Foundation/AGM20/Election to Board/Answers and manifestos/Eugene Alvin Villar

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Your OSM activities

For example:

  • What brought you to OSM and why are you still part of it now?
  • What is your OSM user name?
  • What mapping contributions have you made in the last year?
  • Are you/have you been a member of any OSMF working groups?
  • Do you participate with other OSM mappers, for example in a local chapter or in social meet ups?
  • Have you run anything yourself, such as an OSM-newbie event?
  • Have you written about OpenStreetMap in the past - for example, in a blog, or on mailing lists, or in a newspaper? Please provide links if you can.
  • Do you contribute as a software developer?
  • Have you attended board meetings as a guest?

I joined OSM in July 2007 and my username is seav, which is the handle that I use for almost all of my online accounts since the late 1990s. It is actually not a surprise that I took to OSM given that I really love maps. To give a bit of a background, three of my intellectual (okay, geeky) hobbies as a kid was reading the encyclopedia (my family owned two editions of the World Book Encyclopedia), poring over atlases and maps (my childhood favorites were a Grolier World Atlas and a huge wall road map of the Philippines), and astronomy. While I wasn't able to channel my childhood passion for astronomy into an adult hobby, my love of encyclopedias has resulted in me becoming a Wikipedian in 2002 and my love of maps into an OSM mapper. I actually have heard of OSM around 2005 but I thought then that it was only a UK/Europe-only project, but when I revisited OSM again in 2007 and saw that it was actually a global project, I was immediately hooked (read my blog post about it: 1).

A lot of the mapping I have done in the past year include improving and fixing errors in the road network in the Philippines (this is as part of my work with Kaart; see my answer to question 1.1.5.), adding or improving administrative boundaries and place nodes in the country, and participating in local projects such as OSMaPaaralan (2), which is a project to map schools in the country.

I joined the OSM Foundation in December 2016 and have attended several Board meetings as a guest. I was able to attend the Local Chapters Congress at State of the Map 2018 and 2019 and subsequently joined the effort to revive the Local Chapters Working Group spearheaded by Joost Schouppe and now renamed as the Local Chapters and Communities WG (LCCWG)(3). I was appointed the Chair of the working group and have continued in that role up to the present.

Aside from mapping, I also spend my OSM-related time helping to grow the OSM Philippines community. This includes managing the various local communication channels such as the talk-ph mailing list and social media groups, and organizing events like mapping parties, lectures, workshops, and conferences. Some of the major events that I helped organize were the State of the Map Philippines 2013(4), State of the Map Asia 2016(5) that was held in the Philippines, and Pista ng Mapa 2019(6) and 2020(7), which is the annual local FOSS4G/OSM conference. In addition to mapping and organizing events, I also use my software development skills to create small tools and scripts for the PH community. This includes a tool to highlight PGS-imported coastlines that needed smoothing(8), a (now-obsolete) imagery coverage map(9), and a script to generate node density map images( 10).

Outside of but related to OSM, I support efforts for greater collaboration and understanding between the OSM and Wikimedia communities. I have given several talks and presentations(11) during State of the Map and Wikimedia events about how Wikimedia and OSM are benefiting from each other and why I think OSM and Wikidata in particular need to be linked with each other.

You can read more about my activities and thoughts on OSM on my OSM diary(12) or my personal blog(13).

Why you want to be a board member?

  • What do you think you can achieve as a board member that you can't as a regular OSM(F) member?
  • What is the most pressing issue the OSMF board should address?

As most of you should already know, I ran for the Board in 2019 but was not elected. The reason why I ran for the Board last year is still the same: the OSMF and especially the Board is lacking in geographic and ethnic diversity. All of the present and past Board members have been white people who are all based or residing in either Europe or Canada/United States. As a global project, I think this lack of geographic and ethnic diversity is a problem on the same level as the lack of gender diversity. While I could not personally improve on gender diversity by running, I hope that the OSMF sees value in the Board having greater representation from the Global South. There have been several OSMF members from Asia, Africa, and Latin America that have run for the Board in the past but unfortunately none have been elected.

'What do you think you can achieve as a board member that you can't as a regular OSM(F) member?

Honestly, I do not believe that I am that much less influential as a regular member compared to being a Board member. To give an example, I often point out that the current Active Contributor Membership scheme and the old Fee Waiver scheme only grants associate membership and not regular membership.(1) I did not think that this was fair to mappers who want to become a regular member but couldn't afford the ₤15 fee. I like to think that this has eventually resulted in the upcoming membership resolution vote to amend the Active Contributor Membership scheme to also allow regular membership.

