[Tagging] Tagging Governance

Jez Nicholson jez.nicholson at gmail.com
Tue Sep 10 08:21:34 UTC 2019

Hi Roland,

I guess this is for your upcoming SotM session "New processes to agree on
tagging suggestions and their interaction with the editing software
available on openstreetmap.org"

If I were tackling this as a consultancy project I might map out the
current processes, highlight good and bad points, then identify places
where the process could be improved.

I looked recently at how UK shop names/types defaults get into iD and how
the UK community can influence it. This led me to the (pleasant) discovery
of a) the Name Suggestion Index (NSI)
https://osmlab.github.io/name-suggestion-index/index.html b) the OSMUS
Slack channel, c) the
https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Retail_chains_in_the_United_Kingdom wiki

Good points were: the vocabulary is editable by anyone capable of using
JSON and github; the NSI is used by multiple apps (e.g. Vespucci and iD);
the iD Developers are open to discussion; individuals updating the NSI with
UK shops looked at the osmwiki 'UK retail chains' page.

Bad points were: not everyone can/wants to use github; the NSI may be
receiving too many trivial additions; there is a great will to advance.
Sometimes this means that arbitrary choices are made; the osmwiki page is
edited by a small number of people.

To improve this process we might: run an OSMUK Quarterly Project to collect
and publish current photos of shopfronts (as proof of the brand name used);
ask app developers to include new features that collect metadata; get
grants from OSMF to pay developers to add these new features; insist that
the NSI site evidence for additions; document and publicise the process;

However, you could argue that evolution of the process is not strong enough
and that revolutionary change is needed.

See you at your session.


On Tue, Sep 10, 2019 at 5:57 AM Roland Olbricht <roland.olbricht at gmx.de>

> Hi all,
> I have got into the duty to talk about tagging governance on the SotM
> and I would like to develop that opportunity towards something that is
> rather helpful in the long term.
> To ensure that I am on the right track and not unintentionally after a
> personal agenda I would like to ask you to comment on the findings so
> far listed below.
> This is a copy of the message to talk at . As a courtesy to your fellow
> mappers I suggest to keep the discussion in one thread and reply there.
> Imperfect Flow of Information
> Although many parts of the OpenStreetMap project are well translated,
> the tagging documentation has substantial deficiencies.
> Over a random sample of 10 tags the number of declared languages varies
> between 2 and 18,
> but only few are complete and up to date (sample: 2 of 10 for German, 3
> of 10 for French).
> Another kind of imperfect information flow is that tag definitions can
> be changed on the wiki page long after the tag is in widespread use.
> The converse case that a tag is introduced without any documentation is
> also happening. While this happens by ordinary users usually slow enough
> to make sense of the added data, an import or organized edit might be
> able to substantially skew the de facto meaning of a tag, regardless
> whether it is in widespread use, documented, both, or none.
> More Structure needed
> The translation issues have been conflated with a different problem:
> Different features may look very different between regions. E.g.
> highway=primary and highway=unclassfied versus highway=track
> need different sets of examples in Germany and the urban US on the one
> hand and Iceland or rural Africa on the other. It is easy to mix this
> with the translation into the predominant language in the area,
> but the tagging challenges in Belgium, Canada, and Niger are
> substantially different, although all three countries happen to have
> French as official language. Conversely, there is no sane reason to
> change tagging rules every block of houses in Brussels.
> Additionally, people often have different search terms than the British
> English tag names or their translations, and the wiki search engine is
> infamous for its bad performance. Having explicit keywords to direct the
> attention of a mapper to the list of possibly fitting tags might help.
> A substantial problem source of the concept of proposals is
> that it interacts with lots of tags in a nontrivial way and is
> practically never properly applied to all affected tag definitions.
> A proposal currently is an extra page although it should have much more
> an impact like a Git commit, grouping changes across various tag
> definition pages in a single changeset.
> Legitimacy and Governance
> What legitimation has a process if only a handful of people have that
> have the time to write mails on a mailing list and to write wiki pages
> are involved? In particular, if the proposals end up as being full of
> contradictions or vague terms and leave necessary answers undefined.
> Yet these still are the people that have shown the necessary long-term
> endurance to assure maintenance and that do the work. Thus every change
> to replace processes with better processes must be geared towards
> broadening not narrowing the base of long-term maintainers.
> Conversely, I fully understand mappers that are wary of sudden changes
> in the rendering or the access to tags in edting software. A lot of
> people whould probably appreciate to better understand what happens on
> the way
> from a tag discussion to a final change in the renderer or editing
> software.
> These processes are not secret, but often under-documented.
> Again, the various discussion channels and the lacking information flow
> contribute to the bad mood. Even worse, the ratio between people and
> channels means that evil or just plainly incompetent people could easily
> take over some channels and contribute substantially to the confusion.
> Good ideas how to redirect people and close down some of the channels
> (e.g. wiki discussion pages) might be worth pursuing. On top of that the
> wiki history is so much less helpful than what developers are nowadays
> used to from version control systems that borrowing methaphors and
> paradigms from there to the tag documentation is worth consideration.
> This hopefully helps to foster that the authors of the documentation and
> the mappers using a tag actually agree on its meaning.
> Best regards,
> Roland
> _______________________________________________
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