[OSM-talk] What3words

Jóhannes Birgir Jensson joi at betra.is
Tue Jul 12 22:44:01 UTC 2016

Hello Tim.

Admirable post although I'm wondering if I'm often perplexed according 
to your very first sentence?

Perplexion is at the vitriol - I myself - being a programmer who strives 
to be more civil than my nature would naturally be - understand the 
factual criticism levelled at what3words but the vitriol that follows it 
is the perplexing part. What3fucks and What3shits sort of deem 
themselves in their elegance.

You can deem something unusable but standing over someone and hitting 
them in the face telling them that this thing is shit is a mark of 
vitriol which is uncalled for. By all means level the factual critique 
and why your ideology is uncomfortable with it but do so in a civil 
manner. As for aggressive marketing I've never seen it personally but of 
course I'm not in a major market, are they running full size banners, 
spreads in broadsheets and TV ads?

I also have to correct a factual error - the user of the mobile app does 
not need to have an active internet connection - a GPS signal is enough 
to get the location - they however lose the background map itself (since 
it is Google). I've just tested by taking my phone offline - the app 
contains the algorithm to calculate and I could pinpoint my position and 
scroll around it to get other w3w's.

I personally have no stake in What3Words, I met its founder in Iceland a 
while back and we had a chat about it and his vision. I like the 
problems it is trying to solve, I see why it is proprietary and whilst 
not ideal I fully acknowledge why they would keep it that way. Some of 
the things levelled at it here were addressed in my chat - for example 
adjacent points having completely different words - that is by design 
and is similar to the last 4 digits of the OLP approach which has 
previously been lauded.

Tim does an elegant job in his post to address the issue of making 
money. One thing I want to address though is the OSM angle - I don't 
know of What3Words putting any pressure on OSM, I know some apps that 
build on OSM also incorporate W3W but that is totally outside OSM.

Many of us are geogeeks and as such any geomatters, like geocoding, are 
of interest. But are they of interest to OSM itself and this list? Not 
really in my opinion unless W3W are actually pushing into OSM space.


Þann 12.7.2016 20:22, skrifaði Tim Waters:
> 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,
> Tim
> 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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