do. Because that would mean communicating to my other customers that they are coming up for the balance. Not that the current OSMF board would be willing to give me any money at all even if their life depended on it. ;-)

But if i’d look at it from the entrepreneurial perspective the logical reaction to the board’s decision to start financing projects they deem significant for OSM would be to see the OSMF as a potential customer - which means not providing work for free unless it promises a clear chance for a timely return of investment. And i am not a software developer and the board’s choice to support three software development projects indicates clear priorities here. And of course that would also mean i’d focus my energy on work where i can make myself indispensable and to put emphasis on controlling key parts of projects. Getting down to the nitty-gritty details and working on those in a cooperative fashion, discussing decisions to achieve consensus - all the stuff that traditionally earns you respect and influence in volunteer projects - are of little benefit if your goal is to as an entrepreneur get the OSMF to pay you for OSM related work.

A large number of people will start viewing the OSMF more as a commercial actor with commercial interests now and less as an organization representing the interests of OSM as a social project and acting primarily out of social responsibility. This has the potential to massively change the social mechanisms of volunteerism in the OSM community. Since we don’t know any details about the considerations behind the decision it is hard to tell how much the board is aware of that and how much conscious strategy is behind this.

The application period for the OSMF microgrants program finished a few days ago and i thought i’d share some interesting results from looking over the applications in terms of the raw numbers:

  • The 49 applications listed are asking for a total of about 182k Euro in funding.
  • 9 are asking for less than 2000 Euro
  • 9 are asking for between 2000 and 4000 Euro
  • 9 are asking for between 4000 and 4800 Euro
  • 22 are asking for between 4800 and 5000 Euro

Regarding what the applicants want to use the money for i made a rough classification. There are often border cases of course so don’t take these as exact numbers. Alltogether the applications are asking for

  • ~60k Euro for paid work (directly paying people for work on the project)
  • ~47k Euro for hardware of some sort (from phones to motorcycles)
  • ~29k Euro for commercial services of some sort that are not separately specified in the following - most of this is internet access.
  • ~14k Euro for various sorts of allowances for people
  • ~11k Euro for all kinds of merchandise, gifts and presents other than hardware
  • ~6900 Euro for social media advertisements
  • ~5000 Euro for renting workplaces and rooms
  • ~5000 Euro for administrative costs
  • ~3800 Euro for hosting
  • ~2700 Euro for licensing non Open Source software and services

Not all applications asking for financing paid work specify exact rates but where this is done the hourly rate varies between 7 Euro and 80 Euro. This range does not appear to be much related to differences in living costs, there is one application from the US asking for just slightly more than 8 Euro per hour for example while another from the US is asking for EUR 80 per hour.

Discussion on insufficient attribution of OpenStreetMap, in particular by large data users, has been a hot topic in the OSM community for quite some time and the OSMF has not only been fairly slow in taking substantial actions on this (to some extent understandable because of other urgent matters but overall this has been dragging on way too long) - most of their work on that has so far been centered around policy drafts largely influenced and even written by corporate lobbyists of exactly those data users that often fail to provide appropriate attribution.

As an attempt to provide a counterweight to that i have tried to summarize what seem to be the basic expectations of the hobby craft mapper community regarding attribution as they have manifested in discussions over the past few years. It is my hope that this will either help bringing the OSMF back on the ground of the interests and expectations of the hobby craft mapper community that forms the backbone of OpenStreetMap or - in case that fails - provides a starting point for alternative guidance on attribution that is not dominated by short term corporate interests.

The document is also available on the wiki.

Community attribution advice

This document is an attempt to summarize the expectations the OpenStreetMap hobby craft mapper community has for OSM data users regarding the attribution required by the OpenStreetMap license.

In line with the general culture of OpenStreetMap it does not try to provide firm and inflexible corset of step by step instructions how to attribute but instead gives advise on how the community views attribution and allows data users to meet these expectation under their own responsibility.

Views within the OpenStreetMap hobby craft mapper community on what kind of attribution is or should be necessary varies a bit. This advise in meant to describe the consensus position in the sense that attribution designed based on this advise will find a broad consensus among mappers to be acceptable. To what extent you can practically get away with lesser attribution - either legally or socially - is outside the scope of this document.

Why we require attribution

OpenStreetMap data is produced and maintained primarily by volunteer mappers. Data users do not need to provide any financial or other form of remuneration to mappers for using their work - except attribution. Attribution of use of OpenStreetMap data is the acknowledgement you need to give to the mappers for the work they provide and that you are otherwise free to use. By doing so you express your respect and appreciation of the work of millions of OpenStreetMap contributors that they allow you to freely use. Not all OpenStreetMap mappers individually make their contribution contingent on data users providing attribution but we all expect this attribution to be provided by all data users as the collective position of the whole mapper community based on which we have chosen the license for our data.

What we mean by attribution

What we understand attribution to mean is formally stated in section 4.3 of the ODbL:

“However, if you Publicly Use a Produced Work, You must include a notice associated with the Produced Work reasonably calculated to make any Person that uses, views, accesses, interacts with, or is otherwise exposed to the Produced Work aware that Content was obtained from the Database, Derivative Database, or the Database as part of a Collective Database, and that it is available under this License.”

What we mean by this is that the criterion for a valid attribution is if it effectively makes the user aware that OpenStreetMap data licensed under the ODbL is used. In case of an interactive map the widely used form of attribution shown in one of the corners of the map can fulfill this requirement when displayed at least in a size and prominence comparable to other content displayed on the screen. But it can also fail to do so if displayed right next to a blinking ad catching all the user’s attention for example. It is the responsibility of those who publicly use OpenStreetMap data to ensure the attribution fulfills its purpose and makes the user aware of the provenience of the data.

You need to actively communicate this information to the user to meet these requirements. Merely making it available to users actively seeking this information is not enough.

While we require you to attribute use of OpenStreetMap data we of course also want you to specifically only attribute use of OpenStreetMap data to us and not any other geodata you might use in addition. Therefore you should be specific about what elements of your map or other work are based on OpenStreetMap data in your attribution.

Interactive maps

In interactive applications of OpenStreetMap data like interactive maps it is accepted among mappers if the information about the nature of the OpenStreetMap data license is provided through a link in contexts where links are a generally expected method to provide more detailed information. Condition for this is that the medium of display allows showing the information behind the link in a form readable for the user. This is in particular to be considered for applications that are likely to be used offline.

The traditional form of attribution text in interactive online applications with a link to https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright is “© OpenStreetMap contributors”. This emphasizes the above mentioned purpose of the attribution acknowledging the work of the mappers. The shortened “© OpenStreetMap” is typically also accepted though some mappers prefer the longer and more specific version.

Note making the user aware does not require continuously nagging them about it. In a single user viewing situation it is perfectly all right - and in some cases even desirable - to allow the user to hide the attribution after seeing it.

Non-interactive uses

In non-interactive use cases, like for example a printed map, you have - in addition to attributing the OpenStreetMap contributors - to inform the user that the data is available under the ODbL. Printing a link or a barcode with the link is not sufficient for that. One possible English language attribution text for a map would be

“Contains information from OpenStreetMap, which is made available at openstreetmap.org under the Open Database License (ODbL)”

If you use other data in addition to OpenStreetMap you should specify the scope of OpenStreetMap data use in the attribution.

Concluding remarks

As an OpenStreetMap data user you might still be unsure how to specifically design your OpenStreetMap attribution. As long as you follow the principles outlined above and make a honest and generous effort in meeting the attribution requirement and this way expressing your respect and appreciation of the work of the mapper community you will not run into problems with that and community members will usually be glad to help you with specific suggestions if necessary. Be proud in using OpenStreetMap data in communication with your users and the OpenStreetMap community will be grateful and supportive for you doing so.

Today was the first public OSMF board meeting with video and i thought i’d share a few observations on it.

As background - i had made some general comments on what things would deserve consideration regarding the form of board meetings as well as some more specific concerns regarding the form of hosting for the communication platform. It seems there were some difficulties in understanding that for the board due to differences in the timeframe we looked at the matter on - my considerations were largely long term (read: several years) while the board members seemed to look at it more short term in terms of the next few months.

Anyway - here i am going to share my practical observations, which is probably more strait away to understand.

The newly introduced platform seems to work fairly well - i have not measured the bandwidth requirements so i can’t really tell about that quantitatively but obviously having videos from seven participants being available to you is going to be quite demanding.

As a website running on the web browser this platform has the advantage of not requiring you to install a specific software. OTOH the usability on devices with small screens, in particular phones, is probably severely limited. I also could not find a way to select the microphone to use from within the app. If anyone knows how this can be done please let me know. But obviously this is a minor issue.

