Ending corporate vandalism: please vote!

I vote (A), banning Grab is not a sustainable long term solution.

The way I see it is that Grab is exacerbating issues that we would have if there were a sudden influx of a thousand new contributors.

I think focusing on processes and QC is the way to go for all new contributors and there’s a strong incentive for Grab as well as all of us to have a better map. I’m personally enjoying going around using StreetComplete to add details on the ground where much of the geometry has already been added. Grab’s been shown to be quite willing to update their process and work with us to improve things and the community should be looking into taking advantage of this.

We should use Grab as an editing arm and have them do much of the work we want done.

Disclosure: I’m in discussions with Jinal to be engaged to see if I can help fix some of the issues.

Everyone should read this eye-opening thread from October 2018,

%between% Nutchanon Wetchasit shared his frustrations towards Grab and gave the same very valid arguments as today. Like many other good mappers, Nutchanon will eventually stop contributing to OSM probably because his concerns were ignored and no actions were ever taken against corporate vandalism.

%between% For those who believe (B) is not feasible: Stereo from Data Working Group proposed in January 2019 to block Grab if there’s consensus within the community!

Hello from DWG! If there’s consensus from the local community, we can revert anything, and block the organised editing teams that are creating bad changesets.

%between% Instead exactly like today, Mishari, our supposedly community “moderator”, pushed instead the community to work with Grab, report issues, and monitor their quality, a strategy that clearly failed in the last 3 years.

@cmoffroad I think you need to breathe a little, and calm down.

  1. Remember it was me who originally got Grab to stop doing their first batch edits by getting someone from Techcrunch to take notice and flew to CM on my own expense to have a meeting to try to hash things out as well as penned this rebuttal to their PR. Also if you do a search on duckduckgo for the keywoards Grab and OSM, two of the posts in top five is either techcrunch or another post where I called out Grab for using OSM data without attribution.

I think you’ll also find most of my correspondence with Grab have been public and documented in the forum.

So you’re welcome to question anything including my integrity or shoe size, that’s the point of a disclosure.

  1. The previous head of mapping didn’t follow through with their commitments, and it was quite a let down. However the present head of mapping, Jinal, has displayed a tremendous amount of care, which is why I am willing to work with her. The community may ultimately decide to ban Grab from edits in Thailand, I think that’s ok too, I shall continue to make my case that Grab’s contribution can be an opportunity.

The question of corporate contributions to open source has been an issue for 30 years, Linus also constantly slams contributors of bad corporate patches.

  1. I’m not sure what you mean by a community moderator, I’m a volunteer forum moderator and other than the proposals you made privately to me, the only complaints or request for moderation I’ve ever received has been in regards to Russ and his colourful language describing Grab mappers, which I thought was reasonably justified.

  2. You seem to have put a bunch of facts together and strung them up in a manner that serves your purpose, which is useful if you’re into politics, or trying to score points in a playground. But as technology enthusiasts, I propose we should be more focused on having a rational debate.

Anyway, even if a majority of those “voting” here vote for an exclusion of grab or for a restriction, why should that be binding?
Beyond the small group of users of this one forum, there are many more users out there “in the wild”. Especially in Thailand, English language is an issue: hardly any thai people can write some English (neither can I write Thai). And the style of communication is not at all compatible with typical east-asian communication, thus surely deterring some potential users.
There is not a single place of OSM communication. There are mailing lists, facebook groups, and what ever even less formal groups. The users who prefer to communicate there will never find out about this initiative. And they are - absolutely sure - the majority.

I’m posting a poll to the Thai OSM forum in FB.

If there’s a clear majority here like there is now, and a clear majority on the FB it sends a very strong signal and is enough grounds as cmoffroad said to have DWG get involved. Grab will not dare move forward with such strong opposition.

However as I said before, we need to be clear about this, the last people I had to deal with were university students who also behave in the same way, with no response. If we can fix this for Grab, there’s a chance we can fix this for everyone.

Votes should happen in this forum with a reference to their OSM account.

I am not saying that university students voice don’t count, but the OSM policies should be defined in English, in this forum, and by the top and most active contributors and participants, not by random accounts who barely contribute to OSM.

