[Osmf-talk] Question to Board Members - Taking Responsibility

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Sat Aug 25 08:54:58 UTC 2012


On 25.08.2012 10:06, Steven Feldman wrote:
> Today I don't know who is responsible


> It
> can't be the board meeting a few times a year as a part time role,

The board will always be responsible for every aspect of OSMF work; even 
if they hire an executive director and 10 technicians it is still the 
board who will ultimately be accountable.

However you are mixing up OSM and OSMF in your post; of course the board 
is *not* responsible for what the sum of OSM participants does. Many 
people do what you seem to do, and equate OSMF with OSM. They inherently 
believe that whatever happens in the OSM project must have been due to 
OSMF having steered the project there; it's a world view in which people 
cannot make a meaninful contribution unless somehow instructed by an 
organisation that has defined goals for them. I don't subscribe to this 
world view and I think that OSM as it is now proves that this world view 
is not universally correct.

> Steve suggested that now might be the time to consider an OSM staff
> team, I think he is right. OSM is a big project, it needs people
> to commit time and take responsibility for some of the key strands that
> have been discussed endlessly of the lists

Many of the strands that have been discussed endlessly are completely 
outside the scope of anything where OSMF could "take responsibility", 
please don't forget that.

To give just one example: Every now and again we have people calling for 
a "tagging czar" because they are tired of discussing how to tag 
something. But in my view while the process of finding the right tags 
for something and building a consensus is often arduous, takes a lot of 
time and trial-and-error, and can certainly be improved, it cannot be 
simply solved by installing an authority that, in your words, "takes 

If you were to install a staff team then its main function would have to 
be to facilitate the consensus building in the community (which, 
needless to say, is some orders of magnitude more complex than simply 
doing a doodle poll).

> and most importantly those
> people need to be given the trust to get on and do something by the
> community rather than having to gain consensus on every detail.

Trust is not given, trust is earned. You would have to find a staff team 
with solid roots in the community, long-time OSMers who can be trusted 
to do the right thing. You can't just post a job offer somewhere and 
hope the right people would turn up. It would be difficult, and it would 
be dangerous. I try to resist drawing political parallels but whenever I 
hear people say what you're saying above - and you are by far not the 
first! - I think of this: 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enabling_Act_of_1933; a state handing over 
power to an individual because they believe that then at least someone 
makes the decisions.

It is so easy - point to one of the various 100-article threads about 
the web site design on the mailing list, claim that this is proof that 
the project is mired in controversy and cannot make the "necessary" (for 
some definition of necessary) decisions, appoint people to do it for them.

> It would
> be a big change and it would ruffle even more collars than the license
> change but I think it would be worth it.

You would have to explain in very much detail what "it" would be and how 
it would be worth it. This will probably involve explaining your vision 
for OSM, and I have a suspicion that you, like quite a few others, are 
viewing OSM with the same eyes that you would view a startup company, 
and therefore also applying similar criteria for what is desirable and 
what counts as "success". I think that OSM must not be confused with a 
startup company.

> This is a discussion that we should be having, it is possibly the key
> strategic decision for OSM.

I don't think that there is a key strategic decision to be taken at this 
point in time.

I think it is prudent to first define what OSMF wants to do, then attach 
price tags to these "desirables", then decide which of those we can 
afford (or what we have to do to afford them), and then proceed. Whether 
or not doign the things we want requires us to hire staff is, in my 
eyes, secondary.


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"

More information about the osmf-talk mailing list