Florence in Spring 2022
Florence in Spring 2022

State of the Map 2022


In about a week the OSMFs State of the Map conference is going to start and to avoid anyone looking for me in vain there (i have been at the last four State of the Map conferences – the last two of which were virtual events) – i am not going to be there this year.

This has multiple reasons, one of the most relevant being that this year’s event is – more than in any of the last four years – an event quite ostentatiously targeted at wealthy people and people whose visit is paid for by a third party. It is perfectly fine to have such an event, and i wish everyone at the conference an enjoyable and successful time, but this makes it much less attractive for me to visit.

With the strong limitations of the last two years to meet in larger groups, i would this year have liked to meet in person with various people involved in OpenStreetMap whom i could not meet in the past years, including quite a few who are likely going to be in Florence despite the fairly steep costs of a visit there during the height of holiday season with hotel and travel prices at their peak. But to be frank – what i enjoyed most in previous years was in particular meeting and talking to economically more marginalized people.

I played a bit with the idea of visiting Florence but not going to the commercialized conference and instead just meeting with people outside the organized event and visiting and getting to know the city otherwise. But as said there were other reasons speaking against it and also, while i could have afforded a visit to Florence in August, that is not equally the case for many other people active in OpenStreetMap. And choosing Florence in August as the place and time where people from the OSM community have the chance to meet me in person would also have made a statement as to whom i am mostly interested in meeting, even when done detached from the SotM conference.

In past years i repeatedly have criticized that affordability of the visit is not a criterion in the planning of the conference, not even on paper, and neither for picking the place nor for picking the date of the conference. This fact is of course perfectly in line with the OSMFs diversity statement – which disallows discrimination by almost anything, but quite explicitly not by wealth.

Anyway – for those in the OSM community who would like to meet me in person – i plan to be at the Karlsruhe Hack Weekend in September, after also having been absent there for the past two years. Despite the limited number of participants allowed, there is still room for people to come there, Karlsruhe is just a two hour train ride from Frankfurt Airport and there is a good selection of decent and affordable places to stay in Karlsruhe.

I also generally look with interest at the announcements of any other events in the OSM community that have been planned with the visible intend and desire to be affordable and accessible also for less wealthy people and being truly welcoming for a diverse audience in the original sense of the word. For the past two years the options to visit such events have been rather limited, but i hope this will get better in the future again.

Florence in Spring 2022

Florence in Spring 2022


  1. Check out these things we’re doing for remote participants:

    • I have commented on the chances of open remote conferences (that means formats where there is no barrier for participation except internet access and where every participant no matter where participates on equal level) in several posts. Unfortunately there seems to be a heavy dislike of the idea in the OSMF and after a very promising start in 2020 with a truly open, egalitarian and bottom-up managed format things moved to a more strictly top-down managed format and a gated community in 2021 and now have further been downgraded with a paywall and making it an subordinate add-on to a primarily physical conference. That is sad, but it was foreseeable already last year.

      I respect the effort to maintain some level of online accessibility by you and others but the bottom line is an online conference as a truly accessible and inclusive format can only work if it is truly open and online first. How this can be combined with smaller distributed physical local meetings in different parts of the world i have already sketched.

      And the paywall idea is really indefensible. I can only speculate what the (conscious and subconscious) motives for introducing this are and all of them seem ugly to me.

      • Calling the remote participation fee a paywall is just… I don’t know, would you download a car?

        The channel will be made public after the conference. The “live” part is like being at the conference vs telling people about it afterwards. Being at a big conference usually has some entrance limitations, be it a plane ticket or a small entry fee.

        The intro bot is just a part of the conference, made so that actual attendees (and online participants) could know each other. Making it public destroys the whole idea: if anybody could click the button, why even link it to SotM?

        SotM is a bit differrent to other conferences in your context. It’s made by people you know, and who know you. Devaluing our work is not the best way to proceed. I saw some points to improve, and I took a step. Maybe do the same next year? There are no barriers, just say “I want to help”, and everything’s open for you.

        • Thanks for the additional comment.

          I used the term paywall in analogy to the use of the term for online newspapers with a payment barrier for reading content. And i distinguish it from the ‘gated community’ scheme that was used in SotM 2021 (with the formal registration barrier but no financial barrier). But i used it based on the assumption that also the streams would be available to paying visitors only. Since that is not the case apparently (see comment by mmd) it is indeed not fitting (and as said i am positively surprised by this). So passive remote participation is open and only active participation is behind the payment barrier. I still think this is a very bad idea. But the term paywall does not fit then.

          I reject the implied claim that my critical comments and explanation of my reasons for not visiting SotM this year devalue anyone’s work. On the contrary, by explaining some of my thoughts and considerations for not being there (instead of just ghosting the conference) i mean to express respect for those who put effort into making it work. If i had said this looks like a great conference where everyone is welcome but sadly i could not come this year that would have been dishonest and therefore disrespectful – no matter how polite it might have been (and yes, i am aware that different cultures will view this differently – this is how i view it).

          > There are no barriers, just say “I want to help”, and everything’s open for you.

