25 March 2011

OpenStreetMap is a ghetto of stagnation.

Having interacted with a few other mappers, particularly in disputes, I had the odd impression that either they were a bit, shall we say, mentally challenged, or struggled with language. Now I know why.

Fully a year later, one of the people in charge communicates with me and, in summary, says that the community is favored over map quality every time. Wow.

So what is this community? Where do its members "hang out?" There's a plethora of choice, and, apparently, they're all equally inadequate, except for the mailing lists, which, despite being shockingly anachronistic[1], are held up as the pillar of excellence as discussion venue. Never mind that the same OSMF board member who did so is also complaining about "toxic" participants on the mailing lists, who are there only to argue and aren't otherwise active mappers.

 The fora I've found so far are:

Wiki Talk
Help pages
Individual OSM email
Out-of-band regular e-mail
and, of course, the mailing lists and their archives.

That's quite a dauntingly fragmented set of channels, even for an earnest participant. At best, they strike me as a signficant distraction from the task at hand.

All this means smart, dedicated, motivated mappers are going to get systematically chased away, while those who oppose change but are good at playing politics will stay. Sound familiar? I fear that this is always the logical conclusion to any such Wiki-like "crowdsourcing" effort.

I had such high hopes for the octo-chicken. Still, it may work, as it seems to have mostly worked for Wikipedia. Here's hoping for a worthy fork in the meantime.

[1] Even when I started with the 'net a quarter century ago, they already seemed quaintly backwards, compared to Usenet. I'm pretty confident OSM isn't nearly that old.

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