[Tagging] The value of the list (was Observations of the use of the diet: tag)

Martin Koppenhoefer dieterdreist at gmail.com
Wed Jul 3 12:35:38 UTC 2013

2013/7/3 Serge Wroclawski <emacsen at gmail.com>
> OSM data is a key/value store. What people decide to put in those
> key/value pairs is up to them.

yes, up to the point that they are using duplicate values for well
established keys. As we can only put one value for a key, the well
established one should be used when it comes to tagging something for what
there is already a convention.

> What I've found, over years of participating, is that:
> 1. This list is a small subset of OSMers. It doesn't represent many of
> the supermappers, and it doesn't include editor authors or renderer
> people either.
> In other words, it's a small, self-selected group of people who are
> spending a lot of time talking, or arguing, in an echo chamber.

every one is invited to take part in tagging discussions. If you decide not
to do so, you shouldn't complain afterwards that your ideas aren't

> 2. This list's idea of "good tags" differs from the OSM community at large.

don't agree.

Most OSMers dislike complex schemes, and will avoid relations when
> they can. But relations are quite common here.

actually my experience is that relations aren't very common here. Most
mappers have understood that something that can be expressed without a
relation should be done so.

> The same goes for colon
> tags, which are heavily proposed (such as in the "diet" proposal) but
> not often used by the public except in very limited circumstances
> (addr).

colon tags have the advantage of creating kind of a namespace that helps
distinguishing and avoiding misinterpretations and the disadvantage that
you have to type more text (not a real problem with autocompletion, but
yes, it is a disadvantage).

> 3. This list often ignores usage
> If two proposals are up for discussion, there seems to be little or no
> weight placed on existing usage vs this list's idea of "correctness".

Personally I don't share this observation (I think usage numbers play a
role in the discussions here), but you'll also have to see "usage" numbers
in the context of how many of these features potentially exist in the real
world, and how many are already mapped. If there a 2 tags for the exact
same thing and one is used 10000 times, the other 23 times, it seems clear
(as long as there aren't serious problems with these 10000 tags), but when
one tag is used 120 times and the other 40 times (for a feature that occurs
"often") it is a good idea to look at the semantics and implications of
both ways of doing it, without giving too much importance to the actual
(small) use numbers. Another problem with usage numbers is, that one single
import can distort heavily the statistics, so looking at how many different
people have used a tag also makes sense.

> There is value in having a place to discuss issues of a tagging
> question, or problem, but I fear that this list isn't it.

do you know a good alternative? In my experience tags are often developed
on a national level (on national mailing lists) and when there is some
agreement the proposal will be pushed to [tagging] to get comments from the
international community.

> If people on this list wanted to do more community work that wasn't
> mapping, there would be tremendous value in going in to the wiki,
> finding the tags that are in use but not documented well, and
> expanding, or translating those pages.

how could they do the expansion? How would they know what definition a
mapper had in mind when using a specific tag that is not or not
sufficiently documented? How could they even know what is a sufficient
definition? OK for translations, but unilateral amendments?

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