OpenStreetMap

Diversity in OpenStreetMap, Seeking your help on ideas for the Foundation

Posted by mikelmaron on 21 January 2020 in English (English)

At the first meeting of the new OSMF Board, we discussed forming a Diversity Working Group, and I was charged to draft a scope of work. I appreciate the opportunity to take up the task to help get this effort moving. It’s fair to say that we all want participation in OpenStreetMap and the Foundation to be more representative of the whole of OSM and the world we want to map. This post sketches my thoughts on how we got here, and what this could look like. I’d love feedback. After some period of discussion, I’ll help organize a meeting (or set of meetings to accommodate time zones) to kick things off.

As background, the topic of diversity has been active for a long time in OpenStreetMap, in posts and mailing lists, including the dedicated diversity-talk@ list, discussed in Board election statements and QA for several years and at Board face to face meetings, and in person sessions at State of the Map. This year’s Board election of all white men from Europe and North America prompted active discussion across Twitter, OSM Diaries, and within the board email group. This discussion was at times difficult, and other times was productive. It became clear to me that there is a wide range of impression on what we all mean by “diversity”, the degree to which it’s a problem, if things should change, and how that change might be accomplished.

These discussions provide us with a broad set of topics to start thinking about an OSMF working group. I find it daunting, but at the same time we are provided with much to reflect on and work through on the topic of diversity. As the OSMF board, we are in a position to help the community channel these discussions into productive, impactful, data-driven and community oriented group. Structurally, this could take the form of a full working group, a working group with a time delimited lifespan, or a Board committee.

Here’s a proposal for questions the group might address

  • What does diversity mean for OpenStreetMap and the OpenStreetMap Foundation?
  • What open communities are successfully addressing diversity and how can we learn from them? For example, Guillaume suggested looking at the Python Diversity Statement as a good starting point.
  • How diverse is the OSM/OSMF currently? How will the group measure and conduct research to find out? What research and data already exists?
  • What are the root causes and systematic issues within our community that could be addressed to improve diversity?
  • What actions can be taken to improve? Where are the biggest opportunities for community growth? This could include a wide array of approaches, from recruiting more people to OSM/F, mentorship, work on inclusion in our interaction and communication, or a hundred other things. The actions wouldn’t be the responsibility of the group to implement alone. Most likely this would involve coordination with working groups, the Board, and community.
  • What is the timeline to checkin and evaluate these efforts? What’s working, what isn’t and why? Where do we need to iterate on approaches?

Again, I want to hear from you all on this sketch, what such a group should focus on, and if you’d like to be involved. This effort itself is going to work best with a diverse group of people. Please add your comments here on this diary entry; or link in a diary comment to posts on the channel of your choice. If you’d rather communicate privately, you can send me a message through osm.org.

Comment from Valor Naram on 21 January 2020 at 17:04

What are the root causes and systematic issues within our community that could be addressed to improve diversity?

Much of our activity runs over the internet and you can just know about OpenStreetMap when you search for free geodata on the internet. You cannot get to know OpenStreetMap through press, Meetups or other mainstreamed events. Relaying on blog posts dedicated to everything happening in the GIS world is not helpful to gain attention from “normalos” from outside of the Open Source, GIS, linked data and tech world.

To come to diversity: - Less women - because almost everything runs over the internet - women are less interested in “technical stuff” - Solution: - Women tend to be more communicative then men and are likely more willing to talk to others in real life (Meetup concept, meet and great concept, come together and do something concept). - less people from countries of the global south - structural weaknesses inside their countries - low bandwith - other channels are being used for getting information - not being aware of their individuals powers - Solution: - working together with NGO’s working in the said areas - providing services around OpenStreetMap to help people in developing countries (countries of the global south) - Different Ethnial groups - Solution: - providing services dedicated for their interest (e.g. LGBTQ+ centric maps, disabled people centric maps, …) - people with disabilities - Solution: - Offering services to such persons to make their lifes easier.

Comment from Mateusz Konieczny on 21 January 2020 at 19:07

I think that it would be a good idea to have index with what was already written (and add new entries as they appear). This may help to avoid repeating the same things and build on what was said/collected/proposed/discussed.

What open communities are successfully addressing diversity and how can we learn from them?

I would look not only at open communities, some useful (though less likely to be applicable) lessons may be also learned elsewhere.