If i compare it in terms of audio quality with Mumble i would say it was somewhat worse - but not bad. This assessment is slightly difficult because the use of a video based system has led all participants to set up in a room with a desktop computer or laptop and most with a headset while on Mumble many participants often used a mobile phone. This has a positive effect on the audio quality but that is independent of the platform of course.

The more interesting part is of course how this change in communication platform affected the social aspects. This is of course difficult to say reliably from just one meeting so here just a few more anecdotal observations. There were more guests listening in that usually on Mumble - which might be indicative for lower access hurdles but could also be affected by the meeting having been more prominently announced than other meetings and by the novelty of it being a video meeting.

Personally as someone listening in i had very little benefit from the additional video. The most significant use of the video bandwidth seemed to have been that it was used by the members to indicate they wanted to say something through raise of hand. There was also some occasional nodding or thumbs up gestures but overall most members seemed to be wearing a poker face most of the time.

What i found a bit annoying was the shared drawing board where many of the guests but also some of the board members were drawing on during the meeting. Now while this is certainly a nice and creative activity to engage in and potentially helpful as a communication instrument i doubt it made it easier to focus on the matters of the meeting.

This leads me to a different and more principal observation: Adding additional communication channels to a meeting does not necessarily create an improvement because it also has the potential to divert attention. On mumble this was relatively simple - you had the audio channel and you had a simple text chat. Now on BBB you in addition have the video for every board member and the drawing board and a shared document in addition. In a real world face-to-face meeting someone speaking inherently demands attention, in particular if the meeting is in a relatively small circle. But in an online meeting this is less so and additional communication channels - while having the potential to bring additional benefit - also have the potential to be distracting.

The really interesting question is of course if the new style made the meeting is ultimately more productive. But this is not something i feel i can make an assessment of just from one meeting. There was a full agenda, some of the things discussed were a bit difficult to follow because they were about things that have not (yet) been made available to the OSMF members (stuff from the screen to screen meeting, the OSM US topic). There was productive discussion on some of the topics.

The other IMO important question is how the different style of meeting affects the communication between the board and the members. This is again difficult to tell from just one meeting. No one took the opportunity after the main meeting to ask questions to the board but that also happened on Mumble in the past sometimes. Yet - as i mentioned before - the more hierarchical situation with the board members on video and the guests not and the guests either having to talk in an asymmetric fashion or to show themselves to everyone else could create an additional hurdle.

The speaking slot for OSM Italy as a local chapter worked reasonably well technically but IMO also well demonstrated how real time audio conversation puts people who are not so fluent in English at a distinct disadvantage. As said on the mailing list before - this is IMO not a framework that would provide equal opportunity for different local communities with different cultural backgrounds.

I want to keep this limited to my impressions on the form of the meeting so no comments on the individual agenda items that were discussed - many of which of course probably deserve a longer discussion (which however will in some cases have to wait until we get access to the whole background).

Update: Anonymaps was so nice to post a screenshot:

https://twitter.com/Anonymaps/status/1251187683042357251

Morgen ist FOSSGIS Jahreshauptversammlung und ich habe heute festgestellt, dass ich dafür noch nicht wie letztes Jahr einen Bericht für meine Tätigkeit im Advisory Board verfasst habe. Das möchte ich hier nachholen.

Grund für diese Nachlässigkeit meinerseits ist hauptsächlich, dass dort seit längerem nicht mehr nennenswert was passiert. Es gab gelegentlich ein paar Mitteilungen auf der AB-Mailingliste - größtenteils zu Dingen, die nicht direkt etwas mit dem Advisory Board zu tun haben (meist von Rob oder Heather) aber kaum die Dinge, die eigentlich die Funktion des Gremiums hätten sein sollen, also

  • Anfragen vom OSMF-Vorstand zu Stellungnahmen zu bestimmte Themen
  • Initiativen aus dem Advisory Board, bestimmte Themen zu diskutieren.

Die einzig nennenswerte Aktivität war eigentlich die Bitte um Rückmeldung von Joost zu den Plänen einer vor-SotM-Umfrage. Ich hatte damals schon zuvor etwas detaillierter zum Thema Umfragen im OSMF-Kontext etwas geschrieben und hab dies ergänzt durch ein paar konkrete Bemerkungen zu den Plänen. Das Problem dabei war, dass der OSMF-Vorstand anscheinend eine recht ungewöhnliche Vorstellung von der Funktion der Umfrage als Mittel der Kommunikation zwischen Ihm und der OSM-Community hatte und weniger für das, wofür man Umfragen meist macht - um statistische Informationen über eine Gruppe von Menschen zu gewinnen.

Die letztendlich von Vorstand gestartete Umfrage findet ihr hier, eine Analyse der Ergebnisse hier

Ansonsten fand im letzten Jahr wie gesagt nicht viel im Advisory Board statt und ich würde spätestens seitdem Allan Mustard begonnen hat Einzelgespräche mit vielen Leuten aus der OSM-Community und Firmenvertretern zu führen sagen, dass das Advisory Board tot ist. Ich hab ja schon letztes Jahr angedeutet, dass die Konstruktion des Advisory Board in seiner jetzigen Zusammensetzung aus Firmenvertretern und Vertretern lokaler Communities nicht wirklich funktioniert. Es wäre wünschenswert, wenn der OSMF-Vorstand hier im Verlauf des Jahres die notwendige Konsequenz zieht und das Ganze abschafft. Entscheidend ist aber, dass dies nicht dazu führt, das Advisory Board durch andere, weniger transparente Möglichkeiten zu ersetzen, mit denen Unternehmensvertreter versuchen können, Einfluss auf den OSMF-Vorstand zu nehmen.

Wie ich bereits letztes Jahr angedeutet hatte, scheint relativ klar, dass in der OSMF regelmäßig ein erheblicher Bedarf an sachlicher Kompetenz, Erfahrung und verschiedenen Perspektiven auf diversen Themengebieten besteht. Diesen Bedarf durch jeweils einen Vertreter der organisierten lokalen Communities sowie von finanzstarken Unternehmen decken zu wollen scheint jedoch recht wenig zielführend. Gleichzeitig ist es im Grunde längst überfällig, dass die formell organisierten lokalen Communities ein echtes politisches Mitspracherecht in der OSMF bekommen, was zentrale Entscheidungen für die OSM-Community angeht. Insbesondere da es sicherlich wenig praktikabel ist, so etwas (man könnte es einen OSMF-Rat nennen) ad hoc mit weitreichenden Vollmachten einzuführen, sondern man dies sicherlich nur Schritt für Schritt entwickeln kann, wäre es dringend angeraten, so bald wie möglich damit zu beginnen.

Was die Frage der zukünftigen Repräsentanz des FOSSGIS im Advisory Board angeht - ich hätte nichts dagegen, wenn jemand anderes da Interesse und Ideen für hat, diese Funktion abzugeben. Aber wie erläutert hat das Ganze im Grunde recht wenig Potential und wer sich in der OSMF ernsthaft engagieren möchte, sollte eher die Mitarbeit in einer der Arbeitsgruppen in Erwägung ziehen. Wenn das Advisory Board tatsächlich eine gute Chance für produktives Engagement in der OSMF bieten würde, würde ich mehr darauf drängen, dass hier jemand anderes mal frischen Wind rein bringt. So wie es ist geht es jedoch nicht um viel mehr als darum, die Position zu halten, bis der Vorstand das Licht ausmacht, was ich - falls gewünscht - auch noch ein weiteres Jahr (oder wie angedeutet hoffentlich kürzer) machen kann.

Der OSMF-Vorstand hat gestern in seiner monatlichen Vorstandssitzung die Annahme eines neuen Grundwerte-Dokuments beschlossen, nachdem dieses zweieinhalb Stunden vorher den OSMF-Mitgliedern vorgestellt worden war. Ich möchte hier den Inhalt dieses Dokumentes kritisch beleuchten.

Warum mach ich dies auf Deutsch? Zum einen, weil ich vor einiger Zeit beschlossen habe, Diskussionen zum Themenkomplex Vielfalt und Werte in OpenStreetMap bevorzugt nicht mehr auf Englisch zu führen, um den englischen Muttersprachlern zu verdeutlichen, dass sie nicht die Deutungshoheit über die verwendeten Begriffe fordern können. Zum anderen weil die deutsche Sprache über das einzig passende Genre für diese Arbeit verfügt - den Verriss.

