[OSM-talk] [Osmf-talk] Proposal for Software Dispute Resolution Panel

Christoph Hormann osm at imagico.de
Wed Aug 5 09:48:18 UTC 2020

On Wednesday 05 August 2020, Allan Mustard wrote:
> Please re-read the RFC that led to this proposal at
> https://blog.openstreetmap.org/2020/06/08/toward-resolution-of-contro
>versies-related-to-id/, which includes the statement, "This request
> for comment is expected to lead to adoption of community structures
> that will not answer to the Board or be influenced by the Board, in
> keeping with the OSM philosophy that the Board supports OSM but does
> not tell anybody what to map or how to map."

I have read all that carefully and the bottom line is the current board 
has a poor track record for considerably revising decisions once they 
are made (could provide a long list here but i don't think that is 
necessary).  So excuse me if i argue based on the work hypothesis that 
in substance that RFC will become policy mostly as is.  Happy to be 
proven wrong about this.

> OSM has no political appointees.  [...]

No point in arguing about language semantics.  What i mean is that there 
is no auditable selection process based on defined and documented 
criteria of qualification.  The board looks at the nominees.  Each 
board member has their favorites (based on well meaning but individual, 
subjective criteria, "volunteers whose work we know and enjoy") and 
then they negotiate how to fill the limited number of seats.  The 
result is one of political balance rather than qualification.  There 
will be some corporate employees but also some hobby craft mappers - 
maybe also someone with HOT affiliations or some compromise candidate 
in between.  You will try to have at least one or two women and at 
least one or two people from outside Europe and North America.  The 
majority will be native English speakers matching the 
overrepresentation of those in the OSMF.

See the microgrants committee as an example.

> The Board selected the members of the
> Diversity and Inclusion Special Committee and the Microgrants
> Committee from among volunteers, and that was not controversial.

Just because you so far have not perceived critique does not mean it is 
non-controversial.  People often do not feel very inclined to 
articulate critique in personnell selection because that is hard to do 
without it appearing as critique of the people selected.

> > Interesting also that the composition of the panel is supposed to
> > reflect "all interests of the OSM community" but competence of the
> > panel members on the subject, experience with and knowledge of
> > mapping and tagging in OSM or in other words:  The competence to
> > assess evidence on the cases they deal with and to deliberate on
> > the matters in a qualified and knowledgable way, is not a
> > criterion.  Neither is impartiality on prominent special interests
> > like those of corporate data users.
> Taking the latter point first, if you consider the
> conflict-of-interest rules the Board has proposed for all
> OSMF-related bodies to be inadequate, please offer alternative
> language.

I do consider the conflict-of-interest handling and corruption 
prevention of the OSMF inadequate but i will not offer alternative 
regulation on that.  Why?  Because this is a problem of the lack of 
awareness.  You cannot instill awareness through policy, imposing such 
policy (theoretically, practically i don't have the power to do that of 
course) in the absence of sufficient awareness will lead to people 
following the letter of said policy and trying to weasel around 
restrictions but not follow the spirit of it.  In other words - 
corruption would be treated as a compliance problem rather than a 
social and cultural issue.

> Since the panel would be an arm of the OSMF, it would 
> quite likely need to adopt
> conflict-of-interest rules in order to conform to the requirements of
> the Companies Act, and might adopt rules similar to those of the DWG:
> https://wiki.osmfoundation.org/wiki/Data_Working_Group/DWG_Conflict_o

We have a saying in German: "Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf her" - integrity 
in an organization almost always has to come from the top through 
leading by example.  Or the other way round - a lack of responsibility 
on the top level can rarely be compensated by islands of integrity 
below.  The DWG is a rare exception here, deriving largely from the 
high degree of independence of the DWG from the board - and this has 
caused significant friction between the DWG and board members in the 
past by the way.  If you think to outsource the responsibility to 
ensure an ethical work style to panels and committees you appoint - 
that is most likely not going to work.  The microgrants committee is a 
good example here - they have not documented any ethical principles for 
their work so far.

> As to the competence of panel members, I am surprised that you would
> assume the Board would prefer incompetent candidates over competent
> candidates. 

I did not make such an assumption.  I pointed out that in the part about 
composition of the panel the document suggests ("shall") to select by 
reflection of interests but does not with a single word mention any 
other qualification requirement for the panel members (beyond the 
vague "background as volunteer contributors").  I do not assume 
anything here, i just read the text as it is presented.

For comparison:  The DWG membership policy lists fairly specific 
criteria for requirements of members - both in the positive (what 
qualifies people) and negative (what disqualifies people).

> I also remind you of this line in the proposal, "The 
> Panel will be empowered to enlist assistance of subject-matter
> experts to study and resolve disputes, such as tagging presets."  Our
> community is broad and enjoys great depth of knowledge and
> experience, and that knowledge and experience could be tapped as
> needed to fill knowledge gaps on the panel itself.

I read that with interest and my immediate reaction was:  Why does the 
board want such subject-matter experts to be enlisted at will by the 
panel and does not strive for having them on the panel in the first 

> > Transparency is limited to the ultimate decisions being made public
> > (indeed important, would be interesting how this would function
> > otherwise).  I guess that means both the nominations and selection
> > of panel members as well as the deliberation and consulting of the
> > panel on cases is going to happen behind closed doors.
> Nominations could be public, if the community wanted that.  If you
> feel strongly about that, put forward a positive recommendation to
> that effect, please, and we will gauge the community reaction.

I have voiced my strong preference for transparency in OSMF work in the 
past on many occasions and always received strong objection from the 
board more recently.  Like with conflicts of interest this is a 
cultural problem.  If you have the firm intention to change the OSMF 
work culture to be more transparent just say so and you will get plenty 
of support from me and others in the community to implement such 
change.  But without a clear commitment here from the board i am not 
willing to yet again provide concrete suggestions and yet again receive 
a 'thanks but no thanks' for that.  Again the more recent track record 
of the board speaks for itself.  The pinnacle was the microgrants 
committee where the board (the previous one of course) had implemented 
policy requiring transparency and the current board failed to insist on 
following that policy.

> [...] There is a reason that in court cases, juries
> deliberate in private, and not under public scrutiny;

That is an intriguing idea i think:  Have the panel being put together 
on a case-by-case basis randomly from a pool of volunteer jurors - 
disqualifying those with a lack of impartiality on the specific case.  
Have the gathering of evidence and the exchange of arguments in light 
of the evidence in public but the final deliberation on arguments and 
evidence in private.

Christoph Hormann

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