Today we chat with long time OpenStreetMap contributor Richard Weait about the upcoming OpenStreetMap Foundation Board elections. 

1. Who are you and what do you do? What got you into OSM?

Maps have interested me since childhood. I’ve been using Free Software / Libre Software, Open Source Software (F/LOSS) and advocating it for many years. When I discovered the intersection of maps and F/LOSS, I was hooked. I don’t recall exactly what it was that made me aware of OpenStreetMap for the first time. It may have been an article on Slashdot. That was in 2006.

Since then I’ve been mapping my neighbourhood and spreading the word about OpenStreetMap. I hosted the first mapping parties in North America, and have spoken at events to raise awareness of OpenStreetMap. I’ve written some tutorials and articles about OpenStreetMap.

2. What is the OSMF, why (and how) should people join, what does the board do?

The OSMF is the OpenStreetMap Foundation, the international not-for-profit, company that supports the OpenStreetMap project. The Foundation owns the key servers, and things like OpenStreetMap trade marks. It can be helpful for a project like OpenStreetMap to have a foundation hold these resources as a way to increase project stability over time.

Individuals may join the OpenStreetMap Foundation as a way of showing their support of and interest in the OpenStreetMap project. Their membership fees help defray the expenses of the Foundation. Of course a company is nothing without people. The membership elect a Board of Directors to represent the membership and guide the Foundation in their support of the OpenStreetMap project.

While the OpenStreetMap Foundation Board take a general oversight role, the Foundation also operate Working Groups that take a more-active role in supporting OpenStreetMap. Separate Working Groups address matters such as server maintenance, legal matters, conference planning, communications, and disputes. Like board members, Working Group members are volunteers.

To sum up, the OpenStreetMap Foundation removes barriers to participating in and improving the OpenStreetMap project.

3. What’s the relationship between country orgs and the OSMF?

There is a plan to create formal agreement of the relationship between local chapters and the OpenStreetMap Foundation. So far as I know, there is no formal relationship at this time.

I’m generally not a fan of local chapters. I see a risk of needless duplication of effort for little benefit to the greater OpenStreetMap project. In the best case, a local chapter may divert volunteers who could serve the larger community by volunteering for the Foundation instead.

I am a fan of local groups of OpenStreetMap enthusiasts. Local mappers who can meet regularly can serve as an in-person help desk for those curious about OpenStreetMap. Those groups are ubiquitous in Germany and I’d like to see them get traction in more North American cities and towns.

4. Why should someone run for the board?

A person should present themselves as a candidate for the Board if they are passionate about improving OpenStreetMap on behalf of the wider OpenStreetMap community.

They should be able to work with others, to improve OpenStreetMap, in a collective, institutional way. They should understand the basics of the most important aspects of OpenStreetMap, and bring important skills, perspectives and abilities to the board.

5. Any final thoughts on the board and the election process?

Join the OpenStreetMap Foundation to show your support and participate in the election to the board. Hey make a nice donation to the Foundation as well.

Put yourself forward as a candidate for the Board.

The election to the Board will use STV, a form of ranked ballot, this year. I’m looking forward to learning more about that as I haven’t run into ranked ballots before.

There may be some in the OpenStreetMap community who wish to serve the broader OpenStreetMap community but who are concerned about not having enough time to serve as a board member. Others might not relish the idea of having to stand for election and being rejected. I think that committee work, through the OpenStreetMap Foundation Working Groups, would be of interest to those people.

6. Our standard question: OSM recently celebrated it’s 10th birthday, where do you think the project will be in 10 year’s time?

I’ve hosted local celebrations for the OpenStreetMap birthday for several years. I hope that in ten years I’ll have extended that streak.

Where will the project be? It will be the best I can make it. It will be the best we all can make it.

Thanks Richard, for you answers and all our work on OpenStreetMap over the years. For those who want to learn more about Richard and his projects around OSM, check out his personal site. And many thanks to everyone who has donated their time and efforts to the OSMF over the years. Hopefully we’ll have some great candidates to chose from for the election

You can see all the Open Geo interviews here. If you are or know of someone we should interview, please get in touch, we’re always looking to promote people doing interesting things with open geo data.