If you are wondering about votes in this forum with a single post, I have reached out to the most active local contributors in Thailand because they simply deserve a voice: https://osmstats.neis-one.org/?item=countries&country=Thailand

I have also directly messaged most ex-regular forum participants.

I vote for A

Even if there are numerous problems, allowing them to continue mapping (with ongoing communication) may be more beneficial than damaging.

Normally, I would favour A, as I believe corps can make valuable contributions. But since the Farcebook disaster I just can’t see it working. So:

I vote B.

I have been down that road. The replies were along the lines of “you have to follow process. Make an edit comment for every bad edit and if they refuse to fix it we can look at it.” Sorry, but I don’t have enough time left in my life.

I favour the nuclear option:

Select all ways with import=yes
change to type "road"

That way their contributions are preserved, without anyone being routed down an irrigation ditch. This has actually happened to me. Over time most of these roads will be verified or removed.

This is the area where I live:

All FB roads are shaded red-brown, thanks to stephankn. I started mapping here in late 2010, riding my bicycle and motorbike along any paved road I could find. Then FB came along and added lots of … stuff. A lot of tracks (I didn’t map many of these), plus many roads, most of which do exist, but some are driveways or dirt tracks. I think it’s safe to assume that anything shorter than 100m is a driveway.

It would take months to verify all the roads in this 20 x 20 km area and it goes on like this in every direction. In the 2 years or so since I left OSM I have continued to collect data on my GPS and I would love to bring it all in. But every time I have loaded up JOSM I got bogged down in all this red stuff. Then I get super-frustrated and throw up my hands in disgust.

I think it is wrong to ban all corporate/organizational mappers, I think it needs to be handled on a case to case basis.

I am not qualified to comment on Grab’s edits because I don’t really follow it very closely. But if they aren’t improving and their edits are bad, sure go ahead and ban them for a while. Maybe after a few months they could have another try, and if that fails ban them again. If nothing is ever learned, fine - make it more permanent.

I don’t think I can vote on any of the options. Let me try and clarify.

I can’t vote A because I am unlikely to monitor it myself. I don’t agree with B because I think some good could come from working with corporations and organizations. Besides I don’t think DWG would allow all corporations to be banned. C isn’t a good option either, because something clearly needs to be done.

So this is what I’d like to see:

  1. Setup strict rules, that describes how bad mappers should be handled whether they are single mappers, corporations or organizations.
  2. If they despite feedback fails to improve, give them a warning (according to the rules)
  3. If they despite a warning fails to improve, ban them for a certain amount of time (according to the rules)
  4. If they despite multiple bans still fails to improve, ban them more permanently - with some room to allow them back when we feel confident that they have improved.

Maybe our problem is that we give too many chances, and we need to be stricter earlier on? Maybe we need a limit on how fast edits are allowed to be made so we have a chance to provide feedback before 10M edits have been made.

e.g. “If you plan on doing mass edits, we require that you scale up slowly so we have a chance to verify the quality. Don’t hire 1000 mappers on day one and expect it to work perfectly.”

I also feel like it would be help for organizations and corporations to have a single point of contact in the community. It often feels like that we can hardly agree ourselves and are sending a bunch of different messages. Sometimes we are just too many chefs in the kitchen. I’m not saying this is perfect either, I tried to some degree with Facebook and Mishari seems to be that person for Grab - and yet we still failed.

Anyway, I haven’t been active on the forum for a while and have missed many important discussions, I’m not even sure I am qualified to vote.

Good point @Johnny Carlsen. If we try to set clearer, stricter rules and they violated them, the banning would be more justifiable.

I agree with all of Johnny’s statements. That single point of contact is perhaps the most important point.

