[Osmf-talk] Elections: Avoid Mandate Creep

Kai Krueger kakrueger at gmail.com
Sat Nov 12 17:28:28 UTC 2011

On 11/11/2011 11:08 PM, Frederik Ramm wrote:

> 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!!!!!!

I think it is more than a ghost. Although the current situation by far
isn't a decline,  the community size is now nearly moving sideways
rather than the rapid growth people still claim. This limited growth
period is now probably nearly 2 1/2 years long since about mid 2009.

E.g. The number of active mappers per month has only grown by ~20% in
the last 2 1/2 years (
http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:Osmdbstats4A.png ). The number
of new mappers per week is at a complete standstill since 2 1/2 years (
http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:Contributor_signup.png ). The
growth rate of nodes and ways has gone from a exponential growth to a
linear growth and is starting to show signs of sub-linear growth (
http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:Osmdbstats2.png ), which is
reflected in an actual decline of the number of nodes and ways added per
day ( http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/File:Osmdbstats7B.png )

Those stats imho indicate that there is still a healthy turn around and
it can attract sufficient newcomers to (more than) compensate natural
attrition, but only to a limited degree to continue to grow the (active)
community size.

Also, in perhaps the second most active community the UK, after 6 1/2
years road completion is only at about 85%, even to some degree with the
help of open government data. Most other countries are in a considerably
worse situation unless they have had imports, and then there is the
issue of keeping those up-to-date.

So yes, I think there is a certain justification for "we have to act!"
to resume a more healthy growth again.

> 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!"

That is a very negative and imho unwarranted accusation of how the board
sees the community.

My interpretation: "These are the issues other projects have faced and
caused them to fail. The OSMF board has the chance to provide the
necessary support and resources to help the community to innovate to
find (multiple) directions and bond mappers into a diverse, but
cooperative community."

Without the help of the support of the OSMF it is perhaps more likely
that the community will hit those limits for the lack of resources and
the board should work towards avoiding that.

> 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."

Of cause it is always an important discussion to make sure resources and
money are spent in the right way and it is rather difficult and
controversial what the right way is in a diverse community. But in the
past (without wanting to degrade the great contributions many have made)
one sometimes had the impression OSMF spent more effort in trying to
avoid responsibility and to push all duties as far away as possible,
than to actually support the project, its community and its wishes.

If I am not mistaken OSMF has a not inconsiderable amount of resources
by now and that even without attempting (outside of SoTM) to do any form
of fund raising (since January 2009). Both people and companies are
willing to donate to OSM(F) if only it would a) accept the donations and
b) use them.

So I think it is good that the board is actively seeking opportunities
of where the available resources are best spent to help support and grow
the community and the project instead of ignoring them in order to try
and stay as invisible as possible.

> 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.

Although there is no risk to loose venture capitalists, there is a risk
of loosing the community if OSM does not expand to capture their needs
and wishes.

OSM is now big enough for (nearly) everyone in the mapping industry to
acknowledge that crowd sourcing can work and provides a real
opportunity. However, in most countries OSM is imho not yet well known
enough to be self sustainable. If a company like e.g. Google or Waze
comes and creates a closed crowd sourced, but user oriented mapping
platform, it has imho the opportunity to quite rapidly outgrow OSM and
take away a lot of the potential mappers from OSM, making it much harder
for OSM to achieve its goals of a great, up-to-date open dataset.

So growing quick enough to achieve critical mass is important for a
project like OSM as well.

> 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?

> 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?

Yes, it is important how quickly one reaches those goals in a rapidly
changing environment. If by the time OSM has the complete road network
everyone else has detailed indoor mapping and 3D maps, then OSM becomes

OSM is in a competitive environment and so the rate of innovation and
achievement is relevant to become or remain competitive.

Furthermore, the aim of OSM is to be as up-to-date as possible. If it
takes 10 - 15 years to do one pass of mapping, it won't achieve this
goal in most parts of the world. It takes a lot more mappers to keep the
map up-to-date than it does to get an initial version.

> 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.

It is to early to say and the blog post is scarce on specifics, but the
overall idea (of how I interpret the blog post) of trying to use more of
the available resource to actually do something and support the project
and help it grow, is imho applaudable. If the board can listen into the
community, identify the issues it has and then act with its resources as
well as lead to improve the situation by distilling the views of the
community into actionable items, then that can be a very productive
interaction between an efficient organised structure and a diverse

At least for the board members I know, I have a lot of confidence that
they will not over reach their powers and do take the community serious
rather than treat them as "those simple-minded mapper ants that don't
know what to do".

So I think showing some good faith towards the new board to try and help
solve real problems together with the community would be good, rather
than once again start dismantling any opportunity for the board and OSMF
to do anything at all. Not all decisions will be good or agreeable in
such a diverse community as OSM, but sometimes decisions have to be made
to have progress and as long as on average they are beneficial to the
majority, mistakes should be acceptable.

That said, of cause these issues should be discussed both on OSMF-talk
as well as on the wider communications channels, as with out exchange of
constructive ideas, even or especially if one doesn't agree with each
other, such a complex project as OSM can't be managed.


> Bye
> Frederik

More information about the osmf-talk mailing list