Feedback on the decision for no SotM 2023

There is some overlap in the developer community and there are numerous companies that have business interests in both sides, but outside of that we could just as well be aliens from Mars. Further the conference ticket for FOSS4G .this year was 600 Euro plus 120 per workshop, OK when you are there for business purposes, but I doubt something that would appeal to many OSMers,


… while the other half of the community hangs out on some YM or HOT (un)summit. Problem solved.

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More like 99%…

You are taking @mmd and my tongue in mouth comments just a bit too serious.

My non-joking comments: SOTM is primarily, or at least should be, an event for OSM contributors. Learning what other contributors in other countries are doing, seeing interesting applications of OSM data and, most important, getting to meet and discuss with other contributors.

Its purpose is not to add legitimacy to loud ‘humanitarian’ groups and deep pocket business events, which at best are only peripherally related to OSM.


other context:

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When we started to work on the decision for SotM 2023 it was obvious that we prefer Cameroon to Kosovo for two reasons.

We prefered a venue out of Europe as past three SotMs took place in Europe. And we didn’t want to have the double conference with FOSS4G for several reasons, even if there are good reasons to have the conferences in neighbourhood.

For several meetings we worked on the bid of the local team of Cameroon. We asked a lot of questions to the team of Cameroon also about security issues. The aim was to go there and to improve circumstances. We investigated the conditions to make a hybrid conference. So that everyone could participate even if it attendees decide against a travel due to security issues.

All members of the SotM WG were aware of security issues of a travel to Cameroon. But we wanted to provide a strong hybrid part as alternative. So we asked about technical background in the venue in detail and it was “no question of budget” to do everything possible in this direction.

It was known from the beginning that LGTBQ+ community won’t be able to travel to Cameroon. But at this stage I thought the hybrid is a good solution to have everybody involved …

Then something happend. We received mails of a board member (not private, but with board email and board cc) that “reminded” us to the security policy of OSMF. It was not possible any longer to organize a SotM in Cameroon. Other board members asured me that we have all support of the board. You can see in the minutes mentioned above how strong the board put pressure on SotM working group. I cannot find any comment in it that the board should let do SotM working group their work …

In our last meeting we had three options. Going on with Cameroon. Choosing Kosovo or no (international) SotM. We decided to stay with Africa but to work on a venue that is possible for everyone. This is not possible for 2023. So we announce that for 2024.

For me personnaly this was the most sad desicion in my “SotM career”. I felt deeply disappointed about this decision. At the other hand of course we want to have LGTBQ+ people part of SotM. Of course!

Please support SotM Africa in Cameroon as local conference!


At the risk of just repeating what others have written: There is still no good reason put forward why the 2023 SotM couldn’t be in Kosovo. The original announcement spoke of a very strong application, without mentioning any negative points. In the ongoing discussion, ad-hoc references are being made to visa issues and now the parallel FOSS4G. The former potential issue I can’t judge, the latter just seems weird. Would you care to elaborate on this? Anyway, judging on what has been published and written so far in the “official” channels and here, the selection process seems highly problematic and certainly discouraging for future applicants.


Kosovo bid is strong enough that we will ask them to repeat their bid in future. We never rejected a “strong bid” forever. Mailand and also Heidelberg participated at the call several times and we support local teams with their bid and also asked them to repeat their bid and we also ask teams to make a “early” bid - even things are not thought out to the end.

here is really no need to feel discouraged by a rejected bid. And also now with the rejected Cameroon bid we try to work with the Africa-wide team to find the perfect venue.

It is difficult for me as chair of the SotM working group to argue against SotM side by side with FOSS4G without blaming the magnifique work of the local team in Florence. But Wikimedia Italia is one of the strongest communities in OSM worldwide … this is really an exception. Hosting SotM is hard work and absorbs a lot of force of a local team. And also preparing it … looking for great spaces for socialising etc. needs being with heart at SotM and it is always worse to work at the same time for an other conference.

And to tell the truth … the formal Kosovo bid was neither strong nor very strong as the text was just a copy and paste of FOSS4G bid. Of course we know they can do well … so we call it strong. But the formal was not good enough for 2023.

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I am also member of the SotM organizing committee and took part in the decision to not host a global SotM in 2023. I don’t have all too much to add to what has already brought forward in this discussion, but one thing that bothers me a bit is the following: Why is skipping one global SotM such a big deal? Did I (and my colleages) overlook some negative aspect associated to skipping the conference? I mean, it has happened before (in 2015) and people still came back to the SotMs in the years after. I even argued that having no global SotM next year would even “strengthen” regional and local SotMs in 2023 such as SotM Africa, as there would be automatically greater “demand” for other SotMs if there’s no global one.

Sure, it’s one less opportunity to meet, present, exchange and network in 2023… hey, if you’re so enthusiastic about SotM: why not go ahead and organize your own regional or local SotM in 2023? PS: And please consider joining the SotM organizing committee. :slight_smile:


What worried me is that (from what was published) there was a secret requirement of not making SOTM in Europe which was not communicated to applicants. And they were doomed to failure no matter what they did.

