RfC: deprecate hashtag-only changeset comments

Without explanation of edit contents? Yes, still bad.

#hotosm-project-nnnnn can be potentially useful if it allows to track down who is responsible for specific organised edit and reached person will react to feedback. But it is only addition to the comment, not replacement.


Maybe “Changeset comments should include the unique hashtag described on the wiki page under Organised Editing/Activities/Name of the Activity (as described in the Process section), and link to that page. Such hashtag should be addition to proper description of edit and does not replace it.” ?

Though not sure is it worth enlarging this document, it should not be documentation of all good practices. There is already “Any person or organisation whose actions affect the OpenStreetMap project has the duty to care for the project, and should respect the community’s consensus, mapping practices and guidelines.”

And actions proposed in top post should handle problem already.

Hashtag-only comments at least provide a vague indication what the edit is about. A much worse problem, that I’m looking at every day, are comments devoid of any informative value, such as “update”, “landscape”, “survey”, “Sarajevo”. My favorite is the bloke whose only changeset comment ever made is “changed some things”. I’m at loss how to deal with those, often quite experienced, mappers; I don’t feel like playing changeset police. Perhaps forcing the comments to contain at least five words or 30 characters? (Which will inevitably lead to comments such as “aaa aaa aaa aaa aaa” as their next line of play).


make changeset comment linking Good changeset comments - OpenStreetMap Wiki ?

write to DWG and ask them to apply 0-hour block with explanation?

Though if that counts as

then I guess you need to accept this this will be happening or wait for someone else to do this.

One very active mapper and ideally in country covering bound boxes when there’s small changes, not anything to do with building spread across from coast to coast.

“Added some buildings based on Bing”

Queried and commented, never a reaction, never changes, just this one. Could as well just do the automated hastagging and JOSM, 10 chars is enough.

The Neis report actually computes comment variations, there were in a long ago past: Unique comments (259 (4.1%). Absolutely positively useless filler, or if one of these “always the same comment” retorted back “If you want to know, check the details.”

Maybe a zero block candidate too but then it would be a never ceasing DWG bombardment of such requests. It’s nice to have this comment box saving the previous 10-15 comments to pick from … maybe just the last one and maybe a machine check… “Does this comment apply to the present changes you’re going to upload?”

This post might get me tared and feathered, but I actually think automatic changeset comments by default could be useful.

Pretty much all examples of good comments, including those on the wiki page, have the following format (using some pseudo-syntax):

(added|updated|removed) (<object type>|<name>) [in <place>] [based on <source>]

All of this can actually be automatically generated; the type of change and object type (or name) based on the contents of the change, the place can be calculated based on admin boundaries or place= and source taken from the existing source= changeset tag.

I think that for an overwhelming majority of good changesets (that is, they are delimited in some way, i.e. only changing buildings in one town or updating speed limits in a country or similar) a comment like the above could be generated and would be as good or better (if the mapper themselves is bad at writing comments).

That has its limits though; and a good anti-example are the comments generated by some unnamed apps that look like “Added 3 shops, 2 playgrounds, 9 trees, 1 dog, 42 things, 98 addresses, 19 sandwiches” and so on. However, those cases might be possible to improve, the above could for example be rewritten as “Added shops and amenities in Stockholm based on walking around” or similar.

Another interesting case is StreetComplete, those changeset comments by themselves are alright, however since it by default splits it by quest type you can end up with a large number of small changesets, where it might have been more clear to have one with a comment such as “Updated details about streets in Stockholm”. Though that’s of course another discussion altogether.

Then again, for comments that can be automatically generated they could just as well be automatically generated when requested for reading, which would have the added benefit of adjusting the generation algorithm according to other aspects (if showing a list of changesets filtered by country we don’t need to show “in ”, since that’s sort of already expected).

So maybe another approach could be to discourage writing changeset comments completely, unless they add value that cannot be generated?

I actually believe that that would improve the average quality of changeset comments, though it would require some development work on the OSM website and other places displaying changeset comments. It might be interesting to try to generate a few days worth of changeset comments and compare them side-by-side with the comments provided by the mappers.


You’re joking, but I can thing of at least one example where someone added some LLM-generated crap to an OSM wiki page in the hope of being helpful.

how source can be automatically guessed? How it can be automatically established whether someone deleted building based on aerial, based on survey there, or on news article or based on existing OSM data or (invalidly) mapped based on GSV?

