[Osmf-talk] Candidacy: OSMF Board

Jean-Guilhem Cailton jgc at arkemie.org
Mon Dec 4 00:21:48 UTC 2017

Le 23/11/2017 à 14:52, Christoph Hormann a écrit :
> On Thursday 23 November 2017, Pete Masters wrote:
>> My point is that the language Sev uses is disrespectful, personal and
>> hurtful. That's not ok in my book.... Firstly, for Heather - no-one
>> should have to read that. And secondly, because this hostility
>> *discourages* debate and divides community.
> Just to be clear on that - the writing of Severin would almost certainly 
> be considered to be covered by free speech laws - even in Germany for 
> example which is much more restrictive in that matter than for example 
> the US.
> I am actually grateful for this statement of opinion by Severin - not 
> because i agree with it or because i find it particularly balanced or 
> informative but because it gives me an insight into viewpoints and 
> positions that are rarely communicated in this venue.  Having opinions 
> that evidently exist not present in discourse is what truly divides a 
> community in the end.

[To give a bit of context of when this email was written, i wrote the
first part last Sunday, November 26. As i have just started working on a
new job that takes most of my time and energy, i could not finish it
then, after having read the accumulated backlog of messages on the
week-end. So i am trying to wrap it up now.]

…“an underlying problem within the heart of the writer?”

In a thread that was mostly about “respect”, “correct tone”, and against
“bullying” or “ad hominem”, how come all those who wrote to criticize
Séverin didn’t say a word against this?

That is a serious question, and i invite each of you to think about it.

>From my point of view, there is much more ad hominem symbolic violence
in that phrase, than in anything Séverin may have written.

Remembering, for example, how I met Séverin when I arrived in Haiti in
2012 as a volunteer to help him teach young Haitians how to map their
city of Saint Marc in OSM, I can join Rafael and testify that there is
no problem within his heart.

Rather, i invite John, who is the writer of that, to examine his own heart.

Christoph, i agree with you that viewpoints should be allowed to exist
in discourse. I even think that they are necessary for voters to make a
well informed and well thought choice.

So i’ll share with this group of OSMF members a few facts of what i
experienced within HOT US Inc. while Heather Leson was a member of its
board. This could be relevant here, in this thread about her candidacy
to OSMF board, and as “HOT is a part of OSM”, according to her own words.

I am quite aware that as a foreign non native speaker of English, my
expression here is going to be judged quite imperfect. As has been said
by others, that’s the price for a diverse community. Also that what
happened affected me deeply, and, however hard i try to be as objective
as possible, it is only my point of view. So I request all those who are
not ready to stand my writing to stop reading here.

Stop. reading. here.


If you continue to read beyond this point, it shall be considered that
you have committed yourself contractually to tolerate what i am going to
write, as an expression of free speech, however unacceptable it might be
considered in your culture.

Or in your favorite “Code of conduct”.

You also agree not to cut this message into pieces, and to preserve its


Christoph, if you are the only reader left at this point, that’s fine
with me.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that some people have any more respect for
contract law than for others, as they have shown before. So it is quite
possible that i end up being thrown out from the HOT voting members for
what i am going to write here, as the recent changes to their CoC were
likely intended to keep their misdeeds hidden.

Anyway, it would be an honour for me, to join the “membership alumni”,
as I see quite honourable people there. And also even more honourable

You have probably heard about the worldwide outcry against sexual
harassment of women. This morning, I heard on the radio a woman alluding
to the story about “the finger pointing at the moon”. She meant that it
was not right for a man to criticize the possibly not-quite-appropriate
way women complained, when the real problem was the thousands or
millions of women who had been harassed, silently so far.

This resonates with Simon describing the “deflection tactic”, of
focusing on form, rather than the actual issue at hand. For those who
don’t understand this, a suggestion that could maybe help would be to
look at the men who reject the women’s complaints (hopefully from the
outside) and how they use the same tactic.

When seen within the perspective of previous exchanges that happened
within HOT US Inc, John’s phrase is one more act of moral harassment.

