[Osmf-talk] Elections: Avoid Mandate Creep

Jean-Guilhem Cailton jgc at arkemie.com
Mon Nov 14 12:43:22 UTC 2011

Le 14/11/2011 12:14, Tom Chance a écrit :
> On 14 November 2011 09:26, Jean-Guilhem Cailton <jgc at arkemie.com
> <mailto:jgc at arkemie.com>> wrote:
>     Again, this is the question I would like to raise here, because I
>     think it is very important: should OSM governance be mainly a
>     "managerial command system" or "commons-based peer produced"?
> I think we need to recognise a difference between the way a community
> produces and the way it is governed.
> Once we open the governance bag of tricks the choice is not "commons
> vs. market vs. magerial command" - that's a choice of production
> methodologies. The choice is between various kinds of democracy,
> technocracy, oligarchy, aristocracy, tyranny, monarchy, demagoguery,
> and totalitarianism.
> I'm quite happy with the commons-based peer production model for the
> activity of producing geodata, it works spectactularly well for
> OpenStreetMap!
> But it's not unusual for free software projects, artists collectives
> and other peers producing in a commons to adopt a mixed
> democratic/technocratic governance structure. I used to be a member of
> KDE e.V., for example, which had a mandate to make decisions that the
> community then had to follow, and gave legitimacy to technocrats who
> led on big technical decisions like major API changes. This governance
> model provided effective leadership that saw through major changes in
> a project that could otherwise have fragmented or stagnated.
> As Magrassi has argued,
> "it has become common place to refer to [free software] as a
> manifestation of collective intelligence where deliverables and
> artefacts emerge by virtue of mere cooperation, with no need for
> supervising leadership. We show that this assumption is based on
> limited understanding of the software development process, and may
> lead to wrong conclusions as to the potential of peer production. The
>  development of a less than trivial piece of software, irrespective of
>  whether it be FOSS or proprietary, is a complex cooperative effort
> requiring the participation of many (often thousands of) individuals.
> A subset of the participants always play the role of leading system
> and subsystem designers, determining architecture and functionality;
> the rest of the people  work "underneath" them in a logical,
> functional sense."
> (http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1012/1012.5625.pdf)
> Frederik Ramm has long argued that OpenStreetMap can emerge through
> cooperation alone, which suggests (to return to your question) that
> the OpenStreetMap community should have no governance at all, just an
> outside Foundation charged with maintaining basic infrastructure to
> enable the community to peer-produce. In Frederik's ideal world, OSM
> Foundation governance has no mandate within the OSM community.
> Long ago Aristotle suggested that the absence of formal governance in
> a community of mixed interests tends to lead to demagoguery or
> aristocracy, which commands little popular support and tends not to
> provide effective leadership where it is most needed (e.g. for people
> unable to contribute due to technical barriers).
> I'd echo Richard Fairhurst's sentiment that the OSMF working well
> means effective leadership enjoying popular support that enables the
> community to grow and members to get on and have fun.
> Regards,
> Tom
> -- 
> http://tom.acrewoods.net   http://twitter.com/tom_chance

Hi Tom,

Maybe this time the comparison with free software projects should play
the other way around.

As you said yourself previously, there is a difference between free
software and free data, especially geographical data.

A highly complex free software project, like Linux for instance, may
have more need for a centralized leadership (it was there from the
start). The distributed collection of (relatively simple and
independent) geographical facts apparently needs it less.

Even what may be one of its most technically difficult and complex
tasks, like the definition of a common taxonomy, is apparently taking
place in a distributed fashion, through the wiki and the Tagging mailing

We are still in 2011. In a month or so, newspapers and medias are
probably going to publish recapitulations of the year events. It may
well be that this year passes in History as the year of the revolutions
in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, ... and also of the start of the "Indignés"
and "Occupy XY" movements.

These movements have in common that they were not started by a
centralized leadership. Yet they managed to make changes that were
thought impossible and to reach goals that even the largest powers had
been unable to reach.

Now they may be struggling to create appropriate new modes of
governance. Of course it is not easy. But a simple look in the rear view
mirror should constitute a warning against labelling this as "impossible".

And even Aristotle might be proved wrong. After all, he has already been
on other topics.

I think we agree that support structures can be useful (I would not call
them "leadership" though, because of too many unfortunate associations,
and maybe induced behaviour when you think of yourself as a "leader").
The local outreach efforts I have seen here have been without support
from a central structure, which is not to say it could not be useful.

Best regards,


"support, not lead"

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