[Osmf-talk] Elections: Avoid Mandate Creep

Eugene Usvitsky eugene at usvitsky.com
Thu Sep 1 00:36:17 UTC 2011

It's great to have this discussion. Thanks to everyone who takes part!

First, I'd like to mention that I was NOT meaning that OSM needs 1
single leader. Noting Canonical as commercial example was to show
that, as well as separate paragraph about not fighting for main leader
position. OSM needs leadership, not leader, and I'll be the first
person who will be against any 1 person who wants to lead the project.
We need a responsible group of people, not 1 person.

Second, as I can see, we simply have different approaches to project
future. One is thinking of project as of SDK. It means that we provide
data as we can do it and all other interested parties do whatever they
want to do with it. That's why we need only basic rendering (simply as
demo for our data) and we don't need much rules. We work as anonymous
Chinese factories workers - we create data and others put their name
on it, make it pretty and show it as their product. We do mapping just
for fun.
Another approach is different. We are not faceless man-in-the-middle
between raw data and end user, we provide product which is ready to
work with. And that (as I said earlier) FORCES us to do some things
that we were not supposed to do or don't want to do. A burden of SotM
organization mentioned by Frederik is one such example.

I prefer the second variant. At the same time I fully understand that
we can't do everything and millions of potential OSM data users can do
a lot more. However, we can provide them with clean and
easy-to-understand data and not raw material. In my opinion, we should
aim to be close to Google Maps. To prevent misunderstanding, by this
comparison I mean that people coming there (both users and developers)
know what and where they can find. They understand it. Developers know
that they need to read a documentation to create anything they like
and that documentation will cover the ways to ACCESS data and not the
ways to filter it or apply all several existing standards.

Current OSM working scheme is almost good. It really encourages new
contributors and developers to do something new. We just need someone
who can take responsibility to decide and to implement those
decisions. Take my example with "Main St" vs. "Main Street". Great, we
have a "rule" in wiki - "Not to abbreviate". But that's not a rule -
it's a RECOMMENDATION/consensus/call-it-whatever-you-want! And that
means that anyone who don't like it can continue write "Main St" and
no one has a RIGHT to stop it. If you are a developer who wants to use
open data you HAVE TO go to wiki/mailing lists to understand how much
such variants exist and write a lot of additional code that
normalizes/deals with it. Is it attractive for outside people?

Imagine you are building a car. You have all blueprints and give them
to your workers. And suddenly you get 1 square tire and 1 that is very
small. And when you ask why your people answer that they thought it
would be better this way since these blueprints are not mandatory. Can
you build a good car this way?

We should be able to write to "Main St" person and tell him that the
project RULE is to write full names and all other spellings are
incorrect and will be corrected, and if he will continue doing as he
wants he will be banned.

I'm not telling you that all decisions should be silently made within
Board members without any connections to community. No, they should
NOT. These decisions should be discussed beforehand. Martin wrote that
"The more complex questions are often not solved because the answer is
not obvious. Mostly both approaches  have their pros and cons and
there is no "true" and "false". It takes some time to get those issues
solved/decided by evolution, but I am sure we will in the end." It is
true, there are a lot of complex questions. However, we can't wait for
ages for decision to appear evolutionarily. There are some problems
that are several years old and still don't get any resolution. So it
just HAS to be made. As with License question - some moment came and
the decision was taken. And sky didn't fall to the ground - the change
was accepted by over 95% members.

I fully understand that we can't make things standard for the whole
project. Definitely, each community has its own ways to understand
some tags. It's clear that local community members have more
understanding for local reality than distant OSMF. That's why we need
Local Chapters, incorporated or not - local people who will deal with
local questions. And they will have a right to do it and a right to
implement its decisions. Kompza mentioned newbies governing. He is
doing this and that's great. But if some of them don't agree with his
decisions there is no way to make them understand local rules and
local standards.

I personally see OSM work as following:
OSMF Board has a strategy and takes decisions according to that
strategy. They are based on Working Groups work and community
feedback. Large decisions are discussed with the whole community,
local ones - within local communities. Each country has a local Board
- most respected members of local community who have a mandate from
OSMF Board to deal with local problems. Boards' (global OSMF and
local) decisions are mandatory.

So for example, someone from community invents some new tag because
current system can't describe something. He/she suggests its to
Tagging WG. Its members look at current tagging system (system! and
not just a group of tags) and revise this suggestion. During this
process they can consult community if this tag application field is
not clear for them. If it's fine, than this tag is included in tagging
system and is implemented on main project render and project editors.
If not, its returned to its inventor but it can't be used until it's
accepted by global or at least local Board.