Hi all, and sorry for my absence. Cmoffroad reached out to me in a message, and I think it’s fair that I share the reasons for my inactivity with you all as well as my thoughts on the issue.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame Grab entirely for my disappearance, as there were other factors, though their corporate-sponsored editing certainly played a significant part. I was mostly busy with other IRL stuff when the mass corporate-sponsored edits began. Though I have since periodically had more free time, whenever I’d pop back in it seemed I’d only meet frustration over the sheer amount of low-quality edits now present. (See some of the changeset comments I’ve left for example.) Not all of them were Grab’s fault, but the majority surely seemed to be. Though in fairness, the frustration goes way back, to the Maps.me debacle and all that—it was quite inevitable that regression towards mediocrity would occur as OSM expanded after all. It didn’t help that the community had also practically broken down over the issue in the intervening period, despite many members’ best efforts at holding things together.

The frustration was mostly why I couldn’t maintain personal interest in the project. But to be honest, I’m not sure that I would, even without the mass editing happening. I’ve always had an agnostic view on the long-term prospects of OSM, at least in Thailand, and contributed purely as a hobby without really expecting that it would ever become complete enough for practical day-to-day use. It was just something I could enjoy doing. And personal interests do change, with or without external factors.

In any case, this distance has allowed me to look at things from a wider perspective.

I seldom use Grab (not for any related reasons; I just find hailing taxis the old-fashioned way to be more convenient than navigating their app), but recently I took one and noticed that the app’s navigation interface, which driver was using, was using OSM, and that had me thinking.

I did a bit of experimenting with OSM-based satnavs back in the early days, but I never trusted OSM enough to rely on unless it’s a route I’d personally mapped or checked entirely (which means I already knew it and didn’t need help navigating anyway). Seeing how Grab was now actually using OSM was a bit of a revelation. As hobbyists, we prided ourselves on the detail and accuracy by which our local areas were mapped (I always felt a little smug whenever I’d find an error in Google Maps that wasn’t present in OSM). But as a community, we were always too small for our coverage to come nearly close to being able to compete with the commercial providers. Grab’s mass editing may have introduced a huge amount of low-quality edits that irked us long-time contributors, but they’re also making it possible for the map to be put to practical use in real life, at least for certain uses. Their drivers are relying on it, so they do have at least some level of skin in the game, even if their bar of quality is way lower than we’d prefer. While I wish that Grab had forked the project and maintained their own thing (which would also have made a comparison of the results possible), I am wary of judging that their involvement has as a whole been a net negative to the state of OSM in Thailand as a whole, even if it clearly has been to the community. In any case, I do kind of wonder if it isn’t too late now to try turning things back.

I no longer feel informed enough on the situation, though, so I’ll refrain from voting.

@Johnny, @Beddhist, @Paul_012 great feedback, thank you for adding your voice again to the forum. much appreciated!

Some of you may be surprised but I will vote for (very) strict rules (A).

The community is obviously too small to review and monitor the quality of large-scale modifications done by remote organizations.

However, I believe that any genuine organizations wanting to provide quality contributions that benefit them on a small to medium scale, should be able to do so if their proposal meets the satisfaction of the local community (case by case basis).

For example, Facebook should be more than welcome to correct the names/phone numbers of businesses if they want to.
Grab should be able to improve road alignments with satellite imagery, and street names/directions with Mapillary.

However, since the road classification network is the greatest source of frustration and conflicts among the majority of voters here (B), and because most of the road network in urban areas has already been mapped, I will strongly advocate against any extension of the road network and modifications of its road classifications by remote companies and individuals who cannot rely on local knowledge or ground surveys.

Exactly that’s the most important point.
That was always my objective when I contributed here: I want to be able to use the map while I travel thru the world, mostly on bike (I gave up for car navigation in Europe - Google Maps is far better here for that purpose; the reason for the lacking usability of OSM is ideology: what’s a useful “routing speed”? “Subjective! F### off!”).
Hence, I do extended armchair mapping sessions typically before starting the holidays, and then some further contributions with the collected “ground truth” (more than 10,000 km of “identifiable” GPS traces, mainly on minor roads!).
With my background knowledge, I can estimate the risk of following facebook roads (but not yet grab roads - they are not yet tagged with “import”).
Never could I have achieved the mapping of so many missing roads in South Thailand, but thanks to Facebook they are on the map. With bad tagging, but that is just normal with other contributors here, too. When I travelled from Phatthalung to Nakhon Si Thammarat some 10 years ago, even major highway 403 was missing (but part of it was mapped as a railway…). And then west to Khao Phanom: I used the as-the-crow-flies routing, because nothing was available at all for almost 100 km.

