OSMF Strategy 2023

Appreciate the board inviting feedback! I’ve only made it to B5 so far (this is a lot of text!), but I’ll already share my comments on the first half of the document:

  • B201: Creating additional institutions or organizational structures, including new local chapters, has a cost in terms of volunteer effort. It is only a net positive in the right circumstances; notably the prior existence of a sufficiently large and engaged local community. A growing number of local chapters could be a positive signal if it is indeed the organic result of more grassroots contribution activity, but I would personally not treat it as a goal.

  • B205: There are opportunities to make already-existing community content more visible, e.g. by renovating and promoting blogs.openstreetmap.org (which is a mix of posts from the OSMF blog, user diaries, and community blogs), or improving the visibility to sites like this forum and the OSM wiki on osm.org. Not sure these are board-level strategy concerns, though.

  • B405: While the Discourse platform is indeed up and running, I hope the board remains commited to support the continued improvement of this platform. For example, we are still figuring out what to do with help.osm.org, and there are various feature requests which would require admin or developer resources to implement (e.g. improved support for non-English languages, or better integration with other OSM resources). As mentioned before, this site is also not very discoverable for visitors of the osm.org front page, and we haven’t yet started in earnest to invite communities currently based on mailing lists to move onto this site.

  • B502: I’m not familiar with the “Women Mobile Application”. But given that you “currently have no information on this app so a description of the app is not possible”, and that the community likewise lacks the necessary public information to form an informed opinion, its inclusion in this strategy document feels premature.



This item seems to be rather confusing. It would seem to implicitly expand the OSMFs charter to control and direct “the project”, which most readers will assume means OSM. If the “the project” and corporate governance is really intended to refer to the OSMF, I would suggest this needs to be made clear.


Quoting from https://wiki.osmfoundation.org/wiki/Cluster_B

Task B405: Provide modern, open communication platforms

  • Note: The OSMF has fully implemented the Discourse based community discussion platform so this task is now completed.

Does the OSMF really believe that this task is “completed”, even though the migration is very much incomplete? The Discourse software doesn’t support the migration of the help site yet, and many old forums sit in limbo; the evidence would suggest that the moderation rules that have been put in place are too onerous for some communities and it appears that the global moderation team is unwilling to take them on.


Further quoting from https://wiki.osmfoundation.org/wiki/Cluster_B

Strategy B10: Humanitarian Mapping

Task B1001: Humanitarian mapping

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. (Proposed Task B1003)

What is the source of this statement? If it was true I’d expect to see lots of entries at https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Import/Catalogue that with a status of “Dropped” with information as to why, when in fact very few are in that status, and none obviously fit this description. Presumably there were a number of actual concrete examples that led to this sentence being written - does anyone know what they were?


There seem to be a lot of imports going on that are not listed in the import catalogue, so you will not see the whole picture looking only at that page.

The HOT Tasking Manager currently lists 123 projects when searching for import.

There are also imports documented extensively in the wiki that are not linked in the catalogue:

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Put bluntly, the rules that OSM has in place around imports are there for a reason - to stop well-meaning but poor quality imports happening.

If anyone sees an example of imports happening that aren’t following the rules please do report them to the DWG. We will always try and work with importers who don’t seem to understand what they are doing (see e.g. here) rather than just “revert all and ban everyone” but sometimes it is necessary to nip problems in the bud before they become more serious. We have in the past blocked the creators of task manager tasks until they have complied with the rules.

However, I suspect that a number of the “imports” that you found by searching aren’t really imports. Taking just the first listed one as an example (unfortunately you have to login to HOT’s private server to see that) it is essentially just “mapping from aerial imagery” - it doesn’t seem to be an import and doesn’t seem in any way problematic.


And this one also was not imported, due to concerns of data quality raised by the Brazilian community (myself included). Nevertheless, the wiki page is good and can be reused for future works (especially the equivalence tables).

Coming back at the draft, still about imports (Proposed Task B1003), I agree with fellow mappers that imports rules should not be relaxed. Conflating data is really hard, and while I am personally 100% in for any import of good data, only experienced mappers should work on that.

I am not saying that the Import Guidelines right now is perfect, but it works. And on my experience, humanitarian organizations do not have, right now, the expertise to work on imports. On the other hand, they do have financial resources to get professional support, but for some reason still try to rely on novice mappers for that.

So please, “current import guidelines are cumbersome” (true) "and bulk imports are hard to get approved" (false). If you prepare a good wiki page showing knowledge on the open data and proposing to import high quality data, while open to get advice, it is actually quite easy to get approval :wink:

Also, it seems there is some confusion between the terms Imports and Organized Editing Guidelines. While they might be related, in my opinion they don’t always work together (or am I mistaken here?).


I regards of: UPDATED Strategy B5: Gender diversity

I thought OSM is something about geo-data, not about gender. Everyone who want’s to add geo-data should be able to do it under certain rules. Totally agree. If a person like to do arm-chair mapping for what ever reason, what’s the matter about?
Is it gender-equality if you “promote” a app intend to be used by woman only? Isn’t it stereotyping “woman”?

In regards of: Task B603: Maintain Data user relations
Is your intention OSM is a service provider? If so, I would like to have all the house numbers in China and US available in OSM. Thank you :wink: Sorry, but OSM is providing a geo-database as it is. Take it or leave it. Period.

