It all started out nice enough, the Knight Foundation paying for a team of professional developers at Mapbox to develop a new, user-friendly website editor to replace the ageing, Flash-based Potlatch. This brought us the iD editor which for roughly six years now has been the default editor we present to new users, and the user friendliness of this endeavour is certainly unparalleled in OSM.
To new users, this editor represents our project and our community. If this editor tells them that they should do something this way or that, they will assume that “OpenStreetMap wants me to do this”. The iD editor is the only editor endorsed by the OSM Foundation in this way, and with great power comes great responsibility.
A responsibility that the iD team is increasingly unable to shoulder.
There wasn’t much to complain during the early years except perhaps the lack of support for one thing or another, cases where everyone including the developers agreed that improvements need to be made. But now that the basic functionality is there, iD developers are starting to believe they have a mandate for more. Rather than just giving users a tool to contribute to OSM, they are directing users to contribute in certain, very specific ways - preferring one tag over another, using one channel of communication with the community instead of another, “upgrading” the work of other users according to rules set out by the editor developers alone, striking deals with commercial validation platforms, loading auxiliary data from Facebook without the user’s consent or any previous discussion, and so on.
Pushback from the community against these unilateral decisions is met with abject arrogance. Issues opened on the project issue tracker are closed as “too heated”. Benign suggestions to discuss the problem are batted away; the attitude of the iD team seems to be either that they know better what is good for us, or that we’re free to go if we don’t like what they do. Even community members who are otherwise full of praise for corporate involvement seem to despair at the presumptuous attitude and lack of community consultation of the iD project.
We are not that desperate for love that we need to continue this abusive relationship. Let us stop using that “official” version of iD today, and switch to the community version of iD maintained by Frédéric Rodrigo (see also his tweet). With his experience from a decade of working with our community and respecting community consensus in Osmose and other projects, Frédéric knows how to run a project like that without everyone burning out because of “too heated” discussions.
Will this cut us off from new developments made by the main iD developers? Absolutely. But I think an editor that respects our community consensus is more important than having a nice auto-complete that ensures the correct spelling of an American fast-food franchise outlet.
PS: I’ve not been naming names on purpose. If you have contributed to iD development and managed to refrain from showering anyone who asked for a change with condescension, good for you; sadly it doesn’t change the fact that decision-making in iD has become unstuck from what the community expects of software they imbue with the privilege of being “the official editior”. And the community is not the five people going to lunch with the developer.