Consolidating OSM Communications: A Call for Clarity and Migration Plans

So, diving into a specific historical issue or tag is a bit of a headache. The communication about it is all over the place - Wiki discussions, the talk mailing list, this forum,, and probably more.

I thought the whole point of Discourse was to bring everything under one roof. Props for migrating the old forum :clap: and the plan to shut down on March 1st this year, but what’s the deal with the talk mailing list? Still active, and no word on moving it.

While the US community has expressed interest in migrating their mailing list, I propose that this initiative should be applied globally:

Sure, the mailing list archives are out there for everyone, but why not just consolidate it all in one place?

Also, what about migrating and shutting down discussions on all those wiki pages? Communicating in wiki format is such a hassle.

What’s your take on this whole situation?


Personally I am much more concerned about siloed communications going on
on, say, Facebook groups or Slack channels and I’d concentrate efforts
on attracting those users to the open platform.

Also, I find it rather disrespectful of you to suggest the closure of
the talk mailing list on a communications channel that is not the talk
mailing list - thereby talking about people, rather than with people!

If you are serious abour shutting down the talk mailing list, you should
make that suggestion on the talk mailing list. I’ve done the same on the
German mailing list a while ago since traffic on that list is much
reduced now, and promptly heard 20 or so voices wanting to keep the
list, so we’re keeping it. It doesn’t do any harm; why take something
away from people that they still want to use.


Sure… I didn’t intend any disrespect, but considering the limited perspective in your reasoning, I was perfectly fine with the previous forum. No one consulted me before deciding to migrate and shut it down, but it happened. :slight_smile:

I’m just seeking the community’s opinion on whether it would be advantageous to migrate, consolidate, and yes eventually discontinue the talk mailing list. No need to get triggered !

I acknowledge that some individuals may be resistant to change, but I think change is essential in today’s world.

The mailing listS (plural, there are MANY of these, in many languages and countries/regions) are one of the ways that people EXTERNAL to the OSM project can both gain some insight (by reading) and offer some help or ask for specific assistance (by posting).

Were it not for our mailing lists a decade ago, I would not have been contacted by a “national route architect” who has, since, collaboratively with me and many other OSM contributors, managed to develop over the last decade the USA’s national bicycle networks in a sane, well-described, officially designated, wiki-documented, some might even say exemplary fashion. This is but one example of this, I personally both have others and know of others by others.

My point (and yes, this did happen a decade ago, and our “communications” DO evolve), is that there must be and remain “more open” methods, especially for those who are not Contributors to the project. (Think “lurkers” and those who “read the news, but don’t make the news”). Because of how open email is in the “Internet Standards” world, it is hard to replicate the wide reach that mailing lists have. Yes, I realize that traffic diminishes as other channels (like this one) become more popular, and “the network effect” of mailing lists “going quieter” makes them much less effective (with each and every person who stops using them), I still don’t think they are “dead yet.”

I salute all the efforts at consolidating the old help system and this new Discourse: it’s amazing for whom it is for and what it is able to do. But we do have other users, other audiences and other “reasons” for these communications. (Some, like Slack, are more chit-chat and interactive-oriented, some are more “for the record” like the way we use wiki to document tags and many other features of our project). And Discussions on wiki pages are not a “hassle,” they are a vital, integral part of how this project was, and IS, built.

SOME mail-lists can / should be “sunsetted” for sheer lack of traffic. But those lists are the place(s) to discuss that. This is not about being resistant to change, it is about recognizing the long histories, wide access and near-universal standardizations making practicality, compatibility and outreach good reasons to continue them.

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No offense, but it’s a bit like arguing for the continued use of snail mail just because some folks aren’t keen on the internet. Anyone external can read community posts anonymously, and anyone can create an account. Although currently, an OSM account is required, I believe we could explore options like email/password signups.

I’ve invited and discussed with people from government and private companies directly on the community site, and it’s been hassle-free. It’s 2024, after all!

Discussions are vital but the lack of a notification system, open editing on all discussion text, and difficulty in locating or contacting the original author. The discussion mechanism on the wiki is quite limited and could benefit from enhancements using modern technologies.


