[diversity-talk] Mapping Code of Conduct

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Fri Oct 10 15:12:09 UTC 2014


   long before I learnt that "Code of Conduct" is, for many people in
the tech community, a very narrowly defined term that essentially has to
do with not harassing other people, I drew up a document that I called a
"Code of Conduct for Mappers", and discussed that with some people in
Data Working Group.

It ended up being shelved because we felt that even if writing the
document was triggered by our interactions with mappers, and even though
we agreed that the rules were good, it was not within our remit as DWG
to make wide-ranging rules about how mappers should behave. I always
wanted to post it to the mailing list for discussion but never got round
to do it.

As you will see, this does have some overlap with the CoC discussed
here, but it is much more specific to the actual core of OSM, the
mapping work. So, to re-use Jo's term, this would be a "subclass" of
"Don't be an asshole" for mapping.

It's a bit awkward posting it here because it isn't much to do with
diversity at all, but since this list where CoC discusssion currently
happens, here you go.


=OpenStreetMap Code of Conduct=

== Background ==

OpenStreetMap has a tradition of making as little rules as possible.
However, with its growing user base and the many diverse personalities
it attracts, the project very occasionally attracts individuals who have
difficulties in interacting with others in a civil manner.

OpenStreetMap gives its contributors a lot of room with regards to
what they map and how they do it; you can be shy, or nerdy, or
have peculiar hobbies or funny ways to express yourself, there is
always a place in OpenStreetMap for you.

Undeniably, OpenStreetMap has a large social aspect. It is not
just a collection of geodata records in some database; it is a
teamwork effort by hundreds of thousands of people around the globe.
OSM is a hobby for every one of us, and we want mappers to have fun
when they contribute to the project.

Therefore, the project must ask of its members a modicum of respect
and civility in dealing with their peers, or else run a risk of
the community spirit deteriorating and the project suffering as
a consequence of bad behaviour of a few individuals.

In order to make the existing, but often unwritten rules more accessible
and transparent to all, the Data Working Group (which, among other
things, deals with conflicts
between mappers) has written down the following rules that govern
good behaviour in OpenStreetMap.

== Rules ==

=== What you contribute ===

There are some expectations about the data you contribute. These are
not set in stone, but as a general rule of thumb we like contributions
to be

* (to the best of your knowledge) truthful;
* legal;
* verifiable;
* of (at least potential) relevance for others.

Truthful - means that you cannot contribute something you have invented.
Legal - means that you don't copy copyrighted data without permission.
Verifiable - means that others can theoretically go there and see for
themselves if your data is correct.
Relevant - means that you have to use tags that make clear what your
data is supposed to mean, and that such meaning is somehow useful in the
geodata context.

When in doubt, also consider the "on the ground rule": We map the world
as it presents itself to someone who stands at the place being mapped.
If for example that person sees a sign with a certain name on it, then
that name will be in OpenStreetMap.

=== How you contribute ===

When you contribute data, we expect you to do so manually using an
editor software that can reasonably be expected to work without
disrupting the operation of OpenStreetMap. You can never go wrong with
one of the established editors, and if you write your own editing
software we expect you to test it properly.

If you want to make a contribution that does not result from manual
work, but instead you want to import data from another source or make an
automated change that affects lots of objects, then additional rules
will apply; these are not covered in this document.

When you upload your contributions, editors will give you the
opportunity to specify a "changeset comment" that briefly describes your
work in words. Using this feature improves the value of your
contribution and is highly recommended.

=== How you deal with existing data ===

As a general rule, you do not have to ask permission before modifying
existing data. If you believe that you can improve something, then do
it. However, keep in mind that for many things there's more than one way
to map it correctly, and if your "improvement" does not stem from a new
survey or additional data, but instead consists just of a change in
mapping style, you should only proceed if you know that you have the
community behind you. Do not engage in large-scale "cleanups" without
securing the agreement of the relevant community, or talking to the
people whose work you aim to "clean".

Do not delete data unless you know (or have very strong reason to
believe) that it is incorrect. Never delete correct data just because it
"clutters the map" or so; if this becomes a real problem, seek
discussion and consensus before you act.

Do not engage in edit wars. If something you did is changed by someone
else, do not simply change it back without discussing the issue first -
either with the person who made the change, or with the larger community.

OpenStreetMap has very little rules on tagging, and it is not ok for
individuals to fill that niche, establish their personal rules,
and modify everyone else's data to fit. There are tagging standards but
they evolve instead of being pushed through by a single individual.

OpenStreetMap values local knowledge highly. You are certainly allowed
to make edits to the map in places where you've never been personally,
but do not expect that you can overrule the mappers local to an area
from afar. On the other hand, if you are local to an area, this doesn't
mean you can reject any edit from outsiders - the area doesn't belong to
you exclusively.

Revert the work of others only if there's a clear and obvious mistake
for which reverting is the best remedy. If you feel you cannot discuss
this with the other mapper responsible, at least discuss it with others
in OpenStreetMap.

=== How you interact with your peers ===

In all your communication with other mappers, always remember that (with
the exception of outright vandalism) we're all working on the same thing
together. We're on the same side.

Occasionally you will be contacted by other mappers about edits you have
made. Such encounters can range from praise, to questions, to outright
critique. You might have done something wrong, or stepped on someone's
toes with something, or it might be due to a misunderstanding.

If you receive messages inquiring about your mapping practice, do not
ignore them, and do not respond with boilerplate messages; if the other
mapper has taken the time to look at your edit and ask you a question,
they deserve an answer.

Occasionally you will be tempted to initiate communication with someone
who seems to have made a mistake, someone who made a change that you
don't like or that you believe to be incorrect.

In talking to others, always assume good intentions; with the exception
of outright vandalism, everyone wants to improve the map with what
they're doing.

No matter how clever you are, how long you are with OpenStreetMap, or
how many hundreds of thousands of edits you have - nothing makes you
infallible. Nothing makes you the boss; nothing makes your
interpretation of the established tagging scheme automatically more
correct than someone else's.

Do not mock, intimidate, or threaten other mappers. If you have a
conflict with another mapper that you cannot solve amongst yourselves,
involve other project members - via the local pub meet, the regional
mailing list, or by messaging them directly. Get the community to
mediate. In public discussions, don't be a troll.

If you find yourself involved in a lot of conflicts, then stop for a
moment and think - is it possible that your behavior is a part of the
problem, and can you fix it? If it appears to you that everyone else is
driving on the wrong side of the road... maybe *you* are?

OpenStreetMap values community cohesion over data quality. In the
hypothetical event that there is a conflict between you and a larger
number of other community members about a particular issue in mapping,
then even if your solution is better on some objective scale,
OpenStreetMap will choose the solution favoured by the community at
large. You can try to educate them, but you cannot bulldoze over them,
even if you have the better solution. Being right doesn't help if you
cannot make the world understand that you are right.

== Breaking the Rules ==

Mappers are just humans after all, and they will break these rules. Do
it once or twice and it might not even get noticed. Do it more
frequently and you might be the topic of a discussion in a forum or
mailing list, and you might find that you're receiving more messages
from community members who would like to hear an explanation.

Breaking these rules might also lead to the involvement of the OSM
Foundation's Data Working Group. They might request that you stop doing
something, or that you explain yourself about something, and they might
apply a short-term block on your account that keeps you from editing
until you comply. They might also, depending on the case at hand, revert
some or all of your edits, but after the issue is settled you can
continue to contribute like everyone else.

If you, however, break these rules regularly, then the Data Working
Group might have your account banned indefinitely.

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

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