It has taken me many hours to read through the “Strategy Cluster B”
document and write down my commentary. I became a bit grumpy towards the
end but thankfully you placed your chapter on humanitarian mapping there
so that was a good match.
I can only guess how many more hours you must have spent writing all
this and I respect that. Thank you for sharing it and asking for
feedback. Here’s mine.
First of all, I would like to advise strongly against scope creep. In my
opinion, the OSMF must limit itself to what is essential to the project.
Any attempts to cater to “extra” stuff is going to up-size the
organisation and invariably lead to the OSMF controlling much more than
it should. You’ll end up having to hire an executive director and a
handful of staff to work under them if you want to achieve everything
you mention here (and from this being the “Cluster B”, I assume there
must be others). This, in turn, will significantly raise your monetary
footprint, and you’ll need to lick the boots of those who pay for this.
Your question to the community should not be “which of these should we
prioritize” but “which of these are essential”, with a view to dropping
all others (respectively putting them out to volunteer tender).
B1 “Volunteer working groups”
The assessment is correct.
B101 “Membership recruitment and retention”
Sounds sensible, though not all working groups will cherish the annual
reminder mentioned here.
B102 “Communication about Working Groups”
Verdict: somewhat ok
Good idea but this item relies on CWG being up to the task. Could be a
lot of work.
B103 “Best Practices and Onboarding”
Verdict: waste of time
Many working groups will not have a single person who even knows what
“best practices” means. This sounds to me like a boilerplate solution a
management person would come up with, and out of touch with reality.
B104 “Working Group Membership drive”
Verdict: somehwat ok
Sensible idea but of course needs liaison with working groups to know
what to advertise for.
B2 “Community strategy”
I strongly advise to steer clear of anything remotely sounding like
“community management”. If the OSMF tries to “manage” the community that
has created the OSMF in the first place, we’re succumbing to a business
approach that is unsuitable for OSM.
B201 “Focus on local knowledge and distributed intelligence”
Verdict: ok but has issues
Lots of text here for something that should really just be headlined
“Support for creating local chapters”? I am on board with offering
support to budding local chapters where there’s a vibrant bona-fide
community. I am however strictly against the OSMF going down a checklist
of countries with a goal of “checking every country”. As we have seen in
the past, there can be unsuitable bids for local chapters essentially
controlled by one single corporate, academic, or humanitarian actor and
in these cases we want to be able to say no - the OSMF is not there to
lend credibility to an existing enterprise.
I find a “deliverable” measured in numbers of new chapters per year
extremely problematic as it will encourage you to wave through
questionable applications just to show that you have met your goals.
Don’t do that. You must be comfortably able to reject support.
B203 “Provide opportunities for more structured input to project
direction and topics”
Verdict: waste of time
Since when does the OSMF consider the running of its affairs “corporate
governance”? I find that a very poor choice of words. It might be my
non-native English but I would ask you to choose your words carefully
since there might be many other non-native speakers getting the wrong
The potential democratic issue in letting local chapters influence OSMF
affairs is that I can be a member of both organisations, the OSMF and my
local chapters, and thereby increase my influence. It might come to a
point where individual membership in the OSMF is only possible for
people who are not in a local chapter. It is of course ok to ask for
local chapters to make a report, but keep in mind that the report will
not necessarily reflect the view of the majority of local chapter
members (depending on which local chapters get how much influence). But
on the whole I think this is a waste of time - let the local chapters
come to you with ideas, rather than ask them to convene a panel to write
B204 “Promote local groups and events”
Duplicates some text already in the B2 introduction.
The text in this task is not about promoting local groups and events but
about translation and moderation.
I’ve been with OSM since it started as an English-only project and
sometimes I think that if the OSMF continued to be English-only, and
left everything non-English to local chapters and groups, some things
might actually be easier for everyone involved. I think that in the long
run it is not manageable for the OSMF to engage in all languages, and
difficult to select which languages to support and which not, and it
would be good to try and offload this responsibility. So that we come to
a point where we can say “you want support for language#144? no problem,
here’s the list of things you need to find volunteers for, go ahead” and
maybe “and here’s a little funding to help you get this off the ground”.
The deliverable of “translation of surveys into at least 14 languages”
without mentioning them sounds a bit silly but I guess behind the scenes
these 14 languages exist as a list and you just didn’t include them for
Applaud the cautious tone regarding content moderation.
B205 “Give better visibility to community content.”
Applaud the honesty in admitting that you don’t know what it is you want
B4 Cross-border and cross-cultural collaboration
B401 “Support SOTM and support local SOTMs”
Verdict: ok but has issues
The term “forward-leaning” is not universally understandable.
