[OSM-talk] Nominatim on the main page

Frederik Ramm frederik at remote.org
Sun Feb 18 21:44:17 UTC 2018


On 02/18/2018 08:07 PM, Jason Remillard wrote:
> There is plenty of money around this space to pay for a full time
> system administrator staff and some developers. Pokémon Go netted 600
> million dollars in the first three months. Mapbox just go $164 million
> dollar investment. I don't understand why you, Tom, lonvia are not
> paid, full time employees of OSMF by now. Mapbox is doing a great job
> with ID development, but obviously they are not going to seriously
> fund our tiles and geocoding.

Many people seem to believe that the natural growth path for a nonprofit
organisation is identical to that of a for-profit organisation. Acquire
more funds, hire more people, invest, grow, rinse & repeat - bigger,
better, faster, more, year after year.

This is certainly a *possible* course of action.

But it is desirable?

Have a look at the OSMF board, a mixed bunch of people elected by the
members. Are you sure that a seasoned developer or sysadmin would even
*want* a paid job where they are subject to the whims of an elected
board, with a potentially modified "strategy" year after year (as
majorities change due to new elections)? Would that not be a job like
Dilbert's with his pointy-haired boss?

Ah, you'll say, easy: We hire a CEO in addition to that, so there is
more continuity, and the CEO can then boss the technicians around, and
the board only adjusts the general direction occasionally. That's also
something people often suggest, again following the usual corporate lines.

Growth of this kind entrenches the power of the established organisation
over the volunteers. Inevitably, the organisation shifts from the
initial "a bunch of volunteers have founded an organisation and elected
a board to do the basic housekeeping of financials and intellectual
property rights" to "a central organisation manages their volunteers".

The growth of the central organisation brings with it increased funding
requirements (salary for CEO, developers, and sysadmins; soon after,
cost for a fixed office, office management, community managers, and so
on). This money has to come from somewhere (add salary for professional
fundraisers). Whoever gives us the money can make all sorts of demands
on our organisation and community. Shrinking the organisation is rarely
an option, so we'll need the funds to continue to live, and we are much
easier to control by "big capital" (if you look at usual funding
sources, you can safely say "big US capital").

We will be subject to politics much more than now; we will have to
publish regular success stories (and gloss over failures) just like any
business does to maintain a good image. We will have to kick out people
in our ranks who soil our image lest the funders will back out. We'll
have to start doing silly side projects that the community would never
have started in their own, just to tick some boxes with a funding partner.

Do we want to sell our soul? And for what precisely in return?

These are important questions to think about. I am sure there are
potential growth paths that do *not* require us to blindly submit to the
ways of commerce - just like we never blindly submitted to traditional
GIS practices ;)


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

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