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Some thoughts on the OSMF survey results

Posted by imagico on 9 March 2021 in English (English).

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:


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

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.


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.

Notizen vom Treffen des OSMF-Advisory-Boards am 24.02.

Posted by imagico on 24 February 2021 in German (Deutsch).

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 ( “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 (
  • 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 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 ( - 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 (, 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 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

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 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.


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.

Thoughts on the how and where of the OSMF starting to hand out money in the OSM community

Posted by imagico on 31 July 2020 in English (English).

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.

Some numbers on the OSMF microgrants applications

Posted by imagico on 13 May 2020 in English (English).

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.

Community attribution advice

Posted by imagico on 1 May 2020 in English (English).

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 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 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.

Notes on the first public video OSMF board meeting

Posted by imagico on 17 April 2020 in English (English).

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:

Bericht aus dem Advisory Board

Posted by imagico on 11 March 2020 in German (Deutsch).

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.

OSMF-Vorstand kodifiziert englischsprachige und anglo-amerikanische kulturelle Dominanz in der OSMF

Posted by imagico on 31 January 2020 in English (English).

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.


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

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.


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.

First meeting of the new OSMF board

Posted by imagico on 24 December 2019 in English (English).

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.

Zum nach-der-Wahl-Kater in der Filterblase

Posted by imagico on 18 December 2019 in English (English).

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 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.

OSMF membership numbers by country 2019

Posted by imagico on 21 November 2019 in English (English).

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.

Some guidance on this year's OSMF AGM resolution votes

Posted by imagico on 19 November 2019 in English (English).

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).

Some guidance for candidates for the OSMF board elections

Posted by imagico on 1 November 2019 in English (English).

OSMF board elections are taking place in December and this year there are four seats on the board to be filled so it will be a fairly significant event. Candidates for the board will be asked to nominate themselves in a few days.

Having observed the board elections during the past years with very different people putting themselves up for election and attempting to convince the OSMF members to vote for them using various strategies i thought i’d this year formulate some advise to potential candidates in advance based on my observations of the past years.

There are mainly two reasons for me doing this:

  • In a culturally and individually diverse community like OpenStreetMap the ability and techniques of candidates to present themselves to the members naturally differs a lot. On the one hand this is nice because it celebrates the diversity in the community, on the other hand however these differences in ability for self presentation massively influence how convincingly candidates can communicate their qualification to the OSMF members and this ability at self presentation is not really the most important qualification for doing a good job as a board member. So i hope my advise here might in a way help leveling the playing field and give highly qualified candidates who might be somewhat insecure in how to present their ideas and who might therefore be tempted to disadvantageously try imitating the mainstream style of anglo-american campaigning techniques in past elections a better chance.

  • In the past elections questions from the members to the candidates have been a major communication element between the candidates and the members before the elections. While i contributed actively to these questions in the past few years i have constantly been dissatisfied with the answers because they often failed to substantially address the core of my questions. This has led me to the conclusion that it might be helpful to turn around the communication a bit and instead of asking questions to the candidates regarding their views to actively explain expectations from the community to the candidates. Of course this bears the risk that candidates might try to just pretend meeting these expectations - which however will likely practically be quite difficult.

So what do i think is important for candidates to consider - here are my thoughts on that

  • Don’t try to be a politician. The OSMF members are not the general population of some country offered to vote on their representatives whether they want to or not. We have all chosen to have a say in the composition of the OSMF board. Most of us deeply care about the project and have been involved and have observed the OSMF for years. So don’t try to lure us into voting for you with some bloomy but ultimately hollow statements or avoiding making clear statements on anything of substance not to alienate any potential voters. That is not likely to get people to support you.

  • Be honest and don’t try to hide your goals and motivations. You do not have to volunteer information on private aspects of your life to run for the OSMF board but any project, organizational involvement or job in your past, present and future connected to OSM, geodata or cartography in some way is not private business if you are a candidate for the OSMF board. For most members ambiguity and inconsistency in information about this is much more troublesome than anything you openly tell.

