Author Archives: Peter Barth

About Peter Barth

Posting mostly in a Communication Working Group capacity (and often with text written collaboratively among CWG and others) About me on the OSM wiki

Thoughts on the OSMF Face-to-Face Board Meeting 2018

Like 2016 and 2017, the OSMF board had a face-to-face meeting again this year. This time, we met in Karlsruhe, Germany, at the office of Geofabrik. Meeting at Frederik’s and Christine’s place was a great choice and Frederik was a great host. In addition to having plenty of room to talk and work we even got home-made cheese cake from Christine (thank you!).

OSMF Board eating cheese cake after an invitation by Christine. © CC-BY-SA Dorothea

I had a short trip by car and arrived on Friday, 27th of April in the late afternoon and the official schedule started Saturday morning. Most of my colleagues, who had to take a longer trip by plane, arrived early on Friday or even Thursday and thus had the chance to meet at Frederik’s place for some early preparations and working on some OSMF stuff.

I don’t consider this post a detailed summary of what happened and what was talked about. It’s more about my thoughts about the meeting and about the most prominent topics we talked about. There will be more detailed minutes at a later stage.


Like in previous years, we filled in a small questionnaire about our expectations and plans for this face-to-face meeting and once again it was Mikel who did a great job collecting the input and assembling a schedule for us. The schedule was less tight than in past years and we deliberately left some space for some last-minute topics. We also had some topics where it wasn’t clear if we could make it in the time set, so it was good to have some space for that.

Social interactions

One of the more generic recurring goals was to understand each other’s points of view, work and communication styles. I kind of find it funny how much such a meeting helps in that regard as it’s still a huge difference between reading, hearing and also seeing someone to get to know them better. And while most of us have met before, I think I still gained from it. Additionally it was Heather’s first meetup with the rest of us, so I took the chance to get to know her better.

On the mailing list we were asked about the value of the meeting, if it’s worth it. And as every year I feel the pain of giving a concrete answer to that. It’s hard to measure it as you don’t have any revenue to compare against. Anyway, I think the social aspect of the meeting is an important one. “Did they want to offend me?”, “Are they serious about that or was that a joke?”,… knowing someone in-person makes it easier to understand and classify a response. This makes overall communication easier and more productive I think. And given our organizational budget compared to the money spent, I guess my suggestion for future boards would be to just have a face-to-face meeting by default, without trying to ponder about its value.

Conflict of Interest

The topic about conflict of interest (COI) was a very difficult one and I felt the urgent need to talk about it early on. I thought that some other topics might pose a COI for some of us, so we should talk about COI first.

The problem that I have is that it’s very easy to construct a scenario where something might be a potential conflict of interest and as I wrote in a similar discussion on osmf-talk mailing list, you could easily argue that Mikel, as an employee of Mapbox, kind of always has a potential COI. Rightly Mikel told me, that it’s not hard for him to construct a case making me have a potential COI as well, for whatever topic we talk about.

I seemed to be very passionate about that topic as I got asked several times to explain myself and that the others perceived me as having a strong opinion on it. I actually did not, I had a lot of questions and I felt the need to answer them. We discussed the topic for quite some time, but only very few questions could be answered. Anyway, we agreed that we should have a guideline at some point. Until then, I’d like to invite you to take part in that discussion and share your thoughts on our mailing list. We are supposed to support the community and value their input.

The second conclusion was, that we could use some professional help. That’s why we wrote a mail to “our” lawyer to clarify some of the questions we had. E.g. the legal text about COI speaks about a COI if a person is director in two companies, which basically only applies to Frederik and Kate at best. But what about if you’re an employee in one company and director in the other, like e.g. Mikel or Martijn. The law reads as if that can’t be a COI. So independent of our guideline, such questions should be answered first and I hope we’ll be able to share them with the community soon.

Micro Grants

We had talked about micro grants before and somehow didn’t follow up or finish it. As I said, some of us had been in Karlsruhe on Thursday or Friday, so they took the chance to start working on it at that point in time and we continued to work on it on Saturday and Sunday together. I guess in the end we have a pretty decent plan.

I can’t estimate if micro grants will be successful or not, but I think that it’s a good idea to have something like that and to encourage people to take place in it. In the German chapter, the FOSSGIS e.V., we have something similar and in my opinion it has been proven to be quite valuable, so I hope the OSMF micro grants prove to be a similar success.

Anyway, I guess some more details will pop up on the mailing list soon and the program is scheduled to start at this year’s State of the Map.

Working Groups and Volunteers

This is the second topic we resumed from last year and I’m getting a bit emotional about that one. I love the OpenStreetMap project and its community, the amount of volunteering time spent on the project and the output, our great database and map.