I would also look at cases where attempts to address diversity failed and caused harm. For a recent example see StackExchange that was harmed by focusing on very specific kind of diversity and ignored other kinds of diversity (they also made many other mistakes).

Comment from Mateusz Konieczny on 21 January 2020 at 19:19

It may be useful to have a list of TODO things. So people interested in fixing this specific issue can work on something specific.

In one of recent diversity-related discussion topic of west-european/USA centric image examples at OMS Wiki. One of mentioned solutions was going through https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Category:Feature_pages_with_missing_images and adding images - trying to use something from Asia/Africa/South America/Eastern Europe.

Comment from Mateusz Konieczny on 21 January 2020 at 19:22

you can just know about OpenStreetMap when you search for free geodata on the internet

Enforcing attribution requirement of ODBL may help to get OSM known by people outside group that was looking for something like that.

For reference, attribution requirements are currently violated for example by MAPS.ME, Facebook, Snapchat, Mapbox, Moovit and other major players (see https://github.com/matkoniecz/illegal-use-of-OpenStreetMap )

Comment from seav on 22 January 2020 at 13:19

Hi, Mikel! I think addressing diversity within OSM and the OSMF would be a long-term activity and creating a working group or something similar is a good step to start the ball rolling.

However, one thing I think the OSMF in particular can do to improve the Foundation’s membership diversity in the short term is to get on with implementing the modified fee waiver program that the OSMF members approved during last year’s AGM so that we can get more members into the Foundation and this will definitely improve diversity within the OSMF. The updated program aims to waive membership fees for people who have made “sizeable contributions” to OSM. However, what constitutes “sizeable contributions” is still left up to the MWG and the Board. So, I would recommend that the MWG/Board proceed with defining what this means even if the Diversity Working Group (or another body) is still not yet created.

Comment from joost schouppe on 22 January 2020 at 17:29

seav, MWG already had a meeting this year and have some first ideas about how to implement this. This should go to Board soon, and should be not -too- hard to implement. However, I think without an active and personal recruitment campaign, the impact could be disappointing. That is also on the Board and MWG radar already, though more support will obviously be welcomed.

Comment from mikelmaron on 23 January 2020 at 15:01

Thanks for the comments so far. Would love to hear from more people, and hear from people interested to join and work in this group.

@seav A couple additional thoughts after @”joost schouppe”. In order to know if the fee waiver program improves diversity, we need to know what the Foundation membership looks like now, and what it looks like in the future. And once someone joins the Foundation, what is the experience like for them? and where does the Foundation benefit?

@”Mateusz Konieczny” take the broader point that if OSM were more well known, it could attract more diverse participants, but we should think more about all the channels OSM can access, and really does not take advantage of – we have great stories but don’t tell those stories widely. Certainly having better localized tagging guidance would be useful, and could attract similar enthusiasm to translation. Yes, a compendium of previous research and discussion would be helpful. And agree we could look more widely at how other communities approach diversity, but reckon that open technology oriented communities are going to have enough similarities to make for interesting lessons. I’m not familiar with what happened on StackExchange.

@”Valor Naram” I think you mean well, but I don’t recognize OpenStreetMap as you describe it. There are a lot of in person events around the world with OSM, and they’ve been critical to building our community. I’m not sure what a “normalo” is, but it doesn’t sound that great, and in fact there are plenty of people who do not have a heavy tech background involved in OSM. Women are in fact very interested in technology, but there are many factors that lead to less participation generally; you might be interested to read about the history of women in computing on Wikimedia, which highlights that the early days of software development was dominated by women.

Comment from Ferdinand0101 on 23 January 2020 at 18:16

@”Valor Naram” I think you mean well, but I don’t recognize OpenStreetMap as you describe it. There are a lot of in person events around the world with OSM, and they’ve been critical to building our community. I’m not sure what a “normalo” is, but it doesn’t sound that great, and in fact there are plenty of people who do not have a heavy tech background involved in OSM. Women are in fact very interested in technology, but there are many factors that lead to less participation generally; you might be interested to read about the history of women in computing on Wikimedia, which highlights that the early days of software development was dominated by women.

My defenition of a normal would be someone who has never heard/interacted with anything gis related (the programm side) from my experience talking to people they think that it takes a lot of skill and thecnical knowledge to contribute which is false since the iD editor and StreetComplete are very user friendly and easy to use.

