I'm Paul Norman, OSM user pnorman. I've been mapping since 2010, and involved in other facets of OpenStreetMap since 2011. For the last three years, I’ve been on the OSMF board, and am running for re-election. During my time I’ve seen the board grow in productivity, the finances become more stable, and us make good strides in transparency.
Outside the board, I’m also involved with the OSMF on the Data Working Group, License Working Group, and Membership Working Group. As a software developer, I’m a maintainer of OpenStreetMap Carto and osm2pgsql, as well as being involved in many parts of rendering toolchain.
In my work life I’m an independent software developer, working on map rendering, cartography, and PostGIS for clients. My main contract right now is with Wikimedia Foundation, as the developer on their maps team. In the past I’ve worked for CartoDB, Mapquest, and other companies.
Looking back at what I put in my 2014 manifesto, I’m moderately pleased with the progress we’ve made in both transparency and productive board meetings. Neither are perfect, but they’re a vast improvement over three years. Overall, I’m satisfied with my time on the board. I accomplished some of what I wanted to, and think my manifesto desires were realistic.
My concerns are now
Conflicts of interest
6/7 board members work with OSM somehow in their jobs. This includes four with employers who sell services based on OSM data and can easily run into conflicts of interest. We are not managing this, which might have worked in the past, but is not a good practice. There’s stuff we need to set up like having an email discussion out of sight of the people with conflicts. Right now it’s considered acceptable for a board member to take part in discussions where they have a conflict of interest. Clear rules would also protect board members from pressure from their employer.
On a working group whenever there’s occasionally been an intersection between my work and the WG. In these cases I’ve removed myself from the discussion. This is what we should all be doing on the board.
Unfortunately, as someone who is paid to work with OSM data, I run into conflicts of interest myself, but in practice, I have less than most with the nature of who I work for.
Support, but not control
The job of the OSMF board is to support the mappers building the map, but not control them. I worry we are losing sight of that, and people increasingly want to exert control and consider the mappers secondary. We need to protect the ability for people to independently do activities, even if it’s not something the board agrees with.
A lack of volunteers was an issue when I ran three years ago. It’s a bit better, but still one of the biggest issues facing the OSMF. Working groups need more people. A growing number of members have been attending board meetings, but I’d like to see multiple ones at every meeting. We need good people on the board, but we also need an active membership who are interested in what we do, watch us, what we do, track that we deliver, and offer appreciation in return.