The deliverable of “about a dozen annual or biennial local/regional
SOTMs” is not a sensible choice since it is not in the board’s control
how many such SOTMs come to pass - don’t set yourself deliverables that
you cannot conceivably deliver on.
B402 “Address language barriers”
See comments on B204.
You are too obsessed with surveys. In my opinion they should be 1% of
what you’re doing and not 10%.
B403 “Address cultural barriers”
Verdict: not worth including in a strategic document
Unsure what this adds over B204. A moderator on an international list
who is not sensitive to cultural issues is an unsuitable moderator. So
essentially this reads “Make sure moderators are suitable”, which is
kind of obvious.
B404 “Address trust and safety in communication, define role of local
chapters in moderation”
I think that un-critically parroting the tale of new members being
“driven away” by “a few disruptive community members” is not suitable
for a strategy document. With OSM becoming more popular, we’ll have more
and more “new members” that we need to drive away because they’re not
sharing our values. If you want to talk about people being driven away,
please balance it with words about legitimate interests of quality
assurance by the existing community.
Also if you want to talk about “toxic communications” make it clear what
exactly that means. It must become clear that “toxic” cannot mean
“anything that someone might be offended by”. It must become clear that
quite frequently, the problem lies with those taking offense because
their contributions are criticised.
As it stands, this task just slightly more than a no-op - you’re
promising those who whine about toxic communication that you’re hearing
them but you’re not really doing anything. Still, you’re entrenching the
idea of poor newbies being hounded by a toxic community with this
paragraph and I think you shouldn’t do that.
B5 Gender diversity
This is presented in a funny formatting with some sub-tasks not having
received a headline. I will comment by sub-task:
B501 “Develop a policy to promote gender diversity within the OSM movement”
Verdict: A hodgepodge of ideas, some problematic
I find it extremely problematic that an attempt is made to use the
crowbar of “we want more women to participate” to undermine our credo of
“local knowledge is best”.
To me, it is absolutely undeniable that a street-level survey makes a
better map than armchair mapping. This is also, I believe, featured in
the OSM core values at
Mission Statement - OpenStreetMap Foundation where it says:
“OSM favours objective Ground Truth over all other sources”
If the board really thinks that women are less suitable for street-level
surveys, then what is the board’s vision? That women should stand in the
second row, in the comfort of their homes, doing menial tasks tracing
stuff from aerial imagery, so that the men can then go out and to the
Is this really what the board is thinking? Please say no.
It is clear that not all women will want to go out and survey in all
areas. The same is true for men. Then again, even the roughest area will
have its “locals” - of any gender - who can move in the community
unharmed. I think you are achieving the absolute opposite of what you
want with your words here. I think what you write here sounds like “a
woman’s place is at home, not out there doing dangerous things like
I think that OSM is a project with certain characteristics. There are
certain things we do, that make us OSM. These are echoed, perhaps
imperfectly, in our “Mission Statement”. I think that our attempts at
gender diversity should extend to welcoming people of all genders to our
project without prejuice WITHIN THE LIMITS OF THE MISSION STATEMENT. If
it turns out that people of some genders statistically like our project
less, and prefer to spend their time on other hobbies, than that’s
perfectly fine. But we shouldn’t be asking “how can we change our core
values so that we become equally attractive to all genders”. This is not
the right approach to gender diversity.
On a technical note, B501 is headlined “develop a strategy…” but
doesn’t actually say anything about developing a strategy. The points
that are mentioned seem to be a somewhat headless collection and don’t
sound like a strategy at all.
B502 SDRP and iD presets
Verdict: ok but has issues
The existence of the SDRP has helped to calm tensions.
I find it quite the stretch of imagination to assume that somehow
“broader application of iD presets” will increase the participation of
women but I’m rarely ever using iD at all so who am I to say. If you
continue down this line of arguing then you will probably at some point
be able to justify almost everything by saying it’s good for gender
B503 Funding for software projects
Verdict: sounds fishy
The naming of one particular software project (that I never heard of -
“Women Mobile Application”) in this part of the strategy document sounds
a bit as if someone has done their friends a favour. You should stick to
a more generic wording like “funding of gender-inclusive software
projects” and you should clearly say who decides on funding and how the
success of such funding will be measured.
B504 SOTM stipends
Verdict: needs more thought, clearer wording
Does this mean that the board will allocate extra funds in excess of
what the SotM conference allocates for their travel grant programme, or
does this mean that the board will attempt to steer how the SotM team do
their work? Also “cover travel expenses” should be qualified in some
form, maybe “contribute to…”, or else people will expect too much.
