[Tagging] Tagging becoming more mature

stevea steveaOSM at softworkers.com
Thu Nov 12 02:34:14 UTC 2020

What I've said here (about ponds) is something I think a lot of us have long recognized:  syntactic design of the sort that Joseph originally expressed concern about, where maybe we deprecate a tag, somebody disagrees, somebody else proposes differences, yet somebody else says "the subject is richer than that and deserves a full design..." is hard work.

There is a fair bit of tagging in OSM which might be described as "poor in hindsight" that works (and in some cases worked) OK for a while, but when brought into the larger world, begins to crack around its edges.  Some of this is due to linguistic differences around the world (e.g. leisure=park conflicting with the use of "park" in US English), some of this is due to hasty and poor syntactic design of the tag in the first place.  Some of this is due to reasons I'm not mentioning, as maybe we don't even (yet) fully understand why some of what we do might not be quite good enough to grow into our future.

While I'm not proposing any specific fixes to these longer-term challenges to OSM, I am saying that good syntactic design (and when appropriate, formal proposals to implement them) is an important element to minimizing the risks of how we've been doing this during our first couple of decades.  As OSM grows from adolescence into adulthood, (16 years and growing!) I believe we can keep our "plastic tagging where we can coin a new key" so it remains intact, as such free-form tagging is an important flexibility built into the project.  However, as we mature, become more worldwide (linguistically diverse, accommodating similar-yet-different aspects of many things, both in slight naming differences and slight actual differences...) we must consider more mature methods to implement well-designed aspects like sound, future-proof tags.  This includes both improvements to existing tags as well as new tags.

I love the spirited discussions that happen here and other places in OSM where a variety of voices come together to discuss new ideas, new tags and new ways to map:  may this wonderful spirit live on forever in our project.  Yet, we can also simultaneously recognize that there are "grown-up" methods to designing "industrial strength, world-ready" aspects to the project that will last and last far into our future.  Let's find ways to keep both going strong, whether it's moving more to formal proposals (or not), other more formal methods (or not) and keeping great, inclusive, respectful dialog alive as we do so.


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