[OSM-talk] Organizational mapping policy, the role of the DWG

Johan C osmned at gmail.com
Thu May 22 22:43:02 UTC 2014

At May 13 Paul Norman wrote a posting on behalf of the Data Working
Group (DWG) stating that “…For this reason the DWG is considering if
it is necessary to issue guidelines for organizational editing.” Also
the words “guideline requirements” were used in this post.

My daily job for over 25 years at various organizations involves
striking the balance between interests in many ways, like governance
issues, like segregation of duties. And having multiple discussions
about which one is better: control or trust? Peoples behaviour
unfortunately needs both control and trust and it’s a never ending
story as to which degree both are needed.

In his trias politica Montesquieu took the view that the Roman
Republic had powers separated so that no one could usurp complete
power. Balancing of powers by separating them into legislative,
executive and judicial powers is needed to avoid centralized power or
even dictatorship. Translated to OSM, legislative can be compared to
setting formal/informal standards, guidelines, policies and
requirements, all needed to control the project and to avoid
arbitrariness (‘a motorway should not be tagged as a footway’).
Executing is carrying these out. And judicial could be compared to
‘grey-haired independent persons’, to which you can turn in case one
does not agree with a decision by the executive body. To my knowledge
OSM does not have such a judicial body.
Centralized power which combines two or three powers can sometimes be
very handy, for example in emergency situations: one or two persons
take control, the rest has to obey their commands. “The building is on
fire, everyone has to leave this building immediately”.

Back to this thread. I was wondering why it is the DWG considering
issuing guidelines. The DWG has a powerful position, since the DWG can
block users and revert edits. That’s an executive role. The possible
impact of that power: massive. The Mechanical Edit Policy (although it
seems to be a draft?), which has no set start date, contains the
following line: “Your edit may be reverted even if you have followed
this policy; this doesn't guarantee your edit will be accepted.”. Wow.
That means the DWG even has the power to revert the import of the
original Tiger dataset in the U.S. without the U.S. community being
able to defend itself. Having much power in an executive role because
a judicial role is missing requires integrity and delicacy. I have no
doubt that the DWG members are integer and delicate. So why also pick
up the legislative role? Is there a fire within OSM, which needs
central control these days?

To answer this question I checked the various postings in this thread.
Paul uses the following phrase in his posting of May 14: “Recent
events in a project similar to OpenStreetMap - Wikipedia - have
demonstrated that the participation of organizations in data editing
can occasionally lead to misunderstandings or disharmony in the
project, particularly where a lack of transparency is involved.” On a
question of Simon Poole (May 14), asking whether there was a fire,
Frederik Ramm (May 14) answered that there was a fire: four “no bad
intent” organizations in Germany alone in the past year, Mapbox and
Telenav being open but on a “totally voluntarily” basis and “likely a
bunch of other companies who do the same kinds of things but do not
talk about it”.
It’s even wondered whether there is a fire: "The problem at hand is
currently at a scale that can still be handled on a case-by-case
basis” and “we assume that the number of such cases might be on the
rise.” (Frederik Ramm, May 14). Mikel Maron enquires about the scale
of the problem on May 14: “From the DWG and others, would be good to
know more specifically about problem instances from the past. Exactly
what scale of a problem are we talking about?” Than on May 16 Clifford
Snow challenges the DWG to show the fire: “I would challenge the DWG
to share with the community their data on why they are bring up this
topic.” Till date no answer. It might never come because there is no
fire. Though it might be polite to answer him. Mikel wrote (May 14):
“It's wise to contextualize all of this as part of "best practice",
rather than policy requirements. We want to encourage people how to do
things well within OSM, rather than discourage them from getting
involved at all. No reason to take a defensive stance, unless an epic
problem is erupting.

So, if there’s no fire, no epic problem and a constant need to be
integer and delicate, why is the DWG picking up the legislative role?

To answer that question for myself, I wanted to view the DWG minutes.
They can be found on this page:
That is, the DWG only seems to meet once a year. The last meeting
minutes are from 2014-01-05. The previous one is from 2013-02-07. Too
bad, nothing in this minutes resembles discussions about an
organizational mapping policy.

This lack of transparancy, along with a luckily failed attempt to
issue guideline requirements, makes me confused, worried and even a
bit terrified. Is our do-ocracy gradually turning into an autocracy?
No, that simply can’t be true. I need to ban this thought out of my
mind. However a little bit transparancy would help.

Some questions for the DWG, as a call for transparancy:
1)	Being an executive body, why do you think you have the mandate to
being a legislative body as well?
2)	Are you considering other guidelines, requirements, policies or
standards at the moment? If yes, which?
3)	What process did you have before May 13 to start considering
issuing guidelines for organizational editing?
4)	Did you have meetings in the past 12 months which were not
published? And if so, could you please publish these minutes on the
DWG site?

Cheers, Johan
Dutch OSM community member
Aka It’s so funny

2014-05-16 2:01 GMT+02:00 Clifford Snow <clifford at snowandsnow.us>:

> On Thu, May 15, 2014 at 8:48 AM, Jóhannes Birgir Jensson <joi at betra.is>wrote:
>> I personally subscribe to new OSM users feed for two countries which I'm
>> focused on and check out their first edits, these are not high activity
>> countries so perhaps others have more problems but so far none appears to
>> be harmful, the opposite in fact, drive-by mappers that would be lovely to
>> cajole into active mappers, or even zealous mappers!
> I watch new mappers in my area as well. One of the community colleges has
> an introductory GIS course that has the students map nearby. I've never
> seen any problems with their edits. I've emailed the instructor to see how
> the community could help with the course material. And one of these days we
> are going to sit down over coffee to discuss possibilities.
> When I first read the original message I thought about classes we all give
> in how to edit with iD to new mappers. There is really isn't much
> difference between a GIS class assignment and a community member teaching
> iD. New mappers make mistakes. It's better when they have a knowledgeable
> person giving the instruction and feedback. Since the vast majority of new
> mappers only get the the online introduction, I suspect those in a
> classroom setting might initially do a better job.
> Unfortunately I have no data to back up my thoughts. I would challenge the
> DWG to share with the community their data on why they are bring up this
> topic.
> --
> @osm_seattle
> osm_seattle.snowandsnow.us
> OpenStreetMap: Maps with a human touch
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