Also make it clear that a presentation at SotM must first be accepted by
the programme committee before the speaker is eligible for travel
support, or else you’ll get lots of applications where the presentation
is below-par for the conference. (This is not something I have made up
as those of you involved in past conference planning must certainly know.)
Verdict: sounds ok
“consider applications” is not a high hurdle. I would suggest to try and
combine any funding with some kind of measure of success.
B6 Community relations
The introductory sentence is problematic because without any discussion
it gives the users of a map the position of “stakeholder in the mapping
process”. For me this is not true. If your local butcher gives away free
sausages and you go get one, are you then a “stakeholder” in the sausage
By listing “users” and “corporations” in the introductiory sentence
under “Community relations”, this section implicitly makes these groups
part of the “community”. This is not my use of the word “community”.
B601 Maintain Volunteer (including Working Group) relations
Verdict: needs more thought
I welcome and understand the ideas in this section however I don’t see
how a working group should “sign” something since membership in working
groups can be fluid - how often would a working group get to change
I also think that the mixing of the “working group” and “biennial
survey” topics is strange - is there a plan to have the survey somehow
formally inform working group mandates, or why are the two issues put in
B602 Maintain Corporate relations
I can see how the OSMF needs to cater to those who bankroll the
organisation however when I read words like “corporations are major and
important sources of … mapping contributions” and that they could be
“tapped for expertise”, and when I compare that with the actual map
content and activities that we have seen in the past, I shudder.
I think that any statement about corporate relations must have some
qualifying wording about the alignment of interests. We can work with
corporations as long as we have a common goal but the overall goal of
all these corporations is NOT the well-being of OSM. In most cases they
don’t even understand what OSM is about. What you’re writing here is
that we need to listen to them - but should they not also listen to us?
You write (good!) “two-way communication” but then “RECEIPT” of
actionable feedback - when more often than not it is us who should be
giving actionable feedback to them!
I think that you are going to far in distancing yourselves from
legitimate voices in the community by writing “hostility from certain
members of the OSM community”. If you look at past haphazard involvement
of corporations with OSM, they have earned every bit of skepticism they
receive. More often than not, corporate players have treated us with at
best neglicence and at worst they have lied to our faces. This troubled
history should not be glossed over with a story of a few “certain
Where’s the language about volunteers being driven away by corporate
mapping in OSM? These cases exist - who is the lobby of these mappers if
not the OSMF?
If you could put in some wording here that says the advisory board also
has the role of guiding corporations towards making constructive
contributions to OSM that sit well with the wider community of mappers,
that would be very welcome.
B603 Maintain Data user relations
Verdict: out of scope
I don’t think the OSMF should concern itself with data users. Because
what should be the result? If data users say they want more building
footprints in OSM then… the OSMF will import them? If data users say
they don’t care for tree species being mapped then… the OSMF will
If you really do want to include an item like this in your plan, then
also mention that users be educated about their rights and
responsibilities arising from the ODbL license - since the lack of
proper attribution is the #1 gripe that our volunteers have with users.
B7 Empowering volunteers
B701 provide education and training
Verdict: somewhat ok
Sometimes training material can be biased in some way - towards one
particular editor, one particular style of mapping, etc.; there is some
potential for friction here. Maybe as the first step it would be enough
to have a directory/collection of stuff that has been made by various
volunteers. Could also include promotional materials like leaflets.
B703 Provide curated tags proposal
Verdict: dear god no
It is not OSMF’s business to tell people what to map, or how. Also I am
troubled by the “rule by survey” attitude to many things.
B704 Provide dialogue moderation
This duplicates B204 and it begins to sound like you’re really obsessed
B705 Provide infrastructure for training, testing and development
Verdict: needs more work
You will have to be clearer on what components the sandbox should
include. The editing API already exists as a sandbox, with a more or
less empty database. The most common issue is that no rendering server
exists that is fed by this sandbox. However, some uses might also
require a Nominatim or Overpass service that works with the sandbox data.
I’m not sure this is something the OSMF needs to do; a well-funded local
chapter could do it just as well since it does not need integration with
B8 Undertake OSMF strategic planning process
B801 Seek community commentary on the strategic planning document
Mine is hereby given.
