Open Knowledge Movement : Personal Reflections

on rtnF

"What inspired you to start up OSM?"
"I was young and naive."

A big collaborative altruistic projects, gathering tons of random people on the Internet, selflessly sacrificing their precious resources (effort, time, energy, expertise, etc) in order to share free, accessible, quality knowledge for everyone. What could go wrong?

After analyzing tons of Internet drama spread out over OSM diary, changeset comments and Wikipedia talk page, i see several patterns around here.


First, the inevitable mob-mentality authoritarianism, hiding behind the loosely definition of "community consensus". Maybe, trying so hard to create a single, global, repository of "truth" is very naive and wrong since the start. Everyone is being forced to adhere to "a single definition of truth". Any second opinion is not allowed at all. Even if it's allowed, you must fight tooth and nail to express it. Then you realized that most of time and energy you've spent here is actually being allocated to fighting your peers instead of struggling to reach the noble goal we're trying to strive together : sharing knowledge.

The solution to fix this problem? Let just break up when it's clear that it's not worth it anymore. Worldwide global collaboration is not a panacea for everything. Just share your knowledge on your personal blog, then you don't have to deal with rampant vandalism, or gatekeepers from the higher up making nuisance. Everyone should be aware that their contributions on both Wiki and OSM, by definition, is fleeting and ephemeral. You can't patrol your contribution 24/7. Somebody could vandalize and remove your hard-work silently, and nobody probably wont notice at all.

"Then, if somebody breaks your data, that does not mean they are paid by some evil company specifically to disrupt your business. Chill. This is OSM, it is always broken. If you wanted to make a perfect geodata, you’d use qgis and shapefiles. Mappers here are volunteers who map for fun and dislike a corporate attitude like yours." - Random drama I found on OSM diary comment section.

I'm talking about balance over here. Sure, working alone with no quality assurance standard is bad. But, forcing everyone globally to work with a single definition of quality assurance is just as bad, especially when the definitions are rigged from the start. Both are extremes, both are bad.

We must strive to find the right balance. Not every collaboration has positive effect. Open editing means somebody's knowledgeable could join and help you, or random vandals could harass you. Being open is not necessarily good. It's actually a neutral term. Know when to open and know when to close.


Running this big, global project, is, inevitably, will cost money. At some point, we must face it and talk about it. But, everyone is getting so sensitive when "money" issue is being put forth. You name it, whether it's envy, greed and/or gluttony.

Go ask a random contributor. "Do you want to get paid while doing this volunteering work?" I bet some of them have hidden desire to get paid. I bet some of them envy those who "get paid" while doing this movement, either it's grant receiver, foundation members / contractors / employees, or paid editor. This sentiment is quite a recurrent issues we got from time to time. The inequality between who's getting paid and who's dont.

"However, the Foundation has started the public discussion of their plans to make changes by moving the whole matter on the commercial level (by commissioning a paid study on the subject). That means taking part in the discussion with the Foundation on the matter will inevitably involve engaging in discussion with people who have economic motives for representing their views. While i do not categorically reject doing that, we are in the field of diminishing returns here. Pro bono fighting an uphill battle against economic interests, defending my views not against arguments and reason but against people who have an economic interest not to change their view, is not a sustainable strategy in any way and is typically not in support of what i described above as what motivates me to write about this matter here." - Yet another random drama i found.

The solution? Just be honest. Money is not necessarily a very evil things that we should avoid at all cost. We should stop using "non-profit good, for-profit bad" mentality. People have been doing commerces since the dawn of the civilization, and they're not evil by doing it.


Open, global collaboration doesn't necessarily good. Non profit doesn't necessarily good. Especially when they're taken to extremes.

We need to restore the balance.

When you finally fed up with all this nonsense around here, take a break. You can still achieve your visions and ideals elsewhere. There are plenty of them.


"Removing duplicate bike paths, updating details of bike paths, and improving routing information is fun! The Sockburn roundabout and bridge is one of the most hostile places for bikes and pedestrians I have ever visited. In the process of surveying it with a fieldpaper map, I almost got hit a few times. To be fair, I was biking with one hand, the other was holding the map XD. I sent an email to the CCC asking if they were intending to improve it. Adding businesses in the Upper Riccarton chinatown area was great fun! It adds so much texture when you really get down to the fine details. Such an interesting place that I never hear people talk about. I really recommend Ramen Miyako, it slaps." - Random wholesome OSM diary that warms my heart.

It all starts from this simple things. The fun experience of "sharing knowledge to others". Remember this feeling. Remember this joy. Then you can start all over again.