Recently the OpenStreetMap Foundation issued the OpenStreetMap Awards.
The whole thing was primarily organized by Ilya Zverev who deserves thanks for doing this and for the courage to try something new.
When this was first suggested it seemed like a good idea to me but during the process i already had some critical thoughts on the way it turned out. I did not want to speak up while the votes were still running not to influence the procedure but now i think it is time to bring this up.
First of all the whole process was quite biased towards English language activities. There were non-native English speakers among nominees and winners but almost everyone on the list was nominated for activities in English language. Since the whole process was done in English only it was not possible for someone who does not understand English to competently participate in nomination and voting and assessing someone nominated for activities in a language you don’t understand is not really possible either - the few suggestions in the first nomination round that were formulated in languages other than English never stood a chance. This is a hard problem. But still i think this can be done better with not too much additional effort.
The three stage process - open nomination, preselection by committee and final open vote again - does not really work in reality. It gives an impression of manipulation since it appears the preselection is used to eliminate undesirable nominees and the final vote therefore appears staged. In the future i would probably either skip the committee selection (making it a fully open process) or eliminate the final open vote making the final choice by the committee - which would of course require this committee to be selected in an open process somehow.
Somewhat related to this the award categories do not really work either. The initial nomination round showed that people often simply wanted to nominate someone and put them into a category that seemed to fit best. As a result in many categories nominees were not really comparable because they were nominated for very different things which kind of defeats the purpose of having categories. The categories should either be more strictly defined or nomination should be across categories and votes decide on which category they are awarded for.
All of this of course does not mean the winners do not deserve their awards - all winners and nominees should be commended for their work. I have slight misgivings only about Frederik - who specifically said before he did not want the award and about Manuel Roth and Lukas Martinelli who certainly deserve an award although IMO not in the category ‘Innovation’. The technology they thankfully make more accessible to a broad range of users is for the largest part the innovative work of others. Now i don’t say that Mapbox employees should have been awarded here instead because awards like this should primarily be given to those who volunteer their free time and not to professionals who get paid for their work. However if you strictly evaluate the innovative merit of the nominees’ work this seems a somewhat odd choice to me. But of course voters will usually consider who of the candidates they think deserves an award most and don’t care what particular award this is.
I hope these comments will help improving future award processes and maybe start some further discussion on how the OSM community wants to reward and acknowledge contributions.