[Osmf-talk] Elections: Avoid Mandate Creep

Richard Fairhurst richard at systemeD.net
Mon Nov 14 10:12:31 UTC 2011

Jean-Guilhem Cailton wrote:
> The question of the best organisation for the particular commons-based
> peer production project that is OSM is certainly not easy.
> In particular, should its governance be mainly a "managerial command
> system" or "commons-based peer produced"?
> Indeed, if commons-based peer production was so successful to produce
> OSM database, could it not also produce OSM governance?
> And how? Since this mode of production is so recent, there might not be
> an easy answer, that could be taken off the shelf. But who better than
> the OSM community could collectively discover or construct it?
> In this sense, this "Avoid mandate Creep" thread highlights the risk
> associated with a commonly prejudiced view that a "managerial command
> system" is the only possible governance organisation in general, and
> hence for OSM. There is some internal logic that most people who end up
> on the board would share this view. (Otherwise, why run?)

Well, I can answer that as one person who has ended up on the board, at 
least. :)

I certainly don't believe in a managerial command system for OSM. My 
belief with OSMF (just as it is for the department I run in the day job) 
is that it exists to help talented people (the OSM community) do amazing 
things. OSMF is not the engine of the project; the contributors are. But 
if OSMF can help the engine run better, it should. Three words I keep 
coming back to: "support and encourage".

The caveat is that this does _not_ mean only being reactive. OSMF 
sometimes needs to think beyond what the existing community is asking it 
to do. By definition, existing users are largely happy with OSM; if not, 
they'd have left.

But in order for OSM to grow its contributor base and hence its 
coverage, there needs to be some effort towards this goal. If the 
community takes it on itself to put the effort in, that's terrific - and 
sometimes we do. Yet open source projects are not always good at 
reaching out to new users (I lose track of the number of programs I've 
installed, thought "what the hell am I meant to do now?", and given up 
on); we are, after all, mostly doing this in our leisure time, and are 
therefore going to focus on what we enjoy. For example, sometimes I'll 
sit down for an afternoon and think "right, I need to grind through some 
usability work on Potlatch today", but actually it's more tempting to 
say "hey! there's a whizzy cool feature I could write! I'll do that!".

If this means that OSM is solely addressing its existing users (and FWIW 
I really don't think that's entirely true, but there's some substance to 
it), then that is where OSMF should come in; putting in the grunt work 
to ensure the project continues to grow. But, where possible, this 
should still be accomplished via the community. To take the oft- 
(over-?) discussed example of the front page, even if OSMF directs a 
little bit of attention to the topic, it'd still be far, far better if 
the new design were to come from the community rather than from a bunch 
of Peruvians on elance.com or whatever. It would be a sign of OSMF 
working well... and you never know, it might happen.

> Thank you for reading this far.

I enjoyed it!


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