[Talk-in] OpenStreetMap workshops

Kenneth Gonsalves lawgon at au-kbc.org
Sun Oct 4 04:04:43 BST 2009

On Saturday 03 Oct 2009 11:25:01 pm Kiran Jonnalagadda wrote:
> On Sat, Oct 3, 2009 at 7:56 PM, Kenneth Gonsalves <lawgon at au-kbc.org> wrote:
> > I am talking about
> > sustainability - I have had decades of experience in dealing with this
> > issue,
> > and believe me, any movement not dependent on self generated funds lasts
> > exactly as long as the funds last.

sorry I came on a bit strongly on this issue, but to me the issue of NGO 
funding is like a red rag to a bull. My first job in 1970 was with an NGO, and 
I learnt the trade at the feet of the masters - and soon became an expert in 
the fine art of BSing donors. I live in the Nilgiris which competes with 
Bangalore as the NGO capital of India. I agree that a lot of them are sincere 
and hardworking, but again and again I see everything vanishing the moment 
funds dry up. Given this concept (and my incurable allergy) further comments 

> Thank you, Kenneth. I'm glad we agree 100% on this matter and I'm sorry I
> did not make this much clearer in the proposal. We could have saved on the
> mutual assumption of idiocy if you had stated this up front.
> I appreciate what you mean by having events self funded. However, while
> there does appear to be a poor correlation between sustainability and
> external funding, correlation is not causation. As far as I can tell,
> sustainability is an emergent property of internal accountability. This can
> be disrupted by external funding because accountability can shift to the
> funding source, but there are also numerous examples of how to do this
> right.

funds attract vultures, jackals, rats and other vermin - for example a self 
funded workshop will only attract people who are willing to work and spend, an 
externally funded one will attract a huge crowd who will crawl back into their 
holes once the workshop is over. Of course, there are people who will benefit 
and go ahead and do something useful. But the ratio of 'conversion' is much 
lower. (more about this later)

> Second, the meaning of sustainability is variable depending on what is
> being sustained. You no doubt understand this very well already, but I'm
> elaborating for clarity:
> In nature, where resources are limited, sustainability is about achieving a
> ratio between what is consumed and what is recycled. In software and data
> however, there is no theoretical upper limit to how much code or data can
> exist. Sustainability is not making a map over and over again the way it is
> about growing a crop or a forest back each year. Every node we add to the
> map and every workshop we conduct builds on the previous. It's never the
> same as the last time. The sustenance is in the act of doing it, not in the
> manner of how it is done.

I'm sorry, I do not agree. Sustainability is a matter of building a community, 
not of building nodes on a map. The map is constantly changing - and unless 
the community is watching it, the nodes get outdated and useless. When I was 
in Mumbai a few days back, I could see roads being blocked, dug up, rendered 
one way for new flyovers and the metro - but our map does not reflect it. The 
state of map in Mumbai is as it was at the time of our sprint. Therefore, how 
it is done is crucial.
> We were fortunate to have Schuyler and Mikel's presence for the Feb 2008
> workshops. Their presence was a significant draw. Arun has acknowledged
> that it was the Feb 2008 Bangalore workshop that got him started on OSM.

me too - I had never heard of OSM before Bangalore and the workshop got me 
started. But the topic of the workshop drew me, not the presence of Schuyler 
and Mikel. But it is significant to note that subsequent to that, apart from my 
efforts, not a single participant in the workshop has bothered to organise a 
workshop, or a demo or an event. Apparently everyone is sitting back and 
waiting for them to come again to conduct more workshops?

> Their absence since has not impeded him from doing any of the things he
> has, nor has it been a problem for anyone else organising a workshop.

who has organised a workshop, or anything apart from a couple of mapping 
parties since then?

> Funding for another series of workshops will build on existing work and
> will create a layer for future work. It need have no influence on the
> ability to run a future workshop.
> My goal in doing any of this is to expand the critical mass of mappers,
> because the more we have, the greater their economic significance as a
> collective, and thereby the easier it will get to raise internal funding.

based on past records this is doubtful - we will just be sitting around 
waiting for the next batch of funded workshops.

> You seem to indicate we have enough of a critical mass to be able to run
> workshops without external funding. This is great, and we ought to be doing
> those workshops then. I just see no reason to be satisfied with any
> definition of enough. External funding can always help to expand the
> outreach.

it is a question of priorities - either work round the year doing stuff or wait 
for the 'messiah' (apologies to Schuyler and Mikel if you are reading this - 
this is not about you, it is about our own shortcomings).
> I'm happy to have your thoughts on this.

I have been busy with the python conference, so have neglected OSM for some 
time. My thoughts are that rather than waiting for 2010, we go ahead and try 
to organise workshops in various places around India, identify and approach 
conventional mapping organisations and attempt to work with them. I will try 
to do something in Chennai, and with Mukt.in coming soon in Hyderabad 
hopefully in collaboration with IIIT, we could make a big show there. Freed.in 
is another potential customer. And like we did in Chennai during the event 
conducted by LFY, we can make our presence felt in other commercial events too 
- if any are coming up. (and those who are agnostic about where they go as 
long as 'something is done', could even swallow their pride and volunteer to 
produce code for show in fsck.in)

ps - I did not react to your comment on google vs OSM for endusers as it would 
have diverted attention, but rest assured flames are on their way on that 

Kenneth Gonsalves
Senior Project Officer

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