[OSM-talk] OSM community organisation and decision-making process

Christoph Eckert ce at christeck.de
Sun Jul 1 11:19:05 BST 2007

Hi all,

fortunately our cool project is growing exponentially and becomes more 
and more professional. OSM, initially started as a small hobbyist 
project, finally takes off. Even that most contributors still reside in 
the EU, OSM will soon become a global project.

Recently, several improvements have been applied to the server software. 
I hope all agree their gratefulness for most of the efforts, e.g. wiki  
server stabilisation, the new slippy map, the API improvements or the 
rails port. Very cool stuff to prepare the project for the future.

But the discussion about ads and cost recovery also shows that we need 
to consider how we want our community to be organized and how decicions 
shall be made in the future.

There have been changes to the central infrastructure which IMO needed a 
bit more community consideration and discussion instead of simply 
applying them. E.g. redirecting our main URL from the (reliable) wiki 
to the (unfortunately less reliable) map or the recent introduction of 
advertising directly on the map.
Our infrastructure needs further changes to cope with the growing amount 
of data and the equally growing user base. The data model needs to be 
improved so we can achieve proper autorouting without messing up our 
data with redundant and unreliable tags. The central server needs 
replication to balance CPU load and bandwidth usage.
Unfortunately, there's some resistance (or at least disregard) in these 
efforts, which already caused one excellent developer to quit his 
membership. That's not an personal offense at all, but my personal 
observations make me feel that we not only need to talk about the sunny 
sides of our project, but also to discuss the difficult things without 

Currently, only few people control the core hardware and the core 
software. It is impossible for engaged osm developers to get an account 
on our server machines. Neither there's a "No", nor is there a "Go". 
Several request emails simply got ignored. I'd really like to avoid 
further loss of developers, as we need any resource for our project.

I even wonder if we sometimes are reluctant to accept that other people 
may have good ideas, valid points and valuable skills. If so, it 
shouldn't lead in displacing potential project members.

Our community consists of many people, doing various jobs: managing 
hardware, writing software or contributing data. While developers are 
the people who build the engines, mappers do the important job of 
providing the content that makes OSM our beloved project. The project 
additionally needs leadership, as anarchy or even democracy from the 
bottom up often leads to chaos and could harm the health of the 

Thus, I'm personally not unhappy with the current constellation - but 
I'd really like to see a bit more community participation in 
decicion-making processes. So what do you think? Did you also notice 
the need for more participation - or even not? What kind of 
participation can you imagine? Should participation be limited to 
openstreetmap foundation members only or should the whole community be 
involved? In the latter case, how can we avoid abuse (e.g. by teleatlas 
infiltration ;-)?

Please participate :-) .

HTH & best regards,


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