[Osmf-talk] What if....

Mikel Maron mikel.maron at gmail.com
Thu Dec 21 18:12:22 UTC 2017

Thank you Ambassador Mustard. Once your tour of duty ends in Turkmenistan,
can you consider putting in to become the Special Envoy to OpenStreetMap? ;)

Want to expand on one point you made, and also take the opportunity to
share with everyone a longer piece I've written up on my OSM diary (

> "OSM is a digital technology platform and as such will tend to attract,
forgive me the expression, computer nerds ... as for regional diversity,
recruiting volunteers in the developing world will always be a challenge
due to the simple fact that in the developing world people have less
leisure time to devote to a voluntary, unpaid pastime like OSM mapping than
do populations in the developed world"

I agree you have to develop a particular mindset to get obsessed about
completing the map, and that our typical community expectations don't
always work in the developing world. I'll add to that.

"Computer nerds" look pretty different in different parts of the world --
there's hardly a corner of the globe that isn't obsessed with technology,
and in many countries it's quite a prestige pursuit. And OSM, being about
understanding the world, attracts people with intersecting interests in
remarkable ways. Even the early days of OSM was a heady mixture of artists,
open source software advocates, outdoors enthusiasts, civic technologists,
and entrepreneurs.

Community based organizations across the developing world have incorporated
mapping as a core component of their work. Just two from many examples. Map
Kibera (which I cofounded in 2009) continues strongly, still run day to day
by the same Kibera based team. They just finished mapping and reporting on
the tumultuous Kenyan election, and are starting a project to work with
rural counties to map their local communities. Tanzania Development Trust
has been mapping to combat female genital mutilation
https://crowd2map.wordpress.com/. On the global level, we should hear from
and connect more with groups like these.

Have an amazing break everyone -- get rest, recharge and dream!


On Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 9:32 PM, Allan Mustard <allan at mustard.net> wrote:

