[OSM-talk] Racist, insulting and abusive comments on OSM related channels

stevea steveaOSM at softworkers.com
Sun Mar 14 21:00:44 UTC 2021

On Mar 14, 2021, at 1:29 PM, Bert -Araali- Van Opstal <bert.araali.afritastic at gmail.com> wrote:
(what he wrote; it is easy to find and I don't quote it again here for brevity).

Thank you Bert, for posting this.  I offer you hearty gratitude for having the courage to say this, and I add, say it very well.

I have a small bit of overlap with the topic in that I purposefully avoid using these alternative "other" media (social media, Slack, Telegram, WhatsApp, Discord...) to have my interactions with OSM and about OSM topics.  My reasoning is simple, though two-fold, please let me explain.

First, Open being our first name, I believe in using open-source and open-data protocols, methods, code, tools and media to communicate with and about this project.  I might be in the minority as I do so, though it seems like it only makes good sense to keep the very communication that knits together the what and how we do things that these should remain "open."  I use email, talk-lists (here), wiki (quite important), the Discussion tab / section of wiki, our help forum (https://help.openstreetmap.org) and personal, face-to-face communication with other Contributors, like MeetUps, Mapping Parties (a thing of the past, but they'll come back after COVID), and Zoom.  In the USA, we have Zoom-based "Mappy Hours," which REALLY build community with topics and a brief review at the top of each one that this video hour of a couple dozen people is also governed by our by-laws which require that we be respectful.  I realize Zoom is proprietary / not open, but it has become as ubiquitous as the telephone these days and is virtually a requirement to stay communicative.  There ARE open-source videoconferencing alternatives like Jitsi which I have used with success for OSM videoconferencing purposes; I strive to do this more, but Zoom is quite dominant.  In short, "stay open" if and when you can, I believe it helps OSM in the long run.

Second, every single one of the proprietary, "alternative" media you mention have what are known as "User Agreements" which "give away too much" (in my opinion), as they are legally what is known as a "contract of adhesion" (meaning "take it or leave it").  I do not (because I cannot) adhere to the terms of these — they are simply far, far too onerous and burdensome.  I am certainly not alone in this regard, there are many who feel similarly, especially about major social media platforms.  Whether it is the fact that social media (and the resulting movement of many forms of communication to similar technologies, like Slack, WhatsApp, Telegram, Discord...) has exacerbated the rapid descent of interpersonal communication (if it can really be called "interpersonal" when it becomes so diffuse and "generally insulting in tone") or if such poor behavior is simply "human nature, but amplified by widely available technology" isn't really important.  What is important is that it is happening (there), and sometimes "here" (in OSM's more homegrown communication platforms) and that we MUST address it.

Your awareness that this is a crucial issue can only help.  (Not simply Bert's, but EVERYBODY'S awareness is required).  We must keep this foremost in our minds as we compose messages to one another, with extra effort to be respectful, polite, conciliatory, open to new ideas, mindful that we are often dealing with people from distant and different cultures and that being a smart-aleck, swaggeringly insulting, indecent, inappropriate or lacking in decorum simply is not OK.  Ever.  Not in OSM, please.  It's a great project with great people.  It is possible for us to ruin it, tearing it down with such poor behavior, rooted in truly poor communication skills.  We must not let that happen.  So let us begin with striving to better our communication skills.  One of the most important ways of doing this is to improve the simple willingness to listen.  Yes, it's important to say something when you have something important to say, especially when it is constructive. Then, listen.  And listen some more.

Thank you for reading,

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