No offense taken. If you genuinely think you are going to get snail mail to go away any time soon (or can use it as a proxy to decry “older” communications methods as so old they must be eliminated), then I have a bridge (no, two!) to sell you. Snail mail will be with us for the foreseeable future: centuries, at least. Companies which are fully part of Big Tech (and I know of what I speak) know this quite well: look at how Amazon knows it can “squeeze” brick-and-mortar stores, yet it still develops delivery vehicles (via its subsidiary Zoox, which makes robot taxis / delivery vehicles).

So, yes, I am arguing for the continued use of snail mail (knowing FULL WELL that “some folks aren’t keen on the Internet,” but also because not all purposes or results of supposedly replacement technologies are sufficient to actually replace it!

There IS a notification system on wiki pages, I get such notifications regularly. The discussion mechanism on the wiki is perfectly sufficient (for discussion), and as proof I offer that I and thousands of others (of us, in OSM) have done exactly that for decades. Perhaps you can suggest actual methodologies by which these could benefit from enhancements using modern technologies, but you best bring your very best, tip-top game, as many of us here will dazzle you with our brilliance. Seriously, if you have fully replaceable technological solutions to propose, well, propose them. Otherwise, this sounds a lot like “I don’t like this, it isn’t modern enough for my liking, let’s change it.”

The bottom line is that both old and new communication technologies have their place. It is never so simple as “old = bad, must go.”


Whew, “limited perspective” is in the eye of the beholder, @julcnx. @woodpeck has some of the broadest perspective in this entire project. How about you?

People WERE consulted about this new Discourse. Ground was plowed, sown and carefully tended for years to get this up and running. (And I continue to salute and proudly support those who do).

I refer the Honourable Member to the answer I gave earlier: OSMF Strategy 2023 - #38 by Richard


I know very well who @woodpeck is, and I was just puzzled that someone like him would get upset and found my community post “disrespectful”. Maybe it’s just a communication issue. Just a reminder that not everyone speaks English as their first language. Let’s move on.

I’ll give it my best shot. I regularly report problems and ideas for making the OSM ecosystem better. I guess I got it wrong, thinking the community site was supposed to bring all the communication channels together. Since it seems causing a stir here, I’ll stick to working on specific items to improve.

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Frederik’s response, however you might characterize it, seems to me to have been “this guy doesn’t seem to have done his homework before coming here to complain” (your word was “headache”) about “diving into a specific historical issue or tag.”

While Discourse has had a great effect at helping to unify OSM’s global-scale communications, it certainly has its flaws, but many seem to agree it is a great improvement. Yet, as Frederik and many others note, there remains a great challenge for OSM with regards to “siloed” communications (so called this in English as it describes that “one channel is at the complete isolation of another channel”). As Richard (and the Board, including the reply to him by Sarah) pointed out, this is an ongoing challenge for our project, similar to the many languages and cultures we must bridge together by being a map of the entire planet. I’ll be the first to agree with you and many others that these (communication) issues can be difficult! Still, we see progress, and that’s because people like you (and me, and her, and them…and thousands and maybe millions more…) contribute. “It takes a village!” Thank you.

Thank you for reporting problems and contributing ideas to make OSM and our ecosystems better. I really mean that and it is some of the most crucial work that we do, because there have been a lot of rough edges along the way, and I’ve seen things get measurably better over the years. I’d like to encourage you to keep working on specific items to improve, including reaching out to others to discover how many others of us there are who are rolling up our sleeves to improve things. When we work together, the improvements multiply.


Nope to closing mailinglists. I’d rather close the forum (which is not on the table). I am a mail guy and we even have our regional groups on mailinglist.



You can use this forum as a traditional mailing list. There are some compromises (I don’t think that you can edit a post by email, for example), but it definitely works for most things.

Starting as a new mapper a year or so ago, I ended up on the mailing lists assuming that was the main place that community conversation took place – as they are still featured pretty prominently in a lot of places.

At the time I spent a couple weeks reading the lists I was interested in, and ended wondering if the project was dead or dying – as the lists I was looking at (us, canada, talk) only had a couple of posts per month. I remember coming upon the hiking mailing list, seeing that it hadn’t had a post since 2013, and very incorrectly assuming that trails were clearly not important to OSM.

Fortunately, that was right around the time the migration to discourse was happening, so there some posts about that, which eventually lead me here.

If there are still members of the community who find the lists helpful and the operational burden isn’t too high, I dont know if I would support shutting them down, but I think archiving the ones that dont have much activity and potentially highlighting the more active communication channels for new mappers would be worthwhile. Currently on it looks like you have to click on Help – and then this forum, IRC, the mailing lists, the wiki and several other resources are all treated with equal weight.