  • Present a clear stance on the core questions on the OSMF. Clear stance does not mean you have to have a firm and unchangeable position on matters. What we want to know is where you stand - even if that on some matters means you have no opinion on them so far. Also very useful is if you tell us what (moral) principles guide you when forming an opinion on matters you don’t have a position on yet. But don’t try to hide your actual position behind superficial platitudes for tactical reasons. Because (a) people will notice and (b) even if you are elected you will have a very hard time because people will soon realize they can’t trust what you say. Obviously incomplete list of some of the core questions of OSMF work: Corporate involvement and influence in the OSMF, Transparency in OSMF work and decision making, Money (sources of income, use of OSMF funds, volunteers vs. paid staff etc.), License matters (interpretation of the ODbL and dealing with violations), Checks and balances within the OSMF (CoI, oversight on decision making in working groups and board), Relationship with the broader OSM community and local organizations of it.

  • Show us how you work and communicate. This is easiest if you have a history of commity involvement in OpenStreetMap. For most voters this will be at least equally important as your position on specific thematic questions. And this is not something you can hope to just tell us about in an abstract form. So if you have not already done so in the past: Get involved in public community work and communication.

  • Show us your qualifications. Again this is not something you can really just tell because we are not talking about formal qualifications and job experiences here as you would list them on a job application. Having watched the board’s work over the past years and having participated in quite a few board meetings i can clearly say that broad knowledge of the project, the OSM community, the written and unwritten rules within the project, its values and the current practical day-to-day problems of mappers in different parts of the world are of significant value and importance. You don’t need to worry if you have gaps in knowledge and experience in those fields since every candidate will have them but it is important to show us where you are familiar with how the project and the community tick.

  • Be aware that whatever your background is the majority of OSMF members will have a personal and cultural background very different from your own. Your ability to express yourself in a clear, easily understandable and non-ambiguous form will be essential both for your campaign and for your work on the board if you are elected. Note this is not a matter of sophisticated English language skills, it is more about clarity in thought and expression. Often the people most capable at this are people who don’t speak English as a first language.

  • Show us your ability to recognize and appreciate things beyond your own horizon. This is probably the most tricky of my recommendations, in particular because i think only a fraction of the candidates in past elections and of the current board members have good abilities in this field. What i mean is the ability to question your own views and assumptions. Kind of the opposite of being stuck in your ways. With that i don’t mean a general flexibility to adjust your position on things to what is most convenient in a certain situation. Nor do i mean platitudes like ‘i listen to everyone’ or ‘i try to look at all sides of a problem before forming an opinion’. What i really mean here is the ability to recognize and question what cultural and habitual constraints and preconceptions and personal, economic or career interests limit your ability to regard things for what they truly are and make decisions truly in the interest of the whole OSM community. There is no fixed recipe how to show this but it is a significant ability to have for a board member.

Overall potential board candidates might read this and think these are tough suggestions and therefore feel discouraged to run. Don’t be! None of the candidates (and also none of the current board members) will shine on all of these points. They are just meant to provide some guidance how to approach your campaign, how to write your manifesto and how to answer questions in case you are unsure what is important to the members. In fact a significant amount of self-doubt about your ability to contribute productively as a board member is probably a good sign of qualification.

Ideas on tagging discussion for SotM session

Posted by imagico on 31 August 2019 in English (English).

This post is an answer to Roland’s call for input on his planned SotM session on New processes to agree on tagging suggestions and their interaction with the editing software available on

I have no specific suggestion for an overall solution to the problem but a few observations on the matter that i would like to share on the level of problem analysis so to speak.

  • First i think a big part of the problem of tagging development and tagging discussion can be summarized by saying that unfortunately these days discussions on tagging are too often dominated by interests rather than arguments. I think this is a long term development that has its main origin in the increased importance of OpenStreetMap overall. As a result the ability to affect how mappers in OSM map and tag certain things has gained significant value - economic and otherwise - and as a result there are a lot of different interests trying to influence tagging and most of these are just special interests without substantial arguments why these ideas are of benefit for the project as a whole.

