[Osmf-talk] Elections: Avoid Mandate Creep
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
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
Frederik Ramm ## eMail frederik at remote.org ## N49°00'09" E008°23'33"
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