[OSM-talk] Tagging Governance

Christoph Hormann osm at imagico.de
Wed Sep 11 15:27:22 UTC 2019

On Wednesday 11 September 2019, Joseph Eisenberg wrote:
> Changing to a github-like system of version management would require
> some people to serve as "maintainers" or "moderators" of the new,
> curated list of Map Features / Tags, wouldn't it? While this could be
> an improvement in the quality and consistency of how decisions are
> made, it would also limit participation and centralize
> decision-making.

I think we all realize that and i am not in any way a fan of formalized 
power structures and hierarchies.  But we also can see that the wiki 
does not work as a means to document the de facto meaning of tags.

OpenStreetMap is a broad community of people with very different 
abilities and skills.  Not everyone is equally capable for every task 
within the project and hardly anyone is able to accurately assess their 
level of capability on everything and selflessly act accordingly.  In 
the field of mapping the do-ocratic approach has been relatively 
successful in dealing with that (as long as we were talking about 
independent and unpaid local mappers only of course) because it is the 
base level of the project and is naturally grounded in the locally 
observable reality.  But as i pointed out in my diary entry the same 
approach will not work on the meta-level of tag documentation where - 
if the documentation serves its purpose - what is written or modified 
by a single contributor is multiplied in effect and read and considered 
by many who use the documentation.  This distorts the incentives and 
put bluntly leads to the wrong people dominating the wiki.  And this is 
not solved by getting more prople involved in editing it.  The 
community as a whole tries to compensate for that by giving less weight 
to the wiki as a source of information on tags but as Richard mentioned 
this leaves a big gap in terms of accurate, clear and precise 

Note curated documentation based on agreed on editorial principles does 
not necessarily mean a top-down imposed framework.  Such documentation 
would naturally be under an open license and therefore could be forked 
so if someone at some point is dissatisfied with how this works they 
could always initiate a competing project with a different curating 
team and/or principles.  My concern is less that of centralized 
decision making and control over an important resource but that it will 
be difficult to find, motivate, select and retain qualified people to 
work on this.

And documentation of the de facto meaning of tags, potentially focused 
on the most important ones, is of course - though evidently important - 
only one aspect of what Roland wants to discuss here.

Christoph Hormann

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