Broad undiscussed New England place name reclassification

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.


edops blocked by woodpeck | OpenStreetMap 0-hour block on user edops requesting participation in this discussion.

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It’s great to see forward momentum here! Such things often (heh, case in point) take years to unravel…so far, so good. Thanks to all who positively contribute to OSM, Onward!

It seems to me that no one has any standards that they will ever decide or agree upon. People have inconsistently allowed settlements in Maine with fewer than 100 people be classified as towns, while allowing settlements with populations numbering a few thousand be classified as cities. Meanwhile, States like Mass, Conn, and Rhode Island remain equally inflated, while Vermont and New Hampshire are allowed to remain sparse. In the past, other mappers have come up with and implemented the 100,000+ (city), 10,000+ (town), 1,000+ (village) 1,000- (hamlet) standard. I do not care for this standard, but it is better than the lack there of that has been allowed, and simply removing any efforts to standardize settlement classification without coming up with your own solution is lazy and ineffective. Now what’s worse, is some of you have taken it upon yourselves to once again over inflate Maine place names. Rockland has been classified as a city, despite having a population of less than 7,000. Should towns with populations much larger, such as Berwick, or Windham, be called cities then? Other “cities” such as Bath, Brewer, and Belfast, are labeled as “towns” (rightfully so, due to their small size) and yet they both have similar populations to Rockland. What makes Rockland so special that it deserves city status? The same can be said for Presque Isle, which is, like Rockland, a city in official name only. It’s population is well under 10,000 people, and that’s only due to the massive land area it takes up. Presque Isle is one of the largest municipalities in the state by land area. If it had the same land area as Portland, its population would likely be cut in half. Brunswick, which has, and always will be, a town, has also been repeatedly classified as a city without any discussion. Brunswick is officially a town, and not viewed as a city by anyone who lives in Brunswick, or anyone who lives in Maine. The only true cities in Maine are arguably Portland, Lewiston, and Bangor. Augusta is notable enough to be classified as a city given that it is the state’s capital, despite its meager population, which is well under 20,000. Biddeford is a suburb of Portand, similar to Westbrook and South Portland, and Auburn to Lewiston, all of which have populations greater than Biddeford, but none are classified as cities given they function suburbs of actual, larger cities. It seems to me that no one going to actively come up with a solution, and instead undermine any efforts to implement one.


The way to a solution is discussion and collaboration, proposals, and experimentation, not unilateral editing. Hence your invitation to the forum here.

We came to a consensus similarly on highway classification, which was quite tricky. This topic is no less challenging.

Also, I would invite you to insert some line breaks every now and then for readability.


And yet no one in this forum has offered any proposals. If you need line breaks to read, that’s your problem, not mine. If you have no proposals to offer, why even respond? You only have a response for my lack of line breaks, but not to a single thing that I have discussed?


The main discussion is linked in the original post, where you can find several possible ways forward. I would however aim for a less combative approach if you expect to gain any traction in these discussions.


Hello @edops. Thank you for joining the discusssion. I appreciate your enthusiasm for improving place classification and I hope you will choose to participate in a productive way. Through community discussion and consensus building I’m sure we can make durable changes to the New England hierarchy of place classification. This is not something that can be implemented by a single mapper. Continued attempts to go it alone will only lead to more churn.

In addition to the previously linked discussion on New England place name inflation, there have also been several recent dicussions focused on other areas of the country. Lots of good ideas in these threads.

While no one has formally proposed a set of guidelines yet, we seem to be coalescing around using the Census Bureau’s Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas as a starting point. Simple population thresholds for each class of place will not work. A 10,000 person settlement can be quite significant within a sparsely populated rural region, while a 50,000 person settlement can be fairly insignificant within in a densely populated metropolitan region. Place classification reflects the relative significance of a settlement and thus some significant places with low populations will be correctly classified above some insignificant places with higher populations. This is not easy to get right!


@edops please take note of the message in your first warning:

The discussion has to happen in a suitable community medium BEFORE you make the edit.
edops blocked by woodpeck | OpenStreetMap

Five new changes:

  1. Changeset: 150399846 | OpenStreetMap
  2. Changeset: 150403110 | OpenStreetMap
  3. Changeset: 150403267 | OpenStreetMap
  4. Changeset: 150403852 | OpenStreetMap
  5. Changeset: 150403957 | OpenStreetMap

Please hold off on these updates until consensus has been reached.

reverted, and edops blocked by woodpeck | OpenStreetMap

Proven right yet again. There are no efforts by anyone to come up with a “consensus” all talk and no proposals. You’d rather spend your time halting progress than making any yourself. By what “consensus” was it decided that Brunswick should be reclassified as a city, despite it not being recognized as a city in any shape or form? I see no discussion about it here. And yet it’s only when I revert a town like Brunswick back to its original, and correct status, that edits are undone. It seems that other people needs a consensus and you don’t? How about instead of reverting those changes, you come up with a single, good reason why Brunswick, Maine should be classified as a city. I expect you won’t. I expect you revert changes that you don’t even pay attention to or understand in the slightest.


I also find it amusing that you are from Maryland, yet you are trying to dictate the status of small towns in Maine that you clearly have no understanding about. Do some of your own research before mindlessly changing the status of small towns in Maine into cities.


The standard that I must wait for a consensus that will never come to make changes that I have already provided evidence for being correct, does nothing but turn away editors who desire to make the map more accurate, while at the same time serving to decrease the quality and accuracy of the map itself. I think you’re all upset that someone came in and fixed all of the mistakes that you let sit stagnantly for who knows how long, and instead of accepting that the work you refused to do yourself was done for you, you instead undermine it by keeping the bulk of my work left alone, and making your own, incorrect changes and reclassifications to attach your own name to it.

Why don’t you go ahead, and undo all of my changes, and allow Maine to be flooded with hundreds of town labels, as it was before I fixed it. I’m starting to consider doing it myself, and leaving this pathetic excuse of a “community” behind to never fix it, because they never will.


This is a misunderstanding. You must participate in building the consensus, not wait for it to arrive. Unlike many other things in OpenStreetMap, place classification is not a purely objective fact for which evidence of correctness can simply be provided.

As I’ve stated before, I am holding out hope that you can become a productive member of the OSM community. The general direction of your changes are good even if I don’t agree with some of the choices you’ve made. The problem is that you have marched across New England like a bulldozer upsetting the status quo. Other mappers do not take kindly to this kind of lone wolf behavior and it is a sure way to ensure your changes won’t stick around. I really do hope you’ll have a change of heart, but that seems less and less likely as it seems you prefer to continue insulting us.