[OSM-talk] Advertising debate held hostage by Wittgenstein

Tom Chance tom at acrewoods.net
Sat Jul 7 21:36:49 BST 2007


On Saturday 07 July 2007 21:09:02 Lars Aronsson wrote:
> The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, in his Tractatus, pointed out
> that "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent".

I have, thus far, been silent on this debate, but I wanted to say that this 
post summarised most of my thoughts very well.

Maybe we need some kind of straw poll facility on the web site to find out if 
these issues are the obsession of a vocal (and too often rude) minority, or 
if there are in fact genuine issues to work through.

I look forward to hearing what is discussed re: fundraising and community 
governance at SOTM.

Kind regards,

> I'm currently reading through the advertising debate of the last
> week.  I'm not done yet, and this is not my final conclusion.
> If I thought that there was too little or too poor leadership in
> this project, I can't post a message to the list stating this,
> because that doesn't add to the leadership, but only adds to the
> general confusion, which actually undermines the leadership.
> Leadership requires a leader.  I must either work with the current
> one (Steve), or seek to replace him.  Either way, this needs to be
> done behind the scene.  I certainly can't write a long discussion
> of how we need less discussion, because that would be a self
> contradiction and I would undermine my own argument.  If in great
> confusion I were to write such a piece, I should press CANCEL
> rather than SEND. Unless I make a mistake. Wittgenstein was right.
> When Frederik Ramm called for more discussion on the list of each
> proposal, rather than writing directly to Steve, I think he hasn't
> really grasped the practical impossibility of this.  First of all,
> Steve didn't write to the list asking our opinion before he
> started OpenStreetMap.  It took me a year to realize it had been
> created before I joined OpenStreetMap.  I'm often that slow.  My
> only excuse is that most other people are much slower.
> In the last week, after the advertising debate started, I received
> some 400 postings over the talk mailing list.  158 of them were
> about the Mappam ads.  Of those, 22 came from Christoph Eckert, 15
> from Frederik Ramm, 14 from Steve Coast and 11 from Tom Hughes.
> The only message that Christoph succeeded to communicate (to me,
> anyway) was that he doesn't like ads.  This could have been said
> in fewer messages, and Christoph would have had more time to spend
> on more productive tasks.  In effect, there was one more message
> that he got across, and that is that he has far too much time on
> his hands.  This weakens his argument, doesn't it?  Over the
> years, it has occurred to me that one can appear more credible if
> one restricts oneself to one message per day, when these "storms
> in a glass of water" are stirred up on mailing lists.
> Because it was a storm in a glass of water.  Much ado about very
> little.  One person (Steve) added some code to a website.  It was
> ugly and not very fitting in the context.  But it happened in the
> middle of the summer, when people have better things to do than
> surfing the web.  The harm done was minimal.  The reaction was out
> of proportion.  But that also tells us Steve stepped on some very
> sore toes.  And that should be no surprise.
> It is an interesting exercise to pick apart compounded concepts.
> Apple pie is the most American thing, but is more of America in
> the apples or in the pie?  I think it's the pie.  Blueberry pie is
> more American than apple juice.  Pick the apple pie apart, and
> substitute one part at a time.
> What is OpenStreetMap?  It's a much compounded concept.  It's a
> volunteer community effort to create free maps, started by Steve
> Coast, operated under the umbrella of the OSM Foundation, which is
> a membership association mostly overlapping with the community.
> Pick it apart.  Which part can you live without?  Steve could
> instead have started a commercial mapping company.  He could
> instead have started a volunteer effort to create free music.
> Someone else could have started a volunteer mapping effort.
> I think Steve is the essential component.  I'm on Steve's project
> and that happens to be a volunteer mapping thing.  With Mappam,
> Steve has shown that he also wishes to try other things, a
> commercial company based on a new advertising technology.  With
> the clumsy and controversial introduction of Mappam ads on
> www.openstreetmap.org, Steve proved that he isn't capable of
> communicating such an idea to his own volunteer community.
> That's bad, but no disaster.  No need go into hiding, just make
> sure you always have people around to help you with communication.
> 80n did a wonderful job in his lengthy post.
> Steve's knee-jerk reaction to ask what others have done for
> fundraising, is part of the communication failure.  The question
> of fundraising wasn't brought up recently, and there is no proof
> that Mappam brings any substantial money to OSM.  It might do so,
> or it might fail.  Mappam is an interesting technology.  It is
> also a good practice to have your eggs distributed over several
> baskets.  Jimmy Wales started Wikia.com in 2004 as a commercial
> wiki hosting service, rather than trying to fit everything into
> the Wikimedia Foundation.  But to maintain face and credibility in
> front of the volunteer community, it is essential that no
> suspicion arises that the commercial enterprise benefits from the
> volunteer project.  The argument that all profits from ads on
> www.openstreetmap.org go to OSM is not enough, since Mappam would
> benefit from using the OSM website as its showroom.  And this is
> the key: As a hi-tech startup, Mappam is not in the position to
> generate a lot of money.  Instead, it should be seeking venture
> capital and for that it is in dire need of exposure.  Finding a
> showroom is the hard cash for any such company.
> Steve is no doubt spending a lot of his time on OSM, and as I
> wrote above I consider him to be the project's essential
> component.  I often worry if he earns enough money to make a
> living, and how long he can continue this way.  If Mappam can
> bring him wealth, that would be wonderful.  But from my own
> experience, startups are a cost rather than a source of income.
> That is troublesome.
> One more note on the compounded concepts: Both OSM and Wikipedia
> are volunteer communities to create free content, that *also*
> operate increasingly popular websites.  That latter is actually
> not necessary. The website, especially for Wikipedia, is a large
> cost because of the many people who *read* articles without ever
> contributing.  Serving the reading audience can be made by others,
> such as answers.com or informationfreeway.org.  Or mappam.com.
> For Wikipedia's readers in Europe, there is a large caching web
> proxy in Amsterdam which is paid for by Kennisnet, a Dutch
> governmental school network.  Only the logged in Europeans access
> the Wikipedia servers in Florida directly.  If similar proxies
> were in place for the rest of the world's Wikipedia readers, there
> wouldn't be the same need for fundraisers.  In this context,
> Frederik's ideas about instant database replication could serve as
> a substitute for directly providing a map display website.  It's
> an idea worth investigating, especially to study its effects on
> OSM's budget and scalability.

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

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