Going back to the question, I do not intend to become a Board member because there are things that I would like the Foundation to work on that I can only do as a Board member. Rather, I would like to become a Board member in order to visibly improve diversity within the Foundation's governance and to be a voice for the Global South.

What is the most pressing issue the OSMF board should address?

I think the Board should continue work on ensuring that the risk of takeover of the Foundation is minimized as much as possible. This is a thorny issue that the Board and the members have been working on but recent changes (such as the Active Contributor Membership scheme) are already a step in the right direction. There are several proposed membership resolutions for the AGM and lots of conversation on the osmf-talk mailing list and the Board should continue work and discussions in this area.

Your time

If you are currently a member of a working group, do you plan to continue your role in that working group while on the board? Do you have enough time to commit to multiple roles?

If elected to the Board, I plan to continue my participation in the LCCWG but would have to step down as Chair. I have observed that the current Board has ramped up its activities and that it is eating up a lot of time. While I plan to continue helping out with the LCCWG, I think that I would likely need to minimize my time in the LCCWG because Board work is more pressing.

Do you have any previous relevant experience?

Please describe any experience you have that might help you be a board member. Here are some examples to help you:

  • Being a board member for OSMF often involves complex negotiation and discussions within the board, with working groups, and with the wider OSM community. Teamwork and the ability to make decisions, listen (truly listen) and hear a diverse set of opinions takes humility, time management, calm process planning, and community-building skills. Do you have an experience where you managed scenarios and conversations that you may not have agreed with and/or that challenged you.
  • Do you have experience of managing a project or a team of people? Do you have any experience of coaching others to lead (i.e. managing managers)? How long have you been doing these things?
  • Have you ever managed multiple stakeholders with different agendas? What was the situation? What did you do? What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

I mentioned in my answer to question #1 that I have been a Wikipedian since 2002. One of the skills I learned by being a long-time Wikipedian is to discuss issues and disagreements respectfully and civilly on Wikipedia talk pages. This includes avoiding ad hominem attacks (focusing on the issues at hand instead of the person talking), and being as diplomatic as possible. In addition, I have served on the Board of Trustees of Wikimedia Philippines, a local chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation, from 2010 when the chapter was founded until 2017. During my time on the Board, I have taken on various positions including Chairperson, President, and Secretary, and I have had my fair share of interpersonal conflicts including having to expel a member who acted maliciously against another member (the Board held a hearing and decided to expel that member based on our policies), respectfully voicing disagreements with the Wikimedia Foundation regarding their actions and/or policies, and mediating between our Treasurer and a project lead regarding issues on disbursement of project funds. I also had the experience of being a project lead that involved managing a group of volunteers.

On the OSM side, I am currently the Chair of the OSMF Local Chapters and Communities Working Group and I have done my best to lead and steer the group in completing our tasks.

Transparency: Conflicts of interest

A. Is your main source of income related to mapping or GIS work in some way, (whether OSM-related or not)?

B. Are you an employee of, member of, or otherwise affiliated with (paid or non-paid) a company, government organization or non-profit that does work in the OSM ecosystem or might compete with it? Do you have any contracts (employment or otherwise) which would limit what you can say in public that are relevant to OSM? eg a non-disparagement clause with a company/org in the OSM ecosystem? Or an employment contract which commits you to "always work in the company's best interest"?

From late June 2020 until the first week of December, one of my main sources of income was as a contractor for Kaart, a Bronze Corporate Member of the OSM Foundation. My task was to help improve the OSM road network data in the Philippines. You can see my Kaart-related edits in OSM under my username (seav) with the #Kaart (or similar) changeset hashtag. I have previously disclosed this potential conflict of interest to the rest of the LCCWG in our July 2020 monthly meeting.(1)

That said, it is very fortunate that the goals of Kaart in improving OSM is very much aligned with the goal of the Foundation in making the best map of the world possible. I wouldn't have accepted this Kaart position if that weren't the case. And based on the terms of my contract, I do not have any obligation to work in the company's best interest to the detriment of OSM in general.


What to do with the face to face meeting in Corona times?

The Board has a tradition to do an expenses-paid two day face-to-face meeting soon after the election, with a focus on agenda-setting for the rest of the year. Since there will be many new members, it also offers a chance to get to know each other better. Do you think this is a good idea? Should this be rather replaced by a video conference, given the uncertainties for travelling in the next year?

