Recent diary entries
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.
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 openstreetmap.org.
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.
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.
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.
works also with natural=cape instead of place=island now
I want to provide a bit of analysis here for this year’s OSMF board election results.
The election was ultimately uninteresting in terms of STV voting dynamics since the final results were the same as what they would have been based on first round results only. None the less i want to look at the second choices here.
In STV voters give a priority list of candidates. It essentially says: I want to vote for <position 1> on my list but in case that vote would be pointless for some reason i give my vote to <position 2> and so on. One of the most interesting thing to look at in the ballots is the second choices grouped by first choices. Below you have for example the 189 people who voted for Tobias on position 1 (27.7 percent) grouped by who they voted for at position 2. The most popular choices were Joost with 82 votes (43.3 percent) and Guillaume with 64 votes (33.8 percent). Same for the other candidates. Here are the numbers:
Tobias Knerr 27.7 (189)
- Jo Walsh: 8.46 (16)
- Geoffrey Kateregga: 5.29 (10)
- Joost Schouppe: 43.3 (82)
- Guillaume Rischard: 33.8 (64)
- Miriam Gonzalez: 4.23 (8)
- Nuno Caldeira: 2.11 (4)
Jo Walsh 5.44 (37)
- Tobias Knerr: 13.5 (5)
- Geoffrey Kateregga: 16.2 (6)
- Joost Schouppe: 21.6 (8)
- Guillaume Rischard: 13.5 (5)
- Miriam Gonzalez: 32.4 (12)
- Nuno Caldeira: 2.70 (1)
Geoffrey Kateregga 10.0 (68)
- Tobias Knerr: 13.2 (9)
- Jo Walsh: 0 (0)
- Joost Schouppe: 25.0 (17)
- Guillaume Rischard: 8.82 (6)
- Miriam Gonzalez: 44.1 (30)
- Nuno Caldeira: 4.41 (3)
Joost Schouppe 20.4 (139)
- Tobias Knerr: 19.4 (27)
- Jo Walsh: 4.31 (6)
- Geoffrey Kateregga: 14.3 (20)
- Guillaume Rischard: 17.2 (24)
- Miriam Gonzalez: 39.5 (55)
- Nuno Caldeira: 2.87 (4)
Guillaume Rischard 13.3 (91)
- Tobias Knerr: 38.4 (35)
- Jo Walsh: 5.49 (5)
- Geoffrey Kateregga: 4.39 (4)
- Joost Schouppe: 35.1 (32)
- Miriam Gonzalez: 15.3 (14)
- Nuno Caldeira: 0 (0)
Miriam Gonzalez 17.2 (117)
- Tobias Knerr: 7.69 (9)
- Jo Walsh: 6.83 (8)
- Geoffrey Kateregga: 35.0 (41)
- Joost Schouppe: 33.3 (39)
- Guillaume Rischard: 5.98 (7)
- Nuno Caldeira: 9.40 (11)
Nuno Caldeira 2.94 (20)
- Tobias Knerr: 30.0 (6)
- Jo Walsh: 0 (0)
- Geoffrey Kateregga: 15.0 (3)
- Joost Schouppe: 20.0 (4)
- Guillaume Rischard: 15.0 (3)
- Miriam Gonzalez: 20.0 (4)
Overall Joost was a popular second choice among voters across most of the spectrum which allowed him to ultimately maintain his lead on Miriam - even though she got a significant number of second choice votes in round 4 of the STV process when Geoffrey was eliminated.
Relatively speaking Miriam was also a popular second choice across voters of different candidates, in particular Geoffrey, Jo and Joost. Tobias was comparatively popular among voters for Joost, Guillaume and Nuno but not such a popular second choice overall.
If you sum the first and second choice votes (as a theoretical exercise) Joost is ahead of Tobias but they’d both still win.
If you look at it in terms of candidates who - relatively seen - form popular pairs (A-B), i.e. where candidate B is popular among voters of candidate A and candidate A is also popular among voters of candidate B the most popular pairs seem to be
- Geoffrey-Miriam: 44.1 - 35.0
- Joost-Miriam: 39.5 - 33.3
- Guillaume-Tobias: 38.4 - 33.8
Note this is relative numbers - in terms of absolute numbers the combination Tobias-Joost is obviously the most popular with a hundred votes overall having these two at position 1 and 2 in either order.
This is a lot of material to work through and to simplify this for me i produced a summary of the key points i read in the candidates’ answers and manifestos. In addition i put together some further research from publicly available sources. This is available here:
Although this does not really aim to communicate an opinion on the candidates - i try to describe the positions of the candidates rather than to judge them - this is of course not meant to be in any way an objective summary of the positions. I none the less thought it might be interesting for others to read and it might also be useful for candidates because there are comments pointing to answers that i perceive as strange and ambiguous. I would welcome any clarifying statements - here, on osmf-talk or on the wiki talk page.
I would also encourage others to present their own reading of the presentations of the candidates - because it is very valuable to learn how different people have different perspectives on the same matter. With the large spectrum of cultural backgrounds of the candidates this would help developing a clear picture of everyone and make a fact based decision in the election.
Yesterday was the last OSMF board meeting before this year’s Annual General Meeting. And like it is already kind of tradition this last meeting had more visitors listening in than any on the previous meetings and IIRC even more than last years pre-election meeting making it probably the largest board meeting in OSMF history.
And this despite the guests having to wait for half an hour because the board started the meeting with a closed session.