  • My second observation is that tagging discussion seems often dominated by a relatively small number of people who have the ability to express themselves in the English language well enough and who are able and willing to invest a much larger amount of time into such discussions than the vast majority of mappers and data users. By the latter such discussions are often perceived to be pointlessly elaborate, non-productive and detached from reality. The principle of do-ocracy is widely accepted and valued in the domain of mapping in OpenStreetMap but it it questionable if tagging discussion and tag documentation form a separate do-ocratic domain within the project that is largely disconnected from actual mapping.

  • Another disadvantageous tendency in tagging discussion that is connected to the previous point is that technical knowledge and competence is too often put above knowledge on the subject, i.e. geographic competence. This is because OpenStreetMap is largely seen as a technology project where software developers are often in a natural position of power even though they often don’t realize the limitations of their own ability to properly assess the complexity of the geographic reality - which is the actual core challenge of mapping and tagging in OSM. Outside the technological domain the ability of the OpenStreetMap community to recognize and support competence and good judgement as important and necessary skills for making good decisions and giving people with those skills the power and influence to make decisions is severely underdeveloped.

  • We know quite a lot of things about what constitutes a good and a bad tagging idea. The most significant being verifiability. Other criteria can for example be found in How to invent tags. One point in particular that is known to be significant for the success of tags is what i would call mappability - that is if in practical mapping mappers can readily and without too much effort or specific knowledge or training determine if to apply or not to apply a certain tag. Unfortunately this principal knowledge we have as a community often has relatively little impact and does not prevent clearly bad tags being invented or pushed to be used.

  • Tagging development and discussion is unfortunately still very much dominated by English language discourse and accordingly colored by the corresponding cultural views and priorities. Good processes for communication on tagging would need to try reducing this bias and give local communities with different languages better options to put forward their own tagging ideas and coordinate them with other local communities.

The new OSMF survey - my answers

Posted by imagico on 7 August 2019 in English (English).

The OSMF board is making another survey of the OSM community and like with the last one i though i’d publish my answers. I think stating my opinion in public and this way inviting a public discussion of these matters is ultimately better than just having an asymmetric communication with the board through a survey.

How can we share your answers?

Does not really apply since i already publish the answers here.

But since i do not endorse collection of exclusive knowledge for the ruling class so to speak i chose the first option.

Are you answering as a group?


What is happening in your local community?

I am not really the right person to answer this on any level of locality.

What about your local community should be more widely known? What can other communities learn from yours?

One thing mapper communities in other parts of the world can see observing the German community is an example how and under what circumstances a hobby mapper community can grow organically.

Another thing is the professional OSM data user community in Germany being much more dominated by small and medium enterprises than in other parts of the world (in particular outside Europe) and how this supports technological and cartographic innovation.

Do you meet other mappers in person? Is there a local community beyond mapping?

Yes and yes.

(Note: If you want answers other than yes/no then don’t ask a yes/no question)

Are you engaged in the “global community”. If you aren’t, why not?

That’s a highly ambiguous question - both regarding what it means to be engaged and what “global community” means. There are no significant spatial limitations in my communication with others in relation to OSM. The most serious overall limitation is language which limits my active verbal communication to German and English. But i try to passively listen also to communication in other languages, in particular French, Russian and Spanish.

What do you think could improve the interaction between global and local communities? How can you help?

Same ambiguity here in what “global community” means. Main prerequisites for individual contributors to be motivated to contribute are being taken seriously, being able to affect something of substance and being treated as equals by those you interact with. A strict subsidiarity principle and meaningful federalism that controls and limits centralized power within the OSM community would be very helpful for that. Reducing organizational influences (like corporations and other institutions) that are not democratically legitimized within the OSM community and which inevitably do not treat individual contributors as equals would be another important measure.

Do you know who organises the global State of the Map conference? If you’re going to SotM, why? If you’re not going to SotM, why not?