And when Mrs Heather Leson complains that “No one should ever be
submitted to comments about her mapping contribution like she has”, she
had better remember the much much worse treatment inflicted against
others, that she has actively supported as member of HOT US Inc. board.
(— and, secondarily, practice mapping, and learn that OSM mappers have
to accept criticism from fellow mappers, even when they might consider
themselves as having some experience, as that is the way this global
collaborative work keeps improving. And all the more so, of course, when
you stand for the board.
That doesn’t mean — as some pretend to understand was meant — that only
mapping contributions matter. But some can argue that they think that
OSM knowledge does matter. As Frederik nicely puts it: have you ever
seen an atheist archbishop?)

Séverin was among those who were taken as scapegoats and morally
harassed (in case this might help those who feels “he doesn’t like
Heather” understand). #Me too. And I am going to tell you about this here.

I already explained this at length to the HOT US membership last year.
The majority didn’t care. I don’t know if they would care any more now,
after the large outcry against sexual harassment, and the rise in
consciousness, given that there are common points with moral harassment.
You can understand why I don’t care so much about being thrown out from
such a membership.
And of course the main harassers have written the “laws” based on which
members will be “judged”.
(A bit as if Harvey Weinstein and men supportive of his behavior had
written a “Code of Conduct” and process for the American Film Association…)

Being shown in video claiming to “grab women by the p…” didn’t prevent
Donald Trump from being elected president of the US. (By the way, Kate,
at least the voters had the legitimacy of being US citizens. What would
you have thought if most of them had been selected by Trump and his

What I do here is probably useless. But I do it anyway, because I think
that’s the right thing to do.

So what happened to me to make me think of comparisons that may look as
far-fetched  ?

[Resuming this email message on the evening of Sunday December 3rd,
after having read the messages sent to the list this week.

By the way, i’d like to tell a big THANK YOU to the members of the OSMF
who wrote these last days to tell that for them it was not ok to use a
CoC to silence criticism. You have no idea how much this makes it less
difficult to express oneself in this space]

When Hurricane Patricia, the most intense tropical cyclone on record in
the western hemisphere, was threatening the western coast of Mexico, in
October 2015, I was invited by Humberto Yances, one of the two
co-coordinators of HOT activation to join the Skype room where
coordination was taking place, because there was a need related to
accessing large amounts of imagery, that would be useful to support the
preventive mapping effort. A few minutes after joining the room, i was
thrown out of it, before having said anything, and without any
explanation. Still, i could understand what the need was: to facilitate
access for OSM mappers to a global coverage of Mexico offered by the
Mexican Government as a WMS of SPOT satellite imagery. And get the
relevant URL. So i quickly set up a TMS proxy-cache on OpenStreetMap
France server, to make imagery access more efficient for OSM mappers in
general, and possible at all for users of iD editor. I was later thanked
for this by the representative of the Mexican Government.

It turns out that DigitalGlobe offered access to its imagery of the area
shortly afterward the TMS SPOT coverage had been made available. The
other co-coordinator who threw me out of the Skype room is a US national
according to his profile on hotosm.org. (And, for those who don’t know,
SPOT is a series of mostly French satellites, developed in collaboration
with Belgium and Sweden). I explain this for those who say that speaking
of US soft power could be a form of “racism” (pretty strange, as has
already been explained).

I was deeply shocked to have been thrown out like that of a global
effort to help a third country, by someone who was not even from the
threatened country. When i asked him and the HOT US Inc Board how they
could justify this from an ethics point of view, i didn’t get any valid
answer. Of course, as there can’t be. So i posted a tweet suggesting
that HOT US Inc introduce some basic notions of ethics in the training
curriculum that they require their “coordinators” to take. (Among the
tens of thousands of tweets that are on my time-line)

(By the way, it would be interesting to know, someday, publicly, why
Humberto left HOT US Inc., to which he had contributed so much, and in
which he had invested so much…)

The seriousness of that abuse left me unable to sleep for weeks.

At that time was published a book, by Anthony Loewenstein, titled
“Disaster Capitalism – Making a Killing out of Catastrophe” ([1], [2],
[3], [4]). It was also around that time that Mikel Maron was hired by
Mapbox. Shortly afterward he run for the Board of the OSMF. It appeared
to me that the title of that book could be applicable to what the
business model of HOT US Inc. appeared to have become. So i posted
another tweet ironically congratulating Mapbox for hiring such a
“killer”, and including a copy of the book cover, that made it clear (in
case it could have been needed) that the word was to be taken in its
figurative meaning.

