[Osmf-talk] Live OSM discussion in ~45 minutes (7.30pm UK time)

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Wed Jul 26 20:02:05 UTC 2017


On 07/26/2017 07:45 PM, Andy Mabbett wrote:
> I've just learned that this week's Wikimedia Research Showcase,
> streamed online TONIGHT at 7.30pm UK time, will focus on structured
> data in OpenStreetMap. Details below.

Thank you for the link, apparently it can still be watched after:

> YouTube stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yC1jgK8C8aQ

I think the research bit was generally ok, albeit it didn't really
follow Muki Hakalay's "code of engagement" for scientists with OSM (

I took issue with a few items.

* The talk seemed to assume that the listener knows what "Dairy Queen"
or "Panera Bread" are ;)

* The talk seemed to try very hard to say OSM had "western standards" or
"UK cultural assumptions" but I felt that was very un-convincing on the
whole; it even showed two very differently built roads of the same
tagging in the US and Africa which to me seemed to prove the point that
things work ok - we don't demand that a road in Africa must be built to
the same standards as one in America to be a "primary" or whatever.

* The talk clearly had a HOT bias; towards the end there was even a
slide that tried to discuss "whose new ideas can influence the
standard", and it listed these four bullet points: "HOT", "Men",
"Hostile contributors", and "Code creators" (who, as discussed earlier,
had the power to limit the freedom of others).

* Sadly the talk included the usual drive-by accusations of sexism in
OSM. It said, and I am not making this up: "There has been some work by
Monica Stephens that has discussed how new tag proposals for feminized
or (inaudible) spaces are given less, quote, attention" (this is
referring to a very badly researched 2013 article that essentially
contrsated took low vote outcome on a childcare tagging proposal with
brothels and swinger cluby in OSM to brand OSM sexist), and then went on
"also, one of our interviewees mentioned that she had, quote, heard of
women not being listened to or respected". -- What he's doing here is
quoting an anonymous source that is quoting an anonymous source that
says something about OSM, and that is good enough to make a sexism claim.

The whole talk did, it seems to me, slightly overrate the importance of
tagging discussions (they claimed to have interviewed 15 people but it
is unclear how they selected those 15), and therefore the discussion
that ensued was mostly around the question "how can we make sure that
everyone has a say in tagging discussions".

There seemed to be an underlying assumption that binding votes on
tagging, or at least a well-defined process to standardize and maintain
the global tagging ontology, was necessary (and not least, all those
autocratic editor writes need to submit to the community vote and not
invoke privilege to create presets that others must then follow).

I wouldn't say this has given me any new insights or ideas for the
future, but it is an interesting study in how (relative) outsiders
approach OSM.

I think we as a project really need to publish a more through, and more
visible, takedown on that 2013 Monica Stephens article though. At the
time I thought "oh well, bad research comes and goes, no need to start a
fight every time a researcher writes something wrong about OSM", but
that one seems to be found, believed in, and quoted by other researchers
just too much.


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

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