[OSM-talk] [Osmf-talk] A Better Map

Kate Chapman kate at maploser.com
Wed Oct 22 19:24:10 UTC 2014

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your thoughts, I have a few questions/comments inline.

On Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 3:15 AM, Steve Coast <steve at asklater.com> wrote:

> There are two basic fixes. Make the board functional and give the board
> bandwidth.
> The board is too big. It grew for good reasons but now it’s just hard to
> achieve anything. Seven people mean that if everyone speaks for five
> minutes in a conversation on some issue, you use over half an hour. In an
> hour-long meeting that means you can barely discuss two things. Ignoring
> all the other issues, just the pure mechanics shows you how hard it is to
> talk through something let alone achieve a consensus. The board needs to be
> 3 people. 5 at maximum.

I'd say the size of the board to me is not necessarily the issue. I do
think however having a board elected completely just from the OSMF
membership isn't the best approach. Those elected from OSM contributors (I
frequently have seen in the past people post people's OSM edits for board
elections) are not necessarily the best to be on a board. It does not allow
the flexibility to seek out board members with specialized skills. For
example most of the board would not claim to be experts in finance, or
legal matters. I certainly think election from part of the community is not
a bad thing, but perhaps it isn't the only way.

> Being on the board is a difficult job, especially as a volunteer. Most
> people aren’t used to such roles. They may think like I did that they need
> to please everybody all the time. They aren’t able to attend meetings
> because they have a day job and other life commitments. The board needs to
> meet in person regularly with a facilitator and also have guidance about
> what it means to be on a board. We can’t expect volunteers to naturally
> figure all this stuff out by themselves and then also devote the time to
> also achieve goals.

I completely agree regarding meeting in person and having a facilitator.
Would help lead to a more productive board. It is certainly impossible to
please everybody all the time, facilitators I've worked with in other
groups at least give the opportunity for more voices to be heard.

> The board needs paid staff. There are a variety of things those paid staff
> can do which the board can decide. It’s clear that there are things that
> volunteers don’t have fun doing and therefore they don’t happen at all, but
> are still very important for a functioning organization. Having paid staff
> isn’t about deprecating volunteer involvement, it’s about plugging the
> gaps. It’s not a perfect solution but the alternative is to rely on
> companies to do many of these things, and that really isn’t perfect either.

Yes, I think that paid staff can certainly help with some of the tasks.
Financing this is a different issue however. I used to work as paid staff
on an animal shelter for abused/neglected horses that had many volunteers
while attending uni. When there was 2 feet of snow in the middle of January
it was the paid staff usually out feeding the animals and shoveling the
manure. Volunteers were great for the "fun" tasks such as giving tours,
grooming horses and giving pony rides at fundraisers. We need to seriously
look at what the OSM equivalent is of "shoveling manure" and if it is
appropriate hire people to do it.

> In terms of the mechanics,
> 1. Change the mission statement of OSM to be something like “The world’s
> best addressable map”
While I think addresses are important, I'm not sure this is really a
rallying cry. Having tools that make it easier to import addresses and
collect them will certainly assist with the usability of the map.

> 2. The board figures out how to voluntarily shrink to 3-5 people, and,
> meets in person 2-4 times a year

3. Consulting with the community on exact roles and remit, hire 1-3 people
> [*]
This consultation process is important and I don't think one the community
can do on our own. There are plenty of groups that could assist, some of
which I've worked with directly before in other groups.

Regarding your [*] regarding funding I completely agree. If anything the
OSMF has turned away funding over the years, maybe not in as direct a way
as someone trying to hand them a check (though I could see that might have
happened) but communities with less impact on the world receive way more
funding easily than the OSMF currently does.

I do think at some point it would be good to "speak at length about
funding" often when discussing funding I feel there is not much knowledge
about the different ways that could be approached. Seeking funding for a
project such as OSM is not a new thing and there are many other groups we
could learn from. There are people that are willing to help if we simply



> Together, we could do this in 6-12 months and finish addressing in 1-3
> years. At that point we wouldn’t have just made the world slightly better,
> we would have put a big dent in the universe. Nobody would use a closed map
> ever again, and it would be people like you that made it happen.
> So why don’t we go do that?
> A digression.
> In Peter Thiel’s book “Zero-to-One” he catalogs the fate of HP’s board. HP
> used to be a very innovative place and then it wasn’t any more. Thiel
> posits that there were two board factions at a critical time. On the one
> hand there were people who wanted to chart out things to build and then go
> build them. On the other hand there was a group who felt the board wasn’t
> competent to do that, and they should focus on making sure all the rules
> were being followed. The latter apparently won.
> What happened next is that HP's board blew up over wiretapping in search
> of someone leaking things to the press. HP collapsed in value making sure
> all the rules were followed while people who build new things did very
> well, like Apple.
> Let’s not be HP. Let’s be Apple.
> Steve
> [*] - I could speak at length on funding, but I don’t think finding money
> will be a hard problem.
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