> Seasons greetings to all:  Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa,
> and belated wishes for a joyous celebration of the Prophet's Birthday.
> I, too, have refrained from interceding until now.  Perhaps, however, it
> is time for a professional diplomat (ahem, cough cough) to step in
> (harrumph).  A few comments, and then I will get back to mapping the
> country in which I work when my day job does not consume me. Please give me
> a minute first to remove my tuxedo and top hat, and to put on my old
> firefighter's Nomex bunker coat and pants from the Ballston Volunteer Fire
> Department, and to lower the polycarbonate face shield on my fireproof
> helmet before you read farther.
> 1.  It seems odd to me that a cartographic society (OSM) and its core
> group (OSMF) are being redirected to social engineering.  May I naively ask
> when that became OSM's mandate?
> Opinion: A code of conduct is certainly a good idea, but it should not be
> so long that nobody reads it, so convoluted that few understand it, or so
> prescriptive that it drives people away.  It might just boil down to a few
> simple sentences: "Be courteous to fellow mappers.  Disagree and state your
> opinions politely.  Use facts, not emotions, when debating an issue.
> Refrain from invective or name-calling.  Correct errors politely and offer
> help to newcomers to OSM.  Racism, sexism, and generally bad behavior that
> risk driving away volunteer mappers are not permitted and will be
> sanctioned."  Period.  Did I leave out anything really crucial?
> 2. Why is the rhetoric of these threads so overheated?  Over my 30+ years
> as a diplomat I have worked and lived in two totalitarian dictatorships
> (USSR and Turkmenistan), an authoritarian regime (President Putin's
> Russia), and a grab bag of sexist and racist societies.  Any alleged
> discrimination within the OSM world pales by comparison.  I do not perceive
> a huge problem here, particularly when compared to the scope and scale of
> such problems globally.
> Side note: To illustrate, the Russian language includes the term
> "sekretutka", a portmanteau of the Russian words for "secretary"
> (sekretarsha) and "prostitute" (prostitutka), i.e., a secretary hired by a
> sexist male boss for purposes of both administrative support and sexual
> services. These exist and in fact there is an employment agency that
> recruits such employees for executives.  Twenty years ago in Bosnia, I
> initiated microcredit programs to fund startups by war widows who had been
> raped by Serbian nationalists after their husbands and sons older than 16
> had been systematically murdered as part of ethnic cleansing.  OSM's
> "problems" simply don't hold a candle to these examples.  Incidentally, one
> reason the U.S. embassies and consulates are considered desirable places to
> work by local employees (particularly females and local ethnic minorities)
> is our enforcement of a zero-tolerance policy regarding sexual harassment
> and racial and gender discrimination.  Say what you will about the United
> States, wish us lingering, painful death, even, but any such harassment or
> discrimination is illegal in the United States, and of late has been
> punished even in such hallowed and previously untouchable venues as
> Hollywood and the U.S. Congress (several members of which have resigned in
> the last couple of months over allegations of harassment; I assume you are
> following that news story in the online U.S. mass media).
> 3. Diversity is to be encouraged as it inherently strengthens
> organizations, but the fact remains that OSM is a digital technology
> platform and as such will tend to attract, forgive me the expression,
> computer nerds (yes, I am one and freely admit it).  This subculture is
> predominantly male (for whatever reason--pick yours and then go to work to
> counter it by recruiting females).  Geographically, the OSM volunteer pool
> will also be biased toward those countries with easy and cheap Internet
> access--draw your own conclusions as to why.
> Side note: In that regard, making an easier editor (ID) available rather
> than JOSM or Potlatch is probably a bigger boost to diversity than anything
> else OSM does, simply because you don't have to be a tech wizard to master
> ID (Hey! Quit sneering at me for using ID, doggone it!)  As for regional
> diversity, recruiting volunteers in the developing world will always be a
> challenge due to the simple fact that in the developing world people have
> less leisure time to devote to a voluntary, unpaid pastime like OSM mapping
> than do populations in the developed world (I've lived and worked in
> third-world countries enough to know this from experience), so the pool of
> available recruits will tend to be proportionately smaller.  This is not
> something to be snarky about.  We just need to focus some effort on
> outreach to recruit the people out there who DO have some leisure time to
> devote and, in addition, can afford internet access in countries where the
> internet is expensive and not a cheap common utility.
> OSM as a voluntary effort cannot mandate diversity the way the U.S.
> government has in its salaried workforce.  That is simply a fact of life
> for voluntary associations--we don't pick them, they pick us.  We can
> recruit (believe me, I'm trying, just as over the past 30 years I have
> recruited minorities and females to work for the Foreign Agricultural
> Service of USDA), but the pool of interested parties appears to be
> inherently biased as described above.  We have to live with that, work to
> overcome it, recognizing that it is not a problem that can be solved 100%
> but is rather a chronic disease to be ameliorated to the extent possible.
> This is not something to fight over, or to exchange fiery posts over.
> Enough finger-pointing!  (And before anybody counterattacks, please be
> aware that the embassy I run actively promotes women in STEM here in
> Turkmenistan, among other things).
> I will stop here to wish one and all a joyous holiday season and every
> success in 2018 and beyond.  I will continue to map Turkmenistan until the
> end of my tour of duty here sometime next year, but hope the overheated
> exchanges will cool down a bit.  With your permission, and if you'll put
> down that flamethrower, I'll change out of my Nomex outerwear and put the
> tux and top hat back on.
> cheers,
> Allan Mustard
> apm-wa
> https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/apm-wa
> On 12/21/2017 4:20 AM, Tyler Radford wrote:
> Wishing all in the OSM community a happy holiday/end of year period and
> peaceful beginning to 2018.
> Best
> Tyler
> On Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 10:10 AM, Jo Walsh <metazool at fastmail.net> wrote:
>> Hello all,
>> On Tue, Dec 19, 2017, at 12:22 PM, Heather Leson wrote:
>> What if we took pause to consider how we might move forward?
>> Before posting solutions, maybe take some time.
>> I like this suggestion a lot. Last weekend I resubscribed to OSMF and to
>> this list, and read lots of backstory. This was prompted by the recent
>> angst spilling out into parts of my Twitter feed that aren't OSM centric. I
>> would like to help - to cut through the meta discussion about conduct codes
>> with some concrete proposals - to volunteer to be part of any conflict
>> resolution group that may form.
>> I've held back posting to this list as yet because of the back-and-forth,
>> reactive nature of the threads. Waiting until the holidays start and I have
>> some relief from work and childcare, to put on my flame-proof suit and
>> barge in. I anticipated turning up at a family holiday gathering only to
>> disappear into the attic and have internet arguments for several days. But
>> this way would be even better.
>> Cheers,
>> Jo aka zool
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