Advisory Board/Minutes/2020-05-25

From OpenStreetMap Foundation

OSMF Board and Corporate Members of Advisory Board meeting

Please note that this meeting was between Board members and representatives of Corporate Members on the Advisory Board (not Local Chapter representatives).

  • Monday, 25 May 2020, at 17:00 London time
  • Some points have been slightly reordered.

Topic: Framework for the Foundation's hiring practices

Background - Related resources


Board members

  • Allan Mustard (chairing)
  • Rory McCann
  • Tobias Knerr
  • Guillaume Rischard

Advisory Board Corporate Members

  • Esri - Andrew Turner (intermittent connection problems)
  • Facebook - Marc Prioleau (Drishtie Patel on parental leave)
  • Grab - Vinay Jayanthi
  • GraphHopper - Peter Karich
  • Mapbox - Tom Lee

Not present

  • Bing/Microsoft - Harsh Govind
  • Joost Schouppe
  • Mikel Maron
  • Paul Norman

Introduction by board

  • Looking at going beyond the "100% volunteer" model.
  • Having only 2 sysadmins operating a network of 90-100 servers

Aim: Looking for advice from AB on how we should augment doocracy with paid staff.

Also mentioned: Proposal for governance structure regarding iD controversial issues.

Potential hiring positions

  • Sysadmins to help our two sysadmins (# 2 Covid-19 cases away from having no sysadmins).
  • Software developer to help Andy Allan to overhaul API and then the website.
  • CTO to provide vision of what the OSM infrastructure will look in 3-5 years.

No intention to hire for mapping.

Hiring options

  • OSMF directly hiring people.
  • Contracting private sector (will relieve the board of the burden of having to hire a professional manager).
  • People in community instead of donating money will provide labour/employees.

Pros and cons in all approaches.

Questions to AB Corporate Members

  • What should be looking at?
  • What are the pros and cons?

Help and advice needed on:

  • How to spell out our expectations in a contract.
  • What our standards are.
  • What the metrics are for achieving those standards.



  • OSM has the perspective of being a premier map database in the world.
  • Questions for OSMF:
    • What is the vision of what you want OSM to be?
    • Do you want a robust infrastructure? How to support that?
  • Good management of employees required.
  • Hard to support the infrastructure on a volunteer basis.
  • Recognised concern of take over.
  • A lot of people in this project understand managing things at scale, that OSMF could tap into.
    • Most don't want to put up with the reaction on the talk forums if we were to volunteer for that.


  • Clear goal.
  • Roadmap 3-5 years.

Hiring considerations

  • What's in for employees, career path.
  • Good management.
  • Framework to assess quality of contractors / metrics.

Risks of having an external agency

  • Potential for lock-in/erosion of knowledge: OSMF does not build knowledge on its own.
  • Decoupling could lead to wrong decisions.
  • Contributors who want to work for OSM, would have to apply to external company.


  • OSMF is probably not in a position to hire out with the kind of necessary overlap to cover a full schedule, vacations.
  • Infrastructure requirements not too exotic.
  • In favour of contracting an external firm.

On suggestion of contributions from each company

What if we ask each of the companies to contribute something? (e.g. a part-time sysadmin).


  • Depends on board's comfort level if they want to maintain a certain level of oversight.
  • The bigger the group, the more complex it is.
  • Facebook would be willing to put resources.


  • Define technical leadership (CTO equivalent) who the board designates and has the trust of the community and sole decision making power of roadmap, technologies, etc.

On how to have sustainable long-term revenue for hired people

How to have sustainable long-term revenue for hired people? What kind of structure we could build to have this?


  • There's great willingness to support the project if companies asked and they know what they're supporting (mention of SotM incident, where a person from a company was quoted saying "why don't they ask us for 0.5 million? We'd give them").
  • Belief in open data.


  • There is willingness.
  • Necessary to know the plan/roadmap?


  • Adding redundancy to the current infrastructure should be considered an absolute priority and is a non-political decision.
  • On software development: governance question.

On process

Do we need to look at this as a two stage process that initially OSMF asks the companies to provide us with somebody (partial or full time) and as time goes by, we start looking at another model of either contracting it out or doing direct hiring?


  • Could ask various companies to contribute a couple of people and put together a plan in the next couple months


  • Easier for Mapbox to find financial resources to contribute toward contracting (# onboarding cost/availability/transition plan).
  • Hiring external firm makes sense if you want a single point of contact if things go wrong.

Other thoughts by board members

  • The money to be made is outside the Foundation, giving us the luxury of remaining relatively small.
  • We need someone to make a 3-5 year plan for infrastructure needs.

On Wikimedia

  • Considered as an example of organisation with little volunteer activity left.
  • Paid staff add/edit and curate articles.
  • We don't really put out a final product (as Wikimedia does), but a database and that has allowed a commercial ecosystem to build up around it.

Hiring and community

  • Community is opposed to the idea of becoming like Wikimedia.
  • Some people in OSM community opposed to hiring - the scale is important.
  • There is not consensus across the community on what the board should do.
  • If we make no decision, we place at risk the whole project.
  • Red line at hiring for mapping - but wouldn't address community concerns and it's a low threshold.

On attribution

Guillaume mentioned that he has been busy and will follow up.

Other thoughts by AB Corporate Members


  • Source of acrimony: Using a community to build a map or using a map to build a community?
    • Allan: the ultimate objective is to create a map of the world that anybody can use and to make it as high quality as possible. The community is the most important tool for creating that map. The board needs to communicate that.
  • For maps to be useful the level of details and the frequency of update is going up.
  • Demands on what maps do are much different now than they were 10 years ago - that doesn't negate local mapping.


  • The demand side for the data is probably the least of our worries.
  • Fundamental engineering challenge: maintaining the system's availability for mapping and scaling.

On whether a decision will be made at the meeting

  • In general the advisory board members only provide advice, they do not make decisions.
  • AB members were involved in the creation of the OSM welcome mat.

Timeline indicated by board

  • Near future: hire sysadmins.
  • Medium term: look at a model for institutionalising hiring.
  • Longer term: structure for hardware and software governance

Next step

  • Board will discuss and come up with a plan.

On frequency of video meetings

Discussion about having recurring meetings, every 1-2 months.

Next meeting

  • End of June.
  • Topic: attribution.