[Tagging] How to overcome lack of consensus

Matthijs Melissen info at matthijsmelissen.nl
Mon Sep 16 14:41:44 UTC 2013

Dear all,

There are some OpenStreetMap features for which there is no consensus on
how to tag them. It does not seem like consensus will arise soon. The lack
of consensus does cause problems for the Openstreetmap community, though.
Therefore, it would be good to have ideas or procedures on how to create

There are currently quite a lot of OpenStreetMap features for which there
is no consensus on how to tag them. Some examples (but I'm sure there are
many more):
- What is the difference between highway=footway and highway=path?
- What is the right scheme for tagging public transport?
- Is an unsurfaced residential road a track?
- Should we use shop=betting or shop=bookmaker?
- Should we use shop=fishmonger or shop=seafood?
- Should we use office=estate_agent or shop=estate_agent?
- Should we use shop=tailor or craft=tailor?

The lack of consensus becomes clear by the fact that there are
discrepancies between documentation on the wiki, the outcome of a voting,
actual use (as documented on Taginfo, for example), and what editors and
renderers support.

The lack of consensus creates several problems. These problems include the
- Multiple parallel tagging schemes and unclear documentation creates
confusion for newcomers.
- Users are often advised not to follow the documentation on the wiki, and
to look at Taginfo instead. This makes the wiki useless. It also leads to
the fact that hardly anybody bothers to edit the wiki anymore.
- If mappers should follow current use of tags, then it becomes very hard
to introduce new tagging schemes, such as the office= and craft= keys.
- Multiple tagging schemes creates problems for the implementation of data
users (renderers, routers).

It does not look like consensus on these issues will form naturally, as
there many of them exist for multiple years, and I hardly see any
initiative to do something about them. Most users seem to accept that there
are controversies, instead of trying to come to a solution. I think there
is nothing wrong with a temporary period in which two tagging schemes are
used in parallel, but permanent lack of consensus creates problems for the

Rather than trying to solve the individual cases where there is a lack of
consensus, I think we should first try to agree on a procedure on how to
solve these issues. For example, we might try to answer the following
- What should be the process to create consensus?
- Should we recommend (new) users to follow the wiki, actual usage
(Taginfo), or the votings?
- Should we recommend data users and editors to follow the wiki, actual
usage (Taginfo), or the votings?
- Should the wiki be adapted to actual usage (Taginfo) and/or to votings?
- Should we allow automatic edits in simple cases (such as bookmaker versus
betting), or leave the process of standardisation to local communities?

I would like to thank anyone responding in advance for his/her feedback.

Best regards,
Matthijs Melissen
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