Die Vorgeschichte

Die Vorgeschichte kurz zusammengefasst: Nach den letzten OSMF-Vorstandswahlen gab es einige Unzufriedenheit mit den Ergebnissen von Seiten solcher, die sich etwas anderes gewünscht hatten. Und weil Twitter ja bekanntlich gut geeignet zum kollektiven Empören ist, entlud sich da ein veritables OSM-Bashing mit dem Grund-Tenor, dass es Zeit wird, dass diese Domäne des Patriarchats endlich mal anständig eingenordet wird entsprechend der Werte und Grundsätze, die man in dieser Filterblase nun mal so hat.

Und dem neu gewählten OSMF-Vorstand ging deswegen anscheinend ein bisschen der Arsch auf Grundeis. Das führte im ersten Vorstands-Treffen im Dezember zum unerwarteten Vorschlag von Guillaume, doch eine Diversity-Arbeitsgruppe zu gründen. Ich schrieb dazu bereits einen ziemlich kritischen Kommentar und auch ansonsten war die Reaktion eher verhalten. Es gab dann im neuen Jahr von Mikel einen Tagebuch-Eintrag aber außer einigen Detail-Kommentaren und den üblichen politischen Positionierungen kam da öffentlich nicht viel bei raus. Was ja auch verständlich ist. Wenn der Vorstand sich mit dem Vorhaben aus dem Fenster lehnt, von oben herab eine Arbeitsgruppe zu gründen, dann warten die meisten erst mal ab, wohin die Reise denn gehen soll. Ansonsten ist zumindest für Außenstehende sichtbar nicht viel passiert bis dann Guillaume wenige Stunden vor der Vorstandssitzung das jetzt beschlossene Dokument präsentierte.

Das Problem, vor dem der Vorstand stand war, dass anscheinend so abstrakt wie man das Vorhaben einer Diversity-Arbeitsgruppe präsentiert hat niemand sich dafür vor den Karren spannen lassen wollte. Also dachte man sich wohl, da muss man als Vorstand ein bisschen Vorarbeit leisten, um dem Vorhaben den nötigen Schups zu geben. Also muss ein Grundlagen-Dokument her. Etwas, womit sich Leute identifizieren können und was Leute motiviert, sich dafür zu engagieren. Aber woher nehmen wenn nicht stehlen? Oh, warte - in der Welt freier Lizenzen ist das mit dem Stehlen ja kein Problem. Wo bedient man sich also, wenn man in einer Organisation mit englischsprachiger Dominanz nach einem Grundlagen-Dokument zum Thema Diversity sucht? Richtig: In einem noch stärker englischsprachig und anglo-amerikanisch kulturell dominierten Technologie-Projekt, in diesem Falle Python.

Als der Link zum Python-Projekt zusammen mit einem Verweis zu Twitter dann ohne weitere Erläuterungen vor einiger Zeit auf der Agenda der Vorstandssitzung auftauchte war das erstmal Facepalm-würdig - aber ich dachte mir ursprünglich auch: Da sind erfahrene Leute im Vorstand und ich hab ja nun wahrlich genau wie viele andere oft genug herausgestellt, dass OpenStreetMap eben kein 08/15 Tech-Projekt ist und muss das jetzt nicht noch mal Oberlehrer-haft wiederholen…

Der Text

Aber genug der Vorgeschichte, schauen wir uns den Text halt mal an.

Das Ganze ist kein praktisches Regelwerk mit Geboten und Verboten, es handelt sich um eine allgemeine Bekundung von Werten und Absichten. Aber im Gegensatz zu unserem traditionellen Grundwerte-Dokument, welches Grundwerte des Projektes beschreibt und apellativ dem Leser nahe liegt, welchen Grundsätzen dessen Beteiligung am Projekt entsprechen sollte, erhebt dieses neue Dokument den Anspruch, in der Wir-Form für das Projekt und alle an ihm Beteiligten zu sprechen. Es steht also nicht mehr im Vordergrund, dem Einzelnen zu erläutern, unter welchen Parametern seine oder ihre Beteiligung am Projekt akzeptabel und wünschenswert ist, während er/sie außerhalb des Projektes tun und lassen kann, was er/sie möchte, sondern es wird kollektiv für die gesamte Gemeinschaft ein Grundwerte-System definiert, dem man sich als entweder unterordnen kann, oder man ist halt nicht Mitglied dieser postulierten Gemeinschaft.

Dass gleichzeitig behauptet wird, dass Alle, wirklich Alle willkommen sind, gehört zu den fundamentalen Widersprüchen und Problemen des Dokuments. Hierdurch wird ein wahrhaft absolutistischer Anspruch dieser Grundwerte postuliert. Ausschließlich die Akzeptanz dieses Grundwerte-Kanons entscheidet darüber, ob jemand zu der Gemeinschaft gehört oder nicht. Und das bedeutet am Ende dann natürlich auch, dass die Akzeptanz und Wertschätzung der traditionellen Grundwerte des Mappings in OpenStreetMap nicht zwingend erforderlich ist. Diese sind - ohne dass dies explizit erwähnt wird - aufgrund der absolutistischen Feststellung, dass wirklich ausnahmslos jeder, der sich diesen neuen Grundwerten unterordnet, willkommen ist, diesen klar untergeordnet. Ich habe ja bei mehreren Gelegenheiten in der Vergangenheit bereits dargelegt, weshalb das exakte Gegenteil, die stärkere Betonung und die offensivere Kommunikation der Grundwerte des Mappings in OpenStreetMap von essentieller Bedeutung für den langfristigen sozialen Zusammenhalt im Projekt ist.

Ein anderer Grundtenor des Dokumentes, welcher recht typisch für derartige Texte mit einer ursprünglichen Bedeutung innerhalb eines recht eng umgrenzten kulturellen Umfeldes ist, welcher aber in einem kulturell vielfältigen Umfeld wie OpenStreetMap hoch problematisch ist, besteht in der Tatsache, dass zentrale Begriffe verwendet werden, ohne sie zu definieren. Dies betrifft im ersten Absatz vor allem neben dem Titel-Begriff diversity (welcher heute im praktischen Gebrauch oft den Charakter eines politischen Kampfbegriffs hat) vor allem das Wort “tolerance”. Ohne eine Definition dieser zentralen Begriffe hängt die Bedeutung des Gesamt-Dokuments maßgeblich von der Interpretation dieser Begriffe ab und wie oben angedeutet fordern hier englische Muttersprachler erfahrungsgemäß eine Deutungshoheit auf Grundlage ihres kulturellen Hintergrundes ein, was noch über die objektive Bedeutung des Dokumentes selbst hinaus die anglo-amerikanische kulturelle Dominanz unterstreicht.

Der zweite Absatz des Dokuments liefert dann eine Erklärung für die Motivation für das ganze Statement. Dass der primäre Nutzen, den man sich verspricht, darin besteht, dass die OSM-Community “stronger and more vibrant” wird, ist eine etwas merkwürdige Wortwahl, die mehr zu einem PR-Statement eines Unternehmens zu passen scheint als zu einem sozialen Projekt wie OSM. Das wichtigste an diesem Absatz ist aber, dass hier die Daten-Qualität als höchstes inhaltliches Ziel des Projektes postuliert wird (“create a better map”) - ganz im Gegensatz wiederum zu unseren traditionellen OpenStreetMap-Werten (wie “community cohesion over data perfection”).

Der dritte Absatz ist schließlich der Kern des ganzen Dokumentes, denn hier wird die anfängliche universelle Regel der nicht-Diskriminierung (jeder ist willkommen) konkretisiert. Hier liegt ein weiterer innerer Widerspruch des Dokumentes. Es werden eine Reihe von Aspekten aufgezählt, nach denen nicht diskriminiert werden darf aber es wird gleichzeitig betont, dass diese Liste nicht vollständig ist und auch nach anderen Dingen nicht diskriminiert werden darf. Formell ist diese explizite Liste dadurch irrelevant.

Der Grund, weshalb solche Listen dennoch in derartigen Dokumenten sehr weit verbreitet ist, liegt darin, dass die Bekämpfung von Diskriminierungen in der Praxis oft wiederum durch diskriminierende Maßnahmen erfolgt. Und die Liste entscheidet dann darüber, welche Diskriminierungen schlimmer sind als andere - frei nach dem Motto: All people are equal but some are more equal than others.

Die Liste hat also bei einer potentiellen praktischen Durchsetzung der postulierten Grundwerte durchaus Relevanz und sie verrät auch einiges über die ihrer Erstellung zugrunde liegenden politisch-weltanschaulichen Werte.

Die vollsändige Liste: age, culture, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, national origin, physical or mental difference, politics, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and subculture.

