[OSM-talk] Proposed mechanical edit: surface=soil to surface=dirt

Lester Caine lester at lsces.co.uk
Mon Aug 31 14:34:33 UTC 2015

On 31/08/15 11:03, Mateusz Konieczny wrote:
>> On Monday 31 August 2015, Mateusz Konieczny wrote:
>>> > > See
>>> > > http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Mechanical_Edits/Mateusz_Konieczny
>>> > >/surface%3Dsoil_to_surface%3Ddirt
>>> > >
>>> > > I plan to change surface=soil to surface=dirt. surface=soil is a
>>> > > clear duplicate of surface=dirt. It is also less popular and
>>> > > undocumented on http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:surface .
>>> > > surface=soil usage is slowly increasing and recently passed
>>> > > threshold of 400 entries worldwide. It would be a good idea to
>>> > > retag it to already documented tag before this duplicate gets more
>>> > > popular.
>> > 
>> > I would be careful here - 'dirt' is essentially a very vague term
>> > which probably originates from the concept of 'dirt roads' here.
>> > 'Soil' in the other hand is fairly precise, see
>> > 
>> > https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soil
There is a link to an article 'Dirt Is Not Soil' but trying to produce a
simplified list of surface types is a mistake.

>> > In general i think surface=ground is the most sensible tag for
>> > tagging ways that are just established somewhere without notible
>> > construction work when you can't be more specific - it implies that
>> > the way surface is essentially the ground there in its natural
>> > state.  surface=dirt OTOH can mean anything from the remaining tracks
>> > of a car driving across a wayless area to a solidly built gravel road.
>> > 
> You may want to edit http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:surface
> - currently surface=ground is described there as "No special surface,
>   the ground itself has marks of human or animal usage. This value gives
>   only a rough description; if possible, use a more precise value such
>   as grass, dirt, clay, sand, gravel, pebblestone or rock.".

I think part of the problem here is that many of the areas that are
being tagged may well have had some sort of treatment so they are not
simply 'ground'. Augmenting a path or track with a secondary material
either to produce a harder or a softer surface layer is a common
practice, and while 'soil' way not be a common designation, as it has
more of an association with a grass surface. A bridalway used by race
horses is more likely to have a 'soft' surface such as woodchip or grass
on a good quality soil rather than 'dirt' which tends to be associated
with both dust and more solid compaction of the surface layer. So while
'ground' may be a useful holdall where the exact nature is not known,
but it is not a mechanically finished surface, it should be replaced
with a more accurate designation for which 'dirt' is simply another
ambiguous designation, while soil may well be a more accurate designation.

Lester Caine - G8HFL
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