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

Tom Chance tom at acrewoods.net
Sun Jul 1 23:21:47 BST 2007


On Sunday 01 July 2007 22:43:54 Steve Coast wrote:
> In the structure of scientific revolutions kuhn shattered the notion
> that scientific discovery and progress was a smooth process.

He also demonstrated that he didn't have a very good understanding of the 
history of science, and mistakenly emphasised the theory of paradigms, but 
that's an argument for another day ;-) I think your parallel is pretty much 
spot on - OSM proceeds in fits and starts.

> 1) Announce some vague questions (When shall we have a mapping party?
> How shall we raise money?)
> 2) Wait for some equally vague and diverse answers (yes! no! july!
> feburary!)
> 3) Nothing happens, or things don't reach their full potential.

There are lots of explanations for this, some of which you cover well. Another 
that you pass over is structurelessness - if (god forbid) OSM was a 
membership-based organisation with clearly defined rights and duties, where 
only members could map, then this wouldn't happen. Those questions would go 
through due process, and structures would channel people into effectively 
responding rather than leaving it for the next person to do (so that 
everybody passes the buck and nobody responds).

It's like the wiki process for map features. Unless somebody (Alex Mauer) 
kicks everyone into commenting and voting, the lack of any structure makes it 
an ineffective process.

> Apart from the fact that it doesn't work very well, it's not
> inherently wrong. It's how communities are often thought about in
> open source. But if you look about at other organisations with 8,000
> people like army units, schools, businesses, associations... they're
> all command and control.

Not really, there are lots of other interesting ways to organise large social 
units, from workers' co-operatives to town/city/regional/national 
governments, and even schools :) It's a question of structures and the values 
they embed.

Most large free software projects have been sensible enough to develop some 
basic governance structures to handle matters like trademarks, finances, 
event coordination and important technical decisions. We're relying on the 
fantastic dedication of people like Steve & Etienne (to pick two people 
already mentioned in this thread). Top-down bureaucracy won't help anyone, 
but OSM's structurelessness that prevails *won't* scale.

Kind regards,

| Green Party Speaker on Intellectual Property and Free Software |
| http://tom.acrewoods.net    ::    http://www.greenparty.org.uk |

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