As was pointed out before women are usually less interseted (due to various reason but that’s not my topic here) in tech if we could make it clear obvious that it is more about observation skill and not programming or taking complex measurements we should be able to apeal to a broader audience which in term should also be more diverse.

Comment from mikelmaron on 23 January 2020 at 22:05

@Ferdinand0101 I get it, but I don’t think it’s helpful to call people unfamiliar with GIS and programming “normal” – though you are right, OSM editing is pretty weird and unusual, in a good way. Totally agree that showing how approachable OSM can be would be helpful to expand contributors, especially to focus on observation of our world – that’s the most interesting part of OSM.

Not to belabor a point, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say women are less interested in tech. It’s right to notice that women are less represented in some science and technology fields, and that OSM with its roots in open source communities in part reflects that. The reasons are complex and big, and I’ll be interested to hear from people less represented in our community what those reasons are. One thing I believe is that if people don’t see people like themselves somewhere, it does feel hard to invite yourself in.

Comment from Mateusz Konieczny on 24 January 2020 at 12:27

I’m not familiar with what happened on StackExchange.

They attempted to do something diversity related. And did it by introducing poorly formulated rules.

And reacting to feedback by libeling one of moderators in a press, pushing with poorly designed rules and generally ignoring feedback by volunteers.

In the end they improved rules a bit. But at least among more involved community members many are quite unhappy. See https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/333965/firing-mods-and-forced-relicensing-is-stack-exchange-still-interested-in-cooper

They managed to make their apology so insulting and misleading that it become post with lowest rating in history of the site. And later they deleted it, but it is preserved at https://web.archive.org/web/20191211020403/https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/334248/an-update-to-our-community-and-an-apology (I needed to use toggle “use desktop mode” to see it on a mobile).

https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/333965/firing-mods-and-forced-relicensing-is-stack-exchange-still-interested-in-cooper has summary

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stack_Exchange#Declining_relationship_between_users_and_company has quite good summary, starting from

On September 27, 2019, a moderator of multiple Stack Exchange sites was dismissed from her moderator position, allegedly connected to behavior associated with upcoming changes to the Code of Conduct (CoC) relating to gender pronouns.

Comment from ᚛ᚏᚒᚐᚔᚏᚔᚋ᚜ 🏳️‍🌈 on 24 January 2020 at 12:48

StackExchange brought in a new CoC which required the use of a person’s pronouns. Some mods didn’t like that, cited that as a reason for them quitting, or openly state they wouldn’t follow it, resulting in their removal as a SE mod (in possibly not the nicest way). In most discussion people aren’t saying the quiet bit out loud. Personally I find StackExchange’’s (now deleted) FAQ on their new pronoun rule very fair and helpful.

Comment from ᚛ᚏᚒᚐᚔᚏᚔᚋ᚜ 🏳️‍🌈 on 24 January 2020 at 12:51

“women are less interested in “technical stuff”“¹ Seriously dude? It’s not the 1950s any more, this just isn’t true.

Comment from MarissaD on 24 January 2020 at 17:05

It would be useful to first assess what is preventing diversity in OSM - what happened for the Board election to choose all white men from Europe/NA for example? Do people from other groups know about the nominations? Are you proactively working with diverse OSM groups to prepare their members for board nominations? What kind of mentorship is available for people so that they can one day run for leadership positions? Exclusion is often systemic and when you figure out what parts of the system are causing it, its easier to know where to focus efforts.

I’d also like to point out that the language we use can also be exclusionary - saying “women are less interested in technical stuff” is a very different statement than “women have often been systemically removed or excluded from certain fields and therefore may not always feel comfortable in those spaces” (there are many women who are comfortable as well, but I don’t want to exclude the ones who don’t). The first statement says that it is an inherent issue of the women; the later puts the onus on the community to adjust itself for people who have been ‘othered’. The same goes for other groups who have been underrepresented. Also, I would love to do more programming and development (background in GIS), but many technical groups are heavily male dominated and just not inclusive. They’re not fun places to be - I feel out of place. Comments like the above contribute to that.

