[Osmf-talk] Elections: Avoid Mandate Creep

Eugene Usvitsky eugene at usvitsky.com
Wed Aug 31 08:10:50 UTC 2011

Hello everyone!

Frederik raised a very good question which should been raised earlier
or later. As we could see, during short 3 hours from his initial
messages very different opinions were expressed and I'm sure today
this discussion will continue. There were a lot of good ideas and real
facts mentioned here so I just would like to express my own opinion to
this, as Kai asked.

First, I totally agree with Oliver - any supportive actions (legal,
technical, financial and others) can not be planned and implemented
without understanding WHY do we need them. Second, no one knows where
really the difference between support and control in infamous OSMF
motto "support not control" lies.

But this overall question is deeper. Currently OSMF already IS shaping
OSM life. It was responsible for license change (the problem 99%
project members didn't really care before), it is responsible for
project conference (for calling for and choosing sponsors and
presenters), it is responsible for what and how is shown on the
project main page, to name a few things. License and CT change made
this ties even stronger and we can't avoid this. But should we?

Every successful project has its leader and strategy. Even if we take
open source community we'll see this: Wikipedia has its Jimmy Wales,
Ubuntu has its Canonical and Linux itself has its Linus. This is right
approach - no company (or community) without clear goal and clear way
to it can work for a long time and be a leader in its field. This is
especially important within distributed and diversed projects like

We all understand OSM as one project. But in reality it is a
combination of local communities working each for their own map (and
these communities are not just country-level, they can be regional or
even less). These communities almost don't interfere, the only thing
they have in common is osm.org (though some have their own renders),
software editors and tags (though they often understand tags
differently). That's it!

So if someone decides that this situation is normal and it should be
left as is, it's OK. But I personally don't think so. I want to see
OSM as a project. And this means collaboration between communities and
what is more important, clear understanding of what we should reach.

We all know that OSM is not a democracy and never pretended to be. I
work with the project for almost 4 years. I've seen a lot of members -
novices and experts. Everyone wants the same - clear directions of
what and how to do. And that's not the problem of lack of educational
resources. That is a problem of decisions. Now everyone is equal. And
that means that if I put a name of some street as "Main St" and
someone changed it to "Main Street" we both are right. There are
thousand of some micro-disagreements. And for members it doesn't
really important who will "win". It's more important that there should
be one and ONLY one way of doing something. People who disagree can
argue, can leave the project and create a fork but if OSM wants to be
successful there should be someone who makes decisions and enforce
them. OSMF is the one organisation who can do that.

Look at Apple, Inc. They are heavily criticized for lack of options -
1 phone, 2 laptop models and that's all. But are they successful?
Definitely. Millions of people can easily understand what they can get
and choose Apple products because of this clarity. They don't really
care that they lack something. They prefer to get easy way of doing
things at a price of losing some functionality. Those who don't like
this go somewhere. We have several competitors for OSM, global and
local. There are places where those who don't agree can go - Google
MapMaker, Wikimapia and others. There are even OSM forks. But we as
OSM can't try to fulfill everyone's wishes and opinions. There should
be only one.

Why one way of doing is important? Because we are drawing a map of the
world not just for fun (I hope so). We are here to help people - show
them that they can work not only with commercial maps, offer them more
flexibility in getting navigational maps, even improve the society.
But these tasks MAKE us to do something not as we would like to do it.
They FORCE us to provide better data. Data, which can easily be
filtered, parsed, data, which is clear of errors, data which doesn't
require reading of dozens wiki pages for tags descriptions and parsing
documentation. The project now doesn't even have tags normalizer! We
can't make the project a trash of hundreds not-really-compatible parts
due to different understanding of one things. And this means the same
I explained above - there should be someone who is responsible for
cleaning AND making everyone not to bring the garbage (wrong tags or
tags combinations, at least) back.
And this is OSMF.

We are in better position than, say, Ubuntu. We are not fighting for
project leader position. Such large project can not have one leader.
But it SHOULD have a leadership group with clear understanding. And
OSMF Board is a perfect match for this task.

I also would like to mention one more thing: look at this discussion.
We are here to understand should or should not OSMF "rule" the
project. We have more than 350 members of OSMF and everyone is getting
these messages in mailing list. How much of them think this is
important and due to that fact they expressed their own opinion here?
9 people (including me). Nine. Out of 350. So do these people (who are
usually more active than standard OSM member) really bother?

Best wishes,

On Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 5:17 AM, Frederik Ramm <frederik at remote.org> wrote:
> Dear all,
>   I've been reading the manifestos linked from
> http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Foundation/AGM11/Election_to_Board
> and I'm happy to see so many people stepping up for election.
> I must make one comment though.
> Ever since OSMF was founded, it was clear to us, and repeated again and
> again, that OSMF wasn't there to control the project. OSM and OSMF are
> different things. The role of OSMF was to support OSM where such support was
> needed, and to provide a legal framework and a bank account where these were
> needed.
> This mandate has not changed; we the members have not been called upon to
> decide that from now on OSMF would be doing something different (even though
> the license change put OSMF closer to the limelight than a of quiet
> "supporting" role would warrant).
> Let us all keep this in mind, and I am looking at our candidates especially!
> Some of the manifestos contain pledges to do stuff for which OSMF never had
> a mandate. Serge, for example, seems to envisage "major changes" to the
> technical infrastructure, and it is his right to have ideas just like
> everyone else, but the board doesn't make decisions about the technical
> infrastructure - Serge's thoughts about this would certainly be as welcome
> as they are now, but they would not carry more weight just because he's on
> the OSMF board.
> Eugene wants to develop a "long term strategy" and distil "vision, mission
> and values" into words to "compare most activities against a long-term
> strategy", whereas currently "most activities are more related to fun like
> mapping ... than the success of the project itself". It is not for OSMF to
> tell people what they should be doing, and I sure hope our mappers will
> continue having fun because otherwise the coveted "success" might be in
> jeopardy. Let me repeat: OSMF is there to provide support to the project
> where such is needed; if the project members have fun without a long-term
> strategy then maybe OSMF should just stand back and not meddle?
> Mikel talks about making sure that "osm.org reflects [the] so many ways in
> which people can contribute to and use OSM", which certainly is a noble goal
> but again, OSMF is not in charge of OSM public relations - it may play a
> *supporting* role behind the scenes, but it doesn't belong in the limelight.
> I'm not singling out these three - I'm sure I could find similar points of
> criticism in every other manifesto (and if I can't then probably only
> because they are short). It is also not necessarily the candidates' fault;
> after all, even the existing board has occasionally gone far beyond what I
> think their mandate is, and given the impression that OSM was a headless
> blob which needed direction and a five-year-plan from above to flourish.
> Let us try to remain true to the basics - let OSMF do what is required, and
> keep OSMF out of everything else.
> Any kind of "mandate creep" will inevitably lead to more work, more working
> groups, more committees, the need for more funds, the call for full-time
> staff, overboarding bueraucracy and mappers alienated even more from OSMF
> than they are now.
> Being on the OSMF board is a lot of work, a lot of it tedious, and all
> candidates are to be commended for being willing to shoulder their share of
> that. Nonetheless I'm slightly surprised that none of the candidates has
> come up with a manifesto in line with the old OSM motto: "Let OSMF be the
> simplest thing that could possibly work."
> They would certainly have my vote.
> Bye
> Frederik
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