And here is where the surreal part started. The closed part was - as you can read on the meeting agenda - meant to determine if two of the board members (Frederik and Heather) had a conflict of interest regarding the subject of the OSMF organized editing policy or guideline as it is now called. This is because apparently two other board members (Mikel and Martijn) were already considered to have a conflict of interest (and after me asking at the end of the meeting confirmed that they recused themselves). Now we don’t know the details yet - no word was uttered by the board in the public part of the meeting about the outcome of the closed part of the meeting (did i already mention it was surreal?). We know that apparently Frederik and Heather were not determined to have a conflict of interest because they participated in the vote later. But we don’t know who decided this and we don’t know who decided that those who had a conflict of interest were allowed to participate in the discussion none the less.
The most amazing thing however is that this discussion and decision if there is a CoI for the various board members happened literally just minutes before the decision on the matter and not years ago when the whole process to develop an OSMF policy was started. And as if to rub in everyone’s face that to fully participate in and influence the whole process from within the board despite an obvious conflict of interest is apparently no problem in today’s OSMF Mikel essentially kicked off the public part of the meeting (after approval of the minutes from the last one and a few minor other things) by criticizing about the new organized editing policy draft (that i strongly criticized as being whitewashed and essentially mostly free of any hard requirements) that (and i obviously paraphrase here) the data working group should not have the right to sanction corporations for not doing what the policy requires them to do - specifically using as an example the requirement to document their organized activities on permanently available OSMF platforms (the wiki) rather than channels they control and can delete as they like (like github). The audacity of this is simply mind-boggling - both in substance of criticizing the possibility that a mostly toothless policy can potentially be enforced but also in the way of at least from my perspective dropping any pretense to act in the interest of the OpenStreetMap community en large on this matter, which we happen to know through among other things the survey the OSMF made, is to a significant part concerned about organized activities.
Never in the history of the OSMF board meetings - and i have listened in to quite a few of them - have i regretted so much that there is no verbatim transcript of the meetings. As a piece of real-life comedy this was just priceless.
But i am getting carried away. What inevitably followed was the vote on the weakened policy or guideline (it was approved). The punch line was a comment Peter gave with his vote critizing that apparently very recently yet another policy draft was proposed to the board that was apparently written by a mapping company and was discussed by the board. My request after the meeting that this draft be made available to the OSMF members was rejected since the board does not give out details of their internal conversation or documents they receive. But the fact that on a matter of policy making concerning the OSM community the OSMF board discusses specific drafts without making them available to the members or the OSM community is fairly remarkable. The board can obviously not control who sends them drafts for policy documents but they can surely refuse to look at and discuss drafts that cannot be made available to the OSMF members and the OSMF community. That this apparently did not happen is to me a major issue.
I kind of wonder what would happen if someone leaked this ominous draft. Because the only handle agaist making this public would be copyright and this would obviously require someone to claim authorship of said document. And i kind of assume whoever wrote and pitched this to the board does not really want to be associated with it…
After this topic was through everyone was clearly exhausted from the whole performance. The only major other thing discussed was the membership fee waiver program - which was considered to be urgent due to the potential influence of members eligible for voting in the upcoming elections. The discussion of this was quite reasonable and the result fairly acceptable although in total i think the concept of waiving membership fees upon request is not a solution for the overall problem of the lack of proportional representation of the OSM community in the OSMF.
That more or less closed this memorable OSMF board meeting.
Like Heather did in the meeting (she kind of managed to beat me on that) I would like to express thanks to Martijn and Peter for their work on the board - neither of who apparently re-runs in the upcoming elections.
A fairly big but silent change in the openstreetmap.org map rendering infrastructure has been completed in the last days which is going to have a significant effect on mapper feedback through the standard style map.
Technically this is just a system and software update. This however includes a new osm2pgsql version which fundamentally changes the way multipolygon geometries are assembled. This change in osm2pgsql already happened more than a year ago but osm2pgsql had not been updated on the OSMF rendering servers since then.
Before this change standard style map rendering tried very hard to salvage whatever could be salvaged from a broken multipolygon geometry. This sometimes led to strange results but usually something was shown in some way even for invalid geometries. This led to mappers often being not very diligent about multipolygon geometries - as long as it shows up in the map it is fine. For data users not using osm2pgsql (like for example my low zoom map demo) this was a big problem because if they rely on valid geometries these invalid multipolygons are all unusable - yet customers of course expect them to be usable since you can see them in the map.
Long story short: That the standard map rendering should not try to be most tolerant about multipolygon validity but rather be more strict about it to give mappers better feedback about their mapping has been a demand of many people for a long time. This has now finally happened.
Osm2pgsql now uses libosmium for building multipolygons which means it is tolerant about
- duplicate nodes
- duplicate segments between nodes
- noded self intersections (i.e. rings intersecting with a node at the intersection)
It however is strict about
- non-noded self intersections
- open rings
Quite a few people have noticed during the last week or so already that there are a few prominent gaps in rendering where there previously were features shown. Many of these have already been fixed quickly because of this improved feedback. This is not yet very visible in the multipolygon error numbers because these count errors and do not consider their visual impact and what has been fixed quickly is primarily a few high impact cases. But there is hope that with this change in rendering and the resulting improvement in feedback to mappers about errors the increase in the number of errors in multipolygons might be stopped or at least be slowed significantly.
There are plenty of prominently visible gaps in the map due to broken multipolygons still waiting to be fixed of course. If you work on fixing such errors it is also a good idea to take the opportunity to split larger geometries into smaller features which can be maintained more easily and are less prone to breaking.
You can find these errors not only through missing geometries in the map but also through the OSM Inspector
We have various communication channels in OpenStreetMap being used for different needs in communication. The mailing lists and forum work reasonably well for free and open discourse of the community, changeset discussions allow communicating on specific edits in the map (and we have for example Pascal’s tool to look through these). We have the user diaries for people publishing their thoughts and experiences on the project and discussing them with others. And we have the OSM wiki which is used as a place to document things.
