User:Stereo/2018 OSMF Board Elections Manifesto

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Answers to official questions

These are my answers to the 2018 0SMF board election official questions. My manifesto itself is at the bottom.

Tell us a little about your OSM activities

First of all, I want to thank everyone who contributed to the elaboration of these many questions. I also want to thank Michael and Dorothea for organising and moderating it, and my fellow candidates for participating.

  • What brought you to OSM and why are you still part of it now? What is your OSM user name?

I was born in 1985 in Luxembourg in a family who never thought that mappers all over the planet would one day try to pronounce my name. On OSM, I go as Stereo. My dad made maps, and I would always look for mistakes in them, which was more welcome before than after they went to print.

When I discovered OpenStreetMap in 2008, there were only a few main roads displayed around me. I didn't take it seriously. In 2011, I ran into it again, and saw that the map had become a lot more detailed. I spotted a missing name, and when I saw it displayed on the map when I refreshed right after saving it, I was hooked. When I upload a changeset, I still like to open that place in my browser while it still hasn't rendered, open the same url in a new tab a few seconds later, then switch between the tabs. It never gets old.

The way we map has changed so much that it rarely gets boring. But what I love the most about OSM now is the smart and generous community.

  • Where do you map?

I map mostly in Luxembourg and its surroundings, but also in Kosovo where my girlfriend lives for work. I extend holidays by recreating them when I get home; I've mapped remote bits of Ireland and sunny bits of France. Being a volunteer in the Data Working Group can make you familiar with many unknown places. My favourite bit of mapping remains Kidal in Mali for a HOT project, working late into the night with music recorded in a building I found while mapping.

  • Are you/have you been a member of any OSMF working groups?

Yes! I am a member of the Data Working Group, where my most recent big project was the organised editing guidelines that have recently been adopted by the board. I'm also part of the Membership Working Group, and like to try to increase OSMF membership everywhere. I drove the recent effort to go HTTPS by default everywhere on

  • Do you participate with other OSM mappers, for example in a local chapter or in social meet ups?

Yes! We have small meetings in Luxembourg - I had coffee with a visiting mapper yesterday. I have attended large OSM conferences in France, Belgium and Germany, and regional meet ups in countries near me, like the Hackwochenende in Karlsruhe. When I first visited Kosovo last spring, the community welcomed me with open arms. This year, I've given presentations at SotM in Milan, and at national or regional events in Tirana, Pristina and Saarbrücken.

  • Have you run anything yourself, such as an OSM-newbie event?

Yes! From organising the first Luxembourg meet up in 2011 to co-organising a meet up in Kosovo a few weeks ago.

  • Do you contribute as a software developer?

Yes! I co-maintain the editor layer index, pretty much by accident. (please help!). I also submit many github issues and PRs to various projects.

  • Have you attended board meetings as a guest?

Yes! Best done with popcorn ;). I was also invited recently to present the organised editing guidelines and answer questions on them.

What do you think qualifies you for a position on the board of the OSMF?

Participating in DWG and MWG gives you crucial experience. Outside of OSM, I ran for city council in 2017 and am a member of Luxembourg city's mobility commission. I am or have been on the board of several non-profits. I understand both the OSMF and how to get things done there.

I am, I think, good at listening to different positions and achieving consensus and reaching compromise. Linguistically and culturally, I am used to it. The destructive oversimplifications of extremism and antagonism have never attracted me.

I get things done - see the https switch or the organised editing guidelines.

Finally, I am absolutely passionate about OpenStreetMap. I have a lot of fun spending time on it, as is hopefully evident in my work.

The values and goals of the OpenStreetMap project

It's certainly good organisational practice to reevaluate goals and values every once in a while. Are we doing the right things? Are we doing things right? Are we achieving our goals? What should we do better or less? I like our current goals and values, but this is a question that should, as much as possible, involve the community in a great discussion. I would start by doing a survey.

Mappers, Mappers, Lots of Happy Mappers

How do you think OpenStreetMap can embrace all kinds of mappers, from those who map for fun, to volunteers to company mapping teams to students and others? For example:

  • How do you think OpenStreetMap can better welcome new mappers and encourage them to keep mapping, and to grow as mappers?

It should be easier to find local and new mappers, to help or get help, to welcome them or become part of the community. We could provide the community with more, better tools, and test to see what works. The work that has been done in Belgium and Switzerland is an excellent base.

  • Any opinions on diversity and how we can improve, (geographic, rich/poor, female/male, LGBT, ...)?

We shouldn't improve these just because they are good things, but because they help us create a better map.

I know how to encourage communities to get involved: the proportionally large numbers of OSMF members who have joined in France, Luxembourg and Kosovo speak for themselves.