Still I find it very sad that only very few people spend their time on helping to run the project. Almost all working groups suffer from a lack of volunteers, only very few people help developing code for the core services, almost no one participates in organizational discussions about the project and so on. So if you’re reading this post you most likely are not in a working group. Why? It’s so easy to join and help!

Anyway, we talked about ideas how to solve that and how to get volunteers to help. It was a tough topic and I think I was not really enthusiastic about any of the ideas. And in the end I felt the need to abstain from further discussion. I can’t say if there’s a conclusion to that, but one thing we felt is the need to better identify the needs of working groups. I guess it’s not obvious for everyone how much we lack volunteers to keep the project running.

Diversity and Communications

The diversity and communications topic was something I was afraid of as I considered everyone having a very strong opinion on that. At least I have. I thought we’d get into a fight over that, but all of us left without a black eye.

As I said in the begining, these are my thoughts and my opinions, so I don’t want to get into too much detail. But if I read e.g. this code of conduct, my blood pressure rises. I consider it very unfair, I can’t stand rules that know who’s guilty in advance and that consider insults acceptable if they are coming from the correct set of people. I also
dislike how the issue is often approached with a clearly defined “desired outcome”, instead of openly discussing real problems and their potential solutions.

Still, the discussion was not so bad after all. We split up into two smaller groups and I discussed with Frederik, Mikel and Kate and it was interesting to hear their opinions on it. I especially appreciate talking with Kate about it. She’s kind of passionate about the topic and she is able to provide very good examples and insights and she’s amazingly patient with people who ask silly questions :-). It helped me very much understanding other points of view. It didn’t change my mind though but I think the discussion gains much from people like her.


The GDPR is a very important topic as it starts taking effect soon. We talked quite much about it and Heather took the lead on it. She was very well prepared and put considerable time into it. I think she’s also concerned with it in her professional life, so she knows what she’s talking about. I had some reservations that from the outside it would look like we’d overrule the LWG, but we ended up mostly devising strategies for the bits that fell outside of LWG‘s responsibility, and otherwise agreeing with their recommendations.

You can read more on the topic at several places, but I guess the most comprehensive information or summary can be found in Heather’s blog post here


I will abstain from a judgement on whether the meeting is worth the money or not. As Frederik put it some time back: We should just make it default to have a face-to-face meeting and that’s my suggestion for the boards to follow as well.

I think we did get some things done and meeting in person makes it easier, quicker and more productive. As I said above, I hope we’ll gain as a project from the micro grants. I also hope that we started a process to get a guideline for the conflict of interest and I’m eager to read the lawyer’s reply. I deliberately didn’t include details, as you’ll be able to read them in the minutes anyway. But I somehow hope that my post furthers the interest in our project and organizational topics. Please participate in the discussions and share your thoughts.

Recap of Google Summer of Code 2017

With this year’s Google Summer of Code’s recent successful completion, we thought it would be a good idea to recap and shine a spotlight on the individual projects. It’s the 10th year we were participating with success, so thanks to Google for supporting us again, and thanks to the Engineering Working Group for managing our participation this year!

The Google Summer of Code is a program run by Google to match student developers to open source projects. Students may apply to any of the participating projects, based on their preferences or relevant experience. The students that get selected receive a stipend (paid by Google) to spend one summer working on their project, gaining valuable experience while contributing code to real-world projects.

This year, we had five student projects with a really great student developer for each of them and all of them passed, i.e. they all finished their project plan in time. Additionally, there were two OSM-related projects outside of the OSMF umbrella: Indoor Support for Marble based on OSM and a plugin API to display OSM data on NASA Web WorldWind. But we had a bit of bad luck as well: Google gave us the opportunity to select even more students and, while we had applications from two more great students lined up, they didn’t start their project with us due to reasons not within our control.

Anyway, as not everyone was following the students’ work, we thought we should share the outcome of this year’s summer of code with you.

OpenGL Renderer for libosmscout

Let’s start with the first project, which is part of libosmscout, a C++ library for offline map rendering, routing and location lookup. What libosmscout doesn’t have right now is a render path based on OpenGL.

Tim Teulings, the mentor for this project, shared with us that he was very happy to see Fanny work on that task as none of the existing project members had time or the respective know-how, but it was still a highly requested feature. So they felt very lucky to have a great student like Fanny to work on it. What’s more, she even said that she’s keen on continuing to work with that project.

Her part of the library with a small demo application can be viewed on Github and all of her work was continuously merged.

© OpenStreetMap contributors

As you can see, her renderer works quite well and produces beautiful maps. The objective was to support areas, ways, labels and ground to be rendered correctly. In addition to that, the code now supports most of the styling options and works on Linux, as well as on Windows. You can read more about the work and the results on her user diary.

