Generalize OSM tagging model awareness and usage

Posted by InfosReseaux on 22 June 2023 in English (English). Last updated on 2 July 2023.

Hello everybody

OSM Tagging model is a unique piece of knowledge and its usage could be discussed more widely, even outside of OSM.
Recent announcement of Overture Maps Foundation data schema will challenge us shortly. I’ve been involved in tagging improvement for more than 10 years and I now believe a lot in its more general usefulness, even outside of OSM.
It’s time to find how making it obvious.

First of all, tagging is a core component of OSM project and will remain as this in the future, the point isn’t to split mapping and tagging appart.
However, our tagging model could inspire (or already inspires actually) many data managers operating data bases outside of OSM.
A lack of consistency, versatility and even relevancy are sometimes noted about many data sets we can be using in general. They are at least missing some uniformity while some of them describe the exact same objects despite coming from different producers.

The more we have data, the more we need to standardize their structures.
OSM actually have the advantage to be built over a single namespace and force contributors to maintain consistency between very different concepts. It’s not an usual practice, there isn’t so much databases that gather buildings, roads, trees and utility networks in the same place.
Time spent to document tagging is now a significant force to make our semantics usable even outside of OSM.
It’s not necessary to import private databases in OSM nor use OSM tools to get benefit from usage of provided tagging, if applicable.
Developing tagging is not necessary a call to mapping or an attempt to make a given contribution mandatory. It’s also an exercice which demonstrates every day the versatility of OSM semantics and creativity of involved contributors.

In France, we already began to build strategic bridges between OSM tagging and business standards or government standards in order to make things interoperable.

Such connections are expected to reinforce worldwide in coming years.

Increasing interests about OSM tagging, just like OSM data, are concerning to protect them both at the appropriate extent. The point is to allow the most valuable usages while preserving contributors involvement.
The topic is now central since Overture Maps has announced its own data schema based upon OSM. As the OSM wiki licence regulates documentation usage, how could we regulate and protect usage of the tagging model itself?
Nothing looks more like a group of field names than another group of field names.
Except a few iconic syntaxes like opening_hours, has OSM tagging got enough originality to deserve a protection?

This post is intended to raise such concerns and improve awareness about importance of tagging, at least as important as data itself.

French version available here

Comment from Cyrille37 on 26 June 2023 at 05:01

Thank you for that plea.

Comment from rtnf on 28 June 2023 at 04:54

Maybe we could create documentation on the evolution and current state of OSM tagging? Perhaps we should establish a “user task force” to expedite the development of OSM tags? What other actions can we take at this time?

Related link :

Comment from InfosReseaux on 2 July 2023 at 17:14

Hi and thank you for comments

One next big achievement would be to fully deploy Data Items. They allow many more power regarding tagging documentation than current toolchain based upon parsing of wikicode.

It’s not necessary a work to be done by Foundation, it could only lead that (and should pay someone for that).

Allowing third parties to get interested in OSM tagging as consistent semantic space need to be done with well described and accessible metadata.

Comment from gileri on 7 August 2023 at 19:36

Good writeup, merci !

I fully endorse Data Items, I’ve tried pushing their usage a bit, but was met with pushback by some (mainly one) contributors.

Here’s to hoping that they take off like they should !

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