Sometimes a tool or process in one software is called something else in another, for whatever reason. An example might be Thiessen vs Voronoi polygons, or Spatial Join vs Query. In perhaps rarer instances names might conflict, and it seems this can lead to conflicts in our tagging system.

To get on with a specific example, I noted today that apparently CartoDB refers to geocoding in their documentation and tools as georeferencing. We actually have a question on main about the distinction between the two terms: What is the difference between geocoding and georeferencing? and while I might agree that geocoding could be considered a form of georeferencing, it seemed fairly clear to me there is a distinction. Including how the terms are used here on GIS.SE.

But with CartoDB's terminology, now we have a tagging hiccup. Anyone coming from that perspective tag/call it georeferencing - there are 15 questions with that combination. Another 11 combine geocoding and cartodb. 3 questions use all three. I'm not sure about any other potential misapplication of either geocoding or georeferencing (there's about 360 questions each, rounded, with 6 having both). But site convention at least appears to distinguish between the two.

How should the tagging of geocoding questions for CartoDB be handled?

  1. georeferencing applied without geocoding
  2. georeferencing changed to geocoding regardless of what CartoDB calls it
  3. both applied only in the case of CartoDB questions
  4. tags left a mix as whatever the asker/initial tagger decides
  5. something else

(Are there any other examples of such tag/naming conflicts you can think of and how / if they were handled?)

  • My initial reaction is 2, but given CartoDB documentation is what it is 3 would likely be a better choice. I don't like 4 at all, because I think there should be a consistent convention and use. 1 would be the best answer considering documentation, but that means a tag with two different meanings/applications on GIS.SE.
    – Chris W
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 21:17
  • georeferencing is write some coordinates (raster, geometry), geocoding is requesting coordinates from geometry. terminology does overlap between products/services.
    – Mapperz Mod
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 21:19
  • @Mapperz I think I agree with that. I tend to think of it as geocoding goes from text to geographic geometry, and georeferencing goes from unknown (geography-less?) geometry to known geographic geometry. Can I use geo any more times in a sentence?
    – Chris W
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 23:02

1 Answer 1


While my preference would be to see CartoDB adopt similar definitions for and to those used by the large majority of our GIS community, as an interim and pragmatic solution my suggestion would be to tag CartoDB questions on "true" geocoding as and then to make a synonym of .

That way when a CartoDB user starts to type "georef..." they will presented with two candidates - one that contains their product name. Upon choosing that what will be stored is and any investigation by the CartoDB user should uncover that they are using the term "georeferencing" differently to how other GIS users do i.e. we will have done our bit for GIS education.

  • 1
    +1 I agree that exploiting the synonym mechanism ought to provide a decent solution.
    – whuber
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 22:24
  • 1
    I've gone ahead and created the tag, made a wiki, and edited all the relevant posts I found. All that should be left it to create the synonym. Thanks, and great idea.
    – Chris W
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 17:19
  • @ChrisW The synonym is now created - thanks for doing the harder work on it.
    – PolyGeo Mod
    Commented May 9, 2015 at 22:34

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