All of these have their issues and room for improvements but they are widely used and accepted as the platforms where communication happens. And they all have relatively low entry barriers as evidenced by the fact that quite a lot of people use them actively.
What we don’t have and where we have in OpenStreetmap a fairly obviously increasing need for is a means for project organization and related communication, task and issue tracking etc. There is a very old trac instance but this is hardly used any more and has a fairly awkward usability, in particular for non-programmers. Safe to say this is not an established communication platform any more.
Because of that people have started widely using external commercial platforms, in particular github, for this kind of work.
- corporations doing organized edits have github repositories to track their work - like here, here, here and here
- import planning is frequently performed on github - like here and here
- there are attempts to move tagging discussion to github issue trackers here
- the OSMF and its working groups using github for issue tracking (both publicly and internally), public examples here and here
For OpenStreetMap this is not a good development for various reasons:
- github is designed for software developers and is practically much less accessible for non-developers. Even if non-developers manage to adapt to this they will always feel less at home there and as a result there is an inherent dominance of the software developers over non-developers on github.
- the requirement to register on an external platform and accept the terms of service there poses a highly problematic hurdle. It should always be the goal that an OSM community member should be able to participate in all public community discourse without such hurdles.
- quite a few people have principal ethical concerns regarding platforms like github which are usually financed through either advertisement or sale of personal information about its users.
- since the github software is not open source use of github is in conflict with the general culture of OpenStreetMap to base itself on open source technology.
Because of these problems i am generally inclined to boycott attempts to move non-development discussions to github. But this is somewhat difficult if you can’t point to a suitable alternative. I would therefore propose we set up an open source project management system that can be used by everyone with an OSM account for use by the OSM community. There are quite a few software products available for this.
There are various questions and arguments that might come up regarding this suggestion:
- Do we really need this kind of tool in OSM? Yes, the fact that github is used so widely for OSM projects is a clear indicator.
- But github is so convenient, everyone already knows how to use it while something else you would have to newly learn to use. Yes, for you that might apply - but you are putting the convenience of you and a few other people familiar and comfortable with github over the interests of the vast majority of mappers.
- Why should the OSMF invest money and work into self hosting something when there are github alternatives based on open source software available for use that might offer affordable service plans for an organization like OSM? Mostly to ensure a low entry barrier for people to participate by requiring nothing more than an OSM account. If this could be achieved with an externally hosted tool and reliability of the service and access to and ownership of the database are ensured, external hosting would IMO also be an option.
- Won’t this fragment the discourse in the OSM community by creating yet another set of communication channels you need to follow to stay informed? Yes, that is a possibility - but as said this is already happening through the use of github at the moment. I think a dedicated OSM platform would improve the situation on this matter.
- Should this be a pure project management/issue tracking platform or also a source code repository and version management system? That’s a good question. Many of the free software options available offer both. But most software development projects around OpenStreetMap are independently managed and you can’t force any of them to move. The core arguments for not using github i listed do not necessarily apply to all of these projects. The main use case would at least initially be non-development projects. And therefore usability for non-developers should be a primary concern.
- Great, but who does the work necessary to set this up? Ideally such a platform would be integrated into the existing OSM website with notifications via the OSM website messaging system, using the configured language settings and possibly connections to changeset discussions etc. That would be a lot of work to set up. But running it separately similar to the OSM Forum would already be a useful first step. This would require some work from operations to set this up and maintain it. But the more difficult steps are probably to come to a decision with wide support what we need in terms of features, what software should be chosen for this and to configure and adjust it for OpenStreetMap’s needs. This post is meant to start the discussion on these questions.
Warning: this post contains irony that might not be immediately obvious to all readers.
So you are an OpenStreetMap mapper and consider the task of the mapper to be to draw the map. All this talk of a generic geo-database and we don’t map for the renderer sounds like esotheric nonsense to you. OpenStreetMap is a map. Mappers create this map. Period.
But map style designers make life really difficult since your mapping work is interpreted in a way that makes it hard to properly draw things on the map.
This in particular applies to labels. Sometimes you just need to draw a label somewhere. Here you learn how you can do this without also having other stuff show up in the map that you don’t want.
The classic method to do this is using place=locality. This is really nice because place=locality just means an unpopulated place with a name but no other verifiable properties. This means it cannot be easily falsified without local knowledge meaning it is fairly unlikely that another mapper will come along and remove your label because it does not actually describe something verifiable on the ground.
The big disadvantage of place=locality is that it is not rendered before zoom level 15 and you have no way to influence the label design.
A much more powerful tool for label placement is place=island. Large polygons tagged place=island are drawn with a label (and only with a label) starting at zoom level 4 already and the label size depends on the size of the polygon. This mean you can use this to place a label anywhere on the map in a wide range of sizes just by drawing a suitably placed and sized polygon and tagging it place=island + name=whatever.
neutral labels from z4 upwards
The big disadvantage is that this is very easy to falsify. What an island is is very well defined. Using this tag for other things will, in particular if the feature is large and prominent, quickly be reverted as vandalism.
The next method for placing labels is to use shop=mall which creates red labels starting at zoom level 10. This has more or less the same disadvantage as place=island - if it is used on things that are not actually malls this can easily be seen on high resolution images - outside of settlements it is often obvious without consulting images at all.