I have visited SotM last year and am going to visit this year but am likely not going to visit in the future any more, primarily due to the lack of oversight and accountability in decision making and spending money (in particular in the scholarship program) and the lack of strict separation between sponsorship acquisition and conference planning.

More in depth commentary on SotM from me can be found on

I read the following sources/channels:

I contribute to the following sources/channels:

Any other channels not listed?

  • FOSSGIS-mailing lists
  • RadioOSM podcast
  • various independent blogs
  • OSM messaging system
  • changeset discussions
  • OSM wiki
  • various github issue trackers

What do you find the most and least useful/valuable/enjoyable of these channels?

Commercial platforms that make money from selling their users’ data and selling the users’ attention are the least attractive. Mailing lists are generally preferred over web forum because they allow free choice of software for reading and writing and i can freely filter contributions as i like. I am generally somewhat uncomfortable with channels under control of the OSMF because of the latent risk of censorship of content or people that are deemed undesirable by the powers that be since several OSMF board members have in the past expressed a desire to implement behavior regulation on OSMF channels.

WeeklyOSM quite definitely provides the most “value per word”. The most significant contributions to community discourse usually come from independent blogs, diary entries and mailing lists (in that order).

What is your primary OSM username?


In which country do you live?


(interesting that you only ask for the country of residence and not the cultural affiliation)

Where do you map mostly?

According to HDYC mostly Russia.

Do you remotely map other countries?


(that is a rather non-useful question, better would be to ask if i map also without local knowledge)

How often do you map?


How long have you been mapping for?

Since 2012

How complete is your local area in your opinion?

Left empty because it expects a numerical answer

(This question frankly does not make much sense. If you’d specify for a handful of different areas in different parts of the planet the level of completeness i might also be able to also specify this for my area in analogy).

Check any of the following to describe your involvement in OpenStreetMap.

OSMF member, mapper, supporter (i guess), data user, developer, working at a company using OSM (only in the English version, not in German since i am self employed and it asks if i am ‘Angestellter’), local chapter member.

From your perspective, what 1 or 2 issues or outcomes should the OSM community prioritise, and why? Is there a role for the OpenStreetMap Foundation Board in making this happen? How?

The biggest long term challenge for the OSM community is to withstand and push back the massive external corporate and organizational interests that aim to influence and control the project and to give control of the project back into the hands of the individual hobby mappers and give them control and ownership of the map in all aspects and on all levels.

The OSMF board could do a lot to support this, specifically by preventing corporate and institutional interests from influencing OSMF policy decisions (through strict rules of eligibility for board members, through transparency of lobbying and decision making processes, through serious and robust conflict of interest regulations), by actually enforcing existing policy (including the license) w.r.t. corporations, by designing future policy to give individual hobby contributors a better standing against organized interests and most importantly by safeguarding the OSMF against hostile takeover attempts by giving away some of their own power and by installing oversight over their own actions through strictly and reliably community controlled bodies.

What are you doing yourself to address this? How can the OpenStreetMap Foundation help you achieve that?

What i do:

  • Electing people to the OSMF board with no connection to institutional and corporate stakeholders.
  • Demanding transparency from the OSMF in their work and decision making processes.
  • Critically evaluating and if necessary questioning in public the decisions of the OSMF.
  • Publicly countering corporate propaganda around OSM.

What the OSMF could do:

  • See above for the board.
  • The working groups could open their work more to the community (communicate more about it, more actively invite input) and insist on transparency internally, in their interaction with the board and with external interests.
  • The OSMF members could largely be more active in overseeing the work of the OSMF board and the working groups, provide critique and input and initiate and engage in public discussion of matters of policy. They could and should also more frequently force policy decisions the board is either not willing or not able to initiate.

Generally: more transparency - daylight is the best weapon against corruption.

What would you like us to focus on in the next survey?

I think the focus of any survey should be on generating statistical data that can be publicly shared. A survey is not a substitute for open symmetric discourse.