Interessanter als das, was auf der Liste drauf steht ist natürlich das, was nicht drauf steht. Insbesondere

  • es fehlt “language” - das Ausmaß an kognitiver Dissonanz, welches erforderlich wäre, um in einem englischsprachigem Dokument die Diskriminierung nach Sprache zu untersagen, ist halt natürlich auch ein bisschen zu viel.
  • es gibt “national origin”, aber nicht “nationality”. Die Diskriminierung nach Staatsangehörigkeit gehört in vielen Ländern dieser Welt, insbesondere natürlich in den USA, halt zum Grundverständnis des Staates.
  • es gibt den grammatisch nicht passenden Punkt “politics”, welcher entweder “political orientation” bedeuten könnte, oder Diskriminierung für irgendwas aus politischen Gründen (“for political reasons”).
  • es gibt keinen Punkt “wealth” (Wohlstand), dafür aber den Punkt “socio-economic status”. Dies ist ein markanter Aspekt, der allen Anti-Diskriminierungs-Dokumenten dieser Art in englischer Sprache, die ich kenne, gemeinsam ist. Dass eine Diskriminierung nach Wohlstand nicht verboten ist, bestätigt schlicht und einfach die Akzeptanz einer kapitalistischen Gesellschaftsordnung, denn die Diskriminierung nach Wohlstand ist natürlich fundamentale Grundlage des Kapitalismus. Dass der Punkt “socio-economic status” eingeführt wird, ist der Versuch, den grundsätzlichen Widerspruch zwischen der kapitalistischen Gesellschaftsordnung und der Idee der universellen Diskriminierungs-Freiheit zu kaschieren. Denn das Konzept des Sozioökonomischer Status schließt den Aspekt Wohlstand an sich meist explizit aus. Noch ein anderer Aspekt des Punktes “socio-economic status” ist im OSM-Kontext interessant, denn er schließt den Aspekt der beruflichen Tätigkeit mit ein. Das bedeutet im OSM-Kontext, dass eine Diskriminierung aufgrund der beruflichen Tätigkeit - zum Beispiel indem ein bezahlter Mapper irgendwie anders behandelt wird als ein Hobby-Mapper - explizit von diesem Grundwerte-Kanon verboten wird.
  • ein letzter Punkt noch - auch “physical or mental difference” ist interessant, denn “mental difference” schließt recht klar auch das ein, was man im Allgemeinen als Tugenden betrachtet. Dass die Diskriminierung von Menschen aufgrund unterschiedlicher Tugendhaftigkeit von diesem Grundwerte-Kanon abgelehnt wird, hat für die moralphilosophische Betrachtung ggf. eine erhebliche Bedeutung.

Man kann also sehen, dass sich hinter dieser oberflächlich vielleicht harmlos erscheinenden Liste von potentiellen Diskriminierungs-Arten eine recht spezifische politisch-weltanschauliche Wertung verbirgt.

Und der vierte Absatz greift schließlich noch einmal das Thema Sprache auf, welches im vorherigen Absatz wie erwähnt explizit ausgespart wurde und postuliert, dass die englischsprachige Dominanz zu den unveränderlichen Kernprinzipien des Projektes gehört. Das ist hochgradig bemerkenswert wie Roland auf osmf-talk bereits angedeutet hat. Was dann im Weiteren noch angedeutet wird ist, dass die sprachliche Vielfalt im Projekt ausschließlich als Domäne der local chapters angesehen wird und dass sich die OSMF über “encouragement” hinaus hier in keinerlei Verpflichtung sieht. Deutlicher lässt sich die englischsprachige Dominanz in der Organisation und die damit zwangsläufig verbundene kulturelle Einseitigkeit eigentlich nicht mehr kodifizieren.

Schlussfolgerungen

Die meisten dieser Faux-pas im Text sind natürlich nicht explizit vom OSMF-Vorstand da eingebaut worden, sondern sind Resultat der gedankenlosen Übernahme aus dem Python-Dokument. Das Ganze war also sicherlich nicht schlecht gemeint, aber dennoch recht offensichtlich total schlecht durchdacht und ist deshalb am Ende vor allem in Hinsicht des Signals, welches damit an die weltweite OSM-Community gesendet wird, ein ziemlicher Albtraum. Und so leid es mir tut - es zeigt, dass man kollektiv aus dem Debakel der Krim-Entscheidung nichts gelernt hat. Damals hat der OSMF-Vorstand die Grundwerte des Projektes in Form der Vor-Ort-Überprüfbarkeit der Daten in einer Einzelfall-Entscheidung zum Appeasement gegenüber einem laut empörten Mob zum Erhalt eines vermeintlichen Friedens in der OSM-Community geopfert und damit die Glaubwürdigkeit der OSMF als Garant der Grundwerte des Projektes nachhaltig beschädigt.

Ich war eigentlich gewillt, dem neuen OSMF-Vorstand ein bisschen Vorschuss-Lorbeeren zu gewähren. Aber diesen Bruch mit allen bisherigen Gepflogenheiten indem man Überfall-artig einen neuen Grundwerte-Kanon beschließt, und dann auch noch derartig undurchdacht in der Ausführung, ist da ein bisschen zu viel.

Aber Christoph wird jetzt manch einer sagen, gegen Diskriminierung zu sein ist doch etwas universell Gutes - wie kann man denn dagegen sein? Nein, ist es nicht. Dass Diskriminierung so etwas absolut böses ist, dass man dessen Bekämpfung als absoluten Wert über alles andere stellen muss, ist ein spezifischer Wert eines äußerst engen Kulturkreises. Wer diesen Wert jetzt als Grundwert der gesamten weltweiten OSM-Community postuliert, ohne sich vorher einer offenen und sachlichen Diskussion zu stellen, in wie fern dieser mit grundlegenden moralischen Prinzipien vereinbar ist, der handelt kultur-imperialistisch.

Und auch wenn sich eine bedingte Ablehnung von Diskriminierung (zum Beispiel wenn grundlos oder willkürlich) aus vielen ethischen Theorien ableiten lässt, gilt ganz Allgemein: Moral ist kein Wunschkonzert. Man kann sich aus moralischen Grundsätzen nicht einfach die Dinge herauspicken, die einem gerade in den Kram passen und den Rest ignorieren. Dann handelt man nicht moralisch, sondern opportunistisch.

Wie wird es jetzt weiter gehen?

Der Vorstand hat sich eine kleine Chance gelassen, um diese Hypothek wieder abzulösen, indem er nämlich beschlossen hat, ein Komittee zur Weiterentwicklung dieses Grundwerte-Kanons und zur Ableitung weiterer Maßnahmen daraus einzusetzen. Wenn dieses Komitee aus verantwortungsvollen und mutigen Leuten zusammengesetzt wird, die bereit sind, sich über ihren Auftrag ein bisschen hinweg zu setzen und das ganze Dokument grundlegend im Sinne der Grundwerte von OpenStreetMap zu überarbeiten und zu revidieren, dann könnte die OSMF diese Scharte wieder ausmerzen.

Sollte eine derartige Revision nicht stattfinden und eventuell sogar das einzusetzende Komitee die skizzierten Werte weiter ausbauen, dann bedeutet dies, dass sich die OSMF vom Ziel, die OSM-Community in ihrer gesamten Vielfalt gleichberechtigt zu unterstützen und zu repräsentieren, verabschiedet und stattdessen versucht im Stil vieler anglo-amerikanischer Projekte das in der Organisation dominierende und jetzt auch codifizierte kulturelle Wertesystem in kolonialer Tradition in die OSM-Community zu projizieren.

Ob das gelingen würde steht auf einem ganz anderen Blatt. Der Einfluss der OSMF auf OpenStreetMap steht und fällt mit der Akzeptanz der Organisation als positive Kraft im Projekt. Bereits jetzt ist ziemlich klar absehbar, dass der OSMF-Vorstand mit dieser Maßnahme den Arbeitsgruppen eher einen Bärendienst erweist, denn die Rekrutierung neuer Freiwilliger - eines der großen aktuellen Probleme der OSMF - wird, wenn man von Allen erst einmal die Unterordnung unter ein für die meisten sowohl sprachlich als auch kulturell fremdes Grundwerte-System fordert, nicht gerade einfacher. Darüber hinaus müssen potentielle Freiwillige die englischsprachige und anglo-amerikanische kulturelle Dominanz in der OSMF nicht nur für den Einstieg akzeptieren mit der gegebenen Hoffnung, dass sie durch Engagement daran mit der Zeit und mit Hilfe anderer vielleicht ein bisschen was ändern können, sondern sie müssen dies als dauerhaft kodifizierten und gewünschten Zustand hinnehmen. Nicht nur das - der neue Grundwerte-Kanon sagt ja sogar im Grunde fast explizit, dass man sich wenn man nicht flüssig Englisch spricht doch bitte eher in einem der local chapters engagiert als in der OSMF.

