"Just watch Taginfo" - doesn't work at all outside En community

Posted by d1g on 11 November 2014 in English (English).

(Please forward this text to right person or place)

There are a lot of problems outside En community when it comes to OSM guideline “just watch Taginfo for popular values”. This approach work more or less for EN community, but users outside English-speaking world faced with the challenge to realize the word, not local word with similar letters\sounding.

I do Russian translation at wiki\ID\communicate with ru community and many ru users do no realize that reading tag values by letters in Taginfo doesn’t work without meaning of the word. it may sound absurd, but it is not written anywhere. Instead we (English speaking world) promote “just watch the most popular values in Taginfo “. This is serious issue outside GB, USA, Canada, Australia. We have way more countries. Even more if OSM want to grow.

  1. Promote OSM wiki instead of Taginfo across all non-English languages. Possibly notice should be given at langcode:main page@wiki or every single wiki guide/content should be rewritten.
  2. Not Taginfo fault, but Taginfo can fix this. Just add feature to Taginfo to directly show wiki-translated page based on “Accept-Language” header. Force this behavior by default for not-English languages. Yes, ‘'’force displaying wiki pages parallel to previous Taginfo interface’’, but let users switch language (and disable this feature).
  3. Everything for English-speaking world stays the same, since this is main language/tagging convention, there no need in changes for GB/USA/Canada/Australia.

Comment from Jochen Topf on 11 November 2014 at 08:11

I am not sure what exactly you are proposing. Taginfo is translated in many languages and more are always welcome. Taginfo shows its user interface and, if available, the description of a key/tag in the language the user has set in their browser or the language the user chose specifically for taginfo with the drop-down menu. The description for a key/tag is taken from the wiki. If the description is not in the wiki in the language you have set, taginfo falls back to English.

There is one problem: If taginfo doesn’t have its own translation for a language, you cannot switch to that language and so you will not see any descriptions for keys/tags in that language. This was a deliberate choice on my part so as not to confuse the user, because they would switch the language and basically nothing would change, the UI would all be still in English. I don’t think this is a large problem though, because a) we can always add more translations to taginfo (please send them in) and b) for all the languages popular on the wiki, we have translations in taginfo. The language with the most wiki pages where no translation for taginfo is available is Czech with not even 100 wiki pages for keys and tags. In English there are over 2000 wiki pages for keys and tags. So even if that language was available only 5% of the wiki pages have been translated for it. (Statistics from, available languages in taginfo see

It might well be, that I have neglected to show translated text in some place on taginfo. If thats the case please open an issue at . Thats also a good place to add any other suggestions for taginfo.

Comment from d1g on 11 November 2014 at 13:21

  • You missed point: when I wrote “directly show wiki-translated page” I meant whole wiki page. Yes, whole wikipage should be displayed, not single string from this page..

  • There also nuance about languages. They are not enough. We cannot differentiate people only by known language, but also by cultures that this person knows about.

_I will use User[KnownCultures KnownLanguages] notation_

Case 1 (users with EN)

Lets start from very basics. In OSM we have pair

User[GB EN] will understand it. It is assumed that this user should understand every single tag correctly defined in OSM (lets forget about problematic tags without sense in any language/culture). It is so because most proposals were made by User[GB EN]s and use use EN for our tag=values. I.e. tag=value[* EN].
Now we have User[USA EN]. He might misinterpret some of the tag=value pairs defined by User[GB EN]. We need to tell user User[USA EN] about local differences in tag=value for him. But they share same language! Right now there no support for different cultures in Taginfo or OSMwiki. This is open problem right now. It is not so critical, but it is here.

Case 2 (users without EN)

Things will get worse when you don’t understand tag=value[* EN].
Assume you are User[Sweden SW]. How does key=value[Australia EN].helps you? Right, nothing. You need assistance.
Right now TagInfo will show wiki page translated in SW. This is good, but this is not enough: User[Sweden SW] can only get knowledge about key=value[Australia EN] from only 80-120 characters, this not enough. From my experience, I may say this is insane to try cover all cultural differences in 120 characters. As translator, I need at least 500-4000 characters to cover very basic adaptation for Sweden culture (or at least for SW language in current situation).
At the same time, even when some User[German EN] speaks EN langage, he have no clue about difference
he has no knowledge about Australia and why do they use key=value[Australia EN] and not key=value[German EN].

I hope this clarification will make sense

How Taginfo relevant to all of that? Character limit is 120. You cannot explain all differences in such radically small matter. This MAY work for User[*|EN]s since they share many culture in common.

Again my point: Taginfo should display full wiki page to user (not just 120 chars), when he is != User[* EN]. In current situation (without true multicultural support in OSM, only language). I believe this is relevant only for not English-speaking world
We will handle differences between tag=value[Canada EN], tag=value[GB EN], tag=value[USA EN] later (if there still any).

Comment from ImreSamu on 11 November 2014 at 14:18

I am hungarian - and we have translated only the main osm wiki pages, like: / / highway : , and other little wiki pages missing. :(

our main focus - is translating JOSM and iD Editor …

my idea was - “import iD editor key/value translations and show on the taginfo “values” tab”

other idea : extracting key-values translations from main translated wiki pages, and create all little pages from them. From this wiki page I can generate more than 60 little wiki pages ( with duplicating contents :( ) - - - ….

