What about the language limit of create new thread in the community forum?

While I was editing Is the license of alltheplaces suitable? - #2 by 快乐的老鼠宝宝, my original thread was written in Chinese, but before I press “Create Thread”, I hesitated.

“However, I noticed that all the posts in the general talk catalog are written in English, and I did not find the pinned guideline specifying the language requirements for the new thread” → “If I post this, will it be considered a breach of community forum etiquette?” → “Spend a few minutes translate it to English.”

My English is not perfect - but I think there may be more non-English speaking mappers whose English is worse than mine - then when they want to discuss, are they more negative to post on this community forum?


Another thing I want to pay attention to is that although the community has a translation plugin, in order to don’t keep myself out of the group (at least I rarely see the existence of non-Latin letters appear in other places than the translated GUI), I will still translate the thread into English and posted on it as I said above. If there is no corresponding country or region subcategory (for example, China has not been able to gather 3 moderators that meet the application subcategory (Required in https://community.openstreetmap.org/t/about-the-new-category -requests-category/1001)), it is important to have a clear hint that whether you can post freely in each language in where.

As far as I can see in my China community, the more difficult in applying for such a subcategory or the more hesitate when creating new thread, when users want to discuss in their own language, the more they tend to discuss in the local telegram group instead of here, the global community. Therefore, many mappers from China will only come to this community when they want to ask for suggestions from global mappers.


Just like recently, several mappers in the Korean community are trying to promote the construction of a discussion group that mainly includes countries and regions in East Asia or East Asia and Southeast Asia


↑ Because many mapper really feel the problem of the Western perspective in the current OSM community. The voices of mappers from non-English-speaking countries have never been quiet. Telegram in the Chinese community has more than 100 replies every day, but we are rarely in the community or see their voices in the forum.


Well to answer your initial question: Yes, it completely fine to post in any language you feel comfortable with.

There are caveats however:

  • I don’t know how good the translation of Mandarin(, Japanese, Korean, …) via the Microsoft translator plugin really is. Historically, it seems that automatic translation always somewhat struggled translating to and from these languages. But well, only one way to find out.

  • The topic title cannot be translated. :frowning: It is a missing feature in that translator plugin. As long as this feature is missing, maybe it is a good idea to include both Chinese + English version in the topic title.

How to make it more visible that it is fine to post in other languages other than English?

Maybe add half-a-sentence in the subforum description? E.g.

General discussion about OSM that don’t fall under any other category. Use any language you are comfortable with. For help and support questions please check #help-and-support


I agree, having the title in both languages is probably best workaround for Translation of thread title. (for those interested, there is also related talk about adding synonyms for tags, so discussions used can be found easier by non-English speaking world: Increase the number of tag words allowed - #10 by Matija_Nalis)

But it is definitely welcome to contribute in other languages. I personally use English because I’m more comfortable with that than with automatic translation of Croatian (and I can use the practice), but I’ve seen English-speaking people jumping to Croatian category with posts in Croatian and communicated with them just fine in English / Croatian mix.

As an aside, that however might be more of Chat vs. Forum thing. Firstly, message in chat like Telegram, and message in forum are vastly different in both size and effort to create, as well as in culture behind them (chat is usually considered something temporary which is quickly gone and more informal, and forum is something that stays there forever and will be referenced later).

For example, This one message alone would be at least dozens of messages in telegram. Even in English-only territory, there is much more e.g. daily messages in OsmAnd telegram channel, than daily OsmAnd-tagged messages in this community forum. That is in my opinion normal, and probably for the most part not related to languages.

Now if Chinese community had some other standalone forum (or mailing list) dedicated to OSM, then it would make sense to compare that numbers to community.openstreetmap.org forum - results there would be more language-related I think.

I think having both is best - if you can find three moderators (there really isn’t much of an obligation so it should be possible to find 3 interested persons). Then people who are more shy of western culture can mingle in Chinese subcategory, and those who are more bold can be those who thread both Chinese subcategory as well as elsewhere (currently mostly English-dominated, although many important discussions are happening in German-domainted subcategory too, and others)

There is a saying “Be a change that you want to see in the world”. I would advise that people from wide variety of backgrounds participate in discussions they are interested in - the more they do, the less western-centric those discussion will become.


An official language is needed for the fair convenience of OSM users, and I don’t think there is much problem with English being in charge of the official language.
However, there is psychological pressure to write in English (or Latin letters) even if it is not necessarily official, and in fact, you can hardly see anything other than English.
Of course, this is most likely self-censorship by non-Latin users.
I am well aware that there is no such thing as ‘must write in English’ anywhere in this space.
However, in practice, some communities are directing inform non-English posts to go to the local community.
(Correction : Excuse me. In my writing, ‘directing’ doesn’t exactly match what I mean. It was meant to inform non-English writers that it is better to post in the local community.)
They know they never do it in a bad way. They’re trying to be kind with good intentions, but they don’t realize that they’re building a verbal wall.