Non-authoritive English translation from deepl.com:

OSMF Board codifies English-speaking and Anglo-American cultural dominance in OSMF

The OSMF Board of Directors decided yesterday at its monthly board meeting to adopt a new values document after it was presented to OSMF members two and a half hours earlier. I would like to take a critical look at the content of this document.

Why am I doing this in German? Firstly, because I decided some time ago that I prefer not to have discussions about diversity and values in OpenStreetMap in English, to make it clear to native English speakers that they cannot demand the right to interpret the terms used. Secondly, because the German language has the only suitable genre for this work - the Verriss.

The Prehistory

A brief summary of the background: After the last OSMF board elections, there was some dissatisfaction with the results from those who had hoped for something different. And because Twitter is known to be a good source of collective outrage, a veritable OSM bashing with the basic tenor that it’s time for this domain of patriarchy to finally get its place in a decent hierarchy according to the values and principles that are part of this filter bubble.

And the newly elected OSMF board seems to have been a bit of a pain in the ass about it. This led to Guillaume’s unexpected proposal to found a diversity working group in the first board meeting in December. I wrote already a rather critical comment and the reaction was also otherwise rather restrained. There was then in the new year an entry in Mikel’s diary but apart from a few detailed comments and the usual political positioning, not much came out publicly. Which is understandable. When the board of directors leans out of the window with the plan to found a working group from the top down, then most of them wait and see where the journey will lead to. Apart from that, at least for outsiders, not much happened until Guillaume presented the document a few hours before the board meeting.

The problem the board faced was that apparently as abstract as the project was presented to a diversity working group, nobody wanted to be hitched to the cart. So I thought to myself that as a board member you have to do a little bit of preliminary work to give the project the necessary push. So we need a basic document. Something that people can identify with and that motivates people to get involved. But if not stealing, where do you get it from? Oh, wait - in the world of free licenses, stealing is no problem. So where do you go if you are looking for a basic document on diversity in an organization with English-speaking dominance? Correct: In an even more English-speaking and Anglo-American-culturally dominated technology project, in this case Python.

When the link to the Python project together with a link to Twitter appeared on the agenda of the board meeting some time ago without any further explanation, it was worthy of Facepalm - but I originally thought: There are experienced people on the board and I really just like many others often enough emphasized that OpenStreetMap is not a 08/15 tech project and I don’t have to repeat it now like a senior teacher…

The text

But enough of the prehistory, let’s just have a look at the text.

The whole thing is not a practical set of rules with commandments and prohibitions, it is a general declaration of values and intentions. But in contrast to our traditional values document, which describes the project’s values and tells the reader what principles his participation in the project should be based on, this new document claims to speak for the project and all those involved in it in the “we” form. Thus, the focus is no longer on explaining to the individual under which parameters his or her participation in the project is acceptable and desirable, while outside the project he or she can do whatever he or she wants, but collectively for the entire community a system of core values is defined, to which one can be considered either subordinate or simply not a member of this postulated community.

That at the same time it is claimed that everyone, really everyone, is welcome is one of the fundamental contradictions and problems of the document. This postulates a truly absolutist claim of these fundamental values. Only the acceptance of this canon of basic values decides whether someone belongs to the community or not. And in the end, of course, this also means that acceptance and appreciation of the traditional core values of mapping in OpenStreetMap is not mandatory. These are - without this being explicitly mentioned - clearly subordinate to them due to the absolutist statement that really without exception everyone who submits to these new core values is welcome. I have already explained on several occasions in the past why the exact opposite, the stronger emphasis and the more offensive communication of the basic values of the mapping in OpenStreetMap is of essential importance for the long-term social cohesion of the project.

Another basic tenor of the document, which is quite typical for such texts with an original meaning within a rather narrowly defined cultural environment, but which is highly problematic in a culturally diverse environment like OpenStreetMap, is the fact that central terms are used without defining them. In the first paragraph, this applies not only to the title term diversity (which in practical use today often has the character of a political struggle term), but above all to the word “tolerance”. Without a definition of these central terms, the meaning of the document as a whole depends largely on the interpretation of these terms and, as indicated above, experience shows that native English speakers claim the right to interpret the document on the basis of their cultural background, which underlines the Anglo-American cultural dominance beyond the objective meaning of the document itself.

The second paragraph of the document then provides an explanation of the motivation for the whole statement. The fact that the primary benefit expected is that the OSM community will become “stronger and more vibrant” is a somewhat odd choice of words that seems more appropriate for a company’s PR statement than for a social project like OSM. The most important thing about this paragraph, however, is that it postulates data quality as the project’s ultimate goal (“create a better map”) - in contrast to our traditional OpenStreetMap values (like “community cohesion over data perfection”).

Finally, the third paragraph is the core of the whole document, because here the initial universal rule of non-discrimination (everyone is welcome) is concretized. Here lies another internal contradiction in the document. It lists a number of aspects according to which discrimination is not allowed, but at the same time it emphasizes that this list is not complete and that there are other things that are not allowed to be discriminated against. Formally, this explicit list is therefore irrelevant.

The reason why such lists are nevertheless very widespread in such documents is that in practice, discrimination is often combated through discriminatory measures. And the list then decides which discriminations are worse than others - along the lines of: All people are equal but some are more equal than others.

The list is therefore relevant to the potential practical implementation of the postulated basic values and it also reveals a great deal about the political and ideological values on which it is based.

The complete list: age, culture, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, national origin, physical or mental difference, politics, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, and subculture.

More interesting than what is on the list is of course what is not on it. Especially

  • there is a lack of “language” - the amount of cognitive dissonance required to prohibit discrimination by language in an English language document is, of course, also a bit too much.
  • there is “national origin”, but not “nationality”. Discrimination according to nationality is part of the basic understanding of the state in many countries of the world, especially of course in the USA.
  • there is the grammatically not fitting point “politics”, which could mean either “political orientation”, or discrimination for political reasons.
  • there is no point “wealth”, but there is the point “socio-economic status”. This is a striking aspect common to all anti-discrimination documents of this kind in English that I know of. The fact that discrimination on the basis of wealth is not prohibited simply confirms the acceptance of a capitalist social order, because discrimination on the basis of wealth is of course the fundamental basis of capitalism. The introduction of the point “socio-economic status” is an attempt to conceal the fundamental contradiction between the capitalist social order and the idea of universal freedom from discrimination. For the concept of socio-economic status usually explicitly excludes the aspect of prosperity per se. Yet another aspect of [socio-economic status] is interesting in the OSM context, because it includes the aspect of professional activity. In the OSM context, this means that discrimination based on professional activity - for example, by treating a paid mapper in some way differently from an amateur mapper - is explicitly prohibited by this canon of basic values.
  • one last point - “physical or mental difference” is also interesting, because “mental difference” quite clearly includes what is generally regarded as virtues The fact that discrimination against people on the basis of different virtues is rejected by this canon of basic values may be of considerable importance for moral philosophical considerations.

One can therefore see that behind this superficially perhaps harmless list of potential types of discrimination there is a quite specific political-ideological evaluation.

And finally, the fourth paragraph takes up once again the topic of language, which, as mentioned above, was explicitly omitted in the previous paragraph and postulates that English language dominance is one of the unchanging core principles of the project. This is highly remarkable as Roland has already indicated on osmf-talk. What is also implied is that the linguistic diversity in the project is seen exclusively as the domain of the local chapters and that OSMF sees no obligation beyond “encouragement”. It is impossible to codify more clearly the dominance of the English language in the organization and the inevitably associated cultural one-sidedness.

Conclusions

Of course, most of these faux-pas in the text are not explicitly built in by the OSMF board, but are the result of the thoughtless adoption from the Python document. So the whole thing was certainly not badly meant, but still quite obviously totally ill-conceived and therefore in the end, especially in terms of the signal it sends out to the worldwide OSM community, it’s quite a nightmare. And, sorry to say, it shows that collectively nothing has been learned from the debacle of the Crimean decision. At the time, the OSMF board of directors sacrificed the project’s core values in the form of on-site verifiability of data in an individual case decision to appeal to a loudly outraged mob in order to maintain a supposed peace in the OSMF community, thereby sustainably damaging the credibility of OSMF as a guarantor of the project’s core values.

I was actually willing to give the new OSMF board of directors a little advance credit. But this break with all the previous practices of adopting a new canon of basic values like a raid, and then also such a lack of thoughtfulness in its execution, is a bit too much.

