[OSM-dev] lessons from the api 0.6 discussion

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Sun May 11 01:46:44 BST 2008


> What is definitely missing is a short manifesto that is prominently linked
> on most of the main and API pages. It should clarify a few things, and more
> important, set a few expectations and make recommendations. 

There's nothing wrong with putting up a Wiki page that looks back and
says: This is how things usually work in this project, and from that
experience it seems sensible to do X. Anybody can set up that page,
feel free to do it.

However I sense in your suggestion a desire to have something
forward-looking, a sort of "we will do this-and-that in the future" or
"we promise not to do so-and-so". Which prompts me to issue the
following lengthy semi-philosophical blurb.

OSM, as a project, has a very complex identity. 

Your idea that such a manifesto could, or even should, exist rests on
the assumption that there must be someone somewhere controlling the
project, someone who can say: This is the manifesto and everybody
please stick to it. 

We don't have such a person, or governing body. We don't hold votes on
these things. We have a Wiki into which everyone can stuff any
manifesto they want, but nobody has the power to force others to do
what he puts in his manifesto.

Of course we have a foundation with an elected set of officers, and we
have people with root passwords and wiki admin passwords who could
intervene (or refuse to cooperate); but they, in turn, aren't bound by
anything else than what they believe is good for the project, and
certainly not by a manifesto that someone has written.

Of course there are some rules, for example the license we use or the
mission statement on the Wiki start page; these things usually have a
weight because they've always been there, and in turn anybody who has
joined has more or less explicitly accepted them.

What I'm trying to say with all these words - we, as a project, cannot
make a promise to anyone because we have nobody who would sign it, nor
have we anybody who could be held accountable if it was broken. So the
promise wouldn't be worth a lot.

What you can try to do is, by constant discussion on the lists or IRC
or Wiki or all of them, raise awareness of the things you find
important for the future, and get the community to have a sense for
it, so that whenever someone thinks about changing the API in the
future, they automatically think "oh well I should really tell people
four weeks in advance or else they'll complain AGAIN".

I believe this is the way things work around here. You can't just push
a vote through or talk someone into making a certain statement and
then hope that all is good; you need to actually get the community
(i.e. a significant number of the relevant community members - not
every community member may be relevant for every aspect of project
life) to understand and embrace your idea.

In a top-down project you'd just have to get the governing body to
sign off something and then everybody must stick to it or leave the
project. With OSM, you have to get at the individuals who actually do
something if you want then to do it another way. 


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"

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