[Osmf-talk] Board members with similar background (was: 2018 a third episode...)

Mikel Maron mikel.maron at gmail.com
Thu Dec 13 15:16:17 UTC 2018

> I would prefer OSM to be run by the kind of people who started it: hobby mappers, enthusiasts, map geeks from all walks of life.

This is not accurate, and a narrative I only began to hear many years later. 
Yes everyone who was involved with OSM in the early days was passionate about OSM and they came from all walks of life (and that’s still true). Many, many were professionals who needed data. SteveC was working to raise money for CloudMade in 2005. The original license was intentionally chosen to allow commercial use. The framing of OSM for years was to break the monopoly on proprietary commercial and government data, to enable the full spectrum of mappers to work better by commoditizing the map. It’s arguable that OSM wouldn’t exist at all if we had operated on divisions between business and passion.
I’ve seen no evidence that business has too much influence in OSMF. I do not think that rules to prevent anyone with professional OSM experience from contributing their time to OSMF on the board or otherwise is necessary or desirable. An individual’s professional interests do not cloud over their entire thinking or define their identity.
Despite Frederik’s business interests, I’ve always assumed his decisions in osmf were made in the interests of OSM. For myself, that is 100% the case.
It’s important that we discuss topics on a factual basis. There is a lot of avoidable misunderstanding in OSM discussions on the topic of business and OSM. That’s why I look forward to Frederik’s frequent posting on the topic next year, as an opportunity for us all to examine and see things more clearly.

On Wednesday, December 12, 2018, 5:41 PM, Frederik Ramm <frederik at remote.org> wrote:


I've changed the subject because I want to make a not HOT specific
point. Neither is my message intended to be in favour or against any of
the candidates in the current election.

On 12/12/18 22:15, Paul Norman wrote:
> As someone who has a professional connection to OSM, I'd go farther and
> say that most board members shouldn't have any professional connection
> to OSM. We're a crowd-sourcing project, and most of the crowd isn't
> doing this for a job.

I would like to echo this & what Christoph said, and call Tobias' idea
of "max one board member per organisation" not ambitious enough.

I've now been a board member for many years (I have already announced
not to stand for election again but depending on the choices made by
other board members you will likely still enjoy my board presence for
one or two years more). Before I joined, I was staunchly against
businesspeople on the board, and in board elections agitated against
anyone who had a business connection to OSM. Of course I was in OSM
business too, and hence disqualified myself from standing for a board

Those who *had* the business connections would say: "Well, my business
connection is out in the open, let the members decide. My business
connection also means I am more interested in OSM than the average
person and I can do more fore OSM!" - And my friends would say "Just
drop your stupid resistance and let us vote for you already!"

So in the end I capitulated and was elected. I would still prefer a
board without commercial-background people, but I thought that *if* the
board is to have commercial-background people then I might as well be
among them.

The problem I see is that there aren't so many people involved
commercially with OSM. Inevitably, there's a "revolving door" effect
where members of the OSM/commercial elite will switch between employers.
Cloudmade, Mapquest, Mapzen, Mapbox, Development Seed, Microsoft,
Facebook, Telenav, Lyft, Uber, Apple - between the readers of this
message we'll probably all know at least one if not a handful people who
have moved from one party in this list to another party. I'm less
familiar with the revolving door on the humanitarian side but I wouldn't
be surprised if similar exchange happens between the World Bank, various
Red Cross organisations, HOT, MSF, and other players in the area - and
that's not even looking at connections between corporates and

This means that if you work for one company in the field, your personal
network is very likely to contain former colleagues at other companies
in the field, and even those where you don't yet have connections are on
your relatively short list of potential future employers or customers.
This shapes your interactions with these people; they might not be
working for the same paymaster but you're from the same breed. You will
likely assume that what counts as success in the business world is also
desirable for OSM. If we had an Apple employee, a Facebook employee, and
a Microsoft employee on the board, they might be from occasionally
competing businesses but they would have the same general outlook on
things. Diversity would not be helped if one of them was male and one
female, one white and one a person of colour; they would all mainly be
people with a corporate background and it would show.

I think that in the long run, anyone who does OSM at work should be
automatically moved from the OSMF board into some kind of advisory board
position or so, where commercial interests have their rightful place. I
would prefer OSM to be run by the kind of people who started it: hobby
mappers, enthusiasts, map geeks from all walks of life. Sometimes there
would be an overlap, and a hobby mapper like me would get into OSM
business; but I think it would be ok if this then meant that the person
would have to resign from the board of directors.

So, +1 to "max one person per organisation" on the board, but +10 to
"max one person from the business world at all", and +100 to "let's keep
the business world out of the OSMF board altogether". (This might
equally apply to the humanitarian world. After all if you want a board
career in humanitarian OSM stuff, you can do this at HOT.)

I think that business influence on the OSMF is already too strong today,
and needs to be curtailed in the future in order to keep the project
healthy and not subject it to the short attention spans and often
perverse incentives created by the economy. For me, the fact that some
businesses are starting to employ "OSM community managers" and they
actually work in OSMF roles is already a sign that something is amiss.
This is a topic I plan to come back to, regularly and in more detail, in
the next year.


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

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