[Osmf-talk] Elections: Avoid Mandate Creep

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Sat Nov 12 06:08:44 UTC 2011


    some of you might remember this pre-election thread that I started, 
prompted by a few, in my mind, slightly over-assertive manifestoes that 
talked about OSMF providing leadership for the project.

In my message, I felt it necessary to make the point that

> 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.

And I hoped that I was not alone when I said

> Let us try to remain true to the basics - let OSMF do what is required,
> and keep OSMF out of everything else.

Now I'm reading this report from the recent board meeting in the US:


and it sounds as if I am indeed alone, or at least there's not a single 
hint of anyone in the current board actually sharing my idea that doing 
nothing may be an option in some areas.

Quote: "There's no shortage of projects that changed the world and then 
met reality, hard"

My interpretation: "No matter how successful OSM is, we'll still find 
reason to meddle."

Of course, once one paints the ghost of decline onto the wall, the rest 
comes naturally - we have to act!!!!!!

Quote: "... insular community, lack of direction, and no innovation. 
That's what we have to avoid."

My interpretation: "We have to provide direction else those 
simple-minded mapper ants won't know what to do!"

Quote: "We are the Board! Shape the project!"

My comment: Pure hubris. Our board is not the board of a corporation; 
our members and those who do most of the work are not our employees to 
be shaped into whatever we'd like.

Quote: "To meet goals, we can take action, we can guide and steer, we 
can spend money."

My comment: Again, this is a typical management idea - that things go 
nowhere if they are not driven by clever people at the top. Sure we can 
have goals but if we don't accomplish them then who cares - maybe they 
were the wrong goals, or we'll accomplish them next year. It's not as if 
our bonuses were linked to our percentage of goals reached.

It sounds to me as if this whole meeting was based on the misconception 
that OSMF was somehow something like a startup that has to reach 
maturity before the venture capitalists lose patience.

For example, the first "goal for 2012" mentioned is clearly to beat 
Google maps although it is vaguely worded as "The world's most used 
map". I'll dwell on this a bit, although I could use any other goal just 
as well.


Why do we have to be "the world's most used map"? Would the second-most 
used map not do? And why in 2012? Is it really important if we reach 
this goal a little slower or a little faster?

I'm sorry but this sounds like pure PR fodder - as if someone had in 
mind the press release "OSM aims to become #1 world map in 2012". But in 
my eyes it is exactly this kind of hollow, arbitrary phrase-producing 
leadership that is *not* desirable for OSM.

In the best case, this is just hot air for the press (and should raise 
the question why time and money has to be spent to arrive at such). In 
the worst case, such "leadership" leads to the mis-allocation of 
resources. Once a "goal" has been set - arbitrary as it may be -, it is 
only natural to follow up that goal by allocation resources (time and 
money) to achieve it. And I can easily imagine situations where a 
decision has been made between growing quicker but less healthily and 
burning more funds, or growing slower - with such a "goal" on the table, 
there's a danger of choosing the short-sighted path, and then when you 
question the choice you'll hear "but this was one of our goals for 2012!".

I mean, look at our project - sure nothing we do is perfect and we do 
have problems, but do you feel that we are somehow "on the brink", that 
our demise is imminent unless properly led and governed? Immediate death 
of OpenStreetMap predicted, film at eleven?

Personally, I don't think that. Yet the whole board meeting seems to 
have been styled as a crisis meeting, and the report concludes: "And we 
did. Despite looking over the brink, we had resolve. I felt tense, but 
knew I'd be happy with what we accomplished."

A lot has been said in the license discussion about evil people 
spreading "FUD" - Fear, Uncertainty, Disinformatin - to get their point 
across. After reading this report, I have the impression that this must 
have been a weekend characterised by at least the F, if not the U and 
the D - the fear that was induced by "looking over the brink".

I would like to know more, from the OSMF board members present at this 
meeting, about this fear. What exactly was the brink you believed the 
project to be at? Those of you who were newly elected, did you foresee 
this brink when you wrote your election manifestoes, and if not, what 
new information have you gained since that led you to believe the 
project was at a brink?

What are the decisions taken, and what do you believe would have 
happened if these were not taken?

I am almost certainly overreacting, and possibly reading things into 
words that weren't intended to be said (but sometimes words can also 
accidentally reveal something that was not intended). Still: Setting 
goals and making decisions while in a state of fear, or believing that 
one was at a brink and needed brisk decision and steady resolve, 
deciding things while under real or perceived pressure, is not exactly 
the mode I was hoping our board to operate in.

And if there was a reason why the board really thought a crisis meeting 
would be necessary, I would have very much appreciated to hear about 
these problems here, on this OSMF members' mailing list. A face-to-face 
meeting in the US is something that requires a bit of planning, so it 
doesn't hurt to communicate to OSMF members that one is planning to hold 
such a meeting; and if the meeting is intended to steer the project away 
from a perceived brink, then this it is surely good to tell your members 
that also.


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

More information about the osmf-talk mailing list