Using the forum as the main discussion platform for tagging

Continuing the discussion from Moving to the new forum for proposals and voting:

I’m opening this to discuss the goodness of this forum as a discussion platform about tagging and to decide whether it could make sense to use it as the main place where discussion should take place.
This should not be seen as a proposal to move all discussion to the forum, but just an analysis of this platform to identify all advantages and disadvantages compared to established methods of communication.
If the forum comes out as a large improvement over previous methodologies, then its use should be encouraged over the alternatives; while, if we find out that the forum doesn’t provide any significant advantage then we should just keep it as one of the alternatives.
Currently, the main places in which discussion takes place are mailing lists and the wiki.

You can refer to the discussion that took place in the parent topic of this one to see some of the opinions expressed by different people.
I’ll try to make a short summary so that you can have an idea without reading through the whole topic; you’re welcome to correct any error I made and points I missed.

Advantages of the forum:

  • Low barrier to enter
  • Easy to navigate
  • No external tools required
  • Can be followed through rss feed/emails
  • Single topic subscription

Disadvantages of the forum:

  • No threading
  • One place more where discussion could take place, thus fragmenting it even more
  • People with an established workflow will have to change it

The problems with the workflow, at least to me, don’t appear very significant; since the forum can be used exactly in the same way as the mailing list: you can receive all messages in your email and send replies with a mail.
The biggest difference between the forum and other discussion methodologies is definitely that the forum does not allow threading, as pointed out by @Hungerburg.
Both the wiki and the mailing list do allow threading in some way, even though threading in the mailing list can be a little bit complex to navigate.
The forum does allow opening a new topic as a reply to the post of someone else, this is what I’m doing in this topic mainly to test out the functionality and to see how it works.
This might actually be a proper solution to the missing threading problem, depending on how well it works and how accepted the conversation flow is.

Thus, please try out the forum a little bit and express your opinion about these points and present other things that you’ve noticed.

Issues identified in this topic:

  • Replying to one post by email does not show up as a direct reply in the forum (here)

Advantages identified in this topic:

  • Posts can be edited to provide summaries of the following discussion, to ease new people entering a long topic (here)
  • Images can be inlined with the posts (here)

Points to resolve:

  • When a new topic is created from an existing one, are all the participants noticed about it? (here)
  • Is it possible to easily understand which topics are related to each other? (here)
  • Are users participating in the discussion notified about edits to previous posts? (here)

Solutions proposed:

  • Structure each RfC proposal into multiple different forum topics to have a more ordered discussion (here)
  • Have the authors of the topic maintain a list of all related topics by editing the initial post (here)


Ideology about threading of discourse: Web Discussions: Flat by Design

About threading: the main thing for me is to see what specifically the reaction is about, and if there are follow-ups. In this post I selected (in my mailer) the text I am replying to, I hope it will show up in the forum. I think in the forum itself, selected text will be a quote in the follow-up.

Direct follow-ups are shown with the post. I haven’t tested if the follow-ups link to the actual messages, I would expect they do.

Peter Elderson

You reply correctly shows up in the forum, however not the text you wished to reply to.

While this can be done in the forum, I don’t think you email will allow to simply select text to quote it.
You have to prefix the text you are quoting with a “>” or enclose it in “[quote=“davidoskky”] [/quote]” for the quote to correctly show up in the forum.
I’m not sure about how the quotes show up in the email rendering.

In the forum, your reply does not show up as a direct reply to my message but as a normal post done without referencing anyone else in particular.
I hope there is a way to make it appear as a direct reply, hopefully someone more experienced with this forum can provide some insight.

I have now enabled receiving emails from the forum to better understand how the email interaction works.

I will add this point to the initial post, so that all new issues that come up are listed at the beginning.

I believe this ability to edit posts to provide a summary of the following discussion to be a good advantage; however I’m not sure if this will create problems for people using it through the email, since they probably won’t get to see those changes.
Thus, it would be better if edits to posts were kept at a minimum: to correct grammar and to summarize following discussions without adding anything that hasn’t been said already.

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Thank you @davidoskky for inviting me by ping. Do contributors to the other topic, that this one is said to be split off get a notice too? How can I tell, that both this and the other topic relate, here or there?

This piece Web Discussions: Flat by Design from Jeff Atwood fame should be mentioned here too. I am a bit uncertain, if the message by @nukeador in the other topic did quote it right: In stackoverflow, replies to a message do not appear in the posts-roll, but appear below the post they replied to. It has one level of threading, visible by some indentation and smaller print. I agree, this minimal nesting should do it. Discourse has no threading at all. Perfectly fine for brainstorming.

I should say, IMO, multiple topics for a proposal RfC seem to best meet the requirements of decently structured discussion. That is also the gist of the discourse thread nukeador linked to, if I understand fully. Even the most simple proposal will give rise to distinct issues. Intermingling talk on several of those in a single topic will make staying up to date a chore. So yeah, go for multiple topics! @Cartographer10 WDYT?


Hello @Hungerburg,
thank you for taking part in this discussion.

I’m not sure about this, I would hope this is the default behavior or that at least it’s some kind of option that can be enabled.