I think that ‘What was changed’ doesn’t need to be in the comments, because the changeset already contains the changes.
You would want why it was changed, and the source(s) of the information.
If it’s a project or a community mapping thing, you would want a link to the project information or mapping agreement/discussion.
None of this can -in general- be automated. Of course a tool can have information and if so, put it in he changeset comments.
If the changeset processing tries to force things like this, I think many people will supply junk text just to get the stuff uploaded. We will end up with even more useless dummy comments.

I really don’t care if there is or is not a hash in the text.

As @Nielkrokodil has already pointed out, the Organised Editing Guidelines require hashtags if the user does not document on their user page that they belong to an organised editing group. Therefore, I suggest to replace your point 1 by (changes in italic font):

  1. reach out to the makers of tools (mostly Tasking Manager) and ask them to ensure that all changesets have human-readable comments and, due to being organised editing, hashtags.

That of course requires that that tag is set (and to a valid value). But I think it would be a lot easier to get people to provide this than a free form comment, especially as many/most editors already provide suggestions for values.

Though I fully agree with you (why and source being more important than what), that’s sadly quite rarely the case, and even the examples on the wiki mostly just describe “what” (and sometimes source, which could usually be automated).

Both regarding this, and some other comments regarding the not always obvious connection between hashtag and project (using that term quite broadly here) documentation, maybe it would make sense to establish some other changeset tag, like project=, which would be a link pointing directly at the relevant documentation (either on the wiki or directly in a tool such as HOT-TM)? This could eventually even replace the usage of hashtags to establish connection with the project.

It seems this reply too late for this thread, but as far as I am concerned is these hashtags can still clearly express what project they belong to and what the content they are working on may be.

After all, many new mappers may be filled in directly without thinking, without adding or reducing the content in the comment. This is both a bad thing and a good thing.
The bad thing is that it is difficult for us to hear the mapper describe the editing content by itself, thinking that since it has been filled in for me, it saves trouble.
The good thing is that at least people can know at a glance that it was created by HOT, and it comes from the mapper of HOT, and it is still helpful to find the same batch of changeset.

Original reply in Chinese (Yes, above is machine translated, I'm lazy) 似乎来晚了,但就我个人而言,这些hashtag依然能很明确的表达它们属于什么项目,正在做的内容可能是什么


They can, but they usually don’t. If I wrote a changeset comment of #Mapping-the-river-foss-flood-levels-to-add-hazard-tags-(from-survey-2301107) it’d be a descriptive changeset comment, but most are not like that.

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Also, what I am more concerned about is how many editors will be discouraged from contributing if we force them to describe what they have done. Currently, it is the iD editor that requires changeset comment. Then we see that many editors will hastily reuse previously written content, or simply type “changeset”, “test”, “my map edit” (He may doesn’t even want to type “my map edit in some places”)
(This kind of thing can be caught every few months in the community where I am active.)

If you want to solve this problem, why not consider allowing the editor to automatically analyze the changes, automatically detect and give suggestions?
In addition, I think editors such as osmand/maps.me give a long list. If you edit exactly one element of each element, there will be “Add a atm, a restaurant, a park, a…” comment appears, and there will be different line breaks on different devices, and the visual effect is also very difficult to understand. At least the editor can try to automatically detect and give a more intuitive description such as “Edited 7 POIs on both sides of XX Street”, which is not completely impossible with the help of geocode related APIs.
Regarding the suggestion that the editor should be allowed to automatically detect reasonable hashtags, I have written a brief idea on github before. Unfortunately, it was written in Chinese, so you may need translation software to read it.

Original reply in Chinese (Yes, above is machine translated, I'm lazy) 以及,我很关心的是如果我们强制编辑者去自己描述做了什么,这个过程会让多少编辑者不愿继续做出贡献。目前有强制要求changeset comment的就是iD编辑器,然后我们看到很多编辑者会草率的复用之前写过的内容,或者是简单的打一句“changeset”、“test”、“my map edit” (他甚至不愿意打“my map edit in some places”) (这样的事情,在我所活跃的社区里每几个月就能抓到一例) 如果想解决这个问题,为何不考虑让编辑器能自动分析其中的变化,自动侦测和给出建议? 此外我觉得诸如osmand/maps.me等编辑器给出的一个长长的列表,如果每种要素都恰好编辑一份,就会有“Add a atm、 a restaurant、 a park、 a……”的comment出现,而在不同的设备下会有不同的换行,视觉效果同样非常难懂。至少编辑器可以尝试自动探测并给出“编辑了XX街两侧的7个POI”这样更直观的描述,而借助geocode相关API并不是完全做不到的。 关于应当允许编辑器自动探测合理的hashtag的建议,之前我曾经在github上写过一点简短的想法,很遗憾当时是用中文写的,所以可能您需要翻译软件才能阅读。 https://github.com/LaoshuBaby/changeset-comment-suggestion

Oh, this times a “river #survey-2301107 #flood #hazard #tags #{{places_name}}” may be even more helpful?