B802 Perform structured community surveys for input
I am wary on how often you speak of surveys. I think that it would be in
many ways more “honest” to simply make decisions and be accountable for
them, rather than seek strength in numbers. Surveys, in my opinion, can
easily fail because of bad wording, leading questions (how will you
verify none of the 14+ languages has them?) or a bias in who
participates (e.g. because people in one country have largely been
informed through one specific NGO’s mailing list or so). I acknowledge
that you only write you will “survey” the community and not you will
“let the community decide”, but still.
B803 Directly reach out with questions to stakeholders
Verdict: must they?
You write “other stakeholders exist, and they must be consulted as
well”, but do they? Who says that?
I think it cannot hurt to talk to a wide array of people but you must
not lose focus on who runs OSM. It’s not the users that do, and neither
B804 Prepare and revise OSMF Strategic Plan
B805 Project manage the implementation of the strategic plan
Sounds like boilerplate management speak.
B9 Regular OSM Community Surveys
See various comments above on surveyism. I do not agree with “The Board
needs to commit to structured surveys conducted at regular intervals.”
B901 Regular structured surveys
Verdict: somewhat ok
I think that a simple, limited survey that focuses mostly on demographic
issues - where are you from, age, gender, how long in OSM, what brought
you here, etc. - can help measure the success or failure of diversity
I don’t believe in “what do you think the board should be doing”-type of
B10 Humanitarian Mapping
It is important to understand that in the context of OSM, humanitarian
mapping organisations are often not much different from corporate
mapping actors. They often vastly surpass OSM itself in budget which is
something that needs to be kept in mind when dealing with their requests.
B1001 Humanitarian mapping
Verdict: sloppy writing, condescending attitude
In this section you are parroting talking points by humanitarian
organisations. The fact that you do questions the whole process of how
this strategy document was created. I would ask you to trace how exactly
“Hostile behaviour by OSM members towards beginning mappers recruited by
humanitarian organizations when they make neophyte mistakes has the
effect of driving them away from the project.”
“Humanitarian organisations wanting to import data from government and
NGO sources willing to donate such data are often met with hostility,
preventing contributions of useful data. Current import guidelines are
cumbersome and bulk imports are hard to get approved.”
have found their way into an official strategy document by the OSMF
board and to refine your process in a way that blunders like this cannot
happen any more. These statements are a slap in the face of hard-working
volunteers cleaning up after humanitarian efforts, of those who spend
countless hours reviewing import proposals, and of board and working
group members who have created and approved the current organised
If anything, these statements should have been clad in a huge “some
people from humanitarian organisations that we spoke to have claimed
that…” wrapper, but they should never have been put into a strategy
document as if they were a fact and/or the board’s opinion.
I can hardly believe that this has even been proof-read, let alone
approved, by a board majority. It is really, really very condescending
and no OSMF board should ever publicly make such claims without solid
A frequent success indicator for humanitarian mapathons - often
advertised with “no prior knowledge required” - is “engagement”. The
more people you get to participate in your mapathon, the greater your
success. Nobody asks how many contributions later had to be fixed by
“validators” or the wider OSM community, or how many had to be reverted.
In a two-hour “no prior knowledge required” event, you can’t spend one
hour explaining how to map properly. This is a systemic problem in
humanitarian mapping - too often it tries to present itself as the
low-barrier-to-entry-adventure to make the world a better place. It is
not hostile OSMers who drive away well-meaning mappers, it’s
humanitarian organisation sending newbies towards OSM with insufficient
training to drive up their “engagement” numbers. It’s an “eternal
September” by design, and humanitarian organisations advertising for
such mapathons have no right to complain - they are setting their
contributors up to fail with false promises.
B1002 iD editor needs building tool and better presets
Verdict: let them pay for it
Humanitarian organisations far exceed OSM in budget. Suggest to collect
requirements and then ask them to fund.
B1003 Make imports easier
Verdict: dear god no
Humanitarian organisations have a history of importing low-quality data
under a rallying call of “people might die”. Yet when you see their
presentations to possible donors they will always underline how OSM is
this great global project with such huge engagement.
Were they to import their data into a tiny little database only used for
disaster prevention in some region, without the global reach that OSM
has, their proposal would be less interesting.
Humanitarian organisations have more than enough funds to make good
quality imports that meet the standards of the OSM community. If they
would like to create a lesser-quality database, they are free to do that
but not with OSM.
It is problematic enough to have western organisations dictate how
mapping is done in the Global South, but importing data that wouldn’t
pass muster elsewhere gives the recipients a “second-class OSM”. This
cannot be what we want.
Let me stress again, the fact that this talking point even made it onto
your list unquestioned is a clear sign of a flawed process. Please do
not repeat this mistake.