We hope Fanny will stick to her plan to continue to work on libosmscout and stay a part of our great OSM community!

3D Model Repository

The next project we’d like to present to you is the 3D model repository by Pedro (also known as n42k). The project idea has been around for a while, but in the past we either didn’t have a good student or failed to get enough project slots. This year was different and we finally got both!

Eiffel Tower Model by joe89v (source)

The task itself is easy to explain: “We want a website that allows uploading 3D models to use for OSM”. But still, there were a lot of decisions to make: The site is now intended for all kinds of models, unlike previous efforts targeted only at buildings. It will initially focus on OBJ as a file format, and will provide unique IDs that can be easily linked in OSM. To make sure that the models fit the needs of the various applications in the OSM ecosystem, developers from two 3D renderers (OSM2World and OSMBuildings) mentored the project together.

Pedro published some of his work in his diary and his highly appreciated code can be viewed at Gitlab. Currently, the mentors are in the process of checking with the OSMF’s Licensing Working Group and others to deal with some details like hosting, branding and some “legal issues” (e.g. with regard to the geocoding guideline), but we’re expecting to see the site go live later this year.

Enhancing JOSM pt_assistant

Another project we want to talk about is the enhancement of the PT Assistant Plugin for JOSM by Giacomo Servadei. While the plugin name suggests this is all about public transport, the scope of this project grew to include hiking and bicycle routes as well.

Besides the extension of scope, Giacomo worked hard to extend the plugin and make it even more useful. For example, it now allows you to sort stops according to the sequence of the ways in the route relations, and it helps you with splitting roundabouts while keeping the route relations that pass over it. But it also has a better check for problems and now reports and suggests fixes, for example gaps of a single way or routes that don’t start or end neatly on a stop_position node near to a corresponding platform node.

You can read about Giacomo’s main results and his detailed timeline in the wiki. It also includes direct links to the dedicated tickets and associated patches. All of his work got merged and you can easly activate his plugin and test the outcome for yourself.

In addition to that, Polyglot, who was Giacomo’s mentor for this project, has written some diary posts about it.

Web-based Public Transport Editor

Dkocich worked on a similar project, but this time it wasn’t about a JOSM plugin. Instead, the goal was to create a website to edit public transport relations without the need to start a full blown editor.

While the editor is not merged yet, this will probably happen soon. Before the finished version of the editor is published by his main mentor Ilya, you can already have a look at his great work and test his version of the OSM Public Transport Editor. You can also have a look at his code on his Github project.

JOSM Refactoring

The next project in this list is all about JOSM’s core code. This project was mentored by Michael Zangl, a former student who had participated in GSoC the two previous years, working on different JOSM tasks – an experience that had allowed him to gain a very deep understanding of JOSM’s core. This year’s project started out as an effort to refactor the menu bar to have a proper API to use, but the project’s goals got extended and modified a bit during the summer.

Bogdans worked hard to dive into JOSM’s codebase and familiarize himself with JOSM. You can have a look at his work on his wiki user page, which also contains a list of tickets he worked on and patches he wrote which got merged.

Much of his work is “under the hood”, so unless you’re contributing to JOSM development or plugins yourself, you probably won’t easily notice most of the improvements while working with JOSM. Still, there are some visible updates: Bogdans added the option to search based on presets, and also merged the “Download” and “Download from Overpass API” actions into a single dialog box. Furthermore, there’s a Wizard that helps mappers with constructing Overpass queries now, much like the one known from Overpass turbo.

Again, you can read more about his work on Polyglot’s diary, since he served as a co-mentor.


This was a great Google Summer of Code again and we’re very happy that we were able to participate. We want to use the opportunity to thank all the students for their work and we’re hopeful that you as a user will benefit from one of them as well. In addition to that, we’d also like to thank the mentors for spending their spare time to help the students finish their tasks and the EWG for doing the administration of this year’s GSoC.

After the conclusion of this year’s GSoC, we performed a small survey among our mentors to gather feedback, and even though some of them had to invest considerable hours in it, they unanimously responded that it was worth their time and that OSM should participate again next year. So we conclude by tasking the EWG to apply again next year!

Visa information to support your trip to State of the Map in Japan

Travelling to State of the Map in Japan? You may need to first obtain a travel visa. This post will guide you through the process of checking and obtaining a visa.

The first step is to determine whether you need a visa. We recommend using this handy tool which makes it quick and easy to check. Those people who are fortunate to be able to travel to Japan without a visa can stop reading – we look forward to meeting you at State of the Map.

