[Talk-us] Response from TIGER about "driveways

Kevin Kenny kevin.b.kenny+osm at gmail.com
Tue Apr 4 21:17:39 UTC 2017

On Tue, Apr 4, 2017 at 4:51 PM, Charlotte Wolter <techlady at techlady.com>

>         I wrote to TIGER about the false "driveways" issue that I
> discovered, and got a reply from Anne O'Connor of TUGER. Apparently it is a
> known issue, but they would like to hear about any others that we may find.
For what it's worth, a number of our issues are fixed in current versions
of TIGER. The TIGER import was a one-time affair, and for various good and
bad reasons, is unlikely to be repeated. It provided OSM with an initial
map in the US, later revealed to be of questionable quality. Whether that
actually helped build an OSM community is a controversial topic. Some
believe that the presence of so much almost-correct data is an impediment
to recruiting mappers, others that it is a help. (I suspect it depends on
whether your friends see an empty area and say, "sure, I'll help fill it,"
or whether they say instead, "why should I bother with this? There's
nothing there!")

In any case, trying to fix the problem "upstream" is unlikely to help. From
the perspective of OSM, the TIGER import is what it is, and of course needs
fixing, but we and the GIS people at the Census Bureau have gone our
separate ways.

I post this message mostly because I know that as an OSM newbie, I saw all
the TIGER data and (partly because of all the gobbledygook that looked like
foreign database keys) thought of it as being from an authoritative source.
I was afraid to edit even obvious mistakes because I mistakenly thought
that was likely to interfere with conflating official updates. How wrong I
was! Now, I have no compunctions at all about deleting objects that came in
from TIGER or making corrections to them. There's a lot that's wrong with
the import systemically, and a lot that's wrong with it locally. Around
here, a lot of TIGER ways are outright hallucinations, and I'm not afraid
to delete or edit them. In private emails, I've joked about all the "TIGER
[excrement]" in the database, and referred to the process of making it more
closely match reality as, "cleaning the cat box."

It was surely much better than nothing, and importing it may well have been
the right move at the time. But it was the start of a long process of
building the map, not the end of it, and a significant fraction of OSM'ers
believe that it was a bad idea in the first place. Actual human mappers
have put in enough effort correcting it that further bulk updates from
newer versions of TIGER would be regarded as vandalism.
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