I’m starting to reflect on OpenStreetMap over the holiday. The last several months have personally been simultaneously trying and inspiring. Here’s a few thoughts…
We are all the community Do you contribute and participate in OpenStreetMap in any way? Map, organize, code, discuss, etc? Then you are in the OSM community.
We need to move away from talking about the "OSM community" as being either the people we agree with or the people we disagree with. It’s a pattern I see too much. There are plenty of people and groups that are 100% part of the community, but don't fully realize it.
Community looks different in different places The kind of people, background and settings hosting our community look very different in every city, every country.
This is one of the most amazing things about OpenStreetMap — we’re all working together! University students, open source coders, slum dwellers, professional teams, ambassador(s), geographers. Keeping this in mind is super challenging and necessary for a global project. Trying to understand where others are coming from is something everyone can learn to do, and do better.
We agree far more than we disagree The things we agree on our huge — mapping the entire world openly is still a radical idea.
But the things we argue about might seem like insurmountable gulfs. Yet even on the “polarizing” topics of the past months — organized editing, code of conduct, quality etc — from my seat there’s a huge amount of agreement. Lot of the gulf seems to be about particulars of language and how to get there, rather than essential meanings.
Most of us are quiet The overwhelming vast majority of people on mailing lists and in the OSM community as a whole are not saying anything.
So far in December, there were 411 posts by 94 unique posters. The top 20% of those posters by volume contributed 58% of the posts. I don’t know the exact number of subscribers, but there are about 700-800 OpenStreetMap Foundation Members. There are tens of thousands more active mappers. This is extreme long tail participation.
We don’t know if these people are enjoying or recoiling from these discussions, or totally ignoring them. Every time I post, I do try to keep in mind that my words are going out to hundreds of people.
There are very few barriers to action I have seen very few ideas which are not actionable in OpenStreetMap, there is extraordinary freedom.
That doesn’t make it easy, but it’s much easier than building the map alone. Winning arguments with work is more effective than with words only. You need to listen to and work with others. But there are no absolute blockers. Follow and understand our basic community practices, and big or small things can happen.