Visa policy of Japan, (c) Twofortnights, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

If you determined that you do need a visa then you will need to contact us. To make the process as smooth as possible, please head over to this page and complete the “Visa application form”, “Invitation Letter” (visa applicant section) and “Itinerary in Japan”. We will complete the remaining part of the invitation letter and send it back to you. You should also take time to familiarise yourself with the visa process described here for most nationalities as you will also need to prepare other documents including the “Letter of guarantee” (if a company is paying your travel expenses) or recent bank statements (if you are paying all expenses).

Summary of Board’s Face-to-Face Meeting

Better late than never, I want to share my thoughts and the topics discussed at the OSMF board’s annual Face-to-Face meeting in May this year.

We met on the 20th and the 21st of May in Amsterdam at the same location as last year. Martijn and Mikel made a quick survey and put considerable time into compiling an agenda for the weekend for us. This year we also had Dorothea, our administrative assistant who helped us keep time and took notes during the meeting for us.

Board members still smiling after a hard day of work

We discussed many topics and I will try to share them with you. I will focus on topics which I believe will be of particular interest to the community, but I’ll also include issues and impressions I simply found interesting myself.

Welcome Mat

Saturday started of with a session about how to define the “OSM community” which was more about knowing where each other stands. This led to the question about the community’s or the board’s relation to “corporate stakeholders” as well. Although I had the impression that we had quite different views on it and I felt a bit like an extremist, this was quite a productive discussion and in a follow up working session we developed a first draft for a “Welcome Mat”. This will be something for organizations and companies to read to familiarise themselves with the project, the community and especially to learn about the expectations we have and the responsibilities they have. The current plan is to compile the main points into a draft to share in July.

Sticky notes everywhere


A planned program for microgrants was the focus of a second large working session on Saturday. You might know similar programs from e.g. OSM-US, HOT or FOSSGIS. As a start and as a first trial we want to make a time-bound program where you can apply for microgrants until a specific date. We discussed many of the details like the budget, the set of applicants, a rough timeline and the need for a committee to help on with the selection and to provide some kind of “supervision”. We plan to have a dedicated blog post and more details coming soon, in August this year.

Working Groups and Volunteers

Sunday started off with a topic that I expected to be highly controversial: Working Groups and their role with regard to the board. But I was proven wrong. We talked about and discussed the scope of each working group, their (potential) needs and their relation to the OSMF board. It was quite interesting as almost every working group has at least one board member in its ranks.

One very obvious theme from our discussion about working groups is the lack of volunteers. Let me add a personal thought here: We have quite a few people running for the OSMF board each year with many great ideas. As the board is mainly assisting, you can achieve something more easily by actually joining a working group and not the board! Anyway, one of our working sessions on Sunday was dedicated to a “volunteer drive”. We run successful money donation drives but money cannot always be used to buy time. So, we really need more volunteers to help run our project, which is why we want to try and run a volunteer drive next year. If you can’t wait that long: Go on and join one of our great working groups now! 🙂

Rapid Fire

We had a couple of rapid fire sessions where each of us could name a topic they are personally interested in. Mine was about our need to properly explain why we need or want an administrative assistant. To make our decision more transparent, we plan to fully disclose the scope of the job’s duties and hope to demonstrate why we think it’s worth spending money on some administrative tasks instead of doing it ourselves or searching for volunteers. In a similar vein, Frederik asked about the others’ thoughts on putting financial tasks into professional hands. One reason, for example, is that it’s a major pain for new board members to get access to our bank account. Furthermore, we talked about an updated travel policy which is scheduled to be drafted in August. We mostly asked what and whom we do fund and up to which amount. One side aspect was to pay Kate’s travel to the SotM-Asia 2017 where she will be the keynote speaker.

Other than that we had a talk about a corporate editing policy, something the DWG has been tasked with and I guess you’ll see a public community survey on that topic soon.


Cute Baby-Alpaca
(c) Zenalpaca, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Sadly, not many community members had the time to join our planned evening with the local community on Saturday. I still had the opportunity for some interesting private conversations, though: I know a lot more now about growing tomatoes and raising goats and I would recommend anyone with a farm to get some alpacas. 🙂

But we didn’t meet for fun, but for work: It was a friendly and productive meeting and – given the financial outcome of last year (read: the corporate membership program) – it didn’t feel so bad to spend some money on the meeting. We don’t have tangible results to show yet, but that was not the goal: The meeting was about discussion and offered an opportunity to talk about various issues that would be hard or impossible to tackle via the mailing list or on mumble. In order to not let that time go to waste, it’s now important to follow up on those topics. That’s why we ended our meeting with a “Mapping Where from Here” session to produce a schedule with follow-up tasks and a timeline describing what we would like to be finished when. So I hope you’ll hear more about the microgrant program and the welcome mat soon. Stay tuned! 😉

Apply for a scholarship to State of the Map 2017!

Today we are opening applications for State of the Map scholarships!

