Foundation/AGM20/Election to Board/Answers and manifestos/Michal Migurski
Your OSM activities
I signed up to OpenStreetMap in 2007 (user: migurski) after working closely with early mappers over the previous year and learning about OSM from other speakers and attendees at open geospatial conferences starting with Where 2.0 in 2005. At the time I was head of technology for Stamen Design. I led Stamen’s participation in OSM on several fronts starting in 2006. We hosted San Francisco’s first mapping parties with Steve Coast, learned and then taught core stack technologies such as Mapnik, created new editing tools like Field Papers (presented as “Walking Papers” at SOTM 2009 in Amsterdam, https://vimeo.com/5593879) to improve the user experience of novice mappers, supported HOTOSM financially in its goal of becoming a registered non-profit, created popular and long-used OSM cartographic contributions like Toner Tiles and Watercolor Maps and applied OSM commercially for clients like Nike and the London Olympics before it was widely seen as a legitimate source of map data.
Since 2009, I have noted and influenced the use of OSM as a core piece of humanitarian infrastructure starting with quarterly exercises in collaboration with the defense community that also included OSMF board members Kate Chapman and Mikel Maron. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti spurred the US community into action and community use of tools like Field Papers carried over to the later establishment of HOTOSM.
In 2012, I was an elected member of the OSM US Foundation board, and have proudly supported OSMUS since our first conference in Atlanta in 2010. I am also a member of three non-profits relevant to OSM. Digital Democracy works in solidarity with marginalized communities to use technology to defend their rights, GreenInfo Network creates, analyzes, visualizes and communicates geospatial information in the public interest, and PlanScore tackles the challenge of making U.S. political redistricting fair and easy to understand. I have recently grown so excited by the large-scale use and expansion of OSM that I joined the Facebook mapping team in 2018 to contribute to OSM’s incredible effort. We support humanitarian users with timely global geographic information through our Data For Good Disaster Maps program, we collaborate with academic institutions like Columbia University on global population density datasets, and we support the popular RapiD AI-assisted editing tool with partners like Esri. Our OpenStreetMap efforts support all of Facebook’s map display needs.
Why you want to be a board member?
I’ve been an excited participant in OpenStreetMap for much of the project’s history because it’s a rare example of a globally-successful open data project. The resulting map has been the best choice for so many areas I’ve worked: cartography, mobility, urban data, humanitarian intervention, and large-scale analysis have all benefited from OSM as a platform.
With 2019’s new active board, OSM is moving further in its transition from a gutsy challenger of copyright-restricted mapping agencies to a victorious critical utility for a wide variety of large and small users. We won! I can help update OSM’s historic organizational methods for its new role.
I offer a unique perspective on OSM needed for this new purpose. The board has decided to actively participate in project direction. We’ll be hiring our first paid engineering staff soon, and my experience supporting engineering teams in commercial and non-profit organizations will be an important addition. I’m also excited to bring experience with map accessibility, humanitarian applications, data consumption, engineering process, and robot-assisted mapping to the board’s decision making process so that we can meet the future head-on.
I currently participate in regular Operations team meetings and expect to continue.
Do you have any previous relevant experience?
I have held a series of engineering and product management jobs in organizations dedicated to open data or mapping in some form. In my current role at Facebook as engineering manager, we are expected to let engineers decide direction and implementation while helping clear obstacles from their path. Our approach is compatible with OSM’s plan to allow engineering staff and volunteers to decide what’s important and to provide adequate support for them to reach their goals.
In my personal time, I also work with a group of political scientists and legal experts on PlanScore.org, a political geography project to reduce the harm of partisan redistricting in U.S. politics. The key challenge of our work has been to make novel social science work accessible to journalists and politicians. Each of us on the team comes to the work with a distinct set of skills and points of view, and we’ve succeeded in aligning goals and schedules to meet everyone’s publishing and collaboration needs.
Transparency: Conflicts of interest
I am employed full-time as an engineering manager on Facebook’s Spatial Computing team, where I interact regularly with mapping-related activities undertaken by the company, such as our map editing efforts and our long-running AI and machine learning work.
