User:Frederik Ramm/2012 OSMF Board Elections Manifesto

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(auf Deutsch umschalten)

I'm standing for this year's OSMF Board Election and I would be happy to have your vote. If you're not yet an OSMF member and still want to vote, it's not too late to join.

There are a couple of people on the board with whom I've enjoyed working on things in the past, and I'm also very happy to see Simon standing for election. I think this is a good time for me to get involved and I'm confident that we could make a great team together. I'll outline a few of my thoughts below but keep in mind that even if you elect me, I'll only have one voice in seven, and I'm reasonably good at democracy so if six others want something else I'll shrug and say, "whatever".

Here's a tl;dr version of my manifesto, spelt out in detail further down the page:

OSMF is not a professional organisation but one driven by volunteers and that's good. OSMF supports the project but doesn't control it; supporting the project also means to look inside, talk to community members, listen to their problems. If this means that less time is left to represent OSM vis-a-vis third parties then so be it - OSMF is not our sales team. Mappers come first. Together with developers and other OSM enthusiasts, they form our community - a community of makers.

I don't have a master plan ("elect me and I'll do this"). I will try to keep OSMF small and snappy and a facilitator for the community, rather than grow a large and powerful organisation with employees and a command structure. Mostly, I'll keep doing what I do today.

The full form is rather long because during the past years I made notes about stuff I feared would happen, or stuff I saw happen and didn't like, and now tried to condense that into a document. And if you follow me on the mailing lists (or on my blog at then you know that there's quite a few things I don't like.

OSMF is not a professional organisation

All of us are volunteers, and most have a day job, family, friends, and maybe even other hobbies besides coding for OSM and mapping.

OSMF board and working groups must respect these other commitments; board members or working group members cannot be expected to spend more than 10 hours per month on their "job", they cannot be expected to make room for "emergency meetings" on a holiday with two days' notice, and they cannot be expected to make regular intercontinental trips for face to face meetings.

I think we should try to shape OSMF so that all duties can be carried out effortlessly by volunteers; only where this is not possible should we look into hiring help.

If we do (hire people) then this must not lead to mandate creep; just because OSMF suddenly has bought capacity for work doesn't mean that OSMF should take over more and more things that were previously done by volunteers. Having things done by volunteers is always preferable.

I'm not in favour of lots of rules but I think that OSMF board would do well to give themselves a couple rules that govern how they do their job, just so that things are clear to everybody. Every aspect of board work and communication should be public to OSMF members, except those parts where board members explicitly decide that something should not be public (not the other way round). Board meeting agendas, if any, should be published in advance to give project members a chance to voice their opinion. To improve transparency I would even try to invite, to each board meeting, one member of the OSM community to write the minutes.

I will certainly continue my presence in the various community media unchanged, and I will freely talk about anything OSMF or board related. I think the community currently perceives OSMF as a little aloof and secretive. This will hopefully change.


OSMF owns several trademarks on the OSM name and logo. OSMF needs to draw up a policy that governs the use of these trademarks; I would like to work towards creating a policy that is as liberal as possible, one that essentially says that the use of the name OSM and the OSM logo for anything that makes use of OSM data is generally allowed but OSMF reserves the right to withdraw permission if a product or service is made to look as if it were an official OSM thing or endorsed by OSM, or is otherwise seen to harm the project.

Commercial Organisations

I want a sharp distinction between the noncommercial and not-for-profit OSMF and commercial entities - be they users, sponsors, supporters, or employers or even property of board members. (I partly own Geofabrik, a business providing OSM-based services.)

I want OSMF to remain neutral and not favour or endorse any particular business in any way. If OSMF decides to mention a commercial offering on their blog or social media accounts, then this must be governed by fairness - if company A can announce their tile server with OSM data on our blog, then company B should be invited to do the same; if company C gets a mention because they have sponsored us, then company D who has given a similar amount will get a similar mention; if we sue company E for license violation then we will also sue company F who has violated the license in the same way.