OpenStreetMap enthusiasts from all around the world will be gathering in Japan for State of the Map 2017  —  set to be as exciting as ever. We don’t want high travel costs to get in the way of talented individuals joining the fun. Thanks to the support of our sponsors, scholarships will help bring us together.

Apply now for a scholarship and join us for State of the Map in Japan!

Deadline: Wednesday, 22nd March 2017.

Each year we receive more scholarship applications than we are able to support. To help us best allocate the funds, we have introduced different levels of scholarship – you can now pick from Standard, Full or Enhanced scholarship levels.

Here are some tips to help you complete application:

  • Select the minimum level of scholarship you need to attend in Japan. This will help us to make the best use of limited funds.
  • Answer the question “How will attending State of the Map benefit you and OpenStreetMap” in 1500 characters maximum. Keep sentences short. Focus on the benefits to you and to OpenStreetMap.
  • We want to hear about your contributions to OpenStreetMap, your project or your group. We do not want an account of a group’s work but your individual part in it. Try to use “I” not “we“.
  • You may include links to your OpenStreetMap profile, a local group you run, or software you created. If your written answer is satisfactory to get in our shortlist – we might take a look at these additional details.
  • What topics or views will you bring to State of the Map that are otherwise missing?
  • What do you plan to do when you return return home after State of the Map?

Apply now!

Preparing for another Summer of Code

Google Summer of Code Logo (CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 Google)

We’re now in preparation for our 10th Google Summer of Code. Over the years many students have participated and have continued to participate in the project beyond GSoC.

Organizations may apply to GSoC to become mentoring orgs until February 9th and of course we already did apply. However, we have to wait for February 27th to know if we’re accepted again. Student applications are due in April and the official coding period will be from May to July this year. For a full plan have a look at the official timeline.

If you’re an interested student, don’t hesitate and start out today. It’s never too early to make yourself known to our great project and our great community. Our project is big and we have a very broad and diverse set of tasks, and project ideas which require an equally diverse set of skills. But one thing is quite common to all of them: You should learn about our database and how mapping is supposed to be performed. So grab yourself a bit of time and go out and start mapping. Add your local grocery store, your favorite clothes shop or that one bench you love to sit on. No matter what, it’s important to get yourself familiar with OpenStreetMap. Further than that, you can have a look at our ideas’ list to see if there’s anything that you like and we’re also open to your own ideas. The best is to get on IRC or on our developers’ mailing list to introduce yourself and talk about what you want to work on.

If you’re a developer, please consider to add your good idea to our ideas’ list or add yourself as a potential mentor for one of the proposed projects. We’re always seeking for backup admins, just in case. And if you are unsure whether your idea is good enough or if it’s feasible, you know where to find the GSoC admins. Just ask.

Finally, if you’re just interested about the Summer of Code, we have a detailed recap of 2015’s GSoC, but also 2016 was a great success with a number of interesting projects and good students. In 2016 we had a total of six projects accepted, where four of them made it to the end.

Michael Zangl, a student from Germany, worked hard to reorganize the core of JOSM, our most widely used editor. He participated in 2015 as well, and he subscribed as a mentor for 2017. He wrote a detailed summary of his work and we’re happy to have him in our project and as a potential mentor this year.

Darya Golovko improved the JOSM Plugin for Public Transport (pt_assistant) i.e. by validating the public transport routes against a set of criteria, identifying errors and suggesting how to fix them. Her work is described in more detail here. Darya was a great student and it was nice to have her at our annual international conference, State of the Map.

Kushan Joshi applied for adding a visual lane editor to our javascript-based editor iD. Although he was very diligent, he didn’t complete the project as was initially planned, for no less reason than that he fixed several bugs, added features and worked on various other elements to make our editor iD even greater. As we valued his work very much, he passed last year’s Google Summer of Code without a question and you can read a detailed description of his work on his personal blog. While he is continuing his study work, he’s still with our project and contributing code from time to time.

Last but not least there’s Zabot who continued the work on OSM2World, a well known 3D converter in OSM. Although it’s a hard task to get to know all this new technology with OpenGL and shaders he did an impressive work and added several new features to the rendering pipeline, so that you now have reflections on windows and water, colors and reflectance based on the time of day, ripples in water bodies, and multi-light rendering which allows you to have nice renderings at night with illumination coming from street lamps. Even though he didn’t stick with our project, his work is much appreciated and you can read more about it on his personal diary.

Reading all that you really should go out and have a look what you can do to help our project. We’re searching for you and your helping hand. And even without you being a student (in Google Summer of Code) we’ll greatly appreciate your help. Be it as a developer for a specific task or project idea or as a mapper to make our map even greater than it is already now.

Hope to see you soon.

