OSMF Communication Guidelines

From OpenStreetMap Foundation

This page outlines guidelines for communication when promoting OpenStreetMap or reporting on OpenStreetMap news.

This is not a policy covering communication discussion/debates and dispute resolution on community contact channels. (See community code of conduct for that)

It mainly covers official OSMF communications channels where we (or those with access) promote or "represent" OpenStreetMap or the OSMF. The document was developed by the Communication Working Group who manage these channels. However it does cover any other communication (even on community contact channels) where it may be regarded as official. The policy aims to encourage people to communicate to further the aims of OpenStreetMap, and OSMF. Communication through official channels should always represent these organisations positively and responsibly.

Avoid, consult then communicate, or just communicate

  • For highly controversial/risqué/questionable communication, avoid altogether.
  • For topics which are somewhat questionable, consult with CWG (communication [at] osmfoundation.org) and hold a discussion before posting.
  • For topics which are mildly questionable, seek feedback from CWG and post after an appropriate period if no feedback is received.
  • For all other communication, go ahead and post. Do it often.

Most communication is expected to fall into the latter category, and this policy should not discourage or get in the way of this majority of communication activity.

Personal vs official channels

Above we outline a sliding scale of consulting with CWG to a greater or lesser extent. Alternatively for controversial/risqué/questionable communication, you might decide to post this on your own blog (or your own personal communication channels) however...

Individuals who might be assumed to be representing the OpenStreetMap or OSMF (this goes particularly for board members, less so for other working groups, but to some extent for everyone involved in OpenStreetMap) are expected to communicate certain topics with care (or avoid them!). This is even when using their own personal channels. It may be appropriate to clearly label a communication as your own personal opinion, especially when the topic is particularly controversial.

This also applies to mailing list posts. Although a mailing list is interpreted as a discussion medium for opinions, a post from a 'senior' member of the organisation can still be taken as a statement from the organisation, unless labelled otherwise.

Questionable topics?

Deciding on a what is questionable requires judgement, but there are things to watch out for. (IMPORTANT NOTE: This is not a blanket ban on these topics. It's things to watch out for)

  • Material which is unlawful, defamatory, libelous, slanderous, pornographic, obscene, abusive, profane, vulgar, sexually explicit, threatening, harassing, harmful, hateful, racially or ethnically offensive.
    • Any other such types of material which your common sense tells you is questionable!
    • Anything which might not be in line with our community's ethics
    • Promoting uses of OSM or other projects initiatives which are ethically questionable
  • Promoting uses of OSM where the license has not been complied with.
    • Commonly the problem is no credit is given, but there are more subtle license issues.
  • ...or other guidelines/usage polices (grouped under Acceptable Use Policy) have not been followed properly. Or anything else which is regarded as 'bad behaviour'
  • Promoting uses of OSM or other products/services/organisations (i.e. giving or implying an endorsement) in a way which might be seen as undue/unfair. Particularly...
    • Mentioning a specific company/product. Linking a list of alternatives might be better.
    • Where there is a conflict of interest e.g. unduly promoting a company for whom you or your family work.
  • Negative comments directed at "the competition"
    • Bad mouthing and negativity where a more positive tone could be used
    • Criticising or making accusations which could cause legal issues.
      • e.g. accusations of copying
    • Using positive language which could cause legal issues.
      • e.g. implying that we accept an act of copying

Voice and tone of communication

Similar to judging whether topics are questionable, we must also judge whether we are using the right tone within our communications. This can be highly subjective, and may just come down to how talented you are at writing. For example blog posts should often be cheerful and positive but without descending to clownlike silliness, on the other hand a completely serious tone can often be more appropriate, depending on the topic. Most of the time we are seeking to market and promote OpenStreetMap, and give the right balance of fun and professionalism to the voice of the OSMF.

As with tackling questionable topics, if you are unsure about the voice and tone of a communication, the CWG can be asked to hold a discussion, or perhaps just prompted for limited period feedback.

Communications Channels:

We have a number of channels which are to be used with particular care (with regards to questionable topics), since they represent the official voice of the OSMF. These are channels which the communications working group are primarily concerned with/supervising/controlling.

OSMF Blog: http://blog.openstreetmap.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/OpenStreetMap
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/OpenStreetMap
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+openstreetmap

Note however that there are many other communication channels which are semi-official e.g. twitter accounts of local groups, where outsiders may still regard them as official. Care over questionable topics and getting the tone right, may still be important but to a lesser extent. Further down that scale are personal channels blogs/twitter. But care may still be needed particularly by 'senior' individuals as described above ('personal vs official channels')