For more extensive comments on surveying the OSM community see:


(but be prepared that i might also publish any answers to further clarifying questions)

Bericht aus dem OSMF-Advisory-Board

Posted by imagico on 10 March 2019 in German (Deutsch). Last updated on 11 March 2019.

Diesen Bericht hatte ich eigentlich schon vor einem halben Jahr schreiben wollen - damals gab es jedoch noch nicht wirklich viel zu berichten, so dass ich mir auch noch gar nicht wirklich eine fundierte Meinung bilden konnte. Deshalb kommt er also erst jetzt als Bericht für das gesamte Jahr.

Ich bin seit letztem März Mitglied im sogenannten „Advisory Board“ der OpenStreetMap Foundation und vertrete dort den FOSSGIS in seiner Funktion als Organisation der deutschen OpenStreetMap-Gemeinde und „local chapter“ der OpenStreetMap Foundation. Diese Rolle hatte der FOSSGIS kurz vorher übernommen und ich wurde dann auf der Jahreshauptversammlung letztes Jahr für die Position vorgeschlagen und gewählt. Dieser Bericht soll deshalb auch ein bisschen als informeller Rechenschaftsbericht über meine Tätigkeit dienen.

Das Advisory Board ist ein recht merkwürdiges Konstrukt. Geschaffen wurde es ursprünglich im Rahmen einer Neuordnung der Firmen-Mitgliedschaften bei der OSMF, wo man den Käufern der teuersten Mitgliedschaften hierüber einen besonderen Anreiz bieten wollte. Diesem Gremium wurde dann nachträglich zusätzlich jeweils ein Vertreter der offiziell anerkannten local chapters zugeschlagen und jetzt besteht das Advisory Board etwa aus einer gleichen Anzahl von Firmenvertretern und Vertretern lokaler OpenStreetMap-Organisationen.

Das Advisory Board darf man sich jetzt nicht als ein irgendwie fest strukturiertes Gremium vorstellen mit Arbeitsregeln, regulären Treffen, Abstimmungen und offiziellen Verlautbarungen. Im Grunde ist es einfach nur eine Mailing-Liste - mit sehr geringem Volumen, seit ich dabei bin gab es insgesamt weniger als 100 Mails. Auf dieser Mailing-Liste sind neben den Mitgliedern des Advisory Board die OSMF-Vorstands-Mitglieder. Und was üblicherweise passiert ist, dass irgendjemand ein Thema vorbringt - entweder aus dem Vorstand um die Meinung des AB einzuholen oder aus dem AB selbst als Initiative. Die Mitglieder nehmen dann so weit sie das möchten dazu Stellung und der Vorstand verwendet diese Äußerungen nach eigenem Gutdünken.

Im Grunde war festgelegt, dass alle Kommunikation mit dem AB von Vorstand protokolliert wird (Zusammenfassung hier, Details in den einzelnen Vorstands-Protokollen). Es gibt jedoch aufgrund der skizzierten Arbeitsweise keine Trennung zwischen der internen AB-Kommunikation und den Ratschlägen, die das AB an den Vorstand richtet. De facto war es dann meist so, dass die Vorstandsprotokolle nur das genannt haben, was der Vorstand dann auch in seine Entscheidungen einfließen ließ - böse Zungen könnten auch behaupten, dass das protokolliert wurde, was man hören wollte. Ich habe deshalb im Januar mal angefangen, ein inoffizielles, detaillierteres Protokoll zu schreiben (vorgestellt hier) und die Protokolle des Vorstands zur Tätigkeit des AB wurden daraufhin auch detaillierter. Diese Verbesserung der Transparenz ist denke ich das wichtigste, was ich im vergangenen Jahr im Advisory Board erreichen konnte.

Ansonsten habe ich vor Allem versucht, Vorschläge und Ideen in der Diskussion kritisch zu beleuchten. Dies betraf insbesondere

  • die Entwicklung der Welcome Mat (gedacht als Einführung in OSM für Außenstehende, insbesondere für Vertreter aus Wirtschaft und Politik).
  • Die Pläne für ein Microgrants-Programm (Förderprogramm für Kleinprojekte).
  • Die Initiative von Firmen-Vertretern, dass die OSMF für Firmen beim Sponsoring von regionalen Veranstaltungen beim Transfer von Geldern als Mittelsmann fungiert (Entscheidung dazu hier).

