[Osmf-talk] Organized/directed editing

Christoph Hormann chris_hormann at gmx.de
Thu Sep 20 23:58:10 UTC 2018

I wanted to follow up on the topic of the Organized Editing 
Policy/Directed Editing Policy which has been briefly subject in 
yesterday's board meeting.  

For background - in 2016/2017 there was increasing discussion on 
organized editing activities and how this affects the mapping community 
and first ideas of regulating this were discussed.  This led to the DWG 
making a survey of the OSM community regarding the topic and drafting a 
policy based on the results and previous discussion.  The history can 
be found documented on:


and the first policy draft on:


There were some critical comments in the public discussion of this with 
the community - most of this was regarding the scope of the policy 
unnecessarily including certain short term activities and the wording 
being in parts difficult to understand.  But overall in terms of 
clarity and inner logic of the rules it was pretty well designed.

Now yesterday's meeting agenda linked to a almost completely new draft:


which based on the answers to my questions after the meeting is the new 
proposal from the DWG.

I don't know the details of the process that led to this.  There was no 
discussion of this in the OSM community before it was submitted to the 
board.  Based on reading the document and comparing it to the first 
draft i however have to say it looks really bad - to a level that makes 
me think introducing this as official OSMF policy would be worse than 
not having a policy.  And i don't mean this w.r.t. my personal 
preferences and values (which i know not everyone shares), i mean this 
w.r.t. the OSMF mission 
(https://wiki.osmfoundation.org/wiki/Mission_Statement).  I am in 
particular astonished the DWG is proposing this because it is in 
particular the DWG that would be tasked with and would have the trouble 
of policing an ill-defined policy.

Specific points of critique:

* the scope definition reads like a joke.  This can be read to include 
either any editing activity in OSM (because map editing is inherently a 
social process involving more than one person) or no activity at all 
(because ultimately every changeset is uploaded by a single mapper).
* the whole design of the document lacks a clear structure - it largely 
seems sections from the original draft were copy&pasted together but 
loosing the original structure they were in and mixed with vague new 
formulations.  I don't want to excessively criticize the DWG here who 
are doing this in their spare time but while the first draft showed it 
was written with a lot of thought and consideration being put into it i 
here have the distinct impression that there was not much motivation 
behind writing this.
* the draft fails to consider any of the lessons learned from the import 
guidelines which many mappers agree to work pretty badly.  In 
particular having this draft become policy would result in - just like 
with imports - people weaseling around the rules, abusing the work 
invested by the community to contribute their part to the process, 
having some intern or similar mechanically fill out a documentation 
template to satisfy the formal requirement but not actually attempting 
to do any more than what is perceived to be the absolute minimum.
* while the first draft made a clear and defined distinction 
between "must", "should" and "may" in the new one everything is just 
vaguely "should" (without definition of what this means).  In every 
discussion i have about policy design in OSM (both directed editing and 
other subjects) i always in particular point out that rules need to be 
precisely defined and leave as little room for interpretation as 
possible because having vague rules always puts the ruthless, 
inconsiderate people at an advantage over the considerate ones (which 
is a mechanism extremely damaging to any community).
* by dropping any distinction between directors and directee 
responsibilities are further diluted.  The draft leaves it completely 
open who is responsible for what during organized activities.  And we 
already see every day right now that this is one of the core problems 
of organized editing activities.
* The text is full of highly questionable formulations - like:
"Any person or organisation whose actions affect the OpenStreetMap 
project has the duty to care for the project"
- Does anyone really think you can order prople to care for the project?  
And what is the practical intent of this kind of statement?  Care is by 
definition sibjective and everyone will think "of course i care".
"People looking at individual changesets that are part of a organised 
mapping activity should be able to tell as soon as they look at a 
- This kind of passive formulation is very counterproductive in a policy 
document.  The typical dismissive reaction would be "I can't control 
what other people are able to do."  The first draft commendably uses 
active formulations "You must.../You must not..."
"If the activity is a response to an emergency and no advance discussion 
is possible..."
- It is very frustrating that this argument tries to sneak in once again 
here.  Every few months someone wants to do an import for some disaster 
relief project and asks to shortcut the import process because it is 
urgent and it is for a good cause.   We always say:  If you have an 
urgent time sensistive application where the normal processes in OSM 
are too slow for you should not rely on OSM for this in the first 
place.  OSM is a project of careful and considerate mapping.  We do 
things at out own pace, we don't try to compete in speed.

Overall the whole document to me clearly communicates giving up on any 
meaningful regulation of organized/directed editing.  And i think this 
does not in any way reflect either the interests or the articulated 
wishes of the OSM community (or as mentioned above the interests of the 
project as a whole).

Christoph Hormann

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