Broad undiscussed New England place name reclassification

Hello New England mappers. There has been another widespread place name reclassification across the region that appears to to significantly misinterpret the meaning of various settlement place tags. I’ve reviewed the changes in Vermont so far and have noticed the following issues:

  • Upgraded appropriately tagged place=village nodes to place=town
  • Downgraded appropriately tagged place=village nodes to place=neighbourhood
  • Downgraded appropriately tagged place=town nodes to place=village
  • Downgraded appropriately tagged place=city nodes to place=town
  • Added unnecessary duplicate place nodes, often with name of municiple boundary rather than settlement name
  • Moved place nodes from appropriate location to a less appropriate location

There proabably are some classification changes needed in Vermont, but these don’t appear to align with previous discussions we’ve had or the generally accepted meanings of these tags. I plan to revert these three changesets affecting Vermont and will invite the mapper (@edops) to discuss in this thread.

Similar changes have been made across New Hampshire, Massachussetts, Rhode Island, and Maine.
I assume these follow the same pattern and probably also qualify for reverts, but I’ll wait for others more familiar with these states to look them over.

Previous topic on New England place name inflation for reference.


Thanks Zeke, I looked at the Rhode Island batch and summarily reverted it.

Some changes were debatable, like whether the minor cities around Providence should be downgraded below =city. Certainly if Cambridge, MA is a city, there isn’t an obvious good reason why significant places around Providence couldn’t get the same treatment. (Not really opening the debate – just pointing out that we still have yet to come to a consensus on the suburb question and thus unilateral changes aren’t appropriate).

At least one change I viewed as flat-out wrong based on our discussions in the other thread (the downgrade of Newport to place=town). I mean, it has triple the population of Montpelier and far superior weather to boot… :smiley:

I think it’s important to get a real consensus on moving forward and not just have people randomly reclassify things back and forth.

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Representative from Maine acknowledges that place classifications could be improved in Maine but there would need to be at least a conversation about methodology before it happens. I’d like to revert all of edop’s changes, but I don’t feel confident enough to do it myself.

I told @blackboxlogic I’d do the revert in Maine, but after looking through all the changesets editing place classifications I’ve decided against doing a wholesale revert. A lot of the changes are downgrades from town to village or hamlet that seem entirely appropriate to me given the settlement sizes. There are also a lot of inappropriate changes like downgrades of city and town nodes for much larger, more important looking settlements and many neighbourhood nodes that should be hamlet instead (since they are isolated rural settlements, not parts of larger ones). Despite the problematic changes, I’d hate to revert the appropriate ones. I think a more targeted approach dealing with just the inappropriate changes is probably best here.

I reviewed Changeset: 149318265 | OpenStreetMap containing the New Hampshire changes.

The downgrades from to city to town for Concord, Nashua, Portsmouth, Keene, Lebanon, and others should be reverted in my view. I’m on the fence regarding the downgrade of Franklin. But that’s a good candidate to revisit after reaching broader consensus on classification.

I have been following here. Would you ask any DWG warning? Has there been any communication with the user?

I’ve left comments on several changesets and sent a direct OSM message with requests to discuss in this thread. I’m hoping DWG intervention won’t be needed. @edops is a new mapper who is clearly motivated to improve place classification across the region, but has just interpreted the the tags a bit differently than what the general consensus seems to be. The ideal outcome would be for them to join this discussion and for us all to get on the same page about how place classification should work moving forward.

Some encouragement, not that it’s needed, but it can’t hurt!

I’ve been “rowing this boat” (of place=* names and their various ways to be categorized in the USA, admin_level=* discussions…) for years, along with many others in OSM. We have forged a lot of consensus about these things, we continue to do so. These can be truly challenging topics, as what state laws / constitutions / city charters… specify “what is” (legally), there are perceptions / understandings / perspectives that “we, the People” have about the communities we live and work in that might accurately resonate with the legal realities (or, as some call political entities like countries, states and so on: legal fictions), or they might not resonate. This sometimes-wide chasm of understanding getting to consensus can be difficult, yet OSM continues to prove that building bridges to such agreement is also achievable. That we have both local experts and seasoned participants (both of whom know when “we know this for certain” vs. “we are in deep water here”) is wonderful and part of what makes this work.

Through it all, people keep talking, resulting in greater understanding, better tagging, really, a better map. Keep up the good work, everybody: keep talking. I thank everybody for the hard work already done and the continuing, ongoing discussions that make our data even better: place=* names and admin_level=* are textbook examples of “community effort” and I nod my head as things improve — they really do. I am honored to be a Contributor here.

Thanks for fixing the cities in Maine!

It seems like there are more issues in Maine. I changed Augusta, the state capital, back to a city. There are other major population centers (by Maine standards) that also seem like they should be switched back, but I am hesitant to be the one to do so. Being relatively new to this, does the incorporation status of a municipality affect how we classify locations in New England at all, or do OSM guidelines trump that? It seems like if the incorporation didn’t matter, perhaps more generic terms could be used for the classifications to avoid confusion.

Here are some overpass queries showing before and after that may help:

It seems like there may have been a few too many place=city nodes in Maine beforehand, but currently things may be too sparse. For comparison, in Vermont we have only four place=city nodes and we’ve been discussing possibly cutting that back to just one (Burlington). In OSM terms, place=town is already a fairly significant settlement, but we’ve yet to come up with clear guidelines to distinguish between place=town and place=city in New England, or the US more broadly really.

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Agreed. Franklin, like Berlin, uses a city form of government but is just too small to be called place=city. I have reverted 149318265 except for Franklin.