So long, and thanks for all the fish

Posted by imagico on 15 December 2021 in English.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Comment from amapanda ᚛ᚐᚋᚐᚅᚇᚐ᚜ 🏳️‍🌈 on 16 December 2021 at 16:00

FYI, the OSMF Board has said “Enforcement will begin as soon as a new moderation team for these lists is affirmed by the board.”, so nothing is changing until that happens. In addition, I think the “The board intends to extend the scope of the Etiquette Guidelines to …” section is only aspirational, and has no force at the moment.

(I’m on OSMF Board, I voted in favour of this motion, and this is just my personal views.)

Comment from mariotomo on 26 December 2021 at 17:08

my interpretation of your statement takes me back almost 30 years in Italian television, a late night show by satirist Paolo Rossi (not the football player) on the national third channel, good for a potential audience of possibly 2% of all Italians owning a TV set.
in his second issue he felt the need to introduce his definition of vulgarity, because all prudish censors from the main stream news accused him of foul language … and he went on with a vivid representation of vulgarity, between form and content, so strong that 30 years afterwards I’m still considering it a perfect description of things to come, which have come.
(that piece of television art has obviously died under censorship, never to be seen again.)
in my opinion Etiquette is fine for a dinner with your boss or in the entourage of the Queen, but imposing it above the content of the discussion is killing the discussion.

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