My Facebook (FB) obligations encourage me to work in the best interests of the OSM project. Facebook has been a consistent supporter of the OSM community, growth of the project, and OSM’s ODbL license strategy. FB is a major user of OSM data in public-facing display maps throughout our many products. My candidacy for the OSMF board has been vetted by communications and legal representatives at Facebook.
What to do with the face to face meeting in Corona times?
It’s vital for the board to meet face-to-face as often as practical, at minimum once per year but ideally more. A decision to meet by video will need to be made in response to public health guidance and pandemic response. I expect that meetings and conferences will continue to take place over video until the middle of 2021 at the earliest.
What's the use of the OSMF ?
OSMF helps small contributors in three ways: maintaining continuity of operations, keeping communications channels accessible, and encouraging participation from new communities.
Without a functioning API service and database, work conditions for small contributors would quickly become impossible. OSMF’s commitment to hiring a senior site reliability engineer will keep the map’s technical operations running smoothly and serving a large community of mappers.
Small contributors use a range of communication channels to talk with one another. Certain core channels like the Talk list, the annual general meeting, and the yearly State of the Map conference provide opportunities for the small contributors to learn from one another. These venues should be kept free of abuse or gatekeeping so they will remain attractive and accessible to mappers.
The OSMF should further ensure that core channels are open to diverse participants and newcomers. Small contributions to OSM, like mapping a hometown, are often initially motivated by personal interest but sustained by awareness of a larger mission. New participants from different geographies bring new facets to that mission that make the existing activities of small mappers more meaningful.
What will you do to build a worldwide community of mappers?
Encouraging new members from new geographies or populations to join is the best way to expand OSM’s worldwide community. I hope that my focus on participant diversity will open OSM to additional contributors from under-represented communities. As a board member, I’ll also be in a position to directly encourage newcomers to volunteer for WG roles or run for future board seats.
What will you do to encourage more women leaders in OSM working groups and governance?
Should OSMF accept funding/donations by companies or organisations which do not want to be disclosed to the public?
Tagging decisions must be separated from iD software development. It’s not sustainable for the engineers building iD to also be forced to rule on complex and evolving cultural decisions like tags. The board should ensure that default tags used in the iD editor on the project homepage are governed by a community process that’s parallel to and separate from the engineering and design of iD itself.
How many paid staff should the OSMF have and why?
I support the current board’s decision to hire paid administrative and operational staff members. It’s not possible to provide a specific number in response to this question while we’re just getting started with paying staff, but based what we observe from experiments with full-time staff in local chapters like OSM US we may decide that additional staff will be necessary.
Your views on the use and control of AI (Artificial Intelligence) edit systems?
I’m a member of the Spatial Computing team at Facebook that produces RapiD, so I’m intimately familiar with the project and its goals, and I support them.
Damage caused by any editing system may require input or even resolution from the OSMF and its working groups, such as the Data Working Group or some other appropriate WG.
What is your opinion of the proposal for a software dispute resolution panel?
I don’t have an opinion on the software dispute resolution panel.
Should we do anything about EU database rights?
This sounds like an important issue for the LWG or an attorney retained by OSMF to resolve. We should prioritize getting it handled by a legal profession
I’ve made OpenStreetMap a major part of my life and work since 2005. It’s not just an audacious, community-built, complete, freely-licensed, street-scale map of the world. OSM is also a big tent that collects the skills and support of a huge range of individual and organizational contributors.
In 2021, OSM’s community has two opportunities to grow stronger together: we should make the OSM organization support a wider diversity of participants and we must succeed at starting to manage our technical operations professionally.
I’m a good candidate to help with both of these existing 2020 OSMF board goals. As a product and engineering leader in several organizations, I can help the Foundation succeed at finding and keeping great engineering talent. With my history on the community and business sides of OSM, I am experienced in making open data attractive to new community members and soliciting support from large organizations.