You can tell that this topic is related to the other one by the first link in my post; that was automatically inserted by the system.
As far as I can see, there is no other indication available of this and it definitely is not clear from the list of topics.

From the other topic, the only indication that this is related is under the post I was replying to; a small insert appears linking to this topic as you can see in this image.
I do agree that it would be better to also show it at the beginning of the other topic, so that all related topics can easily be retrieved; possibly nearby the popular links listing.
In fact, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to have a listing of popular links and not a listing of related topics.

Agreed, this would probably be a better solution; but I believe there is no way to provide such functionality to this forum.

I agree, multiple topics appears the best way to go; discussing everything in the same topic does look chaotic.
At this point it has to be made clear how difficult it would be to retrieve all related topics.
If the only way to retrieve related topics is the small link under the reply, this gets quite difficult as people might overlook it.
If that is the case, I feel that the best option would be to delegate to the author of the original topic the duty of curating a list of all other related topics into the original message, so that everyone can easily retrieve all conversations. This is far from ideal, since this should be automated by the system.

tagging mailing list is also not requiring external tools, both can be accessed by opening a website (webmail or forum)

nowadays free decent webmail like gmail (has some problems but they do not apply for mailing lists) or tutanota or Proton Mail and many other are readily accessible

On the other hand ability to inline images (we can do it here, right?) can be nice

Yes, you’re right.
I was referring to the navigation of messages and threads, it’s been mentioned that external tools are a good way to navigate the mailing list.

Yes, images can be easily added to posts.

in this case there is no real difference in strength as Discourse is also exposing API (IIRC)

I’d say the mailing list does require an external tool: an email address and client. Most likely everyone already has this, but it is still an external tool. With the forum, a new user can follow a link, sign in, and immediately reply to a thread right on the same platform where they read it. With the mailing list a new user follows a link to the archive page and they can read the thread there, but not reply. In order to reply they must move to a different platform (email client) instead of the original place where they read the conversation (list archive).

This discussion is taking a hilarious turn. If you do not have an email address you cannot sign up to OSM and if you cannot sign up to OSM then you cannot participate in this forum. If you use a throwaway email address you will not receive messages when people comment on your mapping and you will rightly be kicked out for not being a good OSM citizen. Having people who are not good OSM citizens have a say in what tags OSM is using is ridiculous. No email - no service.


As someone who has been subscribed to the mailing lists for a very long time, I’m sure it sounds ridiculous to you, but please consider what it’s like for someone who is not yet subscribed, or does not wish to subscribe, to the mailing list. Of course they have an email address, but subscribing to the mailing list is a separate process than signing up for OSM. The point is that if I send a link to this mailing list thread to another mapper who is not subscribed, they can’t reply at the link I sent them. With a link to the forum, they can. It’s very simple.


I feel that focusing this discussion on mailings lists vs discourse is probably not going far, individuals will keep having their own personal preferences.

Instead, as I suggested, I would frame a small test (one or two tags only) to validate if these forums can productively host a tagging discussion and see and present the outcomes to everyone, based on data, not only opinions or preferences.



Agreed, though the focus here is not in and of itself forcing users to switch to discourse, but finding advantages and disadvantages; so that it will become easier for people to decide whether to use the forum or not and it’ll be clear to everyone what are the problems with the forum in order to find some workarounds.

We are not sure about how discourse behaves in particular situations; could you please address these points?

  • When a new topic is created from an existing one, are all the participants noticed about it? (here)
  • Is it possible to easily understand which topics are related to each other? (here)
  • Are users participating in the discussion notified about edits to previous posts? (here)

Knowing how the forum works will make it easier to find a good way to utilize it.

Original topic owner is notified.

Replies created as new topics will appear as link to the original topic message. I’d suggest appending a unique tag to all topics to keep them searchable.

People is notified if the original message has been edited or a message you replied or liked was edited.

I think trying to anticipate every use case (or if they are blockers for most people or not) is very time consuming, that’s why a simple test will help people understand if there are any other additional gaps through the process.

As the admin of the tagging@ mailing list I’ve long anticipated that tagging discussions will move here in time.

The list format is not particularly conducive to participation by subject experts, because the prime way of interacting with it is by subscribing to the list; unless you use an email client/provider with significant threading and filtering capabilities, that means your inbox ends up bombarded with tagging discussions, most of which you will have no interest in. The result is that the tagging@ list is primarily composed of “people who like talking about tagging” which is not a great outcome.

However, is still effectively in setup mode and there is a lot of ‘meta’ talk, so the time is not yet.

I wouldn’t anticipate that the wiki “voting” procedure needs to move here. If people want to vote on what particular words appear on a wiki page (which is all the voting procedure is), it makes sense to keep that on the wiki.


2 posts were split to a new topic: Edit messages time limitation

True, but smaller discussion can also happen in one post. See this and original post. The original topic has over 50 comments already. Several small things were covered in a single topic which went fine

Have you noticed that now the original topic offers a summary of messages? It will pick the 10% most relevant ones (likes and replies).

Multiple replies to one message can be expanded from the original message, allowing one level of threading some people was asking about.

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Sweet. That is indeed an useful feature.