I am planning to create a page for the MWG website that would show live statistics by country, if I can wrap my head around CiviCRM. We can learn a lot from our local communities; the Albanian one has achieved wonderful gender balance, for example. The recent fee waiver for OSMF memberships is a great thing: mappers in Kosovo joined together on the same day, and there was a fantastic motivated atmosphere in the Telegram group. I am in touch with the Somalia community to try to get mappers there to join too.

In other underrepresented countries too, systematically, we must do similar work with key people of the community to encourage long-term involvement.

  • The role of the OSMF in regulating behavior of OSM community members. Should the OSMF define behavior rules of the OSM community?

There's been a lot of talk about having a Code of Conduct lately, and while the discussion has sometimes become heated, I endorse the principle.

The community should, when necessary, define the norms necessary to make mappers feel welcome. The OSMF's role is to affirm the community consensus, but not to decide.

  • What do you intend to do about improving the infrastructure for contributors, specifically the OSM website?

Good infrastructure is necessary to lubricate the mapmaking process. OWG has become a bottleneck for improvement and creativity, with a burden too heavy on too few shoulders. Switching to https by default on took me two years of efforts (and we're still not fully there with the tiles). Andy Allan's recent heroic refactoring work will hopefully help make contributions to the website easier, but it still took Herculean efforts from him to merge the moderation queue. The website github is where pull requests go to die. The board should have a joint meeting with OWG to identify issues, offer help, and implement solutions together.

Just to be clear: I am not pointing the finger at anyone. Things would collapse if some people didn't currently dedicate a lot of their free time to keeping the infrastructure running and fighting fires.

You & the other candidates

I've been in touch with all my fellow candidates, and spoken to all except Jeffrey in recent days. The OSMF is lucky to have such a great batch of candidates this year.

Tobias Knerr

Tobias is a gifted programmer, and spends more time on software related to OSM than mapping. He is a passionate member of the German community and a tough debater on the mailing lists. We regularly meet at the Karlsruhe Hackwochenende. I think he would be the only academic on the board if elected, which would help us in that field.

Jo Walsh

Jo is no longer an active mapper, but her involvement with OSM goes way back. We had a long conversation about OSMF governance, and her experience with charter members on osgeo (members have to be invited by another voting member to become a voting member) was interesting. The OSM policy documents she's written in the past were a precious example when I was writing the organised editing guidelines.

Geoffrey Kateregga

Geoffrey really seems like a great guy. We had a conversation about Ugandan politics and a very catchy advert song that's been turned into a protest message.

Joost Schouppe

Joost was my first choice in the election last year. He's a pillar of the Belgian community, and we have a lot to learn from their program to welcome all new mappers. He is careful in his words and actions, and would bring his wisdom to the board. It's always nice to run into him at community events.

Miriam Gonzalez

Miriam is the candidate I know the least. She's given a talk on diversity at SotM-US, and her Geochicas initiative seems to be very positive.

Nuno Caldeira

The worldwide OSM Telegram group wouldn't be the same without Nuno. His passion for the map is obvious and contagious. We started talking about the OSMF but ended up having a conversation about unusual modes of transportation and how to map them very late into the night.

Board diversity

I've voted for non-Western candidates in the past, unfortunately they didn't get elected.

A large and diverse membership is the key here. When you look at the OSMF membership statistics, you'll see we've come a long way! On a board of 7, no matter how you cut it, you will always find underrepresented blocks; we shouldn't feel threatened if no one from our minority group is on the board.

I am opposed to the idea of circumscriptions because they would be easy to game and favour clientelism. We must be careful not to polarise the community by having board members representing only sizeable minorities; we represent the whole map and every mapper. Instead, we must encourage local communities to grow and give a greater voice to local chapters.

I have experience growing the community and the OSMF membership in various countries, and every place needs different solutions. But it's a lot of fun!

Conflicts of interest

None. I work as a data consultant, but most of my projects are not map-related. On the other hand, while I was consulting on our open data portal, my interest in OSM and maps made Luxembourg's geographical data some of the most open in the world.

During the organised editing guideline process, everyone on the board argued about conflicts of interest. One board member, who couldn't vote because of a conflict of interest, argued for changes to the guidelines that would have watered them down. At this level, even the appearance of impropriety is regrettable in most cultures, condemned in mine.

I am used to dealing conflicts of interest properly outside of OSM. On a recent meeting of a commission of the City of Luxembourg, we had to take a decision that would affect a family member. I simply left the meeting for a few minutes, as we commonly do in those cases. Similarly, I don't do any business in Kosovo, where my girlfriend works for the Luxembourg embassy.

I support clear rules on conflicts of interest for the board.

