[Tagging] Fuzzy areas again: should we have them or not?

Anders Torger anders at torger.se
Mon Dec 21 09:20:00 UTC 2020

Next question.

In the mountains we have an number of named plateaus. There is a tag 
proposal for natural=plateau, but just like with natural=peninsula and 
similar tags there is an underlying question that we really need an 
answer to first: should we have fuzzy areas or should we not?

Plateau, peninsula etc are naturally mapped like an additional low 
detail fuzzy area polygon on top of other land covers. My opinion has 
been made clear in other threads: I think fuzzy areas on top is an 
elegant solution for naming nature and something we should have. I think 
the cluttering issue can be solved with filters, but as these will be 
used in low numbers to start with I think cluttering will not be an 
issue for some time to come so it's something we could look into later. 
In any case that's a tool issue, not a database issue.

If we don't want fuzzy areas, an other alternative is to have these as 
named points, (previously often made as "place=locality"). I think that 
is okay too, but then we need size classification on them like we have 
on residental isolated dwelling/hamlet/village etc so the renderer have 
enough information to know how large to make texts and which zoom level 
to show them. Having the same level for all names doesn't work.

Fuzzy areas has the advantage of solving the text size automatically 
(not a mapper decision), and gives freedom to the renderer to place (and 
even shape) the text. Fuzzy areas also scale well up to huge sizes (like 
the Sahara desert) if we want that as well, which point text doesn't in 
the same way. We could decide to have fuzzy areas over a certain size in 
an external database too. I'm not super-stoked over the external 
database method though, as I think then it risks becoming like 
elevation/contours is today, ie not generally available and with varied 

A disadvantage is that fuzzy areas have limits in verifiability and it 
arguably requires more knowledge/judgment from the mapper than roughly 
placing a point. On the other hand, optimal point placement also have 
cartography and verifiability issues. The underlaying issue here is of 
course that these type of names have never have defined borders and 
never will, but I think we cannot continue to pretend that they aren't 
relevant for a database mainly used to generate maps. We need to 
represent them in some way.

A third alternative is not having names of this type at all. While I 
just said that it's not the way to go, if someone still has that as a 
clear opinion please make that clear rather than just point at 
disadvantages of every suggested solution without coming up with an 
alternative. We know there are disadvantages and no solution is 100% 
perfect, but sometimes there's a higher goal to fulfill.

The fourth and current alternative is leaving the question undecided, 
with some fuzzy areas active (bays and straits), some not rendered 
(peninsula), and passively see how it plays out in the coming years (or 
decades!). It's the simplest alternative, but as a mapper and OSM end 
user I hope we can make some real progress now.

Worth mentioning is also the alternative to make a fuzzy cutout of the 
dominant landcover and name that. I've done quite some forest naming 
that way. However it's quite complicated and time-consuming to make 
these cutouts (complex multipolygon editing), and it only works well 
when the name is actually tied to the landcover as such, eg the name is 
on the forest, not a forest-covered peninsula or plateau. While I think 
it's okay to mix this cutout naming method when it works, and use fuzzy 
areas on top when that is required, I also think a viable option would 
be to name forests with fuzzy areas on top as well, but then we need a 
specific tag (or tag combination) so the renderer knows that it 
shouldn't make landcover rendering for that.

I'd like to at least know where we are headed. I could use a tag which 
is not yet rendered, but it would be nice to know if the information 
will potentially ever be used, or if I'm maybe just wasting my time...


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