That approach is almost no better than no changeset comment at all - it’s only saying what’s in the
.osc file. To continue my #Mapping-… example above, it would contain a few minor tag changes to existing ways, but would explain nothing about what led me to do that or what the result was.

If “automatic changeset comments” prompted just one mapper to abandon writing their own good changeset comments, it’d be a backward step.

The kind of thing you mentioned actually happens every month in China. Most of it is because many changeset just describe an area that no one has ever described. It covers everything from improving streets to improving roads. It is difficult to summarize. We are commonly known as “pioneer on wild land”
Editors may not necessarily have the patience to fill in every changeset as carefully as they would like to fix a place, but out of the principle of not dampening the enthusiasm of editors, most mapper active in community is usually more tolerant of such bad comments, and in rare cases they can’t help it, will be reported to DWG
for example:

Does this comment make sense? Yes, but the 200+ consecutive ones are all the same “drawings on villages and other situations in the Zhangjiakou area based on satellite images such as MPI and Esri.”
But I decided not to report him a second time, because he is the only mapper in the whole city. I have always believed that countries or regions that allow everyone to write changeset comments must be regions with basically complete data.
As the saying goes, “Only when you are full will you consider more issues.”

For a prefecture-level city that requires 1000+ changesets to complete, it is pale and powerless to require any detailed changeset comments. I think this is not good, but forcing it may not achieve the purpose of improving the drawing quality by improving changeset comments.

Original reply in Chinese (Yes, above is machine translated, I'm lazy) 你说的这种事情其实每个月都在中国发生,大部分是因为很多changeset只是描绘一片从没有人描绘的地区,从完善街道到完善道路无所不包,很难去做总结,我们俗称“开荒” 编辑者不一定有耐心像修修补补一处地方一样仔细的填写每一处changeset,但出于不要挫伤编辑者积极性的原则,社区通常对这类bad comment更容忍,很少情况下忍不住了才会向DWG报告 举个例子: ![Zhen SHi|611x500](upload://vdLtSaqqTwpJqswHwGGfQWxDRdX.jpeg) 这comment有意义吗?有,但连续200+个都是同一份“根据MPI及Esri等卫星图像,绘制的有关张家口区域的村庄等情况。 ” 但我决定不会举报他第二次,因为整个城市只有他一个mapper,我一直认为能让所有人都好好写changeset comment的国家或地区,一定是已经数据基本完善的地区。 正所谓“仓廪足而知廉耻”。

对于一个需要1000+ changeset才能完善的地级市去要求任何detailed changeset comment都是苍白而无力的,我觉得这不好,但强制不一定能达到通过改善changeset comment来改善绘图质量的目的


What if it also resulted in 10 mappers “writing” (letting generate) adequate changeset comments (instead of useless ones)?


Until we have OSM software capable of mind control, any auto-generated comment is going to be no better than e.g. “added X buildings in Y place” (with another tag containing source or imagery). It’s literally no more information than is in the .osc file already.

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This is true. For example, I recently wanted to split an overly large industrial area into several small pieces (c143777767+c143778354). I might write a list of reasons to explain why I want to do this (because it can be expressed more precisely, because here It’s not all industrial areas and there are greenfields, and attach those reason in comment)
But if editors are asked to better describe their intentions, and their intentions may be simply to “pioneer on wild land”, how should we guide them in writing comments? For example, the case I took the screenshot above (first of all, I think that even blocking his account again will not solve all problem), how to describe those edits?

Original reply in Chinese (Yes, above is machine translated, I'm lazy) 这确实,比如我最近想要拆分一个过于庞大的工业区为若干小块(c143777767+c143778354),我可能会写一串理由来解释我为什么要这么做(因为能表示的更精细、因为这里并不全是工业区还有greenfield) 但如果要编辑者更好的描述他们的意图,而他们的意图可能仅仅是简单的“开荒”,我们应该如何指导他们写评论呢? 比如更上面我截图的这个例子(首先我认为即使再次封号也解决不了问题)