A bit less of this problem comes with tourism=attraction, likewise starting at zoom level 10 but with a different styling and in dark magenta. Meant as a secondary tag to indicate something is of touristic significance (which in itself is obviously difficult to falsify) it is rendered as a primary tag independent of the type of feature it is applied to. It is therefore much more popular than shop=mall for labeling - despite the duller color (see here, here, here and here for examples).
colorful labels from z10 upwards with shop=mall and tourism=attraction
And finally since recently we also have a way of generating blue labels without at the same time generating other visual clutter. This is completely unrestricted in terms of zoom level (i.e. you can even place a label on zoom level 0 if you want to).
To do so you once again need a polygon (a closed way or a multipolygon relation) and tag it natural=bay + name=whatever. This is easy to falsify if the polygon extents over land but it is just about as hard to falsify as place=locality for polygons over water and does not have the zoom level and size restrictions of that.
…and the easiest way to spam OSM so far
And in case you are hesitant to use this because verifiability of mapping might seem not such a bad idea in the end - don’t be afraid, you are not alone. Here a few examples:
Some prefer to use natural=water to natural=bay - this has the disadvantage of being rendered with a solid color fill, which of course does not matter much if you use it only over water - at least in the standard style. And it is not rendered before z5. But it has been possible to use that for much longer for label placement over water so it is quite popular as well:
As a data user i can just sigh and contemplate on how to reliably normalize these free style drawings into properly placed nodes which then can hopefully be used to interpret the data with the help of verifiable geometries like the coastlines. This would be funny in its irony if it wasn’t so sad because of the work hours wasted in mapping and data maintenance for nothing.
Yesterday’s OSMF board meeting contained a discussion about the idea of translating OSMF wiki pages, in particular the board meeting minutes, into languages other than English.
There was no definite decision on the matter, the topic was essentially bounced back to the Communication Working Group. But there was an interesting discussion on the topic of translations i want to comment on here.
For context: The OSM community is a multilingual community in the sense that there is no majority of native speakers of any language in the community. But OSM community communication has always been centered on the English language - partly because OpenStreetMap originated in the UK, partly because English is the most widespread smallest common denominator language, i.e. it is the language most community members speak and understand at least rudimentarily - though this is also kind of a self fulfilling prophecy since people with no capability of communicating in English at all have it much more difficult to become a member of the OSM community.
The OSMF in particular is practically an organization with English as the only working language. The OSMF in terms of members also almost has a majority of native English speakers, on the OSMF board 4 of 7 members are native English speakers. None of this is codified in OSMF policy though and i would wish we had more variety of language in OSMF communication - like for example people posting on osmf-talk in other languages (which is rare - but it does happen).
Based on this background it is of course highly desirable if the OSMF board looks into making the OSMF less focussed on English language communication. But the problem is that translating OSMF documents is potentially destined to be more of a political alibi initiative (the kind of thing you can point to and claim you have done something). To make this clear the OSMF board clearly does have good intentions in this matter but the problem is - as usual with diversity topics - a lack of awareness of the nature of the problem.
One part of the discussion that stuck with me in particular was when a board member (a native English speaker) mentioned that translations are tricky because a translation is always subjective and inevitably transports an opinion, an interpretation of the content. While this is absolutely correct it does not even touch the real issue here - namely that the original English language text already inevitably transports cultural and social values connected to the language. It is not the translation that introduces opinion and interpretation to a policy document (and i would include board meeting minutes in that because they frequently contain statements regarding policy), it is the original English language text that does. This is what you need to be aware of regarding language diversity - there is no neutral ground here. And having translations that are subordinate to an English language original can further aggrevate the problem instead of solving it.
So what can you productively do for language diversity in the OSMF? Here a few ideas:
- Minimize the amount of codified policy. This is traditionally the OpenStreetMap way and it has served the project quite well in the past. OSM is well known to have very few firm rules. The written rules and conventions we have are often just attempts to write down what is the way things are done practically to support newcomers in learning things - meaning they are documentation of established habits rather than being policy themselves.
- Where codified policy is developed it should not be universally done in English. Deliberation on policy measures can and should involve different languages. Take the directed/organized editing policy which is currently in development for example. The first draft for such a document was written in German by the German mapper community. It contains ideas and transports values that are in parts specific to the German culture - just like an English language policy draft will often transport British or American cultural values. I think having the German draft probably helped creating a more balanced policy in this case and having for example a French, Spanish or Russian draft or sketch could equally help in other cases.
- Different language versions of policy documents should have equal authority. To some this might seem a strange idea incompatible with the very idea of having a policy - which is usually considered to imply the policy is the same for everyone. But in the end - if there is a substantial difference in meaning of different language versions of a policy document that is usually an indication the policy was not very well defined and precise in the first place.
Regarding translation of non-policy documents - i think this is something that might be better addressed by supporting communication of the ideas in these documents and commenting on them in different languages than by creating and maintaining formal translations. WeeklyOSM routinely communicates OSMF activities in different languages which has much more reach and is of much more value than a translation of a wiki page slumbering somewhere deep in the depth of the OSMF wiki. The CWG also tries to communicate on the official OSMF blog in multiple languages. In short: Communicating about what is happening in the OSMF in different languages is in my opinion more valuable than translating what is happening. Supporting such activities by giving people who do this appreciation and support and by trying to attract more people with skills and passion in this domain to contribute to such is the way to go here.
Some time ago i reported here my impression of the first public OSMF board meeting and i kind of feel motivated to make another report on the most recent meeting.
I have attended quite a few of these meetings as a guest in the meanwhile and in most of them there were very few people listening in - rarely more than one or two in addition to myself. Listening to these meetings gives you a bit of insight into how the board ticks, how they communicate and how they make decisions. The last meeting had a quite extraordinary number of visitors and also seemed quite a bit different in several aspects. You can read up the formal minutes of all of the meetings on the OSMF wiki - what i here want to present is my personal impression and commentary on the thing. This is my subjective impression so there are certainly things i understood in a different ways than others and there are likely things i missed because i did not pay attention to them. If you want a neutral record of the meeting look at the minutes or better yet listen in on the meetings yourself.