Thank you everyone for voting and giving extremely valuable feedback.
To be honest, I didn’t expect so much participation and this shows that corporate vandalism is the most pressing issue in this community.

While we haven’t heard yet from a few more correspondents, I think there is enough data here to come up with conclusions:

  • First, there is a clear majority among the top and most active contributors that mass-editing corporate vandalism will not be tolerated anymore,

  • Second, the work of organizations/companies can still be beneficial to the community and a complete ban is not a sustainable solution.

  • Third, strict rules for organized edited teams and consequences for not respecting them must be decided by the local community.

  • Fourth, organizations must have a single point of contact who must proactively contribute to OSM, participate in discussions and respond to incidents.

So here are my 3 proposals:

A) Grab should suspend immediately all their mapping campaigns in Thailand until new rules for organized editing teams are being set up.

While the lack of rules is the fault of the community, Grab also bear some responsibility because it has in the last 4 years:

  • repeatedly ignored feedback from the community and gave empty promises
  • failed to provide any tangible solutions and guarantees that concrete actions have been taken

So this should be regarded as a symbolic ban, and I expect Grab to respect the voices of the community.
Should they violate this, I would involve the Data Working Group (DWG) with a strong case I have built over the last weeks.

B) Stricter rules need to be setup for organized editing teams

I propose that whoever voted (A): Mishari, nitinatsangsit, myself and any new volunteers, and with the input of Grab, work together after Songkran to come up with a first draft of stricter rules for organized editing teams, so that eventually Grab could rejoin under new rules.

C) The community needs a new setup

The community will never be able to function properly without clear written rules on how to:

  • vote on issues and proposals
  • respond to incidents
  • work with organized editing teams
  • effectively moderate the overall process

After Songkran, I will submit a full proposal to elect on a yearly basis 3 community moderators, a new role that will define and improve the community charter, and proactively moderate it.

Please let me know what you think of these proposals,

Until then, Happy Songkran!

I look forward to reading your proposal, and where I commend your efforts, I’m concerned about the stakeholders included in the process, that many will be excluded from decisions that affect them.

I don’t think “most active contributors” is sufficient as there is plenty of room for people of other roles as well, including evangelists. I have a modest amount of experience contributing and where this may give me some credibility, I don’t think it gives me any rights, moral or otherwise, over this project.

In order to save time, I recommend you put up broad principles in the Wiki for the community to comment on before hammering out the details of the proposal.

I also suggest you should also mention you’re doing this in osm-talk so we can gather feedback from the wider community as to how they organize things.

The community moderator role as you mentioned sounds interesting and I look forward to seeing your proposal. Do any of the other communities have such a role?

Lastly, as of time of 11 April, there are 8 votes in favor of (A) in the OSM Facebook poll, 2 for (B). Where I don’t think this changes your conclusions in a material way, it should be noted that even the Thai community is somewhat culturally split, and any effort needs to pay extra attention to inclusiveness.

I have just found the email. And to answer your PM, @cmoffroad: yes, remote-editing corporate vandals overwriting my on-ground survey works (Grab specifically in this case) as exactly the reason that I simply stopped participating in OSM entirely. I still have a centimeter-thick worth of field papers, that I never got a chance to enter the data, rotting in my backpack to remind me of it.

It’s probably out of voting time now; but I’m going to let everyone know that I only favor option (B). My Internet time is running out today, see you all later.

I vote B, Before that, I had seen that someone had changed the Ratchaprapha Dam Reservoir to a Commercial Area. I think should be limited to editing with a lack of maturity.

For a stricter rules, as an example, I suggest:

  • Re-alignment of existing roads is not permitted unless it is clear that the existing alignment is incorrect, and the issue must be discussed with the community before proceeding.
  • Adding a new road is allowed only for a small dead-end road. Connecting the existing road may have an impact on navigation and must be discussed with the community before implementation.
  • Changing the highway classification is not permitted unless approved by the community.
  • Adding a new street name is permitted, but changing an existing street name must be approved by the community.