[OSM-talk] What3words

Tim Waters chippy2005 at gmail.com
Tue Jul 12 20:22:16 UTC 2016

Heather and folks who are often perplexed,

are you actually perplexed or do you understand but disagree? I ask
because I have heard some mappers say the opposite: "I don't
understand why people would choose w3w!!11". Is it a turn of phrase?
Or a genuine plea for illumination? I often disagree with blind
vitriol, but I try to understand why it exists. The words we say often
give different responses. For example in the UK many people said "I
don't understand why people voted for Brexit" and some of them
genuinely did not know of any reasons why people voted that way
(filter bubble doesnt help), whilst others said that phrase, but could
understand why others voted that way but simply disagreed with the
reasons. Some people simply could not put themselves in the
oppositions shoes. The cognitive dissonance hurts too much.  I
therefore think its not just a turn of phrase for all. So here's a
response which I hope covers both angles:

In this example of w3w should the OSM community or the OSM Foundation
provide reasons why people disagree to help those who do not
understand community responses to product, or, should the OSM
Community or the OSM Foundation communicate better so that differences
of opinion are valued and can coexist with each other? Should reasons
on both sides be listed, or should we work so that blind vitriol and
anti vitriol statements be lowered? Is the problem the thing, or is it
that the thing cannot be easily understood?

Personally, I like w3w, I don't think the promise to release the code
if it goes belly up means anything. Contracts and terms of conditions
can be changed whenever, and it looks like they are aiming to be
acquired. Also, if they are successful it would never be released, so
why should we wait for it? They are VC funded, after all so they want
to grow and get a profit. I disagree mostly with the proprietary 3rd
party access. It's not open and not the OSM way. Its a proprietary
gatekeeper of information, something diametrically opposed to our
little mapping project. Would someone say the proceeding few sentences
was vitriolic? I don't think so. Critical yes. Was it offensive? Maybe
their investors don't like it, but I think it should be allowed to be
said, right?

However, I also disagree with criticism from mappers directed at
Mongolia which is patronising at best. To go with w3w is similar to
any proprietary software contract, which big businesses and big
countries do every day. It's not something I would promote generally,
it's not an open way forward is it? However it gives people jobs, and
its the money making capitalist world we live in. I believe w3w whilst
being a poor choice is a workable choice. And it may be a great choice
for the country if it works for them. If the country asked me, I would
not have recommended w3w, but dont hold it against them! Just like
using closed data, or proprietary software is a poor choice, it does
actually work. Microsoft or Esri products actually work pretty well!
(and so do their better FOSS alternatives of course). I do reserve my
vitriol to protect open data and open source, as this protects this
OSM community and foundation and what I think we stand for. Mongolia,
I believe made a good choice in their eyes for their country.

I hope this helps the perplexity, if there is genuine perplexity. Many
people do not understand the issues, and that's okay, and I want to
help people understand things if they are open to learn. And i hope
this helps understand some of the issues why people disagree with the
project if there is a genuine need to learn about some of these. I
want to help people empathise with others, to put themselves in their
opponents shoes and see that they are not actually opponents after
all!. I suspect the reality in many people's cases with controversial
subjects it is a mixture :)

best regards,


On 12 July 2016 at 12:12, Heather Leson <heatherleson at gmail.com> wrote:
> Well, slightly off-topic but I am often perplexed by the vitriol in OSM. I
> even shudder to post this statement because the environment has shown itself
> to be hard.
> Maybe we can have conversations at SOTM about how to turn this tide in a
> collaborative way.
> Heather
> Heather Leson
> heatherleson at gmail.com
> Twitter/skype: HeatherLeson
> Blog: textontechs.com
> On Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 2:04 PM, Jóhannes Birgir Jensson <joi at betra.is>
> wrote:
>> I don't know if they are using the English version in Mongolia but I doubt
>> it. You can already swap to 8 other languages on their website (top right
>> option).
>> I did discuss Icelandic with Mapillary and they looked into available word
>> sets and concluded that it was more than sufficient to make Iceland itself
>> work in an Icelandic w3w implementation.
>> The circle-jerk is strong here about w3w, they have a human readable
>> solution for GPS-coordinates (which OPL isn't sadly), they've pledged to
>> offer the source code if their business goes belly-up and seem to doing a
>> lot of good things. I'm slightly perplexed at the extent of vitriol they
>> suffer here.
>> --JBJ
>> Þann 12.07.2016 08:11, Janko Mihelić reit:
>>> So they are using the english version? What good does that do to the
>>> local people? It would be easier to learn the GPS coordinates.
>>> Janko
>>> uto, 12. srp 2016. u 09:47 Steve Doerr <doerr.stephen at gmail.com>
>>> napisao je:
>>>> On 12/07/2016 00:23, Dave F wrote:
>>>>> This system [...] doesn't work in the real world.
>>>> It's apparently used in Mongolia as of this month. So the proof of
>>>> the
>>>> pudding . . .
>>>> --
>>>> Steve
>>>> ---
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