          You seem to be unaware of my history of offering help to SotM. Given how much animosity and opposition you have received in the past from old-timers in the OSMF for your attempts to improve things on various fronts i am frankly surprised by the claim that there are no barriers in trying to help and improve things in SotM. I am glad you have this positive experience there but have to say that my experience was very different.

          • Yes, I’m unaware, sorry. I’d like to think people have changed from that time, or that I’m not very demanding, but I can see how it can go sideways.

            The payment barrier serves a very specific purpose at conferences. The same one as for therapeuts: engagement. When you pay money, however small, you engage. You are more likely to attend, or just to browse things online. For free conferences I’ve got ~30-40% attendance, and planning was hard. Paid conferences are more predictable. And when you plan for hundreds of attendees, predictability is important.

            For the online part it’s the same. I cannot expect people who just need to click one button to engage with anything I plan to do. They might click — and they might not, both options are equally tempting. Even I do not have any incentive to do better if it’s all laid back and free. Commitment arises from money (among other things). When you’ve paid even 1€, you’re inclined to at least read the Telegram channel.

            Watching talks online requires tons of time and commitment. That’s why I had a hard time distributing free vouchers for the online participation. I’d say, live streams are the lease useful part of the conference: you get the picture, but you don’t get the collective experience of listening. It’s boring. In 2020 and 2021 I had to entertain myself by simultaneously watching and participating in three different communication channels. Watching talks later on youtube is better at least because you can increase speed, or skip the boring bits.

            So, as I said in the diary post, the best part of a conference is people, networking. And to make people to commit to communicating, an entrance fee is a good incentive, among others.

          • My blog post was consciously not about online conferences so this is kind of a side topic – but i don’t mind discussing this a bit further here.

            When you add a barrier (like registration, payment or otherwise) to some online service – or likewise if you don’t and have completely open access, you change incentives and filter people. That is obvious with the payment filtering out people who are too cheap or not able to pay that. But it also applies the other way round – something that costs money can be perceived to be of more value and therefore appear more attractive than something free. And exclusivity itself can also be highly attractive. I have literally heard people who have visited an expensive music concert say that they felt good there because they knew that everyone else there – just like them – paid at least a hundred Euros to be there. What you describe – the impression that people are more engaged in an online venue where there is a substantial barrier of entry is only partially due to the barrier creating engagement. It is usually at least as much because you have – through the barrier – filtered out a large fraction of the people who are naturally less engaged. In other words: It is a perception bias.

            The question is what your goals are: If you want, as the organizer of an event, to have a predictable number of people who are predictably highly engaged and don’t care who these people are as long as they are engaged then yes, a barrier is the way to go, and preferably an adjustable barrier, which practically means a fee.

            But if you want to give a highly diverse group of people like the global OSM community an egalitarian opportunity to participate on any level of engagement they feel up to then a substantial barrier is a very bad idea.

            Personally i would – as a potential participant – always feel much better with the second approach and with the first approach i would frankly always feel like being instrumentalized, a number in a plan that can – if needed – be easily substituted by someone else.

            I agree with the assessment that (non-interactive) real time talks are not really a very useful format for an online conference and having pre-recorded talks sent in real time borders to absurd. I already suggested a better way to do that back in 2020.

        • > small entry fee.

          The fee required is not small for many people, and there is no visible way to bypass it for people poor enough to be blocked by it.

  2. might be a good choice if you don’t want to ask questions and interact with other attendees on the conference platform. It’s free of charge as far as I can tell.

    I have to agree, 2020 was a great format and fun to watch and participate in.

  3. I wrote to (maybe there is a better target?):

    Please, consider affordability in selecting SOTM location and codify it

    Is it still possible to amend
    ? And add mention that affordability would be considered as one of

    For example point could be

    “How accessible it is to potential participants? Is
    it affordable to travel and stay there? Is it a LGBT friendly space? Is
    it dangerous or restricted to some ethnicity, religion, nationality or
    other such group?”

    Currently LGBT friendly factor is mentioned while affordability to
    people in general is not mentioned at all.

    Affordability should not override all other factors but is one of the
    most critical factors. And right now it is not even mentioned.

    — Mateusz Konieczny

    • I appreciate the effort – but the SotM working group has been aware of this critique at least since 2019 (see so it was quite clearly a conscious choice not to change that.

      Regarding the question if one criterion for selecting a place and time for SotM should override another – this is touching a key question of ethics – if you can weigh the well-being of one individual or group against another. In the utilitarian school of thought (which is in particular popular in the US) you can. In most deontological traditions (popular in Europe) you cannot (because doing so would instrumentalize people as a means instead of regarding them as an end).

      If you take a utilitarian approach a strong argument could be made that being affordable is a more important criterion because it benefits directly a much larger number of people (non-wealthy people are almost always a majority in societies) than being friendly towards minorities. Being more leaning towards a deontological perspective myself i would not think this kind of calculation is ethically sound but there are many people who would.

  4. I am also in favour of a free online participation.
    Without talking about the amount, don’t forget that having a credit card or a PayPal account is far from being obvious for most of the (young) contributors in developing countries! This is a barrier.

    Alex from SOTM Africa fundraising committee

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