OSM for me has always been a story of global impact through work. At Stamen Design I led our participation in open mapping with a mix of early San Francisco mapping parties, paid clients, and experimental projects. Some, like Field Papers (presented as “Walking Papers” at SOTM 2009 in Amsterdam), helped OSM become a force in humanitarian mapping and have since matured into useful infrastructure. I’ve participated in OSM US since its first conference in Atlanta in 2010 and served on the US Foundation board in 2011 and 2012. I have recently grown so excited by the large-scale use and expansion of OSM that I joined the Facebook mapping team last year to contribute to our OSM efforts. I’ve been excited to see the emergence of “occupational” mappers: community participants who contribute to the project as part of large-scale organized activities in corporate, non-profit, or educational programs. Researcher Jennings Anderson highlighted the enormous impact these mappers are having on the map in North America (https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/Jennings%20Anderson/diary/394621) as an example of how behaviors around the map are transitioning into critical infrastructure.
In my run for the OSMF board last year, I named three top priorities for the Foundation (https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Foundation/AGM19/Election_to_Board/Answers_and_manifestos#Michal_Migurski). I was pleased to come within just a single vote of winning a seat, showing community support for my plans. Every one of my top items remains important, and each has changed since last year’s election of an energetic, active OSMF board. The boardrecently decided to fund full-time and contract technical positions for site reliability engineering and development of the iD editor. The board chair connected with community members around the world, many of whom reported that it was their first-ever time hearing from a Foundation representative (https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/apm-wa/diary/392767). Large organizations remain optimistic about OSM and have even supported the org financially outside traditional conference funding avenues and hardware funding drives. Some early progress has been made on a new Diversity and Inclusion Special Committee (DISC). We’re starting to see regular OSMF board candidacies from growth areas for the map like Africa and Asia, and I encourage you to also rank candidates Willy Franck SOB from Cameroon and Eugene Alvin Villar from the Philippines highly on your ballot. These changes are surfacing tension in the community as well. We need to be smart about how we identify and prevent threats to OSM, so we don’t unintentionally make the project unwelcoming to new participants.
PRIORITIES FOR OSMF BOARD
I will focus on three goals during my term.
- Fix our critical bus factor problem (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bus_factor). Thanks to a recent board vote, OSM technical operations will soon be overseen by a full-time, paid member of staff in a Senior Site Reliability Engineer (SSRE) position. This is a large improvement over last year’s shrinking number of longstanding volunteers and lack of a plan for resiliency or for creating new technical services that the community wants. When hired, the new SSRE will need a cooperative board to effectively do their work of raising OSM’s technical capacity and delegating needed help to community volunteers. My experience in supporting technology teams at commercial and non-profit organizations will allow the board to protect and encourage the SSRE’s goals.
- Attract diverse new volunteers and participants through outreach and policy changes. Since last year, the OSMF has created DISC but it’s been inactive and in need of board help (https://www.openstreetmap.org/user/mikelmaron/diary/394595). I intend to support board member Mikel Maron’s initiative to connect with worldwide users and revitalize the DISC. Board chair Allan Mustard’s 2020 outreach effort is a model for this activity, and there should be multiple board members working together to expand the Foundation’s connections beyond existing channels. The OSMF membership fee waiver for active mappers is also a successful pattern that shows we can attract participation by eliminating barriers. In 2021, we should commit to delivering a Code of Conduct based on the work of DISC. We know from other open source communities such as PyCon and OSMUS that today’s potentially diverse participants often look for a CoC before deciding to pursue participation, and OSM is badly behind the times in this regard.
- Build a bridge between local mappers, humanitarian mappers and corporate mappers involved in OSM. Every part of the OSM community helps in different ways, from organizing conferences to writing code or leading community projects. The success of the map has made it interesting for uses alongside hobby surveying, and the recent influx of occupational mappers from companies and non-profits will only grow over time.OSM has missed opportunities to benefit from volunteers through events like Pokémon Go in 2016 and Microsoft Flight Simulator this past year. Large partners can help if shown a productive path, and OSMF should have plans and activities in place to accommodate and guide these new participants toward useful input, rather than defensively circling the wagons.
OpenStreetMap is one of just a handful of worldwide, street-scale maps, and the only one with free and open usage built into its core. Everyone who participates in OSM, whatever their reason, shares a common interest in a high-quality, up-to-date map. By focusing on engineering excellence and expanding reach, OSMF can be stronger in the future with me on the board.