Comment from jgpacker on 11 November 2014 at 16:09

d1g, Taginfo already gives links to wiki pages in the “Wiki” tab. If a user want to know more about a tag, he can go to the wiki page through there.

Comment from d1g on 11 November 2014 at 23:50

Taginfo already gives links to wiki pages in the “Wiki” tab. If a user want to know more about a tag, he can go to the wiki page through there.

True, but there problem:

  1. there should be clear indication that this one-line text is not enough understand key=value
  2. not everybody click links, we have problems because of this. I believe it is possible to inline 3-5K wikipage in Taginfo or at very least increase line count from 1 to 2-3 and make it wider for non-English locale.

Again, we have problem because

  1. some users judge about tag based on 120 characters because they are lazy to click link
  2. some users judge about tag based on 120 characters because they are not aware that this short text is not actual definition of the tag. There no indication that 120 characters contain incomplete information about this tag. We need to fix this somehow.

Comment from Jochen Topf on 12 November 2014 at 16:57

Taginfo is a place to find information, think of it as a search engine. It can’t be everything for everybody. This problem is not solved by bringing the wiki content into taginfo. OSM is a complicated place, it doesn’t matter which language you speak, reading a few lines is never enough. You have to read many wiki pages, look at stats, talk with others on mailing lists etc. Taginfo is one of many tool for serious mappers.

Comment from d1g on 13 November 2014 at 03:59

reading a few lines is never enough

Exactly because of this, short tag descriptions lead to misunderstanding of tags. Wiki Key:pages and Tag:pages (both in English and local language) are trying to clarify tag usage and provide additional links, cross-links (from 2 to 7), proposals at every tag page. You simply cannot replace this information even with 3 lines of plain-text. This is multicultural hypertext in the form of wiki.

Mailing list cannot answer every single question 24/7. To get answer from list/forum/IRC you need real people to be online AND able to answer your questions. Wiki page can not only answer questions 24/7 but also provide them INSTANTLY to user because wiki contain nothing but pure knowledge.

You probably underestimated importance of reliable source of knowledge.

Reliable, not IRC or mailing lists. Just FYI, Hungarian forum is half-dead. Do you really want to send users who speak only Hungarian to that forum? How dead IRC room\mailing list can help somebody? There will be delay in answer…

Taginfo is one of many tool for serious mappers.

Yes, it is. But it is also promoted everywhere at wiki/guides as source to determine which tag to use. But again, Taginfo cannot teach everything about tags\proposals. We have wiki for that. Simply because proposals and Tag pages are placed at wiki and not at mailing lists\irc or Facebook groups.

Right now, even some “serious mappers” do not follow wiki links when they use Taginfo. Even when Key:pages were fully translated and adapted at wiki. Sadly, I saw that multiple times. Again, this is not Taginfo fault. It is just software. But we also shouldn’t be passive about it, because it might become more trendy (when newcomers will listen to “serious mappers” without real understanding of key=value) and even more tags will be misunderstood\misused. Misleading information will be spreading, tag=value may become complete junk in some region (country/language group) because of this.

From my experience, users who cannot speak English at any level, will spread rumors about key=value pairs (instead of true meaning of the key=value) at “only Hungarian” forums and will do marginal stuff simply because they don’t speak English at any level. This is more complicated than simple Language barrier.

Tags and keys with established meaning should be translated from En wiki first. Hungarian community far away from here, they need translated tools first (ID, JOSM, website). Please do not advice Hungarian newcomers to “simply contact local mailing list” right now.

OK, back to the topic.

Should we fix wiki content/guides and promote wiki tag pages instead of Taginfo interface?

Should we fix Taginfo and inform/force (sadly) people to actually follow wiki links? (Or simply inline translated wiki page into Taginfo). 0 clicks for user is the best UX, in my opinion.

Should we do something else?

Comment from ImreSamu on 19 November 2014 at 18:37

Hi d1g,

I have create a prototype translation QA tool for iD Editor * more info : [ ] Would you like to check the russian output ? *

Thanks, Imre

Comment from BushmanK on 8 December 2014 at 21:04

Indeed, many tags in Wiki should be clarified, described verbosely, updated with good examples.

But actually, it has almost no connection with Taginfo, because this tool is not considered to replace Wiki documentation.

Reading many (non-approved) proposals, it’s easy to see, that even within single language and culture, many people are unable to use abstraction level, required to successfully create new tags. They think, that entities they proposing are “obvious”.

And we don’t have any power to force people to read documentation. If they are responsible - they can read it even now. If they are not - they will not do that. And even if they will, they will not necessary understand it anyway, because tags are not natural language, often they have much more narrow and strict semantics and logic of use.

So, summarizing that, I can say, that we have to work on Wiki improvement to have clear descriptions of tags, but it will unlikely change the whole result dramatically - we can’t directly put this knowledge and understanding in someone’s brain, even if there will be huge note, filling half of the screen.

Comment from Warin61 on 13 January 2015 at 22:48

I second BushmanK comment above.

You can present many pages of verbose information to explain something. Some will read it all. Many (most) will only read to the stage that they think they understand and get on with what they want to do. So presenting the whole wiki page in taginfo will not do much good. Getting the basic info across in that first scan that people do is the best thing that ‘we’ can do. Details have to take second place. I’ve just changed some buildings from commercial to retail … very small differences.

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