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.