But Christoph will now say to some people that being against discrimination is something universally good - how can one be against it? No, it is not. The fact that discrimination is such an absolutely evil thing, that one has to put its fight as an absolute value above everything else, is a specific value of an extremely narrow cultural circle. Anyone who now postulates this value as a fundamental value of the entire worldwide OSM community without first engaging in an open and objective discussion of how far it is compatible with fundamental moral principles is acting in a cultural-imperialist manner.

And even if a conditional rejection of discrimination (for example, if it is unfounded or arbitrary) can be derived from many ethical theories, the general rule is that morality is not a wishful thinking. You can’t just pick and choose from moral principles the things that suit you and ignore the rest. Then you don’t act morally, but opportunistically.

What will happen now?

The Executive Board has given itself a small chance to redeem this mortgage by deciding to set up a committee to develop this canon of basic values further and to derive further measures from it. If that committee is composed of responsible and courageous people who are willing to go a little bit beyond their remit and fundamentally revise and revise the whole document in line with the core values of OpenStreetMap, then OSMF could eradicate this loophole.

If such a revision does not take place, and perhaps even the committee to be appointed will further develop the outlined values, then this means that OSMF will abandon its goal of supporting and representing the OSM community in all its diversity on an equal footing and instead, in the style of many Anglo-American projects, will attempt to project the cultural value system in colonial tradition, which dominates the organization and is now codified in the OSMF, into the OSM community.

Whether this would succeed is a completely different matter. The influence of the OSMF on OpenStreetMap stands and falls with the acceptance of the organization as a positive force in the project. It is already quite clear that the OSMF board of directors is doing the working groups a disservice with this measure, because the recruitment of new volunteers - one of OSMF’s major current problems - will not be made any easier if everyone is first required to submit to a system of basic values that is foreign to most people, both linguistically and culturally. In addition, potential volunteers must accept the English-speaking and Anglo-American cultural dominance in OSMF not only for the sake of getting started, with the hope that by getting involved they may be able to make a difference over time and with the help of others, but they must accept this as a permanently codified and desired state of affairs. Not only that - the new canon of core values almost explicitly says that if you don’t speak English fluently, you are more likely to get involved in one of the local chapters than in OSMF.

Yesterday was the first meeting of the new OSMF board and i thought i’d write down some comments on it since it was noticeably different from previous meetings. With three of the previous board members having left, two of them having been on the board for a long time and one having been the chairperson for a long time it was obvious there were going to be changes and i want to share a few impressions of this from an outside perspective.

What has not changed is that many of the board members seemed remarkably unprepared. This is not necessarily a big deal, board members are volunteers and you cannot necessarily expect everyone to sit down for a few hours before the meeting preparing themselves for all subjects that might be discussed. But i as someone who just listens in and does zero preparation for that other than looking at the agenda five minutes before the start often find myself wondering when a matter comes up why no one is ready to discuss it. This especially applies to this first meeting after the election when the election of treasurer, secretary and chairperson are obviously on the agenda so you would assume that those who consider one of these positions to have made up their mind if they want it or not. Don’t get me wrong - i am generally a huge fan of just winging it - but you have to be able to do that if you want to.

The meeting started with everyone being unsure about who would chair the meeting since neither the former chairperson nor the former secretary were on the board any more. Ultimately Paul assumed the position of temporary chair since he had formerly been secretary. But it might be a good idea to make a note of the problem and add a rule for that to the board rules of order in the future.

The election of the officers was interesting. The first position to be selected was that of the treasurer and since ahead of the election the only one who had expressed willingness to do that was Guillaume the decision was clear. Next was the position of the chairperson. This would usually come first but it was quite reasonable to choose the treasurer first because it was a clearer case. The chairperson’s main task in everyday business is to chair the board meetings. Allan volunteered for that, was elected and took over the meeting then. The more interesting election came next for the secretary. Mikel volunteered for the position and Joost after some hesitation (he seemed to be unsure if he actually wanted to do that or not) volunteered as well. The vote was called and one by one all board members voted for Joost so ultimately Mikel gave in and made it unanimous by voting for Joost as well.

The rest of the meeting proceeded in a fairly efficient and streamlined fashion thanks to Allan’s style of chairing the meeting (i will comment on that in more detail later). Most of the votes were unanimous IIRC. I was somewhat annoyed - though not really surprised by two things:

  • The decision on if to continue using Loomio was made with the stated intention to “re-evaluate at a later date” and although the idea to firmly plan to do that in half a year was mentioned it was not made part of the decision. This was probably at least to some part due to the board members still struggling with the procedural framework established by Allan.
  • The discussion on the F2F meeting failed to give any consideration to minimizing costs and resource use for the meeting or discuss a clear commitment to measurable results. Also the idea to combine the F2F meeting of the board with a meeting with the OWG was introduced without any discussion of the goals of the latter or consideration for the need for thorough preparation. As said this was not unexpected considering the candidates’ statements before the elections but still it was sobering to see how little reflection there was given to the moral obligations resulting from spending other people’s money.

The most surprising part of the meeting came at the very end when Guillaume out of the blue (apparently without having talked with anyone else about this before) brought up the idea of creating a diversity working group within the OSMF. You could literally hear Mikel considering “Is this a trap?” when he gave a guardedly positive comment instead of the enthusiastic support you would have kind of expected. The thing is the whole idea of the board top down establishing a new working group is kind of problematic given the concept of working groups in general and this approach to creation would permanently hang over such a working group in the future. Tobias in his comment succinctly mentioned the two big issues with the idea:

  • the problem of establishing a working group top down by the board instead of bottom up as an initiative from the membership.
  • the problem that such a working group in particular when established this way would be - well - inherently non-diverse in it most likely attracting mostly proponents of the idea of diversity engineered from the top rather than diversity organically brought in from the bottom.

Independent of these issues with the idea itself i tink it would be kind of cheap of the board to try delegating the issue of the lack of diversity in the OSMF to a working group without first having a serious discussion about it among themselves and with the OSM community about what they can do themselves. In German we have the saying “Wenn man nicht mehr weiter weiß, dann gründet man einen Arbeitskreis” - which i think catches this point of critique quite well. We should not let the board get off the hook that easily and we especially should not let them use such a working group of self appointed experts on diversity from within a highly non-diverse organization as a convenient “Ersatzöffentlichkeit” sparing them the trouble to actually talk to the OSM community in its whole diversity about the diversity issues of the OSMF.

There is a lot the board could do to improve diversity in the OSMF, in particular by actively reducing the English language dominance throughout the organization. They should actually work on that IMO instead of recruiting an English language debate club most likely mainly talking about how to engineer a pseudo-diversity within the OSMF and propagate that down into the OSM community.

As already hinted Allan as the new chair of the meeting adopted a style very different from how Kate chaired the meetings. I kind of like it for its efficiency and clear structure, it requires preparation and attention from the board members to successfully contribute to decision making processes - which i think is a good thing. And it also kind of follows my recommendation of establishing a more parliament-like work culture. What is a bit problematic is that it is a very culture specific style making it a bit difficult for board members not very fluent in the English language or even people more familiar with British traditions (Rory made a point of that in the meeting) to engage in the procedures. This is not too much of a problem right now with the board members all being fairly good in English - they would just need to get familiar with the procedure - but it could become more of a problem with other board members joining in the future. As far as i understand the procedures Allan followed Dorothea linked to some references on that in the draft minutes, in a small board like that of the OSMF these procedures can be relaxed which might take the edge off a bit without loosing the positive structure and clear framework they provide.

One funny thing about the meeting was that there was kind of a running gag of Allan always missing Joost’s first articulation of his vote during votes. This was probably just a starting difficulty but it kind of provided good entertainment for everyone listening. There were other minor technical issues - like Rory having a sticking PTT key and Tobias being hard to understand (some tuning of the audio levels/microphone position would be advisable). Good audio adjustment can immensely help a smooth meeting and everyone being able to articulate their views equally.

Allan did not significantly participate in the discussions during the meeting and i hope this is not going to become the usual procedure since one of the reasons Allan was elected to the board was because he would be able to bring in a perspective that would be very useful and otherwise missing in the board.

So overall it was great to see how established structures within the board are kind of opened with three new board members. There is a lot of potential visible in increased productiveness and less aimless chatter during the meetings. One thing brought up by Guillaume was to have more frequent board meetings twice a month. Not sure if that is necessary and productive in the form of a formal board meeting like that but it might make sense to have alternating more formal meetings and more informal work sessions with more active involvements of the broader community. But if the board meetings turn out to be very full with topics and decisions in the next months it would surely be worth considering increasing their frequency. Would need to take into account time constraints of the board members, especially those for whom the meetings usually are during the day like Paul.

