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When should one tag a city as a town?

I have updated the lead to clarify the difference between cities as defined by official designation and the use of the city tag in OSM. In particular to highlight when it is appropriate to tag a settlement as town in OSM even though it is official designated at a city. Lets talk about it if we need to work on this more. PeterIto (talk) 11:13, 14 February 2013 (UTC)

This lack of understanding is becoming a serious problem. I find numerous regions (edited by many different people) where tiny populated places of a few hundred people are being upgraded to place=city, "because that place is a city". iD says in its pop-up help,
  • city: The largest urban settlement or settlements within the territory.
  • town: An important urban centre, between a village and a city in size.
  • village: A settlement with between 1,000 and 10,000 inhabitants.
  • hamlet: A settlement with less than 100-200 inhabitants.
  • locality: A named place that has no population.
This is all fine and good -- if you know to look for those tags, and if you understand that these tags are used to rank importance of a place based on population and distance from other populated places of importance. A new iD user who looks at a populated place and thinks 'But that's a city', and types in city may very well tag it that way.
The problem is that OSM's place tag names often overlap with the formal administrative titles of populated places, and it's a confusion I can't see going away.
If we really want to end this kind of confusion, it would help a lot if we simply used one tag, like this:
  • place=settlement (Used regardless of the size or title of a human settlement.)
  • name=Howard (Obvious. Used the same as it is today.)
  • layer=0 (Optional. Used exactly how layer is today with other data sets. One number higher than the other means that settlement is 'rendered on top' when a render conflict exists. Assumed zero by default.)
  • population=9999 (When layer numbers match, population can be used to determine importance.)
  • admin_level=0 (Used how it's used today. Doesn't determine render importance, but is used by nominatim for administrative boundary relation purposes.)
  • admin_title=town/village/city etc., an optional User Defined field. A default title is assumed when an admin_level exists, and this field does not. (Not used to determine render importance at all, but could be used to supplement the name of a place, like 'Village of Howard' or 'City of Appleton', or 'Acadia Parish' in Louisiana where counties don't exist at all.) These can be used by a map renderer, or by Nominatim to title a given administrative area with any name desired. Deprecates place=county/state/etc.)
I'm just tossing this idea out there as 'an idea', and I grant that a change this sweeping would be a stretch to see approved. That said, unless something like the above, or edit locks are implemented to prevent this kind of place tag upgrading, I imagine it happening for the indefinite future. Skybunny (talk) 22:32, 9 June 2014 (UTC)