Das Grundproblem bei allen diesen Diskussionen ist, dass durch die fehlende Öffentlichkeit bei der Diskussion eine große Gefahr darin besteht, dass man sich gegenseitig in einer einseitigen, unkritischen Sichtweise auf Dinge bestätigt, die aber wichtige Aspekte völlig ausblendet. Die Welcome Mat ist ein gutes Beispiel dafür, die wirklich wichtigen grundsätzlichen Fragen dazu wurden im Grunde erst angeschnitten, als das öffentlich vorgestellt wurde.

Dies bringt mich zum zweiten Teil, einer eher grundsätzlichen kritischen Auseinandersetzung mit dem Advisory Board und seiner Funktion. Die Legitimation von einem Berater-Gremium wie diesem kann denke ich nämlich nur darin liegen, dass es tatsächlich substantiell in der Lage ist, als Gesamt-Gremium wertvollen Rat zu bieten, der über dis Summe von dem, was seine einzelnen Mitglieder individuell äußern, hinaus geht. Dies tut das Advisory Board in seiner derzeitigen Form meiner Meinung nach im Moment nicht.

Bis jetzt gab es im AB so gut wie keine Initiativen zu eigenen Themen von Vertretern der local chapters. Warum auch? Eine lokale OSM-Gemeinschaft, welche ein Thema über das AB an den OSMF-Vorstand heranträgt würde dadurch seiner Position meist eher schaden, denn das AB repräsentiert ja neben den lokalen Gruppen auch Firmen-Interessen. Und in einem nicht öffentlichen Gremium fehlt natürlich auch die Unterstützung der lokalen Gemeinschaft die man repräsentiert. Diese hat wenn man das Thema öffentlich vorbringt in jedem Fall mehr Gewicht. Ich hab mehrmals während des letzten Jahres überlegt, ob es Themen gibt, die ich sinnvoll für den FOSSGIS im AB einbringen könnte und hab mich letztendlich immer aus den genannten Gründen dagegen entschieden. Auch bei Themen, die der OSMF-Vorstand an das AB heran trägt, findet ein umfassender Diskurs unter der Beteiligung vieler Mitglieder kaum statt. Mein oben verlinktes detaillierteres Protokoll gibt vielleicht einen gewissen Einblick in den typischen Ablauf von solchen Diskussionen. Ich kann natürlich nichts darüber sagen, ob außerhalb der AB-Mailingliste zu solchen Themen dann noch Kommunikation zwischen Vorstand und AB-Mitgliedern stattfindet. Aber das ist dann natürlich im Grunde nicht mehr Bestandteil der Tätigkeit des Gremiums insgesamt.

Die Funktion, die das AB derzeit in gewissem Maße hat und die einige im OSMF-Vorstand und im AB gerne ausbauen möchten ist die einer gewissen Ersatz-Öffentlichkeit. Die generell im OpenStreetMap-Projekt verbreitete Kultur der offenen und öffentlichen Diskussion und Entscheidungsfindung ist etwas, wofür Leute aus anderen Organisations-Kulturen teilweise schwer zu erwärmen sind und ein Gremium wie das Advisory Board scheint da manchen attraktiv als ersatzweiser, nicht öffentlicher Kommunikationspartner anstatt der OSMF-Mitgliedschaft oder der OSM-Community generell. Den richtigen Umgang mit solchen Tendenzen, Diskurs und Entscheidungsprozesses in der OSMF aus dem öffentlichen Raum in exklusive, nicht öffentliche Kreise zu verlagern, empfinde ich als eine schwierige Herausforderung. Auf der einen Seite tendiere ich dazu, solchen Bemühungen in dieser Form recht kategorisch entgegenzutreten (zum Beispiel hier und hier), auf der anderen Seite zeigt die Existenz solcher Bedürfnisse in OSMF-Vorstand und AB, dass man sie nicht einfach ignorieren kann.

