[Osmf-talk] Voting "recommendations" by employers (straw poll)

Mikel Maron mikel.maron at gmail.com
Sat Nov 10 11:44:08 UTC 2018

I feel sad. There's a strong undercurrent of company distrust and us vs. them in this discussion, and discussions in other OSM forums in the run up to the election . And I thought we had been moving past that in how OSMF works as a community. In reality, organizations like companies, governments, and non profits have been a part of OSM since the very beginning -- Steve was talking about CloudMade in 2005, I started thinking about humanitarian mapping in 2005, Yahoo made imagery available in 2007. The idea that there is a "real community" and on the other side there are "people paid to OSM" is a much more recent development. It seemed like we had recently turned a corner, and the complexity of the OSM community ecosystem was becoming more broadly understood.
Those of us who can to do things with OSM as part of our jobs — we feel very lucky. Geofabrik generates enough business for Frederik and his team to build with OSM and open source tools all day long. People who can do OSM professionally are not second class citizens, who lack ability to think for themselves.
The practices Frederik described in the original post, and elaborated on in this thread, do sound terrible. Strong arming people to sign up and forcing the way they vote are terrible. No wonder the small subset of people who take part in discussions here on osmf-talk are up in arms. The reality is different. 
First, membership sign up. We as a Foundation are already aware that sign up costs are prohibitive for the majority of people in the world. 15 GBP is not a lot for someone in Germany or the US. But imagine the blowback everywhere if we raised that to 150 GBP. That’s the scale you have to view our current membership fee in for people outside of developed countries. We know we have to fix this, but there’s only so much volunteer time in the day, and it hasn’t happened yet (I’d love to see people join in and help with this in the Membership Working Group).
In the mean time, people who are excited about OSM and want to participate in OSMF shouldn’t be blocked. If a company wants to offer that kind of benefit to people who otherwise could not afford it, I don’t see the problem.
Second, election discussion. I don’t know if you remember last year’s election discussion here, but it was incredibly high volume and low signal. Fortunately this year I expect that steps we are taking to organize discussion in the Foundation will help a lot this year. The vast majority of members, employed or not, tuned out. 
All companies have internal discussions, and I don’t see the problem with discussion of what’s happening in OSM and each other’s views. Despite what most people seem to think, many companies are far from places of uniform thinking, even about big strategic questions in OSM. Sharing viewpoints does not constitute “instructions” in the slightest.
Basically, what Frederik described does not sound like what we want in OSM. There’s also no evidence that it’s happening, though it’s quite easy to overreact to innuendo and confuse legitimate activities for problematic ones. 
Finally, I encourage everyone who cares about OSM to join OSMF. We are just over 1000 members, but I think that is small in comparison to the number of people who love this project. Let’s get the word out.

* Mikel Maron * +14152835207 @mikel s:mikelmaron 

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