I hope you understand that I don't think that each and every thing
should be decided by Board. No! If someone wants to write some new
service/render/whatever - let him do so. But if he wants to host in on
OSM servers than it's up to Board to let or not to let him do so. If
someone wants to tag something new - let him do so if he is able to
convince his co-mappers from community that this is important thing.
There is no "confining them to those activities that are compatible
with the vision of some leader". People can do whatever they want with
project data. But if they want to change something inside the project
they should convince others - members of Board and not "some leader" -
that this is important thing to do. And if they will they'll get
support and resources to do so.

Below are some of my answers to different people:
To Frederik:

> The assumption that they should all work towards a common goal is
> a common fallacy. OSM has reached a lot of what it is through people
> working towards their OWN goals, communicating and working together
> with others where they deemed it to be useful.

Correct, OSM members usually work towards their own goals. But from
the project perspective it means that everyone is doing thing only he
wants to do. However, people were able to successfully agree with some
principles, at least in tagging. We don't have Eugene:name=something
or Frederik:name=something tags, we have name=something. People in
every country have their own goals. This doesn't prevent them from
electing government and other representatives of their collective
opinion. And though sometimes this government forces them to do
something they don't always like this leads to better life in the
whole country, including better life of end persons.

You are talking about mandate from community. However, your
assumptions are not always correct. For example, you compare current
OSMF members to OSM members. But this means comparing active OSMF
members to total OSM members including those people who left project
years ago. This is unfair. How many active members do we have on OSM
(by active I mean who created/edited at least one node during last
year, the same period OSMF members are counted)? I doubt they are more
than 40 thousand. And comparing it with 400 OSMF members we get not 1
out of 1000 but 1 out of 100.

Second, OSM members never voted for OSMF creation. It has always been
OSM and since 2006 it has been OSMF. Have OSM members provided any
mandate to OSMF for hosting and finance questions? No. Should we do it

As I wrote earlier, that's just different approaches. You want more
fun and less rules. I want good map and broader reach for the project
which (unfortunately) means more rules. That's it.

To Komяpa:

> OSM has a strategy. "Map reality". Do we really need a single leader
> (who, you? why not me or any other cat?)?

That's not a strategy and that can't be a goal. Goals should be
specific, measurable and achievable. A clear goal is "to map all major
roads in the world to 2013" or "to cover 90% of Earth population with
a map to 2015". By having these goals we can understand how we can
reach them. "Mapping reality" is unreachable.
As for single leader, I've wrote it above - no, we don't need it.

> Yes. We had a guy who wanted to make "a map that will suit everyone",
> from mapsurfer.net. He built a very nice (proprietary) render... and
> finally understood that it's impossible to fill all the OSM data into
> 256x256 png's.

Correct. It's impossible. But it at least doesn't mean that we should
put ANY information we can to OSM believing that someone will use it.

> Counterexample: satnavs (Navitel, Garmin etc) aren't able to render 3D
> according to the spec by user Jongleur
> (http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/User:Jongleur/MultiLevel_Building_Shapes).
> If you don't do proper processing that might even look as garbage or
> break proprietary part of osm-to-satnav converters. However, lots of
> things look good in that scheme, like
> http://latlon.org/buildings?zoom=15&lat=55.82112&lon=37.61256&layers=BT
> Imagine OSMF board (or some other part of OSMF) being satnav users.
> They'll say "we don't map that way as we want it to look good in
> satnavs". Should I fork OSM to do that?

This example is incorrect because it has nothing to do with things I
wrote about. If the project will have a set of tagging standards ALL
converters and renders will have to follow them. If some of them don't
understand or use some tags it doesn't mean they can delete this data
from database. If your 3D implementation is accepted as standard, no
one can think of it as a garbage. But if community(!) followed by
Board decided it should not be in a project than yes, this information
should be stored somewhere else. Look at Transiki - Steve never

> There's "OSM Mapnik" that's considered "the only one" by most
> visitors. ... That's why we render our own stylesheet, which sucks
> (IMHO) less. You want not to let us do that?

I have never wrote such thing. Any user and developer can do whatever
he wants to with project data. If you want your own render - do it.
But if you want it to become main OSM render than yes, it can be done
only after Board decision.

> And I don't see why OSMF should do this, I'm local here and I can
> check data. We need just more people willing to do the same for their
> region.

Absolutely! But as I wrote before you (and others willing to do so)
simply don't have "mandate" for doing this. And this means that some
aggressive newbie can forget about your recommendations and letters
and make things his way. He will even complain to DWG if you revert
his edits because your local standards are just recommendations and
not rules of the project. As Frederik wrote earlier, "An OSMF board
member does not speak for OSM any more than Joe Mapper". And that OSMF
board member can be you.

Best wishes,

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