Maybe Kosovo bid was poor and “strong bid” was euphemism/untrue/misleading. And SOTM 2023 was cancelled due to lack of viable bids. Though in such case maybe use euphemism that is not misleading? Rather than claim that SOTM was cancelled to increase diversity?

What worried me is that it seemed to be applying “1 good thing from Europe and 1 good thing from Africa is preferable to 20 good things from Europe and 1 good thing from Africa” as a rule. Which makes no sense to me. Cancelled SOTM is not a big problem, but this kind of “solution” can be applied also elsewhere.


Hi Christine and thank you for the detailed posts. I share your feelings about it being a sad decision in your SotM career as I recall feeling the same way when I was in the Working Group and saw the cancellation of SotM 2015. It sounds like similar circumstances; in that you picked a bid to work with and when that fell through there was not enough time to go and work with the other bid.

You also had the extra complexity of an OSMF that acted to take power away from the Working Group. Unfortunately this is a regular occurrence (e.g. the same happened with the LCCWG Moderation Subcommittee) and can demotivate the working group volunteers. I hope you are all well and not feeling down/sad for long. I call on OSFM again for you to get all the support you need in event organisation, planning and safety for SotM 2024 and beyond.

Credit where credit is due, I do know that the OSMF do support SotM WG via the paid work of Dorothea. So in that sense I know that OSMF can be supportive, it just needs to widen this out.

The other lesson, as with the cancellation of SotM 2015, is that it takes a huge amount of time and therefore planning needs to start as early as possible. I personally feel that the burden on volunteers is too large and hence my calls for more paid support from the OSMF. Volunteering in working group roles is not the same as doing voluntary mapping. With mapping you can simply stop when life gets busy and have as long a pause as necessary. This is not the case with the working groups as they are either working to deadlines (e.g. to stick to the SotM conference date) or have 24/7 pressures (e.g. keeping the servers online and functional). The more we recognise this, the better supported the OSM community will be through the efforts of the Working Groups.


And to tell the truth … the formal Kosovo bid was neither strong nor very strong

If the Kosovo bid was not strong, then I’d much rather have the announcement of no SoTM to state it clearly, and identify weaknesses they had, instead of saying that is was strong, when in fact it was not.

Such avoiding of saying what is truly going on in order to not hurt someones feeling (or whatever the reason was) is unnecessary and does not help anyone; in fact it make situation worse for everyone involved:

Community that wants to attend SotM is left utterly confused why strong bid is completely ignored, Kosovo team does not get feedback about what they need to improve on to make a better bid, and OSMF/SoTM WG gets a black dot for deliberately not being transparent.

Not that “no SotM” is the end of the world, but I’d like to think that everybody learnt something from this and will do better next time. Anyway, big :heart: to everybody volunteering their time to try to make things happen! Even if it is not always evident, we all do appreciate all the hard work you put in! Don’t let such mistakes pull you down, but let them instead inspire you to avoid those pitfalls next time! :+1:


I want to clarify that the OSMF did no such thing. The minutes show that we had a chat, and that the action item was “The Secretary to suggest a meeting of the board with the State of the Map working group. (Post meeting addition: The meeting was declined, as the SotM working group is already under pressure).

I regret that SotM WG didn’t want to talk to the board, and that we now won’t have a SotM 2023 at all.


Prizren is a wonderful location for a SOTM. I went there for another conference a few years ago. Super accomodation.


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Was a virtual SotM considered?

Hi @Stereo. It did sound like it based on what Christine wrote but I’d rather not get in to a “did they, didn’t they” argument here. Some collective responsibility needs to be taken though as it is the OSM community that suffers if the OSMF Board and Working Groups do not work in unison.

Perhaps you could reach out to the WG again now they have a bit more free time until the next SotM…?

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Please note that the Board meeting at which SotM 2023 was discussed did not include 3 of us, including myself. Indeed if I had been there I would have spoken strongly for allowing the SotM WG to do its work without undue interference. I’m sorry you and the WG were put in that position.

Thank you for sharing your feedback and suggestions on the decision not to hold a State of the Map conference in 2023. Your experience and insights as a former volunteer and member of the international team are valuable and appreciated.

Regarding the bid from Cameroon, you make a valid point that risk can be managed with proper planning and support. It would be worth exploring ways for the OpenStreetMap Foundation to provide professional support to identify suitable locations and reduce risks for future events.

Regarding the bid from Kosovo, rejecting a strong bid based solely on the location being in Europe and the assumption that it’s not different enough from other European cities seems unfair to the local community. As you suggest, rejecting a willing community should be an absolute last resort, and a transparent set of criteria should be established in advance to avoid wasting the community’s time and effort.

Your proposal to ask the OSMF to fund professional event companies to help identify suitable locations and manage day-to-day admin is worth considering. This could potentially help alleviate some of the burden on local communities and ensure that events are safe and successful.

Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and suggestions. It’s important to have open and constructive conversations to improve the State of the Map conference and support the global OpenStreetMap community.

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