I think a diversity working group is a great first step. In addition to reading through some of the resources @mapeadora posted, it should be imperative to gather information on how people from diverse backgrounds participate or would like to participate more (encouraging participation in more languages is a great idea). A diversity statement and code of conduct would also be really useful. Even taking these questions beyond this thread would be great - have you posted this on Twitter? Did you @ a diverse set of accounts to gather feedback from them? If you’ve only asked these questions here, you may run into an echo chamber effect.

Some other resources to check out: * Women in GeoSpatial+ * Resources from OpenSource4Women * Black Girls M.A.P.P * Geochicas * The Real Reason Women Don’t Go Into Tech * Github Repo on improving diversity and inclusiveness * BetterAllies

Comment from mikelmaron on 24 January 2020 at 17:15

Thanks @MarissaD. I did post on Twitter and it got good distribution, as well as many OSM channels.

My take on the Board election, yes there were few candidates, and that reflects a probable lack of diversity in the Foundation, at least people active in Foundation activities. I very much like the idea of mentorship on how to get more involved in the Foundation. It’s an offer I personally plan to make, and will also ask other Board members to make the offer as well.

Comment from mapeadora on 24 January 2020 at 18:08

@᚛ᚏᚒᚐᚔᚏᚔᚋ᚜ (I don’t know how to reply to your user).

I assure you, it’s a still VEEEEERYYYYYYYY common and sadly accepted opinion in our data / OSGEO / OSM communities. The Geochicas we lead all the time with this type of sincere considerations by white hetero middle-class western males AND sometimes females.

Comment from Mateusz Konieczny on 24 January 2020 at 21:03

I very much like the idea of mentorship on how to get more involved in the Foundation. It’s an offer I personally plan to make, and will also ask other Board members to make the offer as well.

For start - is it somewhere described what board members are actually doing? What is among top time/energy consuming things? What kind of decisions they make?

It is something that I was looking for and failed to find (maybe I would find it after more diligent search).

Comment from Heather Leson on 26 January 2020 at 09:07

Thanks for this discussion. I would also like to thank those who clearly made this a safe place to talk.

I shared details from previous small group brainstorming around building diversity

From above, the matching points are:

  • open dialogue
  • support existing communities and spaces - Diversity mailing list, Geochicas
  • mentorship
  • being an ally (supportive, inclusive and factual language)
  • leadership support (Board, working groups)
  • community planning

I also added items to the SWOT (opportunities) section

Comment from CjMalone on 31 January 2020 at 00:27

I’m new to the OSM community, and a white guy, so a bit out of my depth in a diversity discussion.

Does anyone know how “wheelchair” became so popular? Most editors request that data, some even give warnings and errors when it’s not present. Did OSM mandate it, or just came together as a community, decide it was the right thing to do. OSM is probably the best map for physically disabled people now.

Can the same be done for other things that we don’t usually thing about? The one that comes to my mind is “lit”, I rarely avoid a path because it’s dark, or feel scared in public. But huge amounts of people do. How proud would you feel if you heard somebody say they use OSM because it makes them feel safe?

In the case of “lit” I imagine satellite images at night would produce huge amounts old data. But I don’t know if there are any such images available for OSM to use.

How does OSM drive things like this? How do we get mappers to use the tag? How do you encourage developers of the editors to feature certain as a priority? How can we convey the importance to renderers?

The above is obviously about users rather than contributors. I don’t know if it goes without saying, but attracting users from different backgrounds and diversities will in turn result in some of them becoming contributors.

Comment from mikelmaron on 31 January 2020 at 15:37

Does anyone know how “wheelchair” became so popular?

Believe that is in large part due to https://wheelmap.org/. They did a great job of advocating for it, and showed how it could be useful. This is much in the spirit of OSM, where people and groups of people take initiative, and other parts of the ecosystem adopt.

Comment from mapeadora on 31 January 2020 at 16:26

Also because it’s a real need issue, not just a question of popularity. A lot of people ask for wheelchair data and wheelchair data from OSM, without knowing about Wheelmap and wihtout being member of OSM communities.

Comment from mapeadora on 31 January 2020 at 16:38

@cjmalone The question of mapping (urban) space conditions that impact in uses, security, confort, etc. is a big question, I specifically work on public space conditions for women pedestrian mobility, and it’s important to be clear that OSM only map physical and stable reality. Liter existence is a physical reality, but liter working well, is not (it can be temporary out of service). So typically, this type of analysis is made on other platforms. Of course, “physical reality” can always be questionned.

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