OpenStreetMap Recap 2016

a new year’s firework display hidden in the OpenStreetMap tile viewing data

So yet another year has passed with so many new and exciting things. With a history of more than 12 years we have built a huge community with many success stories, large and small, and we want to share a brief recap of interesting things that happened this year.

The OpenStreetMap Foundation’s board did some small changes that seem to be well received by the community, mainly a significant increase in the board’s transparency; e.g. board meetings are now open to the public and all members are allowed to tune in and even participate in board meetings. Besides that, the Foundation is experimenting with an assistant who was hired to help with a bunch of administrative tasks to support the board and at times the Working Groups. And as mentioned in the manifestos of the two board members that stood for re-election in this year’s board elections, the current board are respectful to each other and are working together very well.

Speaking of the Foundation, there is a new Corporate Membership Program that has been introduced towards the end of 2016. It features different tiers, with fees from €500 per year up to €20,000 per year. The program officially starts in January 2017 and already great interest has been expressed in it with two imminent/upcoming/ gold memberships. Together with the first general successful donation drive that raised €70’000 we’re in good shape for the year 2017 to keep our financial Independence as a community project.

We also need to mention the forming of two new Local Chapters this year. In February the Italian Local Chapter got accepted as officially recognized, and only a few months later the Swiss Local Chapter followed. We’re very happy about the formation of Local Chapters, and we expect there are more to come soon: The German FOSSGIS e.V. is considering applying in 2017.

During the year we participated again in the Google Summer of Code, with six very interesting student projects which were worked on during summer. And if we get accepted, we’re sure to participate in 2017 again.

But not everything was good news this year. The German community -no, the global community- had a huge loss with the death of Malenki. He was known to many of us for his kindness, helpfulness, the many projects he worked on and his very active mapping history. RIP.

The Wochennotiz, the German version of the well known weeklyOSM, had an anniversary this year: It’s 300th issue. And as weeklyOSM is translated in different languages and is always seeking to extend its visibility, we might see new languages added in 2017. Right now the issues are released in 8 different languages.

The UK community has continued with actively pursuing its Quarterly Project to have a special mapping task that the community tries to collaboratively work on for three months. A story of success and perhaps a good example for other local communities for 2017?

With a new head of SotM Working Group and a great and active local team we had a great State of the Map. It was a lot of fun to see so many people from our community joining from all over the world. It was a great success, for the community and also financially. Besides the many great talks we had the OSM-Awards for the first time to honor volunteers in our community in different categories and we expect to see a repeat of these awards at another great State Of The Map conference in Japan in 2017.

But there was more than just our international SotM. There have been many local conferences, too, which allow a wider and local audience to participate. We’ve had a SotM Latam in São Paulo, Brazil, a SotM Asia in Philippines, the FOSSGIS-Conference in Salzburg, Austria, a SotM US in Seattle, Washington, a SotM Cz in Brně, a SotM FR in Clermont-Ferrand and a SotM JP in Tokyo.

Normally the work of our Licensing Working Group is not so publicly visible and this year has been tough as four of the seven members have had babies. So less volunteering time for LWG, but new blood for OSM! Anyway, there still have been two achievements that had a bit of a wider audience. After a long history of drafting, collecting feedback, updating, asking for further comments, updating again, the LWG finally managed to publish the new Collective Database Guideline which was approved by the OSMF board. In a similar matter, the LWG updated the Privacy Policy to fix some longstanding shortcomings of the old version. For example the policy now clearly states what gets logged and how that is used and a detail around how the sharing of data with respect to Gravatar profile pictures works.

Of course there are more Working Groups that do volunteer work. Only this year the new Membership Working Group was formed. This group are administering the membership database, answering to membership queries but is also tasked to increase the OSMF membership. Additionally, there is the Data Working Group and the Operations Working Group who are doing great and extensive work. However, you know those groups are doing good work, if you don’t hear too much of them 🙂 And last but not least there’s the Communications Working Group who are writing blog articles like this one for you.

We want to say a huge Thank you to everyone who participated in one of our Working Groups, in the Foundation or in our project in general. You’re the ones that make our project and our map so great and who made this year a story of success like the years before. Happy new year to everyone, keep up the good work and see you in 2017!

Board election results 2016

Last week we held our 2016 Annual General Meeting and foundation members have voted for Kate Chapman and Frederik Ramm to continue serving on the board. Congratulations to both of them!

Election time is always a great opportunity to get various ideas heard, so thanks to Darafei Praliaskouski and Guillaume Rischard for being nominees and hope to see your nominations again next year. You can read all the manifestos online. Special thanks also go to Dermot McNally for handling the polling.

As another mapping year comes to an end, you can read the chairperson’s report for 2016 from Kate Chapman and the treasurer’s report from Frederik Ramm.

