[OSM-talk] Drain socks

stevea steveaOSM at softworkers.com
Sat Mar 20 21:10:54 UTC 2021

On Mar 20, 2021, at 12:10 AM, Warin <61sundowner at gmail.com> wrote:
> What do you mean by the word 'precise'?
> In metrology the work 'precise' is an indication of the repeatability (not the accuracy). 
> The word 'fluid' is not to me 'precise' as some people think it only encompass liquids while others think it encompass both liquids and gasses, thus it has two meanings so it not repeatable over the population and therefore not precise.  

By "precise" I mean what my dictionary gives as Definition 1:  "marked by exactness and accuracy of expression or detail."  In this case, it can mean the specific (liquid OR gas) or it can mean the broadly inclusive (liquids AND gasses).  Though, yes, in the metrological sense, I might have chosen "accuracy" ("the degree to which a measurement, calculation, or specification conforms to the correct value or a standard") rather than "precision."  In the case of "fluid," the correct value should be fluid rather than liquid, imo.  (Though, see below as to what Bert said).

The word "fluid" most definitely includes BOTH liquids and gasses.  My dictionary says "a gas or (especially) a liquid."  So, "liquid" has a strong propensity towards "fluid," but gas is also included in an accurate, full definition of the word.

I thank Bert for his excellent observations that

• "we get down to semantics" (and scientific explanations — yes, tagging issues absolutely do this),
• the substance does not need to be discussed to describe that "(something) flows through pipes" (great digression!),
• that we potentially use "a substance or a mixture of substances that flow" (instead of "liquid" or "fluid").

This last one might be the real gem, here.  I would also find including that to be a best way forward, perhaps with some of this discussion to give the reasoning some context.

Yet I still believe that being more exact (including being more inclusive, rather than less by using too-specific a word) is to be preferred than "appealing to the commonly understood."  I honestly believe that in the case of the latter, we can too easily err on the side of lacking the exactness and accuracy an OSM definition might need (and again, what I mean by "precise").  Yes, there is a danger in being TOO technical to the point where only specialists might understand, so there is a balance to be struck here.

I might disagree with Bert slightly that science and semantics don't make our wiki usable and understandable for the common mapper.  They do make it usable and understandable, much the same way a dictionary or encyclopedia entry is designed and intended to help both a lay person and a specialist fully understand what they wish to know about a word or topic.  Again, this balance to be struck is a sweet spot that is not always achieved, even as we should strive to do so.

I thank the list for its patience with these often tedious and dizzying-in-detail subjects.

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