I don't want OSMF to muddy the waters by becoming a commercial player themselves, starting to compete with users of our data - I want OSMF to be squeaky clean, honest, and neutral.

Needless to say, commercial organisations must not be allowed to influence OSMF decision making through generous gifts, through making all their employees OSMF members, or otherwise. Commercial organisations should not be eligible to vote in OSMF business even if they were members.

It is unacceptable for OSMF board members to use their position to pursue their own business or career interests in any way; you can attend a meeting in your role as OSMF board member or in your role as employee or director of company X, but never both. (When I hold a talk about OSM today, I usually begin like this: "My name is Frederik Ramm. I run a company called Geofabrik that does OSM-related business but today I am here as a plain OSM community member to talk to you about X", and the name Geofabrik won't appear anywhere else.)

I used to say that nobody on the board should have any commercial involvement in OSM and that's one of the reasons I never stood for a board position. However, it seems that I'm relatively alone with this idea, so maybe it is ok for me to apply.

Working Groups and Leadership

I believe that OSMF's role should be a "catalyst" role for the project, the role of an "enabler" but not a leadership role. As it says on the OSMF web site: "supporting, but not controlling the project". We should listen to the needs of mappers and try to help the community where we can, but such help will usually be more of a "help the community to help themselves" thing. If the community feels that the problem X needs to be solved then OSMF should perhaps offer to help finance a hack weekend where community members can sort things out, rather than assume the "problem X solving leadership role".

I want OSMF board work, and board meetings, to be calm, factual, consensual, and boring. OSMF board work is not where the big wheels are spun and far-reaching decisions about the future are made. OSMF board is a maintenance job; OSMF greases the wheels of the project. OSMF board members are not managers and they should not conduct themselves as if they were. There are hundreds of people out there who have done more for OSM than any single board member has.

We should have as little "OSMF working groups" as possible; only things directly related to OSMF governance should be done by "OSMF working groups". Everything else is not an "OSMF working group" but a working group run and organised by the community, and OSMF has no say over them.

Mappers vs Users

Mappers are our capital and we have to do what we can to be mapper friendly. Involved mappers are better than casual mappers, and casual mappers are better than people who only use but not contribute to OSM. User friendliness is, in my opinion, important mainly in so far as users might become mappers; I'm not a big fan of catering to those who only use OSM but are unlikely to contribute. OSM is the map for people who want to get involved, and that is our unique selling point vis-a-vis Google et al; we won't beat Google as the all-purpose consumer map and it would be naive to claim we could, or even want to.

SOTM conference

I think that come-togethers are great for the community and for the "outside world" to get in touch. OSMF should be supportive of such events. However I am wary of SOTM. In the last years the conference has morphed from something made "for the community, by the community" to something more like a show event where those who have something to sell present to those who might buy. Occasionally we have even seen speaker slots "sold" to sponsors which I consider unacceptable, especially if those sponsors are businesses who have zero contact points with the OSM community.

I think that organising the SOTM conference(s) should not be the responsibility of OSMF (and certainly not the activity that represents the biggest item in our financial year-end report). The 2011 SOTM-EU conference in Vienna has proven that local groups can set up a great conference without any OSMF masterminding and even without financial support; I would like all future SOTM conferences to be like that. I would like OSMF to encourage local teams to form and to set up their own conferences, and to offer advice and limited financial support if required, but I don't think that OSMF should say that there must be only one "international" SOTM, or be involved in setting a date, choosing a venue, managing signups, recruiting sponsors, or any other conference management.

If, in any one year, no local group comes forward because they want to do a SOTM, then there will be no SOTM that year. If there are different teams on different continents, let them both hold a conference.

Closing paragraph

I reserve the right to change my mind at any time. But over the last few years I've written a five-digit number of mailing list posts, not to mention Wiki articles, books, and posts. So you have a pretty good chance of seeing who I am and what I do. If you like it - vote for me.