As long as there are lockdowns in effect in significant portions of the world, I think it would be irresponsible to have a face-to-face meeting. So I would only support it only if it is very safe to do so and does not result in any inconvenience (such as mandatory quarantine times for a Board member). Given that the current Board already had two screen-to-screen meetings, the general sentiment I received was that these types of meetings are almost as good as the face-to-face meetings.

What's the use of the OSMF ?

From the point of view of a small contributor, how does the OSMF helps me and could improve my "work conditions" ?

Given that the OSMF is the most influential body in the OSM ecosystem, the OSMF has a lot of power to help small contributors. Examples include the microgrant program to help mappers implement exciting projects and the ability to spend funds to improve the reliability and stability of the infrastructure (by hiring a SRE, for example). A lot of the work that helps mappers are actually done within the working groups. For instance, the Data Working Group is there to help resolve disputes between mappers, while the Local Chapters and Communities Working Group is there to support the growth of local mapping communities.

What will you do to build a worldwide community of mappers?

I believe I am already currently doing that through my work in the Local Chapters and Communities Working Group (LCCWG). For example, I helped organize and hosted the recent Local Chapters and Communities Congress 2020(1) that brought together mappers and community leaders from around the world to share best practices and talk about tools and processes to help local communities grow further and be more cohesive.

If I am elected to the Board, I will continue to advocate for the activities and initiatives of the LCCWG on the Board level. (To give some perspective, Joost Schouppe, a current Board member (who would be stepping down this year) and also a LCCWG member is the LCCWG's "champion" within the Board and was there to highlight and share the work that the WG has done to the other Board members.)

What will you do to encourage more women leaders in OSM working groups and governance?

  1. By encouraging more women to join local communities and promoting their work. For instance, I am the programme lead for Pista ng Mapa 2020, a local open mapping conference for OSM and FOSS4G volunteers, and I specifically devoted a section in the programme(1) to highlight the experiences women from the Geoladies PH community (along with MapBeks, the LGBTQI+ mapping community).
  2. By encouraging more women to join the OSM Foundation. While I did not specifically target women, I helped spread the word about the Active Contributor Membership scheme in the Asia and PH Telegram groups and the PH Facebook group(2) in order to have more people from underrepresented communities (and hopefully more women) as members of the OSM Foundation.
  3. By encouraging women to join working groups and to run for the Board.
  4. More importantly, by listening to and addressing the concerns of women. An often repeated concern is that communication channels in the OSM community can sometimes become very toxic and that this discourages many people, including a lot of women, from speaking out or fully participating. Just because one doesn't see any problem doesn't mean that there isn't an actual problem. We should find ways to make the wider OSM community as welcoming as possible.

Should OSMF accept funding/donations by companies or organisations which do not want to be disclosed to the public?

Background links for context, added at the time of answers' publication:

If the funding has no strings attached (the Foundation has absolute freedom to decide how to spend the money), then I do not have any problem with not disclosing the identity of the company or organization. There is actually some precedent for this: one of the largest donations that the Foundation received was from the Pineapple Fund, whose donor is anonymous. (Note that I don't think it's possible that the donation itself or its amount could be hidden—the Foundation is obligated to file financial reports that include income received.)

Editing conflicts

The development of the iD editor has been classically contentious. Folks put a lot of the their time into development but made controversial tagging decisions. Do you think that they are right? What role should the OSMF and OSMF board have because it now pays an iD developer?

My view is that OSM editors ought to follow tagging practices that the community has agreed on. While software developers are themselves part of that same community, I disagree with the combative behavior some developers have exhibited when the larger community has pushed back on the editor's tagging decisions. (See also my reply to a similar question from last year.(1)

I think that the role of the OSMF/Board is to provide a venue or mechanism for mediation and dispute resolution. For instance, I think that it was a great idea that the Board had a face-to-face conversation with one of the iD developers during State of the Map 2019 to try and find solutions. I also applaud the current Board for proposing the creation of a software dispute resolution panel. (See related question below.)

How many paid staff should the OSMF have and why?

Background links for context, added at the time of answers' publication:

Given the current state and possible growth of the OSM project, I don't think the OSMF would need more than 5 paid staff members within the next 5 years. Most of the paid staff would probably be technical/administrative roles such as the current admin assistant and the SRE position. We should have the minimum paid staff needed to ensure that the Foundation itself is running well, that the technical infrastructure that the Foundation owns operates in tip-top shape, and that core software and tools (such as iD) are adequately supported.

That said, I think it's a good idea that the Foundation is spending funds to support community-led innovation and projects, whether that be through microgrants or funding one-off software development work.