Just choose your channels, let others choose theirs, then some wil bleed out and others will blossom before bleeding out. I mainly use the forum (with mail notifiations), sometimes the wiki talk (with mail notifications) for specific pages, and I follow a few mailing lists, without mailing much myself. Occasionally I mail reply to a forum notification, but usually I click through from the email to the forum thread.

If a mailing list dies out, I no longer get mails from it. It’s as simple as that. As long as there are people mailing to the list, it survives, and maybe contains interesting content.

If I seek comments or consensus on an OSM-issue, I choose the forum.


The wiki has some known deficiencies that detract from the useful ability to have fine-grained discussions about a specific page. I’ve proposed installing the DiscussionTools extension to gain some of the functionality that you’d expect, including built-in mechanisms for replying, pinging another user, and subscribing to notifications about replies. However, this proposal needs some explicit support from the community before I can take it to the operations team for consideration. Ironically, the wiki’s existing shortcomings have stymied that discussion so far.


I have some sympathy with the original poster, in as much as the OSM project’s decision making process is (often significantly) impaired if large percentages of people miss a discussion because it happens on one if half a dozen different mediums, and they aren’t following that one.
I have seen similar fragmentation on OSM Ireland (having followed their Facebook group and their board on this site, I got told ‘oh, everybody’s in Telegram these days’)
Everybody has their favourite channels and methods, and so it can be a shame to scrap one that people love and expect them to move to one they don’t like… but overall I tend to think it would be of benefit to the project to pick one method and retire the others.


Today, anyway, it isn’t realistic to say “retire the others.” They multiply like mushrooms after rain, they are followed by fickle folks flightily and while believing that “we must support all of the OPEN ones that are OFFICIAL (in the OSM ecosystem)” might be helpful, it isn’t always realistic, especially in certain countries / regions / languages. (Ireland bounces around a lot with non-open / proprietary communications systems, it seems).

I have sympathy with the original poster as well, though I am glad the Board has grabbed this bull by the horns and wrestles with it. It is a serious challenge and will continue to be with us for some time, if not forever. I think what is helpful along the way is (at least) two-fold: 1) Be both open-minded that there ARE multiple communication methodologies and patient for this “Tower of Babel” to improve (yes, additionally, multiple languages are challenging, but better and better digital translation helps), and 2) Proprietary systems (“non-open” commercial, proprietary, copyrighted code, pay money for a license…) distinctly BUILD walls around communication, perhaps on purpose, perhaps inadvertently, and so while these might both continue to exist and even thrive in some sub-communities, they should rightly be discouraged in an Open project like ours.

Both 1) and 2) are certainly my opinion, though I have the feeling either or both might be widely shared by many in OSM.

I sometimes call “non-open” comm systems like this “secret sauce walkie talkies,” because if I can’t use it with my OAuth credentials (have you upgraded your login to version 2, everybody?) or it isn’t a very close “sister” (like our wiki), I am not interested.

As becomes increasingly popular, it will become more and more impossible to read every piece of information and comment.

In my opinion, weeklyOSM currently aggregates the most important OSM community news on a weekly basis, and those with limited time only review this. (Additionally, it’s worth noting that one can subscribe to it via email, which I find useful.)

“The idea of weeklyOSM is to collect relevant OSM news from all over the world, process it and translate it into as many languages as possible. This should help to inform the community as comprehensively as possible and overcome language barriers.” ( )

I agree about weeklyOSM: it is one of the most important “news feeds” I get precisely because it is a home-grown, internationally-produced-and-translated, OSM-strong project. I have everything wonderful to say about it and its important link to how broad, deep, wonderful, diverse and plethora-rich-with-projects we are is vital. Think of every single OSM Contributor regularly reading weeklyOSM (and being thoughtful, playful, wandering, experimental… while doing so): that’s a spectacularly high wow factor.

Another (perhaps cloud-gazing…) suggestion might be a campaign to “come home” (to OSM-strong media like our wiki, this Discourse forum…) when possible. As a project, we certainly acknowledge there are other media where OSM folks gather. At the same time, it’s good to see how many strong (and growing) we are right here “at home” (on this Discourse, in our wiki, using changeset comments and Talk pages…).

There are media a-many, 'tis true. And, there’s no place like home.

Thanks for reading, I feel unburdened now!