For example, when I go to tag the surface of a way, “paved” and “unpaved” should not be suggested tags (despite their frequent use), since they’re inherently less informative than more granular tags such as “asphalt,” “concrete,” “gravel,” or “compacted.” I think this is a critical improvement that would greatly improve map quality in the future with at basically no cost. I have no involvement in the development and maintained of iD, but in my opinion, removing poor tag suggestions should be a priority.

Another thought is to help mappers distinguish objects that are similar but not identical, such as bleachers vs. grandstands.

Finally, the wiki should be updated in certain places to better accommodate language translation differences. An example of this is a “give box,” which I’ve only heard referred to as a donation “collection site” or “dropoff location” in the United States.

Comment from lyx on 28 July 2020 at 17:45

A lot of mapping is done based on aerial imagery these days. In an area with very good imagery it is just about possible to see if a road is paved or unpaved, but anything more detailed can only be guessed. If you would remove the choices of paved / unpaved, mappers will either guess (and frequently guess wrong) or leave the surface tag empty (thus missing out on very valuable information). Either way it would not result in better data for the common case of “armchair mapping”.

Comment from n76 on 28 July 2020 at 18:15

When mapping using aerial imagery I try to distinguish between asphalt and concrete (all most all pavements in my area are one or the other of those). But with oil stains on concrete or sun faded older asphalt it is not always possible to tell, in those cases I use “paved”.

The unpaved roads in areas I am familiar with vary widely on the surface, sometimes over very short distances. Sand, bare rock, dirt, etc. And from aerial imagery is it often impossible to tell what the surface is. “Unpaved” really is the only choice that makes sense and removing it would be disastrous to the quality of the tagging.

So I concur with lyx that your proposed change is more likely to decrease the quality of mapping rather than increase it.

Comment from mbeyerle on 28 July 2020 at 18:36

Thanks for the replies! I think you’ve both made good points for keeping the suggestion as-is. Appreciate the dialogue.

Comment from CjMalone on 28 July 2020 at 22:05

StreetComplete does something related when picking building type. If you select a upper category like residential or commercial it will prompt for a more specific value like house, users can ignore this if they don’t know or select a better value.

Comment from JesseFTW on 29 July 2020 at 00:22

But your general idea of considering if there are bad or merely less-optimal suggestions being made is very worthwhile. Please do bring up other ones!

Comment from kucai on 29 July 2020 at 02:20

IMO, highways should have the assumed tagged value of paved asphalt. That’s the norm. We should tag the surface value when the condition is out of ordinary. In my opinion that is….

Comment from yvecai on 29 July 2020 at 06:17

@kucai, no, it is not the norm in a great part of the world, so better be explicit in your mapping.

Comment from pkoby on 29 July 2020 at 11:17

To reply to your second point about the wiki:

I agree that in some cases regional differences in language can make things difficult or confusing to tag. I still always mess up and search for “real estate” instead of “estate agent”. Perhaps the wiki could have more instances of redirects, so searching for “real estate” would take you directly to “estate agent” (whereas right now it does come up first in a search). But such a functionality would be a manual effort.

You can sort of think of it as being a kind of English dialect. Most tags are British English, some are not. A few things are terms that most people might not even know. So part of being an OSM mapper is learning the correct phrases. At 9500 changesets, I’m still constantly looking things up.

As for “give box”: it sounds like what you’re referencing is more of a Goodwill donation dropbox (which I know are in your region), whereas these are like a Little Free Library but for stuff (e.g. canned goods). So you put stuff in if you don’t need it, and take stuff out if you do. Where I am, they are quite common, usually near churches (often called “blessing boxes”). In the voting on the proposal, there was a good discussion on the name, but the US really doesn’t seem to have a standard (see

Comment from mbeyerle on 26 August 2020 at 01:08

Another instance of this is nudging mappers toward tagging houses more specifically. building=detached could be used where building=house in many cases, particularly in large swaths of the USA where most residential properties are single-family homes.

My suggestion is a popup in iD (of course with an “ignore for 3 months” or “ignore forever” button) that suggests to mappers building houses that there are more granular values.

IMHO, one of OSM’s greatest strengths is the data quality in areas that are well mapped and maintained. I believe such a popup could be used for a plethora of confusing tags: surface=gravel vs. compacted, bleachers vs. grandstands, storage tanks vs. silos vs. water towers, different types of residential real estate (house/detached…), garden allotments vs. community garden, basins vs. reservoirs, etc. Helping accelerate mappers knowledge of tagging without requiring them to navigate to the wiki would help the project improve.

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