Reworking Wiki Proposals

We recently had an experienced and productive community member, Ilya,
putting a lot of time in a Wiki Proposal just to see the whole process fail. Given the feedback from the process, this has been due to a whole bunch of hard-to-control problems

  • the whole thing has been too complex
  • the wording did cause misunderstandings
  • attempt to discuss the matter in an unsuitable medium

If even an experienced member cannot handle the process then we should reconsider whether the process of Wiki Proposals makes sense at all.

I suggest to replace the Proposal process by three more specialized
and therefore much simpler processes. They are structured by what they can affect.

In particular, the discussion should go to better suited places than the infamous Wiki page discussion shadow pages:

Ilya complained that at the wiki discussion page turned into a complete mess of “56K text”. I do agree that the wiki page is a hard-to-read mess, but yet it has only the content of 10-30 messages.
There had even been expressed deprecation that the discussion spilled into the voting section because it is so difficult to read.

For comparison: My mail client currently handles more than 100’000 messages and is still fast and comfortable to use. Even in the forum where users are stuck with what the web interface allows, it is easy to have discussions with some hundred responses.

This should remind us that the wiki discussion facility is unsuited for any nontrivial discussion but it disguises as sufficient discussion facility.

Note that on the same time there is a group of 350 community members
who have indicated to be interested in public transport. Ilya stated as a reson that the corresponding mailing list has “less than 3 messages” per month. The content equivalence of “3 messages” on a wiki discussion page already would make the impression of a heated discussion. Apparently the wiki discussion pages have distracted him from the real audience.

Please note:
It does not make sense to discuss the redesign of one communication channel in another communication channel. But the wiki does not have a suitable place to discuss the issue. Hence I cross-post to the mailing list to also get feedback from the Usenet veterans.

I suggest the following three specialized replacements for the Proposal process:

=== Distinguished Documentation ===

OSM could profit in a lot of cases from a good how-to map for particular subjects. But at the same time exists poor documentation and people do not necessary know which to trust. Writing a good documentation will become more rewarding if we can offer a process to indicate general acclaim and distinguish excellent documentation.

The voting confirms that the claims of the documentation reflect actual mapping practice. That way, it makes the effort a distinguished documentation.

It des not affect any existing wiki pages.
It does not affect the OSM database.

=== Wiki Cleanup ===

Amongst the real problems of OSM is that our wiki documentation has lots of poorly maintained pages. There exist even contradictions between different pages. For an unexperienced users it is difficult to figure out which wiki pages are really applicable.

We need a decision process which of the contradictive statements can be discarded. The hurdles should not be too high because we generally do have too few maintenance of the wiki content. Nonetheless, as this does give some rulesets a spin in favour of others, it should be subject to a voting.

There should be left a success notice after the cleanup has actually been done.

The document must state which wiki pages are considered authoriative.
It should state which wiki pages are to be changed.
It can list the used tags, tagging combinations, or data constellations that are in scope of the document at all.
It should state which used tags, tagging combinations, or data constellations will after the change newly contradict the wiki.

Affects the wiki.
Does not affect the OSM database.

=== Tag Disambiguation ===

Sometimes different people tag different types of objects with the same tags. This is a problem because you do no longer know what is really there. It is the core concern of the old Proposal process.
Given that backwards compatbility is nowadays an important virtue,
the preferred solution is to add an extra tag to distinguish the different situations.

The voting is to check that the disambiguation is logically sound
and that it covers the vast majority of applicable constellations.

Affects the wiki: the description of the affected tags and tag combinations are changed.
Affect the OSM database: mappers are adviced to systematically change tags in the course of local maintenance.

=== Remarks ===

There are other purposes advertised on the pages of the Proposal process. Most notably an invitation for general discussion.

I do discourage them.
From all the communication media we have in OSM the wiki is least suitable for discussions, as explained in the beginning.

Even now

  1. it is not prohibited to hold preliminary discussions on different platforms: mailing lists, forum, IRC channels and even WhatsApp and Telegram.
  2. it is not prohibited to split a big proposal into several smaller parts.
    If author is in too much of a hurry and prefers to start RFC process quickly so it is his choice.

OSM people are rather conservative so new proposal requires a lot of work with they.
It is the main difficulty and it is not directly dependent on formal Proposal process.