Ich bin auch der Meinung, dass in der OSMF regelmäßig ein erheblicher Bedarf an sachlicher Kompetenz, Erfahrung und verschiedenen Perspektiven auf diversen Themengebieten besteht - jeder, der mal bei OSMF-Vorstands-Treffen dabei ist wird das vermutlich erkennen. Einen Rahmen zu schaffen, in dem fähige Leute gemeinsam Analysen und Empfehlungen zu aktuellen Themen der OSMF entwickeln können und in dem solche Ratschläge dann auch genügend Gewicht entfalten, um gehört zu werden, wäre durchaus erstebenswert. Ein Gremium zu diesem Zweck sollte jedoch meiner Meinung nach auf jeden Fall

  • öffentlich und völlig transparent arbeiten,
  • in seiner Zusammensetzung den inhaltlichen Notwendigkeiten entsprechen (sachliche Kompetenz und Erfahrung sowie die Fähigkeit, diese produktiv in einem solchen Rahmen einzubringen) und
  • demokratisch legitimiert und gegenüber der OSM-Community rechenschaftspflichtig sein.

Das derzeit im Grunde rein nach politischen und wirtschaftlichen Kriterien zusammengestellte Advisory Board wird meiner Meinung nach keiner dieser Anforderungen gerecht.

Da das Advisory Board aber zumindest im Moment in dieser Form weiter existiert, kann ich, wenn von den FOSSGIS-Mitgliedern gewünscht, in diesem Jahr gerne weiter für den Verein dort präsent sein. Für viel wichtiger hielte ich aber im Grunde, dass sich mehr FOSSGIS-Mitglieder und OSM-Aktive aus Deutschland in der OSMF engagieren, etwa

  • durch Teilnahme an Diskussionen auf der osmf-talk Mailing-Liste
  • durch Teilnahme und Fragen Stellen auf OSMF-Vorstands-Treffen
  • durch Engagement in OSMF-Arbeitsgruppen - dies kann man übrigens auch, wenn man nicht OSMF-Mitglied ist
  • indem man OSMF-Mitglied wird und dadurch eine Stimme bei wichtigen Entscheidungen und Vorstands-Wahlen bekommt.

Der Einfluss, den ihr hierdurch auf die Entscheidungen und die Arbeit der OSMF ausüben könnt ist deutlich größer als der, den wir über einen Sitz im Advisory Board haben.

Label painting guide continued

Posted by imagico on 9 January 2019 in English (English).

This is an update to my previous piece on techniques how mappers who reject the concept of verifiability in OpenStreetMap (i have written more elaborately on that) can paint labels in the standard map style on

Meanwhile some mappers have taken my suggestions to heart (irony is a tricky thing…) and started drawing labels more or less exactly the way i demonstrated. The most prominent label in the map, showing at z2 and above, is now based on a completely non-verifiable polygon geometry.

natural=bay extreme so far the pinnacle of abstract non-verifiable polygon drawing to paint labels - but there is still a lot more potential, no one aimed for membership in the zoom level zero club yet

But there are other good news for label painters.

There is a new alternative to natural=bay for blue label painting in the form of natural=strait (introduced here). Works exactly like natural=bay so you can add some excitement to label painting by contemplating if you want to call it a bay or a strait.

natural=strait for some just facepalm-worthy, for others the best invention since sliced bread…

Also helps with all those nasty complaints you might receive from other mappers about your label drawing efforts. If you get a complaint about using natural=bay just re-tag it natural=strait and the other way round.

For black labels there are also exciting news. You can use natural=cape as alternative to place=island (see here). Works the same way, depending on size of the polygon labels start appearing as early as z4. And while place=island is easy to falsify even for non-locals natural=cape has much wider applications without being too suspicious for mappers overly concerned with semantics.

place=island works also with natural=cape instead of place=island now

Have fun!