Posts Tagged ‘governance’


The Diversity Dilemma

One of the essential characteristics of the OpenStreetMap project I have known and been active in for well over a decade is that it is made and run by volunteers. OSM is not an association of professional geographers, it’s a bunch of hobbyists doing what, in the eyes of professionals and at least initially, “could never work”. Nobody tells our mappers what to do, what priorities they shold apply; whether to map from the perspective of a cyclist, a wheelchair user, or a person with gluten allergy. And because we all do it in our spare time, without being paid, we have the liberty to reject any attempt to direct our activities. By and large, we map what we want, when we want it. We have wrested control of our maps away from government agencies and commerical operators, and we’re now making our own maps. This is great!
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So You Want to be an OSMF Board Member

(I am currently a member of the OSMF board but this is my personal opinion. I have circulated it by my peers on the board to hear if they had objections to me publishing it and they had none, but of course that doesn’t mean they share my ideas.)

Another OSMF general meeting will be coming up in a couple of months, and there will be a few seats on the board of directors looking for people to occupy them. Are you thinking of standing for election? That’s great to hear! New people can bring new ideas, different viewpoints, and above all, fresh energy to the cause.

In order to give you a better picture of what kind of job awaits you once elected, and to avoid some relatively common misunderstandings, let me share a few things about the work on the OSMF board.
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Anti Business

I recently found myself confronted with the sentiment that, as far as OSM or the OSMF are concerend, I had an “anti business” attitude. That’s a funny allegation about someone who was among the first people on this planet to run a business based on making OSM data available commercially, or training commercial entities how to work with OSM.

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About Leadership

In the course of the license change, a process that is now thankfully nearing completion, some have portrayed the OSMF board as a power hungry and self-absorbed club trying to exert control over OSM.

I think this is exaggerated. But it is an interesting opportunity to discuss who should be running OSM(F), and how.
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What we can learn from Wikipedia

The similarities between OpenStreetMap and Wikpedia are obvious: “We are the Wikpedia of maps!” – in fact they are so obvious that they hide some important differences. And it isn’t only that Wikimedia have US$ 30 million in cash and we don’t. I’ll try to explain how things work over at our elder sibling, and draw some ideas for OSM from that.

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An Interview With Joachim

I have conducted the following little Interview with Joachim Kast, who deals with government contacts for OSM Germany, and translated it into English. I think that the work Joachim does is a prime example of the “just do it” spirit that has got OSM to where we are today.

FR: Joachim, you’re in charge of government relations for OpenStreetMap in Germany. How does one get a job like that?
JK: That was a coincidence really. In the summer of 2010 I read a newspaper article about how our government was contemplating to regulate geodata services because of citizens protesting against Google Street View. Before they decided anything though, they wanted to hold a “geodata summit” where all affected parties would be heard. I feared that the outcome might harm OSM, and wrote to the minister in charge asking for an invitation. This landed me at one table with government ministers, members of parliament, data protection officials, and board members of large corporations like Google, Microsoft, and Deutsche Telekom. This led to a number of good contacts with government officials. Other mappers liked the fact that we were now talking, and asked me to continue.

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The Ostrich Principle

Let me get one thing out of the way: Ostriches don’t really do this. They do not bury their heads in the sand, hoping that whatever it is that causes them unease will just go away.

Clever animals.

But in this post, I will show how in some respects the OSM project as a whole tends to do exactly that.

These thoughts were first posted on the mailing list (titled “looking forward”) on Christmas day 2011. The post was prompted largely by the publication of a list of “top ten tasks”, technical things that our admin team would like to see implemented sooner rather than later. Most of it makes perfect sense to me. But looking at that list, one thinks: If those are the biggest problems facing OSM then the project must be working quite well!

The truth is, nobody claimed that these are the biggest problems. They are just the lowest hanging fruit, those with a straightforward technical solution.

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