Let me start by thanking the board for continuing to hold the meetings in public, i think this is of fundamental importance for connecting OSMF politics to the OSM community base. This diary entry is my contribution to this discourse - both by communicating my impression of the meetings to a larger audience than those who were able to be at the meeting and to provide feedback to the board on how their work is perceived.
It was the first meeting after the last board elections so there was the selection of officers - which was ultimately uninteresting because the same people as last time were elected.
Next topic discussed was the membership fee waiver program drafted by the MWG. What amazed me about this is that while there was some discussion among the board members there was no specific mentioning of the discussion that had occured in public on the OSMF mailing list about what is the best and fairest way to actually get more people to become OSMF members. Although a decision can of course be made on the proposal as it exists (which is purely for handling technical payment difficulties) it does not seem very productive to me to approve the MWG draft without giving feedback to the MWG and the community members who are interested in lowering the barriers for people to become an OSMF members on if and how moving in that direction is considered desirable by the board. There were vague statements of individual board members that further work should be done regarding the membership fees but no commitment or acknowledgement of the need to substantially lower the barriers.
I think this might indicate kind of a more general problem. During the last year we have seen - largely through Dorothea’s work - a significant improvement of communication of overall OSMF matters to the OSM community but this might hide the fact that there is still a lot of room for improvement of the communication between the OSMF and the OSM community on specific matters. This is something the OSM community can work on (by better articulating their wishes and opinions to the board and WGs, better identifying the right point of time to provide input) but it is also something the OSMF board can and needs to work on. If input from the OSM community on matters of policy of the OSMF is being offered but either not considered or considered but the fact that and how it is is not communicated to the people providing this input that is a serious communication problem.
Next was a discussion about a possible face-to-face meeting of the board. The history of the board face-to-face meetings is an interesting one. When the first more recent dedicated meeting of this kind was planned in 2016 (not sure if there were other similar meetings in the early board history or more or less complete meetings of the board during other events like SotM Edit: i missed a meeting in 2015 which can probably be understood to be the first more recent f2f meeting) the main argument was that the board members getting to know each other in person was very useful and important for a practical working relationship. Last year there was then another dedicated face-to-face meeting although the board composition had not changed (since both Frederik and Kate were re-elected) so this argument was obviously not the primary reason any more.
When the board reported on the last meeting on the OSMF blog i mentioned in a comment:
… But i sincerely hope that with a meeting like this costing quite a bit of both time and money you do evaluate the success of it in terms of measurable results – in other words: Go in with a clear idea what you intend to accomplish and evaluate afterwards if you managed to do so.
which pretty much summarizes my attitude to this subject. If a face-to-face meeting is useful i see no reason not to have one but IMO the board needs to justify and demonstrate to the OSMF members and the OSM community as a whole that it actually is worth the money spent. If you look at the list of “what we want to change” from the 2016 meeting you can get doubts about this.
There were some comments in that direction in the discussion but everything was pretty vague and non-committal overall. What i distinctly noted is that no one even mentioned the fact that there is a SotM conference this summer in Italy and travel costs could be significantly reduced probably by making a meeting there.
Next topic was re-activating the osmf-announce mailing list for official announcements. This was an interesting and useful discussion about the purpose of this announcement mailing list and also the possibilities and the needs to communication to members from parties other than the board - like for example for initiatives from the membership to put forward proposals without going through and potentially even against the will of the board.
Then there was an item “Taking a stand against people publicly bad-mouthing the OSM project, OSM community, or OSMF” put forward by Frederik. This was about the infamous tweet by Dale Kunce which is the most recent and one of the most blatant examples of people badmouthing the OSM community on twitter and other social media channels. Frederik suggested that the OSMF board should make a clear statement to condemn such claims and make clear that the OSMF board stands behind the OSM community against people collectively calling them racists and other things while encouraging everyone to bring any specific cases of racism, misogyny or other discriminating behaviour to the attention of the board.
What followed were reactions mainly from Heather and Mikel who from my point of view very skillfully tried to spin this into yet another call for stricter rules on OSM communication channels, codes of conduct and policing use of these channels. This argument more or less went along the following lines:
- the OSMF cannot control what is said on Twitter (which was of course not what Frederik was suggesting)
- there were quite a few unfriendly, inpolite or similar statements on OSMF managed channels recently the Twitter statements should be seen in context with (i can’t really help but this seemed oddly similar to Trump’s famous “there was violence on both sides”)
- the OSMF should therefore strengthen and enforce rules on what may be said on OSM communication channels (which instead of condemning Dale Kunce’s rant would actually kind of support it)
I of course paraphrase here, this is not literally what has been said but if i try to extract the essence of the arguments that have been made this is more or less what i end up with.
Peda was the only board members who spoke in support of Frederik’s proposal so in the end no decision from the OSMF board to take a stand on bad-mouthing OSM and the OSM community. You can interpret this as you like. By the way Dale Kunce is president of HOT and works for the American Red Cross - the organization that has made the USD 25k donation to the OSMF last year that was kept ‘secret’ for more than half a year. Even if you are not into looking for conspiracies from a PR perspective this is really kind of like running at full speed towards a concrete wall. What credibility does a board that cannot even condemn a clearly outrageous statement that sweepingly calls essentially all OSMF members racists have on matters of communication tone in intercultural communication?