Don’t forget that you can influence the direction of the project both by participating and by voting for the board. So, join the Foundation to take part in such elections!

Announcing the 10th State of the Map

Come 2017 it will have been 5 years since the international community gathered in Asia. Today we are delighted to announce that we will be back in Japan for the annual ‘State of the Map’ gathering:

State of the Map will be in Aizuwakamatsu, Japan.
Schedule will be 18th-20th August (with potential for events on 17th August).
Tickets will be on sale in spring 2017.

Tsuruga Castle (c) Sonotoki (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

We had some amazing bids this year and the working group has spent time reviewing these with the local groups – thank you for support. Aizuwakamatsu is a brilliant place for us to gather as a community next year. It is a city in the Fukushima Prefecture some 260 km (160 mi) north of Tokyo. With a long history and many attractions it will also make the perfect place for some sightseeing.

Stay tuned to this blog, and our twitter account @sotm, for more news and how you can participate in State of the Map 2017. It’s always exciting for contributors, consumers, developers, teachers, and everyone in-between to come together and share what’s happening in the OpenStreetMap project. We look forward to seeing you in Japan!

Recap of the OSMF F2F Meeting

Last weekend, the OSMF Board had our face-to-face (F2F) meeting in Amsterdam. I took a cheap flight on Friday and left early Monday morning to spend 2 full productive days in our meeting venue, to work together on stuff that hadn’t happened in our monthly Board meeetings. Preceding the event, we discussed if we should have an in person meeting at all, but we finally agreed to meet. This blog post should give you an overview of the weekend: how it was organized, what happened, what topics we discussed, how I felt about it, and  the more general outcome of the event. However, I’ll leave out most of the detailed results as we’re still working on and will be published soon, I don’t want to preempt that.

The OSMF Board, still happy after a hard day's work

The OSMF Board, still smiling after a hard day’s work


Of course an event like this has to be prepared in advance. This includes accommodation, meals and of course the topics that we wanted to talk about. Martijn was a great help for the first two points as he lived in Amsterdam until 2011. He found a great venue for us that also featured two bedrooms for accommodations. I was one of the lucky ones to get a room, so no extra work for me to find a place. The other Board members mostly took private housing offers nearby the venue; Frederik also stayed in one of the venue’s rooms. As for the meals, Martijn organized breakfast, lunch and dinner. While breakfast and lunch were arranged in a way to not waste any time and to get back to work quickly, we took a bit more time for our dinner and even met with the local OSM community on Saturday.

For planning of topics and arranging the event we worked with Allen Gunn, an experienced facilitator who works frequently with open source communities. For those who don’t know about facilitation, as I didn’t, it’s a person who helps to arrange events, leading sessions and trying to steer them to get things done. And in case of conflicts, responsible to settle things and move back to constructive work. As a first step, he wrote a mail to each of us asking questions on what we expected from the event, what topics we wanted to have on the agenda, what topics might lead to heated debates and things like that. Unfortunately all of that happened a bit late and we only got an agenda for our event on Friday morning, which at first not everyone was happy about. Sadly, Gunner couldn’t make it to the event himself, so we were on our own, guided by the agenda developed by him. I regret that a bit, as I was curious how facilitation would work, but on the other hand, we were able to work well on our own.


As I said above, I don’t want to preempt the results of the meeting, but I guess it’s ok to talk a bit about our agenda. We had a strict schedule, starting at 9:00 and closing at 17:00 on Saturday and Sunday. For example topics, we spent 90 minutes on committing to greater transparency, and about 45 minutes on on boarding the admin assistant. We also had less specific topics like “Comparing Perspective on ‘Leadership'” and “Building Organizational Vitality”.

And even though each topic on the agenda had some extra text explaining it, I was not always sure what to expect. I guess that’s also why other Board members noted in advance that they were not entirely happy with the agenda as is. But this was not a problem after all, as we could easily change the agenda where needed, and take more or less time for one or another topic. I’m not sure if we would have handled this as flexibly if we had in person facilitation.


I was uncertain what to expect from this event, and especially since it was expensive for some Board members flying from overseas. I was hesitant if we needed to meet in person at all. Though, several Board members with experience of F2F meetings were in favor, and as I had never attended an F2F meeting, I couldn’t really judge, so I abstained from that decision. Asked by Gunner, I explained that, and emphasize that I wanted to talk about transparency. I did hope that we could get on common ground there, but I also thought this would be a heated debate, with most other Board members holding a different opinions. I should probably state this now: I was utterly wrong, see below.