Your views on the use and control of AI (Artificial Intelligence) edit systems?

  • Do you have any familiarity with OSM AI systems? (e.g. Facebook AI-Assisted Road Tracing, RapiD)
  • Do you support the development of it?
  • If the use of AI systems causes damages on existing OSM geographical data (e.g. in Philippines) do you see any needed activity from OSMF side? If yes, which solution the OSMF should provide to control this and organised editing?
  • How is your general opinion about automated edits?

I am very familiar with the introduction of AI/ML tools in the OSM ecosystem including the building detections done by Microsoft, the road detections done by Facebook, and Facebook's RapiD fork to easily ingest these detections into OSM. I am a supporter of using AI/ML as one of the tools that mappers can use to improve OSM, but only if these systems are used by local mappers having local knowledge. This means that developers of AI/ML systems should not add detections into OSM themselves without consulting or coordinating with the local community (like what apparently happened when Facebook added tons of AI road data in Thailand without the local community's blessing).

This is why the PH local community started the Tabang-AI initiative.(1) In fact, I was the one that announced this initiative to the wider OSM community back in 2019.(2) One of our stipulations with Facebook when we requested them to do these road detections in the country was that any AI-related edits in the Philippines would only be done by local mappers and not by Facebook's map team. The announcement understandably resulted in scepticism and questions from non-PH mappers who are wary of AI/ML editing in general(3) until Mike Collinson vouched that we in the PH local community really know what we are doing.(4) (There were no follow-up questions after Mike replied.)

As for automated edits, I see them as another tool that mappers can use to improve the map, but as long as the automated edits code of conduct(5) is followed and also the import guidelines(6) if imports are involved.

What is your opinion of the proposal for a software dispute resolution panel?

Background links for context, added at the time of answers' publication:

I think that this is a good and amicable solution to the iD tagging problem (see also the earlier related question). I applaud the current Board for proposing this solution and asking the Data Working Group if they are willing to take on this additional role. For the composition of the panel, I agree that the members of the DWG would make excellent panel members given their experience in handling disputes. But if the DWG cannot take this task on, a manner similar to the creation of the Microgrants Committee would also be acceptable.

Should we do anything about EU database rights?

The OSMF is incorporated in the UK. The UK completely leaves the European Union on 31 December 2020 and so EU database rights held by UK entities are impacted. Do you think that changes that keep our license clearly enforceable in the EU (e.g. moving the OSMF) are important? Would you give them high priority for your involvement in the OSMF board?

I think the OSMF should reasonably and practicably pursue efforts to ensure that the OSM database continues to enjoy protections under the EU's database rights law. It seems that setting up a subsidiary in the EU for the purposes of acting as the OSM database publisher, rather than moving the OSMF to the EU, is the most practical solution.

That said, and with the caveat that I am not a copyright / intellectual property rights lawyer, I do not think that this needs to be high in the Board's list of priorities. The reason why the community selected the ODbL as its license is because we want the database to enjoy protection worldwide regardless of whether database right exists in a jurisdiction or not. So I do not think that Brexit and the end of the transition period on December 31 is an existential crisis for the continued protection of the database.


Note: I tried to be comprehensive in my answers to the official set of questions. Therefore I would like to keep my manifesto short and to the point.

First, the Foundation membership should be more diverse and inclusive, and that the organization be more resilient to takeover and external control. I think a really easy way to partly achieve this is to make it easier to join the Foundation, be more welcoming, and find practical ways to make it so that the members are invested in helping OSM succeed. The current Board and membership have done a lot in this regard by voting for and implementing the Active Contributor Membership scheme and imposing stricter requirements for candidates and voters, and pushing for the regular membership option in the upcoming membership resolution vote. We should do more. Mappers from the Global South and women are generally underrepresented in the Foundation and we should promote joining the Foundation more.

Second, I would like for the Foundation to be more active in supporting local communities (and this is why I joined the LCCWG). To that end, there are quite a number of initiatives and ideas that the LCCWG members have conceived and some of these include updating the OSM website to add features that help local communities. I believe the Board is best placed to provide resources to make these happen.

Finally, I would like for the Board to further improve internal processes by (1) creating a guideline document that describes the relationship between the Board and the working groups, (2) improving the transparency of the Board's work a bit more (for instance, it seems that circular resolutions are only disclosed to the members when the next Board meeting agenda is published), and (3) providing Local Chapters more say or influence in Foundation matters that is more than just being on the Advisory Board.