Your opinion on Term limits for board members?

We have a strange system of variable length terms where the oldest third of the board comes up for re-election, no matter how long those board members have been on the board. I see a risk in the board deciding itself who can run for it. Still, no one should stay on the board forever. This is just one of the many criterias and rules on how we elect the board. It's an interesting and necessary debate, but ultimately, it's up to the members.

Your opinion on Paid staff

Dorothea is a treasure. Being able to rely on her neutrality and professionalism is wonderful. I met our accountant Michelle in Milan, and she's a smart person who thinks ahead to make the work of volunteers easier.

We must absolutely keep this.

If we do hire employees or contractors, it should only be for tasks that volunteers haven't been able to get done. The MWG, for example, has a backlog of new memberships to sign up to the osmf-talk mailing list.

I wouldn't want the OSMF to become one of those big bureaucratic NGOs. Volunteers must remain at the core of what we do. It was like that, for example, that the recent mass sign-up of 100 new members near the election cut-off date was noticed.

Your opinion on Organized editing

The last link in the question goes to my report on the subject.

The OSMF board has since approved the guidelines.

I think it's important, as an open project, that we state our expectations on the topic clearly. This provides safety and confidence to both organised editors and the rest of the community. Arbitrary rules that constantly change would provide the opposite.

The guidelines are the result of DWG's experience, and a long process of consultation, consensus and compromise. They should be reevaluated once we can judge what impact they've had, not before.

The guidelines have been misrepresented as both draconian and toothless. They are neither: they allow gentle guidance before any enforcement, and provide a blueprint for good organised edits. They expect best effort, but problematic edits, editors and groups of editors can, if necessary, be stopped. Ultimately, they hand power to the community: there is no better choice than to constructively interact with it.

Deciding on who gets grants

We should have a working group on grants, with support from Dorothea. The guidelines on who gets grants should be decided after a discussion with the community. Regularly, the working group should produce reports, and reevaluate its own guidelines.

We need to support infrastructure and communities sustainably, not pay people to map. In evaluating the grants, we must be able to measure outcomes, not output.

Supporting local chapters can encourage them to form and creating an effective driver for change. Microgrants can buy coffee and cake for an OSMF sign-up party, although that should be exceptional.

Due diligence reverting edits

We must always assume good intentions. I think that our current set of guidelines work quite well. If you're interested in this, have you considered joining the Data Working Group?

Criticism on social media

Constructive criticism is good. Whether I agree with what's being said or not, I like that lively debate is usually how we handle things.

There's recently been a lot of anger directed at us over the Crimea situation. Even Ukraine's ambassador to the UK has regrettably urged her Twitter followers to lobby the OSMF. The campaigns against the OSMF and DWG and personal attacks on fellow DWG members are not helping, and I hope that the Ukrainian community will join me in condemning them. The map of the battlefield isn't the battlefield.


A lot of topics are covered in the questions above, so it's a shorter manifesto, or really what's left on my mind after answering everything. For ease of reading, I'll gather all my answers on one page

If you've made it down this far, you obviously enjoy reading. Here is my 2016 manifesto. Re-reading it, the only thing that's changed is that Apple and Facebook now support OpenStreetMap.

The map, however, has changed faster than ever. Even across the wild diversity of osm, trends dominate. The world's biggest companies now show up at our conferences. Did you know why Apple uses OSM in Denmark? We are now the best map in many places around the globe, which changes the dynamic completely.

Level playing field

The OSMF must provide the fertile ground for the best map to grow, and where constructive dialogue between actors can take place. We are more attractive for any actors if they trust that our structures aren't capturable by special interests, but fairly and transparently regulated to create the best possible map. We must reduce the tensions and uncertainty that undermine trust.

Recent groups of sign-ups and allegations of voting recommendations have been controversial.

The current articles of association would not prevent a hostile mass sign-up. MWG should be consulted and collaborate with the community to introduce a solid but appropriate package of measures to prevent all kinds of electoral fraud and regulatory capture. This would safeguard confidence and make us less vulnerable. Board members would, of course, not take part in that process.

Only a vast and diverse participation of passionate mappers who are engaged in the OSMF’s mission can make us impossible to hijack. I ask every OSMF member to help get getting other mappers to join, increasing our membership numbers.

Board transparency

I've discovered that the board can do a lot of things outside of the board meetings, often out of the public eye. Circulars are, under certain circumstances, not made public. Efforts must be made to increase transparency on this.

Working groups

One constant of volunteers and working groups is that they are overloaded; I've mentioned OWG and MWG in my answers above. The OSMF can and should do more to support and help them, including getting help from the outside when there is no alternative.

(If you're reading this, please join the working groups! Please!)