[OSM-talk] You are still free to continue to use or interpret this tag as you see fit since OpenStreetMap does not have “banned features”

stevea steveaOSM at softworkers.com
Wed Mar 17 08:50:12 UTC 2021

On Mar 16, 2021, at 9:15 AM, Zeke Farwell <ezekielf at gmail.com> wrote:
> Sören, I agree with all the points you've raised.  It's important to be able to deprecate an old tagging scheme when a replacement is proposed and accepted.  "Banned" is too strong a word, but I would be happy with a clear statement of "no longer recommended" without the additional qualifications of "you can still use it", "there are no banned features", etc.

This is a superb partial solution to the problem of "old tagging schemes getting deprecated in preference of new tagging schemes."  It hits a sweet spot without being too strict or "limiting by compromise."  That ongoing problem is one of OSM's most nagging, the source of much ongoing tension in the project.  Yet tagging improvements DO "stumble forward" (we have a better-articulated Proposal process resulting in rather well-crafted Proposals — of late, say the last year or two) and this does allow our tagging to both grow and improve (two different things, yes).  "Tagging improving" includes being both more understandable by novice mappers as well as more fully documented, without the problems:  usually ambiguities rather than sub-features being missing due to only a rough sketch of an initial, now-deprecated tagging scheme getting implemented hastily.  We must support the serious social and technical work (in about that order) it takes very dedicated people who do this.  This might start with simply wider knowledge that these forces are always at work in OSM, even as some don't know about them or they remain largely invisible.

So, to repeat:  Zeke's statement that "it's important to be able to deprecate an old tagging scheme when a replacement is proposed and accepted" is MORE than simply "important."  It is absolutely crucial to the continuing growth and flexibility of OSM to accommodate the real world, changes within it, new mappers and the inevitable progress that happens to SOME (not all) tagging schemes as they are improved through the hard work of Proposal authors (and other efforts, which I omit here).  That's a mouthful, but it's a broad concept which, if all OSM users were made aware, would go a long way towards greater harmony at "how things work around here."  They do work, but ignorance of how doesn't help.

> The difficulty is that it's not clear who gets to decide (everyone and no one?) if a feature should be deprecated, so vague language is used to account for the fact that opinions vary.  This is confusing for new and old mappers alike who just want to know how to tag a feature properly.  I wish there was a tagging working group tasked with making decisions about deprecations which schemes are recommended, etc.  I'm sure many will disagree, but don't think such a thing would be in conflict with the fundamental nature of open, flexible tagging in OSM.  

Yes, "who gets to decide" being vague (or worse, never clearly understood) is a problem.  What we say is that "consensus" decides.  Let's take the courageous step of more exactly what we mean by that.  Too often one, two or a few people will "assert consensus" when that is the antithesis of consensus.  Yet our communication lacking only exacerbates this.  We can and must do better.

While Proposal authors toil and votes actually become Approvals, some ignore the whole process, preferring to believe that "any tag you like" is the only way to go — and quit monkeying around with all that wiki-fiddling and voting stuff anyway.  While I do wish for the "any tag you like" ethos to continue forever in OSM — I really believe it both should and can — there are limits on what is practical and understandable by data consumers.  What seems to have evolved is that the ethos of "any tag you like" continues, while at the same time, a "constant cleanup" by others is always in force (at a low- to medium-level — everything from individual "data police" to rather technical, highly-organized efforts to prevent spam, vandalism and other noxious behavior).  This can continue to work, as long as some semblance of balance exists between the "free spirit of any tag" with "yet our data have  to be understandable and not surrounded by low-quality junk that nobody or few understand."

See, simply talking about this clears a path forward — that's how it feels to me, anyway.

This is kind of dense; I'll stop here.

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