[Tagging] Basic cartography features missing, why?

Anders Torger anders at torger.se
Fri Nov 6 21:51:21 UTC 2020

I'd love to help out if the workload and chance of success was
reasonable, but I'm a bit wary about the tagging proposal process. Most
of my mapping contributions is simple things like correcting and adding
roads so all the various online route planners (and indeed bike
computers) that use OSM in one way or another can work in the areas I
spend time. For that the map does not need to be complete at all, I just
need a graph of roads, and I use the regular government-provided maps to
actually scout the area. 

Recently I got more interested in trying to make actual complete and
good cartography, make maps that accurately describes the area (to a
certain detail level) and doesn't require "a real map" on the side for
scouting, in other words make OSM to be a real map in the areas I live.
It would also be nice if one could make hiking maps for the mountains.
This is an extremely ambitious goal, in Scandinavia, and probably many
more countries, we are used at having really great cartography from a
special cartography institute which is a part of the government.
Previously the maps were expensive to get and you could only get it on
paper. Today the main aspects exists for free in digital form (which is
a good thing, it's made with tax payers' money after all). Here, this is
the gold standard for a general-purpose map. 

However, when I see there are some key features missing in OSM to be
able to reach that level, and each of those little features may take
years of processing from proposal to actual implementation in a renderer
(and even if a proposal goes through, I suppose it's not guaranteed that
it may be implemented), then it feels like it's just too much for me, as
I'm involved in many other volunteer projects too. Mapping is not even
my main project. 

To make this happen it seems like I will end up with having to implement
my own style and have my own tile server and using my own tags... it's
just not feasible. What I have done so far in my own mapping
applications which works sort of fine is to use ready-made government
maps in a custom layer for the more zoomed out map (and indeed have an
own tile server for that), and then switch to OSM for the most zoomed in
levels. The limitations in name handling and missing names for large
areas is less noticed when fully zoomed in. But it would be really cool
if one could use OSM for the whole cartography experience. 

As far as I understand, OSM is supposed to be a decentralized and
semi-anarchistic consensus community that's why the proposal process
looks like it does, but somehow I was hoping for that there was a
strategic work group with access to professional cartography expertise
that on their own could recognize, pick up, and implement both the
feature and the guideline for baseline type of "must have" features,
while tagging proposal process would be for more exotic things. 

I'm afraid that with this thorough long-haul process and still pretty
basic cartography features lacking, we may never see them. I understand
that OSM is a geo database, not a map as such, and it seems like the
actual map-making hasn't been a top priority but left to third parties,
and this may be a reason that features required for top quality
cartography has been left unimplemented for so long. 

Another thing with these naming features is while they are indeed
important to reach professional-grade maps, you need to be a very
patient and persistent perfectionist to actually care (sort of like an
old-school cartographer), and have the endurance to continue to care.
It's much easier to just skip the names that can't be mapped, or make
them as a point and not care that zoomed out maps don't work well. We've
seen plenty of desperate/chaotic use of place=locality tag just to get
names when there is no real support.

If that's the case, then it maybe is better to just relax, let go, and
let OSM be what it is today and not try achieve what it can't do. For me
this means going back to just doing road work, and switch to the
government maps anytime I need a real map. I'm fine with that. 

On 2020-11-06 20:19, Andrew Harvey wrote:

> All great points there, I've ran into many of those myself. If you're interested in helping work on solutions to these, discussion here is probably the best place to start, once ideas gain some momentum you can start a tagging proposal https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Proposal_process. Going through that process takes a huge amount of time, effort and communication, but usually results in well rounded documentation and considers a wide range of scenarios and creates better tags than just "using whatever tags you like". 
> _______________________________________________
> Tagging mailing list
> Tagging at openstreetmap.org
> https://lists.openstreetmap.org/listinfo/tagging
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