[Osmf-talk] Modus operandi of the board

Dermot McNally dermotm at gmail.com
Sun Oct 26 23:25:55 UTC 2014

I want to tackle this question with a cool head, and I hope I can. The
fan-out from a lot of the recent discussions have, however, left me sad and
a little frustrated. Let's see how objective I can be...

There are questions (and indeed charges) that are hard to answer. No two
people come away from a conversation with the same interpretation. Humans
are subtle creatures. We are all  involved in a project where we have the
privilege to work with extremely intelligent (and therefore even more
subtle) people. Also, because nobody is the boss in OSM, we all have
individual hopes and expectations for what the project should be. Those of
us entrusted with some kind of significance in the project (and I don't
just mean board members, because there are many kinds of power out there)
have a particular responsibility to strike the right balance between our
own vision and the expectations of the people who put us where we are.

If this seems like an evasive beginning it isn't supposed to be. But
subtlety in human communication is also the thing that makes context hugely
important in how we interpret reported events. I'm going to be very clear
about this part: I'm always dismayed to see material like what Frederik has
written. Not because I claim that the board is a well-functioning group
always seeing eye-to-eye and with no anger or distrust. But because a
partial report focussing on soundbites of specific reported events will
always paint a maximally negative picture. In saying this, I want to be
clear that I am not accusing Fred of bad faith or dishonesty. Clearly he is
describing it as he sees it. But I believe it is dangerous to widely
circulate assertions relating to events of a complexity that make it
impossible to be objective and complete. Emotion is the enemy of
objectivity. Objectivity is hard.

I expect that I could, without difficulty, make a list of true assertions
related to events that occurred that would paint any given board member,
including myself, in a poor light. But I have no intention of doing so, not
only because it isn't nice, but also because it isn't fair. There isn't a
single board member whom I do not respect or whose motives I believe to be
underhand. This obliges me to assume, until demonstrated otherwise, that
any point of disagreement between us should be assumed legitimate and
discussed objectively with a view to compromise and resolution. I suppose
I'm a "can't we all just get along?" type of guy. It's why I think that,
transparency aside, it's not so productive to report on a heated argument
and more useful to focus on the outcome. It seems fair to me that I should,
as a board member, have the right to forcefully disagree with Wally (in the
interests of fairness, a placeholder for any given board member, because at
some point I've probably disagreed with every one) while discussing some
matter of importance without having to scowl at him in public afterwards in
the pub. Failing to report whatever unkind words I may have used isn't a
breach of transparency and doesn't represent me playing happy families -
because the fact is, I really _do_ think the world of Wally, regardless of
his opinion on the smoothness tag.

But since it's out there - yes, there is tension in the board. Frankly, I
think that's OK. If I wanted to be among people who all thought the exact
same things I do I'd join (no, better still, found) a cult. I recall in a
job interview once, the interviewer indicated himself to be a fan of
tension in boards. Managed well (by the individuals involved), it fosters
constructive debate and creativity. Entrenched positions are a bit of a
problem in "tense" boards, though - there has to be an appetite for
compromise. To return to the "cult" metaphor, in a broad church like OSM,
there is, IMHO, little room for fundamentalism. There should be no
heresies. There can, of course, be points of view that fail to gain
traction. That doesn't make the holder of those views a heretic, though.

So, frustration - in recent times, we have indeed seen some of this in the
board. I'm sure we all felt it. I know we all think it should go away (or
at least recede to the extent that we can call it "tension" instead and use
it to good ends). A really good way to have that happen is to have a strong
set of candidates who should be:

1. Opinionated
2. Non-fundamentalist
3. Strong-minded enough to press hard enough on stuff that matters
4. Diplomatic enough to compromise on stuff that requires it
5. Respectful of fellow community members by default (that is, a community
member is assumed deserving of our respect until demonstrated undeserving)

Though, in the interests of tension, they should obviously be these things
in different ways.

Oh, and they should probably love Maps.

Dear OSMers, dear friends, the trick is to be smart enough to work
effectively together without being too smart to do so.


On 21 October 2014 09:25, Sarah Hoffmann <lonvia at denofr.de> wrote:

> Dear OSMF board,
> while checking the candidate list for the upcoming board elections, I came
> across Frederik's maifesto here:
> https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/User:Frederik_Ramm/2014_OSMF_Board_Elections_Manifesto
> This sheds some rather bad light on how the board operates, indicating that
> some of the practises border on the illigal. I understand that this is the
> individual opinion of a single board member but I believe it is important
> that such accusations are discussed because I don't see how the board can
> operate efficiently otherwise. It is even more important in the light of
> the upcoming elections. Reading this manifesto indicates that there is
> little point in standing for election as there is nothing but frustration
> to achieve in the board.
> Therefore, I would appreciate if all the individual board members could
> shortly address the points raised by Frederik. Do you agree with his
> accounts and why? Why do you think it would be benificial to stand for
> elections to the board?
> In addition, I'd like the responsible board members to explain why it
> is common practice to withhold financial and member information from
> other board members.
> Again, I'm not interested in an official board statement but in the
> individual opinions of the people a potential new board member would
> have to work with.
> Looking forward to your answers.
> Sarah
> _______________________________________________
> osmf-talk mailing list
> osmf-talk at openstreetmap.org
> https://lists.openstreetmap.org/listinfo/osmf-talk
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