Die OSMF-Vorstands-Wahlen dieses Jahr sind vorbei - die Ergebnisse der Wahlen und Abstimmungen finden sich hier:

Es ist bemerkenswert, wie sich jetzt anscheinend unter manchen Leuten Unverständnis, Enttäuschung und Ärger über die Resultate artikulieren, die ja doch eine recht breite Unterstützung in der OSMF-Mitgliedschaft für die Kernwerte des Projektes - die egalitäre und selbstbestimmte Zusammenarbeit zur Erfassung lokalen Wissens über die Geographie - erkennen lassen. Da hat wohl manch einer in seiner Filterblase etwas Anderes erhofft.

Beeindruckend ist auch, wie manche sich jetzt geradezu in ihrer Voreingenommenheit und Intoleranz suhlen und gemeinschaftlich darüber spekulieren, wie man denn nach einer Machtübernahme das Projekt nach den eigenen Vorstellungen und kulturellen Werten umgestalten könnte. Die Rede ist da zum Beispiel von bezahlten Managern, die die Mapper zu erwünschtem Verhalten erziehen sollen (euphemistisch als “active community management” bezeichnet) und von der Zensur unerwünschter Äußerungen (“active moderation”). Es geht da also klar erkennbar nicht um Offenheit gegenüber anderen Kulturen und Werten, sondern um die Ausgrenzung von solchen Ansichten und Werten, die der Dominanz der eigenen kulturellen Vorstellungen entgegenstehen.

Klar, wenn jetzt ein paar tausend amerikanische SJWs entschließen würden, in OSM einzufallen und dort mal aufzuräumen dann wäre OSM als soziales Projekt Geschichte. Insofern sind diese Überlegungen nicht komplett unrealistisch. Aber wie unverfroren und unreflektiert da manche ihre Intoleranz, ihre Ablehnung von anders Denkenden und Ausgrenzungs-Bestrebungen artikulieren ist schon bemerkenswert.

Was die Sache dann noch auf die Spitze treibt ist, wenn dabei auch total übersehen wird, dass die einzige Frau unter den Kandidaten der Vorstands-Wahl (Jinal) vor allem deshalb keinen Sitz im Vorstand bekam, weil Mikel und Michal zur Wahl angetreten sind und ihre Wähler aus dem selben Teil der OSMF-Mitgliedschaft rekrutierten. Jinal war in der Breite der Wählerschaft recht klar die beliebtere Kandidatin, konnte aber in der Kern-Wählerschaft aller dieser drei Kandidaten deutlich weniger Wähler überzeugen, ihr die erste Stimme zu geben, als die anderen beiden, wodurch sie am Ende keine Chance hatte.

Dass vermutlich viele Frauen unter den OSMF-Mitgliedern lieber Leuten wie Guillaume oder Rory ihre Stimme geben, die - egal ob Mann oder Frau, weiß oder nicht - eine solide und überzeugende Geschichte von Engagement für wirkliche Vielfalt und Offenheit in der OSM-Community vorzuweisen haben und dabei selbstkritisch auch ihren eigenen Anteil an ungleichen Chancen und Voraussetzungen reflektieren, als opportunistischen Schaumschlägern, die die Fehler immer nur bei anderen suchen, geschenkt.

Wer mehr Analyse zu den Wahl-Ergebnissen möchte, findet diese auf Englisch auf meinem Blog.

Non-authoritive automatic translation from deepl.com for your convenience:

To the post-election tomcat in the filter bubble

This year’s OSMF board elections are over - the results of the elections and votes can be found here:

It is remarkable how now some people seem to articulate incomprehension, disappointment and anger about the results, which show quite broad support in OSMF membership for the core values of the project - egalitarian and self-determined cooperation to gather local knowledge about geography. Some people hoped for something different in their filter bubble.

It is also impressive how some people are now wallowing in their bias and intolerance and speculating together about how, after assuming power, the project could be reshaped according to their own ideas and cultural values. There is talk, for example, of paid managers who are to educate mappers to behave in the desired manner (euphemistically referred to as “active community management”) and of the censorship of unwanted expressions (“active moderation”). It is therefore clearly not about openness towards other cultures and values, but about the exclusion of such views and values that oppose the dominance of one’s own cultural ideas.

Of course, if a few thousand American SJWs decided to invade OSM and clean it up, then OSM as a social project would be history. In this respect, these considerations are not completely unrealistic. But how boldly and unreflectively some articulate their intolerance, their rejection of different thinking and exclusionist aspirations is remarkable.

What drives things to extremes is that the only woman among the candidates of the board election (Jinal) did not get a seat on the board because Mikel and Michal ran for the election and their voters recruited from the same part of the OSMF membership. Jinal was clearly the more popular candidate in the breadth of the electorate, but in the core electorate of all three candidates she was able to persuade significantly fewer voters to give her the first vote than the other two, which meant she had no chance in the end.

That probably many women among the OSMF members prefer to vote for people like Guillaume or Rory, who - whether man or woman, white or not - have a solid and convincing history of commitment to real diversity and openness in the OSM community, while self-critically reflecting their own share of unequal opportunities and prerequisites, as opportunistic buffoons who always look for mistakes only in others.

Who would like more analysis to the election results, finds these in English on my Blog.

2019 OSMF board candidates – analysis and recommendations

Posted by imagico on 5 December 2019 in English (English). Last updated on 8 December 2019.

The Answers and Manifestos of this year’s OSMF board elections have been published a few days ago and a lot of people are probably studying those right now. This is very interesting reading but also a huge volume of text so i have written an analysis of the candidates and their statements some might find helpful.

And since this year’s elections are significant because they could result in both a significant shift to the better and to the worse for the OSMF and the OpenStreetMap project i am also providing an overall voting recommendation based on my analysis. Please keep in mind that this analysis and the recommendation are based on the candidates’ qualification for the position of a board member. Just because i consider someone non-qualified as an OSMF board member does not mean i have an overall bad opinion for them as a person.

I would recommend to vote for (in that order):

  • Guillaume
  • Allan
  • Rory
  • Clifford
  • Dietmar
  • Eugene
  • Nuno
  • Gregory

I would not include:

  • Jinal
  • Mikel
  • Steve
  • Michal

(Edit 2019-12-08: I recommended not to include the last four candidates above but as Alan pointed out there is no harm including them. The likeliness of this making a difference is extremely low of course. What you should do depends on if you have a preference among those candidates you generally find non-suitable or if you want to make a distinct statement by not including them).

Every member should of course decide based on their own personal preferences who to vote for. Even if your values and ideas of what are important qualifications in a board member for the benefit of OpenStreetMap are similar to mine, you might vary the order from my recommendation to reflect your individual preferences. Read my arguments and reasoning and if you have the time also read the full answers and manifestos and form your own qualified opinion to make a good election choice.

Also keep in mind that as part of the elections this year members are also asked to vote on a resolution regarding the membership fee waiver and normal members in addition on various AoA changes. I encourage you to read my comments and recommendations on those.

Last year Joost provided some interesting statistics on the OSMF membership numbers by country and how these relate to mapping activity. In other words: How far the OSMF membership in their geographic distribution represents the active mapping community.

Since it is interesting to see how this changed since last year i asked the MWG to provide the data on this and Pascal was so nice to provide yearly statistics on the active mapper numbers

Two things that need to be stated in advance:

  • i asked for the numbers on members eligible for this year’s elections but this is of course still subject to change since quite a few memberships expire around this time of the year and possible participation of mappers depends on if they renew their membership or not.
  • Pascal’s numbers for active mappers per country are only semi-reliable of course. They only tell us about where mappers are active, not where they come from. And it does not tell if those mappers are part of a genuine local community or if they are just paid to map in that specific country.

So all this needs to be taken with a grain of salt but none the less how things have changed since last year is something interesting to look at.

In addition to the values Joost calculated last year i also added another column for the absolute member count mismatch - i.e. how many additional members or too few members come from a certain country compared to what would be a proportional representation of the active mapper community.

The numbers

Here are the numbers for the top 45 countries sorted by OSMF member count (first) and sorted by active mapper count (second, that is the equivalent to what Joost showed last year).

For explanation of the columns:

  • OSMF members number of OSMF members from that country (both normal and associate) according to data provided by the MWG
  • Mappers/day average number of mappers from that country active per day according to Pascal’s statistics
  • osmf rate OSMF members per mapper in percent
  • expected expected number of OSMF members from that country assuming proportional representation and same total member count
  • representation percentage of actual representation compared to expected (100 indicates proportional representation)
  • mismatch difference between expected and actual number of OSMF members, negative values indicate too few members for proportional representation

sorted by OSMF member count

sorted by mapper count

In the second table countries with only one or zero OSMF members don’t have the actual member count shown for privacy reasons (though i am not sure if that is necessary since the OSMF membership lists can be accessed on request anyway).