After that the meeting had already been running for an hour and several board members indicated they wanted to close it - Peda suggested to vote on the budget for 2018 before doing that.
For the visitors this is kind of a strange situation since the budget at this point is not public so you listen to a discussion about a budget that you cannot look at. The discussion however was mostly about the implications of the recent 200k donation and how this should be taken into account for financial planning. Ultimately the budget was approved as it was drafted by Frederik.
A followup meeting was scheduled for next week to cover the remaining agenda items.
It is still too early to draw conclusion in what direction the new board tends politically - even if there have been a few indications towards that in the way people communicated in the meeting. What i can say in review of all the board meetings i listened to overall is an increasing trend towards conservativism (mostly in the sense of sticking to a certain way of doing things because you are used to it rather than because there are convincing arguments to actually do it this way). This is not astonishing considering all of the current board members have been on the board for quite some time or bring in a certain experience from elsewhere how they are used to things being done they try to continue in this venue.
Also the board - with Ilya leaving - has become significantly less culturally diverse, we now essentially have a US-German-Canadian board. The most exotic voice on the board now seems to be Peda who is the only real hobby mapper with no professional relationship to OSM whose views maybe best represent those of a typical OSM mapper (though with a distinctly German perspective of course). Given that Peda is clearly the board member least fluent in English he also has the least chance to convincingly articulate his views against his rhetorically more skilled colleagues.
With release 4.6 OSM-Carto now much more strongly than before encourages you to map waterbodies and water covered areas of rivers (riverbank polygons) with multipolygons as large as possible. The established and documented practice of dividing riverbank polygons into small, easy-to-handle areas, maybe even exclusively with closed ways instead of more complex multipolygons as it is documented on the wiki, has now been declared undesirable by OSM-Carto.
Some might remember the multipolygon fixing efforts from earlier this year, the numbers are raising again and will be on the same level as before the fixing effort in 1-2 years. It is also well known that large multipolygons break more often and more likely stay broken than smaller ones. Yet incentivising merging of small polygons into larger ones as done by OSM-Carto has no influence on that of course, because … oh look, over there, an ape with three heads…
And it is not that this problem is unexpected or no one has pointed it out before.
Hint for the wannabe map painters among you: If you have just painstakingly mapped thousands of small lakes in some area and loathe they are invisible on the map at all but the highest zoom levels just merge them into a giant multipolygon as well. Multipolygons with thousands of outer rings - no problem. And if the combined area is large enough you can make them show up this way - arbitrary thresholds nonwithstanding.
The work of the mappers: http://maps.imagico.de/#map=6/70.088/147.942&lang=en&r=osmlz&o=55&ui=8
What OSM-Carto shows of this: http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=6/69.938/146.656
Is this still a map in sense of an attempt to visualize the actual geography?
Maproulette challenges have become fairly popular recently, especially due to Jochen’s Area fixing project. But it seems this has gotten out of hand now and creates serious damage to the OpenStreetMap project.
In general this kind of tool is prone to inviting mechanical work. But with the recent Island and Shoreline Alignment challenge this really gets over the top. I first saw this when various edits turned up in remote areas of the world by various mappers in very high frequency editing islands in changing locations far apart within minutes, often without factual basis and often factually incorrect.
This challenge does everything wrong that can be done wrong with a fixing effort:
- there are no useful instructions to the mapper what to do and what problems to consider. It only says: ‘‘Align the highlighted island to match imagery’’.
- there is no documentation who created this task and how the allegedly misaligned islands are detected.
- and most importantly: the task covers areas where the global images routinely available offer no basis for improving the existing data.
Task: Align the highlighted island to match imagery (link)
Especially the last point is a big practical issue now since the edits made through this challenge misalign and worsen a lot of data in OSM. I commented on two most obvious cases where Bing offers no image at all but mappers none the less blindly followed the task to Align the highlighted island to match none-existing imagery with obvious results. But even in areas where Bing offers low resolution images these hardly ever allow improving existing data. These images in Bing are mostly from >15 years old L1G Landsat 7 images which have positional errors of sometimes more than 100m and rarely allow substantially improving existing mapping. In most cases attempts to do so made within the challenge worsen data which has often been mapped from either better data or with better alignment of the images.
With edits like this the island in question is not necessarily less accurate than before - the mapping before was done based on - if at all - only slightly better aligned images. But it is no improvement since it is likely not more accurate than before in absolute terms and is definitely less accurate relative to the surrounding features.
Yes, these images show a lot of potential to improve mapping here
The least that needs to be done here is
- stop the challenge as it is now
- limit it to areas where high resolution images are available in common sources
- create clear instructions for the mapper advising them to properly check image alignment and find the best quality sources in the area and check if existing mapping might already be of better quality based on other sources. This is not possible to do within a few minutes if you pick random locations all around the world of course.
Of course not all edits made within these challenges even in areas where Bing is poor are bad, there are also some experienced mappers participating here who know how to properly assess and select images.
If whoever created this challenge seriously wants to improve mapping in remote areas the most basic, most productive and most obvious way would be to provide better quality images.
And in general i think we need to put a review regime on organized mapping efforts like maproulette challenges requiring at least basic documentation of the process used to generate the task and ensuring there are proper instructions for the mappers and no nonsense tasks on a larger scale. A lot of thoughtful tasks have been offered in maproulette in the past but apparently this is not something that can be relied upon to be ensured without a QA process for the QA process…
OSMF board elections are done with Single transferable vote (STV). Since this has caused confusion and misunderstanding in the past occasionally here a quick and politically neutral helper how to vote with STV:
The name says it already in fact: Single transferable vote. You only have a single vote and you cannot split it. But you can specify an order of priorities who to give this vote to. In almost all cases your vote will go to the candidate you put on top of your list. Only in the rare cases where your vote for this candidate would be wasted it is transferred to the next highest candidate on your list (and subsequently possibly even further down the list). This happens in either of two cases:
- your top candidate does not stand a chance because he/she has too few votes overall.
