Super-broad "self-explanatory" tags

Posted by BushmanK on 7 September 2016 in English (English)

There is a proposal of healthcare=midwife tag in its voting stage. This proposal says, that "a midwife practice" is something self-explanatory. But this is a good example of bad tag design and here is why.

I understand, that majority of OSM members are men and only a few of them are medical professionals. So, it's hard to expect that they have a good understanding (especially, in a global scale, which is important since OSM is an international project) of specific healthcare services for females and healthcare services in general.

First of all, "midwife" stands for completely different persons in different countries and medical systems.

  • They have different education level (from professional certificate equivalent to Bachelor's degree from a college or Master's degree from a university).
  • In some countries they are a part of a regular medical system, in some - they represent an "alternative" medical system. There are, probably, countries, where private midwives do not have to have any formal education and they are, practically, witch-doctors.
  • In some countries, like Russia, they are basically just a special type of nurse in a maternity hospital. In others, they can work independently and provide an almost full scale of maternity-related medical services. In some African countries, midwives are allowed to do Cesarians, which is unimaginable in the Western medical system, where only MD surgeon can do it.

It means, that in one "midwife practice" women can only receive simple counseling service, in others - they can give birth and so on. All the above means, that there is no common denominator for all these different "midwife practices" except it's something for women and it is maternity-related. It doesn't seem like a good base for a single tag. By approving this tag, we'll get another thing we can put on a map, but can't really use for any real case without studying different aspects of every national medical system.

Again, I understand, that for men place like that sounds too abstract to think about it in details, but it doesn't mean we should introduce and approve meaningless oversimplified tag using a lack of knowledge as an excuse.

It even makes less sense keeping in mind we already have (unfortunately, abandoned) Healthcare 2.0 proposal, covering every tiny aspect of medical services. Yes, "it is very complex", but there are several complex tagging schemes in OSM and nobody died of using it, while it describes medical services perfectly.

Comment from Warin61 on 7 September 2016 at 02:55

Hi, Putting on my 'devils advocate' hat ... some counter points.

There are 'regional expectations' for almost all tags.

I would expect different things in a 'supermarket' in Switzerland, France, Africa, Australia, USA ... I would expect for example more chocolates in the Swiss one, more wine in the French one. The bread in an outback Australian supermarket will be in the freezer to keep it fresh.

A 'secondary highway' in Europe would be paved with a high standard of finish and run off... in Australia, Africa a lesser standard is the norm.

A 'building=farm' has very different expectations even in the one country! These are typically called 'homesteads' in Australia and remote ones are very large as in huge! They cater for being a center point for entertainment of large areas - the nearest neighbor may be 400 kms drive away so 'having the neighbors over for dinner' is a major undertaking.

There are also regional defaults for things like speed restrictions.

Could this be the start of a more detailed tagging under healthcare=midwife? And then, later, regional defaults for these sub tags?

Placing a complex, all in one, every aspect covered tagging proposal most of the time leads to it being voted down by those who object to one single small aspect of the total, each objecting to a different aspect, none of them agreeing on a solution. I think that leaving it vacant leads to things like the 'sale' tag being used on the shop=motorcycle .. rather than a 'sells' tag for all shops ...

Comment from BushmanK on 7 September 2016 at 03:39


Let me politely dismiss some of your arguments, starting from the end. :)

Speed limits are just several conditions and numbers, so, even if we don't have any structure to keep these numbers in OSM, it's a question of navigator/router settings. And these numbers and conditions are not that diverse. I mean, there is no country, where speed limit depends on a Moon phase. Plus, it's quite easy to obtain existing conditions from third-party sources, at least, for more or less developed countries.

Farm buildings are not an amenity, therefore, a general description is way more acceptable than in a case of some place, where goods being sold or services being provided.

Highways are classified as "secondary", "primary" and so on according to its role in a road network, regardless of any physical properties. And there are special tags for surface and other properties. It is wrong to assume, that highway classification has any defaults for physical properties, even if there is a strong correlation within certain countries.

And I already explained once, why "classification" of stores does not make any sense in a global scale, while local people can be totally okay with it.

But the case of midwife office is way worse even comparing to a supermarket because for true supermarkets only certain details would be different (if it's not a tiny store, called "supermarket" for whatever reason, as it happens sometimes in Russia). Psychological support service and a place, where a woman can give birth or even have a Cesarean are more different than two huge stores with alcohol department and without it, aren't they?

Comment from woodpeck on 12 September 2016 at 23:47

But is the "problem" you point out not a general one with OSM? For example, in Iceland you can expect practically any petrol station to have soup and bread available in case you're hungry. I'm pretty sure this is not the case for petrol stations world wide. But will the Icelandic traveller be so clueless that we actually have to use special tags for this (amenity=fuel, soup=yes in Iceland, and amenity=fuel, soup=no in Argentina)? A shop where you buy alcoholic beverages is totally unregulated in some countries, but will be state-owned and tightly regulated in Sweden and Norway. A bar in Italy will sell you a croissant and a cafe for breakfast, wheres a bar elsewhere will not open before nightfall.

OSM is a global database, but do we really have to equalize everything - do our tags really have to describe the reality to someone who has zero familiarity with the area in question?

Comment from BushmanK on 13 September 2016 at 01:19


You have to keep in mind, that OSM data isn't something used solely for navigation. Therefore, assumptions like that (more common for older, primitive tagging schemes and a bit less common for some newer ones) are quite harmful in this case. So, yes, it makes perfect sense to think at least one step forward before proposing same old-style tagging scheme which can't actually describe anything without using (usually, non-existent) external references.

Comment from dieterdreist on 16 September 2016 at 13:19

I agree with BushmanK.

While it is true that the precise meaning of what you can expect labeled under a certain term will vary across regions (for example in a German supermarket or petrol station you can expect to be able to buy cigarettes, in Italy you will never see cigarettes at a supermarket and very rarely at a petrol station (only if there is a tobacco shop integrated)).

BUT: the big issue with the midwife proposal is that the description of the tag, although it is very short and doesn't describe a lot, explicitly excludes some services that are part of the profession in many countries (assisting with giving birth outside of a hospital) and it includes services that are specific to some countries (e.g. advisory services for contraceptives, generally non-pregnancy/birth related services).

Comment from BushmanK on 16 September 2016 at 14:56


Thank you. To summarize that, I'd say, that current description of this tag is, at the same time, too broad and too narrow. Too broad to reflect any specific service, since midwife provides very different service in different countries. Different up to no similarity at all and this tag will be used for all of them, despite the definition. Too narrow, since it restricts the definition to a random (on a global scale) subset of midwife services.

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