[Osmf-talk] Question to board members

Steve Coast steve at asklater.com
Thu Aug 23 17:03:20 UTC 2012


I'm going to take a different tack and cast a wider net.

As far as competitive reasons to switch from proprietary maps are concerned, we lack two things: Address data and navigability data. Both of these are kind of boring to collect. As far as roads, parks and everything else is concerned from a competitive point of view we are done. As a display map OSM is basically fantastic (compared to proprietary maps) all over the world. To make it attractive enough for everyone to switch, we have to get all the addressing in there.

So that's the essential issue to attack now. The question then is, how?

Members look to the board to Make Decisions and Do Things. The board has two central issues every year - new members who are not familiar with how a board works and not being able to commit the time required. Boards, typically, require internal debate and external unity. Boards, typically, are able to deal with making a compromise for the sake of making a decision rather than having stasis. Often this is completely new to people and results in a sometimes painful learning experience. That is sometimes a contributing factor to attendance, pretty much every year we have a board member or two who is unable to spend time at the board meetings on the phone or f2f.

Even if you have a smoothly running board there is the mistaken assumption that we somehow control everything - that once on the board you can simply tell person x, y or z what to do and it happens.

If you look at the other end of the spectrum and think about the tactical things we can do to get addressing done, for example, then there are a ton of things. We could grey out all the streets without address data on the map to encourage points to be added. We could add live chat that's easy to use to the site (e.g. olark) to help users through our challenging UI. We need to try things essentially, and expect some failure and some learnings.

How do you connect the strategic board with those tactical things?

Some would argue that we shouldn't at all, which I'm going to simply dismiss as bonkers. There is a disconnect between the two levels of thinking; strategic and tactical.

Pretty much any organization our size would have an office and staff by now. There is a leap between having no staff as we do today and having basically 10 or 20 people. To employ one person you suddenly need things like payroll, admin… and you get to the point where it's efficient to have either no employees or, say, 10 people. It's easier to get funding for 10 than 1 as well. But having 2,3,4 people and you may as well have 10. We are at that pain point where the leap required is becoming more and more clear.

Hiring Andy was needlessly painful but a great success in the end. We had arguments about whether money was moral and all kinds of back and forth over something that shouldn't really be an ideological point. The key is, can we experiment? Debate is fine, but going and getting data is actually going to settle things.

Right now experimentation is hard strategically and tactically. Fix that and have a committed board and 90% of things will figure themselves out.

Concrete suggestion? Each board member could run a public experiment next year, a project with goals, a budget and community engagement that cross the mapping, technical, sysadmin and board resource boundaries.

As an example, olark on osm.org for a month or two. It requires the board to pay for it, the community to act as the people chatting online, the sysadmins/technically inclined to put the line of javascript in. Maybe it will fail. But the question is, can we run experiments like that and see what we learn?

Steve



On Aug 23, 2012, at 9:33 AM, Mikel Maron <mikel_maron at yahoo.com> wrote:
> > Why do you consider it a "problem"? 
> 
> Yes, there's probably many reasons why people register. Maybe they are fans, and just want to keep track of what OSM is doing in their area, or are only interested if an event happens. OSM.org doesn't serve them well. If someone registers, it at least signals their interest.
> 
> Even putting aside people who register but never edit, we lose way too many people who are active mappers, or have potential. Check out the research I linked to back in this thread.
> 
> I've been part of lots of events that introduce people to OSM. Of course, I don't expect everyone to become an active mapper. But there are plenty of people who would be, if it was easier for them to stay involved. 
> 
> Our community and communication is too hard for a non-geek to penetrate. More of the social side could flow through osm.org.
> 
> It's a problem because 20k is not enough people to map the entire world. Perhaps if they were all very active, and dispersed throughout the entire world. But we're heavily clustered in a few places.
> 
> It's only an expected trend we have low expectations, and don't make simple efforts to change it. None of the solutions to this are particularly complicated.
>  
> * Mikel Maron * +14152835207 @mikel s:mikelmaron
> From: Simon Poole <simon at poole.ch>
> To: osmf-talk at openstreetmap.org 
> Sent: Thursday, August 23, 2012 11:19 AM
> Subject: Re: [Osmf-talk] Question to board members
> 
> 
> Am 23.08.2012 16:10, schrieb Mikel Maron:
>> > Could you set out what those problems are, and what has been tried to date?
>> 
>> I'll start with one, which is retention of new users. While registrations just recently climbed above 700K, active users are roughly 18K/month. Active users have maybe doubled in the past 3 years, while registered users has increased nearly fivefold. We've known about this problem for years, and should have taken steps to increase retention, while we've seen a significant decrease in retention rate.
>> 
> Why do you consider it a "problem"? 
> 
> I'm not saying that it wouldn't be a good thing to have more active experienced mappers, but aren't the numbers simply showing the results of our net becoming larger (and by-catch increasing over proportionally) due to increase in popularity? In other words: a to be expected trend. Compared to Wikipedia (which is probably the only benchmark available) we are light years ahead and we are still seeing growth.
> 
> Simon 
> 
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