- your top candidate got so many votes he/she does not need your vote to win.
To help your decisions you can find the list of candidates and their manifestos on the wiki as well as questions by the community and answers of the candidates - where you also can still ask questions if you have any.
Recently the OpenStreetMap Foundation issued the OpenStreetMap Awards.
The whole thing was primarily organized by Ilya Zverev who deserves thanks for doing this and for the courage to try something new.
When this was first suggested it seemed like a good idea to me but during the process i already had some critical thoughts on the way it turned out. I did not want to speak up while the votes were still running not to influence the procedure but now i think it is time to bring this up.
First of all the whole process was quite biased towards English language activities. There were non-native English speakers among nominees and winners but almost everyone on the list was nominated for activities in English language. Since the whole process was done in English only it was not possible for someone who does not understand English to competently participate in nomination and voting and assessing someone nominated for activities in a language you don’t understand is not really possible either - the few suggestions in the first nomination round that were formulated in languages other than English never stood a chance. This is a hard problem. But still i think this can be done better with not too much additional effort.
The three stage process - open nomination, preselection by committee and final open vote again - does not really work in reality. It gives an impression of manipulation since it appears the preselection is used to eliminate undesirable nominees and the final vote therefore appears staged. In the future i would probably either skip the committee selection (making it a fully open process) or eliminate the final open vote making the final choice by the committee - which would of course require this committee to be selected in an open process somehow.
Somewhat related to this the award categories do not really work either. The initial nomination round showed that people often simply wanted to nominate someone and put them into a category that seemed to fit best. As a result in many categories nominees were not really comparable because they were nominated for very different things which kind of defeats the purpose of having categories. The categories should either be more strictly defined or nomination should be across categories and votes decide on which category they are awarded for.
All of this of course does not mean the winners do not deserve their awards - all winners and nominees should be commended for their work. I have slight misgivings only about Frederik - who specifically said before he did not want the award and about Manuel Roth and Lukas Martinelli who certainly deserve an award although IMO not in the category ‘Innovation’. The technology they thankfully make more accessible to a broad range of users is for the largest part the innovative work of others. Now i don’t say that Mapbox employees should have been awarded here instead because awards like this should primarily be given to those who volunteer their free time and not to professionals who get paid for their work. However if you strictly evaluate the innovative merit of the nominees’ work this seems a somewhat odd choice to me. But of course voters will usually consider who of the candidates they think deserves an award most and don’t care what particular award this is.
I hope these comments will help improving future award processes and maybe start some further discussion on how the OSM community wants to reward and acknowledge contributions.
Last week BushmanK wrote about the use of up-to-date open data satellite imagery for mapping in OSM and noted what i also frequently experience - that awareness and interest within the OSM community regarding the large bandwidth of up-to-date near real time open imagery that is available today is astonishingly very low. Mappers do complain that imagery in Bing and elsewhere is frequently outdated and poor quality but few are aware that newer imagery exists and is available and in contrast to Bing etc. is often truly open data.
The real problem here is that as a result of this mappers keep wasting energy and time on tracing things from images that are hopelessly outdated and at the same time often also poorly aligned. At the moment approximately 15-25 percent of the Earth land surfaces are shown in Bing and Mapbox with 15 year old imagery that is poor quality in a lot of aspects.
With this blog entry i hope to somewhat further increase awareness of this subject among mappers. I have been for quite some time making available recent imagery from open data sources for mapping in OSM. This is only a small contribution for select areas but shows that a huge body of primary data is available today and is largely unused for OSM-mapping.
Northern Greenland July 2016
Images from 2016-07-17, the most recent ones of this remote area, better detail and more up-to-date than current mapping in OSM.
Northern Ellesmere Island July 2016
Images from 2016-07-08 to 2016-07-15, recent images, partly overlapping the previous, poor and largely faulty data there in OSM based on imports.
From 2016-06-23, showing most recent building activities.
From 2016-06-07 - the new locks.
Darwin and Wolf islands, Galapagos
From 2016-03-11 - two small islands with poor coverage in other sources.
From 2014 to 2016, quite a few islands missing or poorly mapped in OSM just a short distance from Singapore.
All of these are prepared from open satellite data, of course the main advantage of this is you do not depend on my or others’ services to make use of it. Processing raw satellite data is something you need to learn to do it but it is not that difficult in principle. You just need time and an open mind to get the necessary experience and some background in photography or color physics definitely helps. There are quite a few mappers who routinely map from custom processed Landsat images for example.
And since the remark will inevitably arise - yes, these are all lower resolution than what is necessary for tracing smaller buildings or other small scale features. That is the downside of having up-to-date open data for everywhere in the world. But as said the main target here is abolishing the 15 year old even lower resolution and much poorer quality imagery. A nice secondary use is supplementing older high resolution data with information on recent changes like in case of the Vostochny Cosmodrome and the Panama Canal.
Yesterday evening there was a public OSMF board meeting. I was one of the few non-boardmembers attending so i thought i’d give a report of my impressions here.
This was not the first public board meeting, there was one previously last July but this was a singular occurence so it was possibly more of a mock up meeting demonstrating publicly how board meetings go. The one yesterday was held under the premise that this is how board meetings are going to be conducted in the forseeable future which is a very different sitation. A big thanks to the board for taking this step and i hope the OSMF members and the OSM community as a whole acknowledge this by coming to the meetings. With the short announcement and the Friday evening date in Europe the small participation this time was understandable though. This is really public by the way, everyone can listen in, you don’t need to present your OSMF membership number or something like that before you are allowed to enter.
