[Osmf-talk] Membership applications from Skobbler employees

Serge Wroclawski serge at wroclawski.org
Tue Aug 23 23:45:50 UTC 2011

I think that we've lost sight of an important but subtle distinction 
here between impropriety and the appearance of improprietaty.

In this case and any other, no one can say for sure what is in the 
hearts of any member of the organization. As Frederik says, we cannot 
enforce that members, whatever their affiliation, are acting truely on 
their own.

If tomorrow Company X sends a memo to its employees asking them to join 
the OSMF and vote a particular way, and tomorrow we have 200, or 2000 
new members, there's very little the Foundation can do about it. Even if 
it knew as a matter of fact that such a memo were sent, as Fredrik 
points out, we cannot enforce action on all these members.

But instead a company whose employees join en mass must ask themseves, 
does doing so help or harm their reputation? Does it demonstrate 
support for the Foundation and its goals, or does it cause the 
community, Foundation and OSM community at large, to view these actions 
as suspicious, and its motives suspect?

This may simply be a matter of optics, but for a company, optics means a 
lot. Optics means reputation, and reputation means a hell of a lot when 
talking about the interactions between a company and a community 
project, not only for that relationship, but how this relationship may 
effect customers and potential sales.

I commend any company that wants to support OpenStreetMap, and wants to 
do so by means of the Foundation, but a company wanting to do so must 
think of how the community wants to be supported, how best to engage the 
community so its seen as a partner, and not as a bully.

I can't speak to the specifics of this situation; I don't know the 
individuals, or the company involved, but I will say that on the 
surface, it would seem that this company has chosen a path which has 
ruffled some feathers, and I'd hope that this thread acts as a message 
to it and other companies to be sensitive in how they interact with the 
foundation, and the community, and to be concious of how their actions, 
whatever the intent, may appear.

- Serge

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