I later discovered that formal complaints had been filed against me.
About the tweets mentioned above, and also a third one that i don’t
remember precisely (if anyone is interested, just let me know. All this
is archived somewhere, and i can look it up later. It is taking me a lot
of time to write and type in English. And this message is already too
long anyway.)

To try to make the story short, i was going to be “judged” by the Board
of HOT US Inc. As i was stressed by that perspective, and the
possibility of public humiliation, i tried to talk with Blake, who had
been refusing for a long while. He offered me to withdraw all of his
complaints if i withdrew one of the tweets, whichever one, i could
chose. I was against the idea of obeying to blackmail, and to give up my
freedom of speech. But the psychological pressure was such that i
yielded, and accepted to remove a tweet.

He then changed the terms of the deal he had himself proposed. I was
shocked by his disloyalty, but gave in again, as i really needed to get
out of that pressure. And i was relieved, on a Monday morning, to
receive a copy of his email to the other members of the Board, and to
Russel, who was then Chairman of the Voting Members, whereby he withdrew
all of his complaints against me. I removed all three of the tweets he
objected to. The Board was to meet 2 days later. That was the meeting
when they were to “judge” Nicolas.

On the day after the meeting of the Board, I understood how the
“American Indians” must have felt when they were betrayed by the
conquering “White men” with whom they had thought they had signed
treaties, to escape full extermination, and found out that the treaties
were not respected. The complaints had been “reinstated”, and i had been
judged without knowing it – against all principles of human rights and
of laws –, and even having been lied to and told that i wouldn’t be.

Had i been duly informed, and of course also given the fundamental
universally recognised right to have a defender, or at least to defend
myself, that would have been easy. The complaint against the “killer”
tweet was a lie in itself. Blake had written that i had publicly accused
Mikel of being a murderer, and he had cut off the book cover – that
prevented any ambiguity – from his screen copy of the tweet!

It is such a “honest fellow” who has been President of HOT US Inc., and
one of his active accomplices who is now a candidate to the Board of the
OSMF… (Heather Leson was President of HOT US Inc. Board when this happened.)

Note that as soon as i had known about some of the complaints against
me, i had informed the Board that their actions violated at least 3
French laws (for duty to assist, and against moral harassment, and
blackmail) that likely have equivalent laws where they live. They
knowingly went on.

And, in spite of the British law (quoted by Simon), that stipulates that
“A director of a company must avoid a situation in which he has, or can
have, a direct or indirect interest that conflicts, or possibly may
conflict, with the interests of the company”, Mikel Maron, of Mapbox – a
company that makes heavy use of OSM data – is on the Board of the OSMF…

And Heather Leson is asking for your votes, without having told you that
she works for IFRC… I learned that reading Séverin’s report, where he
also gives an example of possible conflict of interest with the Red
Cross, with one that happened, and quotes the false claim made by ARC to
get a grant. I know, independently, that the first Pléiades images of
Guinea that made it possible to map Guéckédou, Macenta and Kissidougou
very quickly at the beginning of the outbreak were acquired by MSF, as I
set them up on OSM France server.

(If you are impressed by the reputation of the Red Cross, as i used to
be, you might be interested in reading [5] or [6]).

More Pléiades and SPOT 6 satellite images were then made available for
free by their supplier, and setup for OSM mappers by me, as soon as MSF
was informing about the spread of the outbreak to other areas. That was
until Mr Maron decided that this process, that was running smoothly,
couldn’t continue out of the control of himself and of the
“militaro-industrial-humanitarian” complex of his country, and abruptly
interrupted it.

This resulted in at least one case where an area, that MSF had requested
be mapped because of new cases appearing, didn’t get covered by imagery
before a delay of more than one month, and thus couldn’t be well mapped.
(Previous delays were at most of a few days). If you consider that this
was a time when the number of cases was doubling every 3 weeks, and if
you consider that mapping is useful in helping to save lives, and if you
try to estimate how many lives were not saved because of the extra delay
in imagery and thus mapping, you’ll find that it is very likely that at
least one human life was not saved as a consequence of his action…

This is the first time that i state this on a public list.

I hope that you are now more aware of the potential risks for
OpenStreetMap if you vote for Heather Leson, and strengthen even more
the group of the “HOT US Inc. pals” on the Board of the OSMF, instead of
balancing the influence of those who are already present.

Best wishes,


[4] https://www.versobooks.com/books/2254-disaster-capitalism

[6] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-41861552

“Corruption is the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”
Transparency International
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