Further I was quite nervous and anxious that I would be able to follow the conversations in English and understand everything being said. However, this went pretty well. Even though my English is for sure not super expressive, I was able to contribute to each conversation, even though sometimes a bit haltering 😉 I followed most of what was said, and I could even mostly follow Paul, who was the hardest to understand. (As Paul put it, that’s because Kate and Mikel speak simple American English but he speaks the real thing, Canadian English. :))

Interestingly, another common theme shared with Gunner by Board members was a desire to get things done. They expressed that we didn’t get many things completed yet this year, but at the same time they thought that we had worked well together. So they focused their expectations on this: get things going, do some actual work or at least scope what’s possible, and what was beyond our reach. Also remember, much of OSMF work is actually done by working groups, and we don’t want to command but rather support them.


As noted above, our facilitator Gunner could not make the event, so we had to manage it ourselves. We had the agenda he compiled for us and we used that as our base for discussions. Still you need someone to channel an agenda and in the end, Mikel stepped up to help. He put a considerable amount of time to discuss the event up front with Gunner, and facilitated every single session. As he also wanted to participate himself, with his input and opinion, he had to do both, IMHO a quite difficult task but he did a great job with that for sure.

We started (and closed) quite a few sessions with a round of short statements from each Board member. Everyone would have one minute to explain what they expect from a topic, or how they feel about something. It gave us a quick overview where each participant stood, and thought about the topic. I found this very interesting, I didn’t expect that we shared so many many opinions. Many sessions involved a huge amount of post-its :-). For example, in the transparency session, we glued 4 big sheets on the window with headers “OSMF internal”, “WG internal”, “public readable”, “public writable”. Everyone had a stack of post-its, wrote a topic on each and stuck it to that sheet where it is currently handled (e.g. “meeting minutes” would be “public readable” or “individual donation details” would be “OSMF internal”). Then, we clustered the notes, as we individually had many ideas in common with each other. And after that we did a round-robin, where we each selected an item,and suggested to move it to someplace else. We discussed, and if approved, it got a sticker on it, so we could later record that it moved (e.g. someone takes “board meetings” from “OSMF internal”, moves it to “public readable” and puts a sticker on it) . There were some controversial topics and there were some surprisingly uncontroversial ones. By the end, many things had moved, and I’m especially happy with the outcome of that session.

Most sessions went this way, with a bit of variation. For example, for the session about a “diverse and global community” we had 3 big sheets “Working”, “What we want to change” and “Disagree”. We again collected ideas on post-its, stuck on the first two sheets and clustered them. Topics we didn’t agree on moved to the third column. Then, we voted on the highest priority topics. Everyone got three stickers and was allowed to select whatever they most valued. At the end, we had a few priority topics to work on further.

I still don’t know what to think about this way of working. I’ve never done something like this before. I didn’t think it was the best way of handling every topic, but I have no better ideas on how to deal with something like this. I do have to note, we got things done this way.

On Sunday, we worked a bit differently. We split up into smaller groups to work intensively on topics. One topic was corporate membership, where three of us collected member feedback, and built upon it. Simultaneously, we had a second session about an Open Source Policy which I attended. We got quite negative feedback from some of the community when we said we were evaluating GitHub for tracking our Board’s internal work, so we agreed to write an Open Source Policy as a guideline for software choices. This was one of the topics I’ve been keen on, too. We used an etherpad to collect a list of points, and developed an outline. I’m quite happy with the results and I hope we get this written out soon to share with you.

Outcome & Future

So what is the outcome of all this? It helped me to get to know the other Board members much better, and I hope and even expect that this will also help in the future. Don’t get me wrong, we have worked well together in the past, but now I know better how each of us think about different topics and I have a bit more idea of personal make up of the other Board members, like when something is a joke and when it’s not.

And I especially hope that we’ll be more productive after this meeting. We can let a Board member work on topics important to them, and have a better idea of the scope of our work. I want to see the things we decided become a reality. We have a large number of action items to work on for the next meetings, and I hope these will be finished in the near future.

Even though I’m enthusiastic about the F2F meeting and its results, it is still another question if it’s worth doing again. We spent a good amount of money to meet, and one might argue that we could have achieved the same result with an online meeting, or by discussing everything by email. I’m still not sure about what to think about that. We are going to assess the effectiveness later, when we can see if and how many of our decisions are actually put into action. I did talk to other Board members about this at dinner, and there are at least two good arguments I heard that might make the F2F meeting worth it. First, dedicating so much time to an online meeting as we did at the F2F is almost impossible. When at home I can’t tell my wife and kids to not enter the room, and I wouldn’t be able to take 8 hours off to talk and discuss. The F2F forces you to do so. You meet with six other people, and cognizant of the effort and cost to get there, you’re focused to make the best result. Second, if we do get a corporate membership plan that everyone is happy with, and just get one new gold member, our F2F meeting would be paid for. Still, I’m just repeating other’s arguments; ask me again in two months or so :).