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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 https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright is “© OpenStreetMap contributors”. This emphasizes the above mentioned purpose of the attribution acknowledging the work of the mappers. The shortened “© OpenStreetMap” is typically also accepted though some mappers prefer the longer and more specific version.

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

Non-interactive uses

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

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

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

Concluding remarks

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

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:

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

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.

Schlussfolgerungen

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

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

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

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

Wie wird es jetzt weiter gehen?

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

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

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

Non-authoritive English translation from deepl.com:

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

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

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

The Prehistory

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

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

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

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

The text

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

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

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

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

What will happen now?

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

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

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

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 deepl.com for your convenience:

To the post-election tomcat in the filter bubble

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2019 OSMF board candidates – analysis and recommendations

Posted by imagico on 5 December 2019 in English (English)

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 openstreetmap.org

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?

No

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?

imagico

In which country do you live?

Germany

(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?

Yes

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

How often do you map?

sporadically

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:

http://blog.imagico.de/on-surveying-the-surveyors/

Sure

(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)

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 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.

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!

A bit of analysis of the OSMF board election results

Posted by imagico on 15 December 2018 in English (English)

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.

Some analysis of the answers and manifestos of the candidates for the OSMF board election 2018

Posted by imagico on 2 December 2018 in English (English)

Yesterday the answers of the candidates to the official question for the OSMF board election 2018 were published.

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:

https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/User:Imagico/Analysis_of_OSMF_board_candidates_2018/

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.

The most surreal and memorable OSMF board meeting yet

Posted by imagico on 16 November 2018 in English (English)

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.

No more broken multipolygons in the standard style on openstreetmap.org

Posted by imagico on 17 August 2018 in English (English)

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.

Multipolygon error in the standard style here

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.

Multipolygon error in the standard style here

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.

Multipolygon error in the OSMI here

You can find these errors not only through missing geometries in the map but also through the OSM Inspector

Towards a dedicated public issue tracking/project management system for OSM

Posted by imagico on 10 August 2018 in English (English)

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.

Specific examples:

  • 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.