I was about ten minutes late so i did not get the start, i came in during some discussion on SotM regarding finances between the board and Rob Nickerson from the SotM working group as invited guest. There were very few non-board members present overall - i think apart from Rob and me there were two others overall.
A few general words on procedure: The meetings are conducted with Mumble which i was already familiar with from the German OSM podcast which was usually recorded with audience via Mumble. You connect your Mumble client to the HOT mumble server (talk.hotosm.org), move into the OSMF board meeting room and can immediately listen to the conversation. Since i was not present at the start i missed any initial statements on procedure. There were no constraints in place this time so i probably could have said something at any time but in general it is likely expected from guests to not speak up freely but only talk when being given the word by the board. You can also mute yourself (which i did) to indicate you are not actively participating.
In general Mumble is not quite like a face to face meeting, you have only acoustic and no visual communication and there is always a small but inevitable time lag in communication. It is more like radio communication. You usually configure your client to only transmit when you press a button to eliminate any background noise when you are not talking. There is also a text message/chat system connected to it which can be used for communication without interrrupting the audio conversation.
On the meeting itself - my general impression was that it was easy to follow, everyone was understandable and none of the current board members has a really problematic accent - Paul a bit of Canadian which you need to get used to, Peda quite strong German tone (which i of course have no problem with) and Ilya a bit of Russian tint (which i find enjoyable). There was occasionally somewhat strong background noise while people were speaking but not everyone can move to a tone studio for the meeting of course.
What happens during a board meeting is the members talk about various topics make decisions on some of them via vote and so on. My general feeling of the whole thing is - i hope this does not sound too harsh - that it is kind of unproductive. I am probably somewhat biased here, being self employed i am not really that used to regular organizational meetings any more - when i am at a meeting these days i tend to get paid by the hour which usually tends to expedite things. But i know from past experience that meetings are often fairly unproductive at least by outward appearence and this board meeting was not an extreme case in that regard at all.
This impression is probably partly because of the setup in Mumble - although you are talking to each other you are not really stitting together. Quite a lot of time is spent essentially on waiting if someone has something more to say on the matter because you cannot indicate this using body language. There is also the occasional conflict when two people try to speak up at the same time and then both back off to let the other have the word. Another factor probably was that because the meeting was public everyone was very guarded and careful with voicing a strong opinion. To get progress on a subject it tends to help if you try to work out topics of disagreement by expressing your standpoint in a very pointed way and possibly even insituating a disagreeing standpoint from someone else. This did not really happen. So this is probably something that will improve in the future when everyone gets more used to the public setting.
I will give two examples of subjects that were discussed:
One topic was the collective database guideline which was approved by the board during the meeting. Procedure for votes is apparenly very formal by the way, Kate (who was chairing the meeting) called every member individually to approve or disapprove. There was some discussion about the examples to be included with the guideline - i did not really understand that, maybe because it was about a third example which was not part of the guideline draft on the wiki. What astonished me about the procedure a bit is that although this was a decision with quite some impact - after all this is now an official statement on the interpretation of the license by the organization holding the rights on the OSM data - there was no recap of the process leading to the guideline, the reasoning behind making the guideline the way it is and how the board thinks this fits into the OSMF mission (which it probably does - but still). Also i would have expected a kind of outlook in lines of where to go from here in terms of developing additional community guidelines or modifying existing ones.
Part of this could have been due to the fact that no one from the license working group was present and the board probably considers the guidelines to be managed mostly independently by the LWG and their role being purely oversight in terms of preventing possible gross blunder in these.
Another topic which was still in a much earlier state of discussion was a possible donation drive for the OSMF to be conducted later this year. Here my understanding was somewhat hampered by the fact that apparently this idea has been already extensively discussed on the face-to-face meeting of which there is not yet a comprehensive record. The discussion was mainly about how to proceed about this regarding the purpose of the donations (what the money is needed for), possible legal implications (if the donations can only be used for the purpose they were announced to be needed for) and timing (what is the best moment to start such a drive). The impression i got from this is that the board considers a fairly general donation drive to support their efforts to put OSMF finances on a less volatile basis (meaning less from hand to mouth and more of a cushion to compensate fluctuation in either income or expenses). One topic touched in that regard was the matter of trust in the OSMF board (specifically by the operations working group which is considered instrumental for a donation drive but also in a broader sense). My own impression is that this in general are important matters and it is good to see these are discussed although i kind of see the risk of starting to build the house from the top. Trust in the board regarding finances is a prerequisite for a successful donation drive and having an overall concept and realistic plans for both income and expenses is necessary to build such trust. With plans for corporate membership and widening general OSMF membership still somewhat vague and little long term (i.e. beyond yearly budgets) plans and directives on expenses (what the money will be spent on and what it will not be spent on) there is little basis to form an informed opinion on an individual matter like a donation drive. I can see the possibility of all of this developing into a solid an trustworthy concept but there is still a lot of work to get it there.
Overall i see the concept of public board meetings on a good way. Mikel made an interesting suggestion to have alternating formal board meetings and more informal talks in between which could make the whole thing more participative and more interesting for the community (although care needs to be taken for this not to degrade into a general chat).
A final suggestion to the board: It would probably be good if in the future you were all easily identifiable on Mumble by your Mumble name for anyone entering at any point in the meeting. IIRC Mikel was kind of cryptic. Maybe just agree on a common form (first name, first + last or OSM username).