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I would tend to disagree a bit with this take. There is a big difference between helping and informing potential data consumers and maintaining cordial relations with organisations and companies that use OSM data, and kowtowing to big tech and its agents (the Linux Foundation and others).

The former is in our interest and IMHO implicitly part of the OSMFs remit.

There are many data consumers (small businesses and orgs like @SimonPoole said) that utilize OSM for small one-off use cases and want to abide by the rules. I agree it would only help OSM to be cordial with these folks.

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Description: At present, aside from certain corporate users of data who have become corporate members, the OSMF has virtually no formal communication with data users, and in fact has little idea of who most users of data are. The lack of a feedback mechanism is a vulnerability. OSM suffers from being seen as a community of map builders with no connection to the use of that data. There is very little awareness of what map data needs in order to be useful, or the ways competitive map databases are evolving ahead of OSM, which impedes the goal of making OSM the map of first choice.

Maybe my understanding of the above is wrong, but I don’t read anything in regards of helping others to use our data but understand it in a way: “Hey data-user-X, what can we do to make you happier?” Isn’t it the exact opposite we ask from the mapper. “Don’t map for the renderer”. In future then “please map it like this for data-user-X”.

In the end the big user will get maybe what they want and all the smaller users like us mappers most likely have no voice as nobody will ask.


There’s a lot of room between parading on Facebooks command (the “map builder” quote is from them btw), and being data user hostile. For example getting “deprecation” of tagging back under control would benefit both mappers and data consumers, and in the cases we really need to change something having a way of informing data consumers of what is going on would clearly be a benefit.

Given that corporate membership is the only real way of “registering” with OSM, at least that could be pointed out to companies that come to the OSMF asking about using OSM, and as said it would provide a way of getting information out (spur of the moment idea, a regular “data user” mail for the technical departments of members).


I’m curious, what would ‘getting deprecation back under control’ entail precisely? I agree it definitely presents a problem for data consumers and newer mappers who are not as informed to the utility issues of various tags, but I would be afraid of stifling community innovation.

the fun part is that it depends on person: it can mean “stop deprecating any established tags” or even “stop any deprecations at all, anything like that is illegitimate” to “we need framework for large scale deprecations so we can deprecate many tags, including ones that are widely used”


Innovation tends to take place in new tagging, most deprecation is renaming existing tags or slight modifications. Not saying that the later shouldn’t be possible, just that it needs to take place with consideration of existing use, which includes no stealth changing of semantics, and reasonable lead times for change.


Does anyone have a compelling reason why I should not move this to the ‘Foundation’ category instead of general?


Moved to ‘Foundation’ category.

For an in-depth discussion of the problem, see this section of a thread from last year: “What was previously a primary feature now became an attribute to another tag”.

For an example of the sort of code that results from this sort of change, here’s some for “is it an embassy or just a diplomatic office”. Confusingly, “office” is also referenced on the “diplomatic” wiki pages as a tag value but it’s also of course a main tag for many objects.

Another example is the change to the “amenity=charging_station” definition, as I pointed out here. I don’t disagree that there was a problem, but for a proposal to be approved that doesn’t allow data consumers to tell old-style and new-style examples seems something of an omission.

Edited 13/5/2023 to add a couple of other examples of “deprecation” issues: here and here.


The 2021 community survey indicated that the OSM community is only 8 percent women

Yes, this is an important problem in OSM.

The same survey showed about 2.5% nonbinary & others, and you haven’t mentioned it. I’ve been following trans & nonbinary spaces for years, and this is an impressive figure that we should be proud of.

It important to recognise our flaws, but also our achievements. Some people want to constantly bash OSM, to talk about how horrible we are. Especially when it comes to “diversity”. It’s unbalanced to only talk about the bad things. Why can’t we be proud of the ways OSM is diverse and open and welcoming? Why do some people only want to complain?


For example, there are now hundreds of communication channels in use now. There is no way this is effective. This community is amazing, and gets stuff done anyway, but I would be very surprised if there isn’t a data-backed way to simplify things. The world’s advertising and social media companies are extremely good at deploying digital media communications to meet their goals. The data for this exists. What if OSM used it to establish an updated community communications process and protocols.

OSM thrives through the diversity of its community.

To capture the value of that diversity - the knowledge of millions of people about their home towns and the places they visit - it needs to meet people where they are.

For the Philippines, for example, that might be Telegram. For the US, it might be Slack. For the older family demographic, it might be Facebook. For the gamer demographic, it might be Discord. For the hacker demographic, it might be IRC.

Mandating a one-size-fits-all approach to communication would steamroller that diversity in favour of a (probably Western, college-educated, middle class dominated) monoculture. If we decide “ok, we’re centralising on Discord or whatever from now on”, we inevitably lose the diverse knowledge of people from cultures and demographics for whom that’s not a natural fit.

OSM has always taken an approach of “let a thousand flowers bloom”. Sometimes flowers die - like, slowly and inexorably, many of the mailing lists are doing. Sometimes they flower briefly and colourfully and are then never seen again. That’s fine. It doesn’t stop us planting new seeds and it doesn’t mean we have to cut down the whole rich biodiversity to sow one single hardy perennial.