You can also get that in SocialCalc format (to be used on Ethercalc or Framacalc via clipboard) or in CSV format.

What can we see from this year’s numbers?

  • first the over-representation of the United States and the United Kingdom has slightly decreased while the over-representation of Germany, France and other continental European countries has slightly increased. This difference is fairly small though so considering the factors mentioned above this might not be that significant. Anyway - if this is actually a meaningful trend this would be positive because it reduces the over-representation of native English speakers.
  • What is more significant is that with India for the first time a country outside of Europe and North America has significantly closed the gap in proportional representation. The question is of course how many of the OSMF members from India have signed up for membership in connection with their professional career - but this is nothing you can determine from the data.
  • The under-representation of various countries with very active mapper communities has increased significantly. Last year i mentioned Russia, Poland and Japan. Russia’s representation has decreased from 29 percent to 11 percent. This is quite enormous, for proportional representation there would need to be 41 additional OSMF members from Russia - by far the largest value in the whole table. The full list of countries with more than 10 OSMF members too few is: Russia (41), Poland (23), Indonesia (21), Ukraine (14/15), Japan (13), Brazil (13), China (11/12) and Tanzania (10/11). In some of these countries (in particular China and Tanzania) the mapper numbers could of course contain a significant number of remote mappers from abroad.

Fee waiver members

I also got the numbers on members who made use of the fee waivers and their regional distribution. We have:

  • 12 from Europe (7 of these from Kosovo)
  • 10 from Africa
  • 9 from Asia
  • 3 from Latin America
  • 1 from North America

Overall it seems that the increase in relative numbers of both active mappers and OSMF members from regions outside Europe and North America is relatively similar overall so the dominance of Europe and North America in the OSMF w.r.t. proportional representation is not increasing. But it is still quite strong of course.

All of this does not consider how many of either mappers and OSMF members are hobbyists and how many have a professional connection to OSM. Likewise it is worth considering that also non-mapping community members should be included in the idea of proportional representation.

It is my hope that with the universal fee waiver for active mappers that hopefully will start next year (see my diary entry on the vote for that) and that will allow mappers to become OSMF members without paying a fee and without the need to claim to be needy that the significant under-representation of large local communities will decrease.

A few days ago the notice was sent out to OSMF members on this year’s annual general meeting (AGM) which will happen in mid December.

In addition to the usual board elections - which are covering 4 board seats this year and for which 12 candidates have been nominated who will provide their manifestos and answers to the official questions (if you are a candidate you might want to look at my guidance for candidates) there will be a number of resolutions being voted on by the members. Since the time before the votes begin will probably be fairly busy with discussions of the board candidates and their goals and qualifications after the publication of their manifestos and answers on November 30 i will use the time now to discuss the resolutions. You can also find the full details in a PDF supplied by the board.

There are going to be 7 votes on changes of the OSMF Articles of Association (AoA) - which are called special resolutions and one ordinary resolution (which is essentially just a formal decision of the members instructing the board and working groups to do as said).

The AoA changes can only be voted on by normal members (that is members who have registered as such and had to provide their address for that) and require a 75 percent approval by those participating in the vote. That is a high hurdle and therefore none of the resolutions is probably sure to be approved. Yet any significant change in the way the OSMF operates will require an AoA change. So these are not just meaningless tweaks of internal procedures, their approval or non-approval could have significant effects on the balance of power and influences within the organization.

Note all of the resolutions up for vote probably would have a clear majority both among the OSMF members and within the OSM community. But due to the 75 percent hurdle this does not mean that they will pass. This could lead to the strange effect (and this happened in the past) that the outcome of the vote contradicts the wishes of a clear majority of the members. And finding in any larger group of people 75 percent non-conservatives who do not primarily want things to stay as they are is not an easy task.

  • Vote 8 is an ordinary resolution - which only requires a 50 percent approval rate. But it also will not come into effect right away if approved, it would have to be implemented by the board and the MWG first. This 8th vote is possibly the most important of all since it is about opening the OSMF membership for community members without the need to pay a membership fee independent of the current fee waiver criteria (financial hardship and technical payment difficulties). The only criterion is supposed to be if the applicant has made sizeable contributions to OpenStreetMap - which should pose no problem for any active community member.

This change has the potential to significantly widen the OSMF membership in the future which could also significantly shift the balance of power within the organization to those actually carrying the project - the local hobby mappers all over the world. This will of course depend on if people actually make use of this option. They still will need to sign up to become a member.

I would highly recommend every OSMF member to vote in favour of this resolution because requiring a payment for people to have a say in the OSMF has always been a rather strange and problematic construction and widening the membership significantly is the best prevention against hostile takeover attempts.

I will now also explain all the votes on special resolutions and give my recommendation on how to vote

  • Vote 1 is about increasing the time span during which the board can reject a membership application after the initial signup. This should IMO be approved. But it also should be clear that this will only have relatively minor effects if the balance of interests represented in the board stays as it is right now. Last year with the GlobalLogic incident the problem was not the lack of time but the inability or unwillingness of the board to make a decision. What we’d really need is a board willing to make decisions in the interest of the OSM community even (or especially) if that means being tough on corporate interests and influence attempts.

  • Vote 2 is about increasing the time span a member has to be a member of the OSMF to be allowed to participate in votes from 30 days to 90 days. This should IMO be approved as well. This will reduce the incentive for short term campaigns for new member signups immediately before the elections. OSMF members should have a long term interest in the project and therefore a three month lead is quite appropriate.

  • Vote 3 introduces a lead time for an OSMF member to become a candidate for the board. Right now people could in principle sign up as OSMF member right before they nominate themselves as a candidate. This change would introduce about half a year of lead time (180 days) for becoming a candidate for the board. I think this is a good idea - if for no other reason that to prevent non-serious nominations. This year only one candidate would not have met this requirement. Therefore i recommend voting yes on this.

I see all three of these changes in particular in combination with the widening of the membership that i hope will result from vote 8. If being an OSMF member becomes standard for active community members the lead times introduced by these changes are non-problematic and would not result in undue exclusion of people.

  • Vote 4 is about changing the election system for the OSMF board to fixed two year terms instead of the current system of variable terms. This has been discussed at length and while there are advantages and disadvantages of the various options this solution is relatively simple and avoids the current problem of term lengths varying strongly between 1 and 4 years and this way creating a lot of imbalance. So my recommendation is voting yes on this - also because of the votes 5 and 6 discussed below.

  • Vote 5 and Vote 6 are about introducing term limits for board members. These votes are designed so they will - if approved - only have a practical effect if vote 4 is also approved. So if you are in favour of term limits you must also vote yes on vote 4. Vote 5 would introduce term limits that reset. Reset means once a person is not on the board any more for a number of years they become eligible again even after having reached the term limit originally. On osmf-talk i called this the lex Mikel because for the foreseeable future Mikel would be the only person who could potentially profit from the concept of a reset (unless you assume that Frederik might look for a comeback - which he has however already indicated not to). You could also call it Russian style term limits in reference to a similar concept being in place (and famously being used) for the Russian presidency. Vote 6 would then remove the reset rule of vote 5 to get to strict term limits that do not reset and do not allow for a later comeback. This is kind of weird because to get to strict term limits we would have to achieve approval on vote 5 on resetting term limits as well as on vote 6. So i am somewhat annoyed by the way the board has designed votes 4, 5 and 6 in a way that requires a triple 75 percent majority to introduce strict term limits. Discussion on this can be found on osmf-talk.

Why are term limits important? This has been discussed at length in the past. I won’t try to summarize the whole discussion here - IMO the most significant arguments are (a) to ensure a turnover and rejuvenation of the board (b) to reduce the tendencies of the OSMF members and the board developing into an old boys club encapsulated from the OSM community in general and (c) to reduce the attractiveness a position on the board has for egomaniacs and self centered narcissists and thereby increase the chances of substantially competent and capable people and finally (d) to reduce the risk of corruption. And i don’t think not giving members the option to allow voting people to the board for a duration of more than six years is in any way a problematic constraint. Instead it shows an awareness of the risks and the damage this could do to the project and a willingness to prevent that.

  • Vote 7 is a small cosmetic change with no practical effect. I recommend voting yes on this.

Overall summary: My recommendation is to vote yes on all resolutions. In particular on Vote 8. But also on Vote 4, Vote 5 and Vote 6 (and it is of particular importance to vote yes on all three).