[OSGeo-Discuss] Re: idea for an OSGeo project -- a new, open data format

Jo Walsh jo at frot.org
Sat Nov 17 22:26:22 PST 2007

dear Steve, all,
On Tue, Nov 13, 2007 at 05:24:55PM +0000, Steve Coast wrote:
> Real artists ship. For everyone else there's standards wanking.

As the origins of the word 'yardstick' suggest, size is relative,
and standards and wanking have always been intimately connected.
> this: We should have got a committee to design a standard, then we  
> could think about a committee to design an ontology... and choose a  

As http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/index.php/Map_Features states, 
"there is benefit in agreeing a recommended set of features and
corresponding tags". This page is a beautiful work and has many
interesting properties. But it's an ontology designed by a committee,
the work of core contributors needing more structure to achieve their
aims, than an completely open key-value tag system.

I'm impressed to see how many different language communities have
worked to translate this page and explain its contents. 
Yet, italians, swedes and spaniards alike must use english-language 
key and value 'tags' in order to have their work show up on the map.
Many annotations made before the "core recommended feature set" was
fixed have been lost to perception; though it's technically possible
to use a different system, adapt the rendering and annotation clients,
then that work would be lost to re-use. A bit more structure would
afford a lot more future adaptation and translation.

OSM is a brilliant project, borne of real need and social momentum.
Meanwhile some corners of the standards industry really have gone off
the rails and appear to be acting against common sense and user benefit.
About the most depressing thing i heard at FOSS4G was, in the middle
of an interesting talk, "we were going to implement cool feature X,
but we're *waiting for the standard*". 

As i think you've pointed out in the past, "standards" like the core
Map Features ought to emerge from common practise, from comparing
different things that are shipped and running and being used. 
"Standards" that *do* work, like WMS and RSS, will get picked up.
The core difference in approach seems to be a question of process. 
As Bitner pointed out, sometimes it makes sense to slow down a bit in
order to let others catch up, so we can all go faster.


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