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

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Fri May 23 00:42:18 UTC 2014


On 05/23/2014 12:43 AM, Johan C wrote:
> 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? 

I'd perhaps not word it in such a manner.

The DWG is occasionally (by those whom we admonish or block for bad
behaviour) accused of acting in an arbitrary way - people would prefer
to have a rule that says: Don't do this or we will intervene, instead of
just having a general hand-wavy "as long as nobody complains you might
be fine".

And people are right - for the DWG, too, it would be nice to be able to
say "these are the rules that the community has agreed on", instead of
making things up as we go along.

These things take a lot of time and discussion. It can easily be a year
from suggesting that the community think about something, to the
development of something that might be called a policy. The DWG cannot
and will not usually poll the community on a concrete issue ("we have
received this complaint where a company did this and that without
consulting anyone, now what should we do"); and by looking at Wikipedia
I think it would be naive to assume that OSM won't see more and more
corporate or organised editing.

Aren't you active in the "Future Group" - should you not have some
understanding for the idea of looking ahead and thinking about
tomorrow's problems? Instead you essentially say, "the house is not on
fire so why establish safety rules". That's not very forward-looking is it?

My take is: We don't need a policy now but we will some day need one;
even today, while not yet strictly necessary, having a policy would
create a fair playing ground for everyone.

I don't think this is "DWG picking up the legislative role" - it's more
"DWG consulting the community" because, as I said, as long as there's no
guideline we'll decide things on a case-by-case basis.

> To answer that question for myself, I wanted to view the DWG minutes. They can be found on this page: http://www.osmfoundation.org/wiki/Data_Working_Group
> 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. 

I don't know what the problem is here. Most of DWG discussions happen on
the DWG mailing list. We discussed an issue, we decided to ask what the
community was thinking - where's your problem?

> This lack of transparancy, along with a luckily failed attempt to issue guideline requirements

What? Do we have a language problem here? Let me quote from Paul's message:

"For this reason the DWG is considering if it is necessary to issue
guidelines for organizational editing."

So, "considering if it is necessary". He doesn't even say that we have
made up our mind yet, nor that we were "attempting to issue" something.

Then further:

"Some possible guideline requirements could involve ..."

All this was meant as an (early) consultation of the community on this
list with the aim of hearing what people think. I don't know how in the
world you got the impression that we were "attempting to issue
guidelines" and that this attempt had "luckily failed"!

In fact, this message from Paul constitutes the very transparency that
you were asking for earlier. What can be more transparent than emailing
the list and saying: "Look, people, we think we might need some policy
here, what do you think?"

> makes me confused, worried and even a bit terrified. 

That's because you have been involved in a data import which didn't
follow the import guidelines properly, and now you're biased against DWG
because we called you out on it and terrified you. But you shouldn't mix
those bad feelings with the issue at hand here as they are completely

> Some questions for the DWG, as a call for transparancy:

I will answer these questions to the best of my ability but I think the
questions are at odds with the way the DWG, or indeed almost any other
OSMF working group, functions. I am very much interested in separating
the questions "should we have an organisational mapping policy and what
should it say" from your other point that I'd paraphrase as "are the DWG
really a bunch of secretive power-grabbing bastards that should stop
meddling with stuff outside of their mandate" ;)

> 1)	Being an executive body, why do you think you have the mandate to being a legislative body as well?

I think you're misunderstanding the situation. If you want to stick with
political analogies, DWG is an executive and partly also judicative
body, but the laws on which we base our work are extremely general -
with a few exceptions, essentially it's "don't be a dick". We then have
to decide who is a dick and why. You can get blocked and your edits
reverted today for letting 20 of your pupils add imaginary data to OSM -
organizational edit policy or no organizational edit policy.

Having a few more rules that codify, for everyone to read, when you are
considered to be a dick and when not, would likely make things better
for everyone - provided of course these rules are not made up from thin
air but agreed by a broader community. Hence the message that started
this thread.

> 2)	Are you considering other guidelines, requirements, policies or standards at the moment? If yes, which?

We have, on and off, discussed whether we should consolidate the various
"how to be good mapper" documents on the wiki (there are 3 or 4
different pages) into one document but that hasn't had much traction.
The last guideline/requirement/policy/standard that we made up and that
was finally signed off by OSMF was the document created in response to
the NE2 situation where we wrote down that you'll be blocked if you're a
bad guy - not much new but it helped.

I think you might have a wrong picture of how DWG works. It's just a
small mailing list where one person floats an idea and another person
says "sounds good, let's work on this a bit more" or maybe "nah, I don't
like this" and then if something gets enough traction we do something
about it. It is not that we have an agenda with issues and deadlines and
whatnot, or a "process" that leads a document from draft to finalization
in 36 months or so. We're not the European Council ;)

Just because we're not considering a guideline about, say, mapping
disputed territories at the moment, this could still mean that we send
an email to the talk list in 5 days that reads just like Paul's - "hey
people, we think we might need a policy here, it could encompass these
points, what do you think". This is not a process that needs ripening
through countless meetings, and consulting with the community doesn't
mean there will be a policy five days later!

> 3)	What process did you have before May 13 to start considering issuing guidelines for organizational editing?

The generic OSMF process for issuing guidelines is that a working group
comes up with something, then it goes to Management Team for approval,
and depending on what the nature of the thing is, Management Team might
also ask the OSMF board of directors for approval.

Whether or not the working group in question involves the community in
coming up with a policy is the decision of the working group; it might
be more appropriate for some working groups (like DWG) or less for
others (like OWG).

For this particular issue (organizational mapping policy), we haven't
got a roadmap - we just wanted to hear opinions from people.

As far as DWG is concerned, there's of course also something that I
would call "best practice". For example, after telling someone to stop
reverting someone else's edits, how many times will we tell him before
blocking him for longer? Things like these are not codified in policies
that go through MT and board and are published, but they're just "the
way we usually do it", and you won't find these written down.

> 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?

No. Frankly I am very happy that we are able to do most work without
having to actually agree on a date and time on IRC.


Frederik Ramm  ##  eMail frederik at remote.org  ##  N49°00'09" E008°23'33"

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