사실상 이런 사소한 개인적 의견을 쓰는 글에서까지 제가 어렵게 영어를 써야 할 이유는 없는 것입니다. 그렇지 않습니까? :wink:

당신의 지지와 관심에 감사드립니다.
하지만 그것은 마치 자기 꼬리를 쫓는 개나 자기 꼬리를 문 뱀 같은 것입니다. :sweat_smile:
Thank you for your interest and support.
But it’s like a “snake biting its own tail” or a “dog chasing its own tail”. :sweat_smile:

@快乐的老鼠宝宝 님에게…

링크 오류입니다. 제대로 된 링크는 https://community.openstreetmap.org/t/about-the-new-category-requests-category/1001 입니다.

Now that the better discussions have begun, there is less need for attention, but I’ll link them anyway.

It seems to me that you are confusing two things here: directing non-English posts to non-English speaking forums, and directing them to local communities. The two might be identical for some languages but they are not for, say, Spanish, Arabic, French, Portuguese, etc.

So in my mind there’s a totally different debate to be held, given that we all are for inter-cultural exchanges:

  • would we be better off with a federation of language-specific forums?
  • or should we strive for a Babel-like unified forum?

My view is, of course, that the forums are integrated. - language integration forum
Because a disconnect in discussion will lead to a disconnect in thought, a disconnect in relationships, and a disconnect in opportunities to understand.
That’s why I argued that we need a new consensus on local community usage.
And that’s why I’m arguing that it shouldn’t be country communities or language communities, but local communities discussing local topics.

I agree with this, the community where to discuss things is the one interested and familiar with a feature / question, and for many questions this is the local community. There are also many cases where a national community is aware of the situation (e.g. nationwide operating businesses like banks, restaurant chains, retailers, etc.) and should be consulted for tagging questions, and there are many topics where an international community should be involved because the same or a similar thing is relevant in more than one country, but these aren’t “local topics” as in your sentence.

Regarding language, this is often similar to the national level, a community wider than the local group, with similar cultural expectations and experiences, but can be different for the (ex) imperialist countries who spread their language to countries far away (i.e. same language may not be coincident with the same culture, e.g. English, Spanish, Portuguese, French), or for countries with many languages (language may be only of regional and not of national significance).

I’m going to go ahead and clarify something I’ve written in several places that I think some people have misunderstood,

  • the discussion here is centered on language,
  • the ‘cultural sphere’ I’m referring to is not the ‘language sphere’ (I bring it up to illustrate the situation, and there may be some overlap, but it’s by no means the center of my argument).
  • For the sake of a more developed and focused discussion, I’d like to stick to the comments here.

I would characterize the Babel-like forum as a utopia, in a good way. It is the same kind of utopia that led to the development of languages such as Esperanto a century ago, with some results. And for sure, with modern technology we are getting close to making that utopia a reality; I would be eager to contribute by testing.

However, there is utopia and there is everyday life. And in everyday life, I observe:

  • that most of the influent members of my country’s community have lots of opinions and initiatives to share with the international community but do not come here. Two reasons I heard: “language issues” and something like “too complex, too much investment”.
  • that I was one of the first users of this Discourse because I liked so much the French-speaking one, but I nearly gave up when I saw the mix of languages in thread titles. Compared to my other day-to-day information sources, I consider this as barely usable.

My point is that treating utopia as if it was reality can be counter-productive. A fluid, babel-like forum would be great. We don’t have it yet. What we have is something that, IMHO, would be better off with linguistic categories so that lazy users can have their way and more adventurous users can explore posts in other languages.

I agree that a lot of users are looking for this experience. For example, I believe that many users of the Germany category treat it as a de-facto linguistic category – they use it to discuss OSM-related topics in the German language, do not visit the rest of this forum much if at all, and may just treat the “Germany” category page as their forum front page.

Can you think of practical ways to improve the experience for this type of user, and to make the first contact with this site less overwhelming?

Two possibilities could have been explored:

  • since categories are the main object usable for selecting your areas of interest, we could have chosen to have a category per language (and, why, not, a Babel category for the adventurous). Topics would then be handled through tags. I would select categories English, French and Babel for when I feel adventurous.

  • or we could have explored a federation of servers, like in wikipedia. One server per language, with standard categories across servers and links between servers. But I am not sure of the technical cost to do that.

Are you talking about threads on community.openstreetmap.org Discourse forum, or on other platforms (Telegram, Slack, Mailing lists …)? Because in other platforms barriers for translating and replying in different languages are much higher than clicking a button.

That is important distinction. From my (Croatian) perspective, there is (at least) dual use for Croatian community at Hrvatska (Croatia) - OpenStreetMap Community Forum :

  • one is to provide more local and less scary environment for new users - both because they don’t speak English language (well or at all), and because they’re more comfortable asking something before dozen of their compatriots with similar cultural background etc, then before many thousands of strangers where there might be cultural clash / misunderstandings / stage fright.

  • other is to discuss issues which are mostly not interesting to the rest of the world - e.g. how to handle/standardize specific mapping peculiarities local to Croatia, handling of specific problematic users which map in some area, news about Croatian gornment-agency related to aerials and other possibly open data which could be used, etc.

As noted by @StC , those get more complex when “Language spoken” no longer implies “Country”.

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