Commons talk:Categories

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This is the talk page for discussing improvements to Commons:Categories.
Archives: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Delete "Universality Principle"[edit]

I propose to delete this section.

It was added, undiscussed, by one single editor in a massive change of policies here. That seems to have been to try and justify some specific category discussions here: Category talk:Navigation consoles of watercraft (and others) that were being resisted by a number of editors. It has been cited again here: Commons:Categories for_discussion/2021/11/Category:Tracht. A massive change involving it came up more recently here: Commons:Categories for discussion/2020/01/Category:Gray and as that was (unsurprisingly) such a surprise, it then generated pushback here: User talk:JopkeB#Grey or gray?

There are two problems with this section. They are fundamental and cannot be addressed simply by editing the wording.

  • It is contrary to all other WP policy and practice.
  • It seems only to be used to introduce neologisms. Which are themselves against WP policy and practice, and they also reduce usability for readers by phrasing things with invented terms that are equally unfamiliar to all.

Commons is not Wikipedia and does not inherit Wikipedia's policies. Few have been explicitly copied across, most were thought to not be necessary. However it's still worth looking at them, and especially at the backstory for how they came to be. In particular en:WP:ENGVAR: because language differences are inevitable, and editor loyalties will lie with their own tradition, then there is no hope of ever finding a "best" solution. In the interim though, we need to avoid concrete problems, such as edit-warring and needless churn between versions. If a narrow use of a term does have an evident national link (such as Category:Grey road vehicles in London), and where the alternative with "gray" would be a wiki-invented aberrance, then of course it can be tied to that.

There is no reason at all why MediaWiki categories need to have consistent naming across their children. I am tired of people claiming this as some justification for this "Universality". MediaWiki works by tagging both "Grey vehicles in London" and "Gray aliens in Area 51" and "Things that are an iridescent rainbow and aren't monochromatic at all" with membership in the Gray category, then they're done. The parent category just doesn't care what the children are called. Nor do our readers: the names themselves, in relation to their content, is much more important than a false and contrived consistency imposed between them.

Neologisms are a real problem on both Wikipedia and Commons, but Wikipedia has policies that they mustn't be invented, Commons (this policy) says that they must! We should resist this. No-one is well-served by inventing nonsensical names for things, even if that makes them "consistent". We do not need any more attempts to invent Category:Driving stands of watercraft.

"Universality" does not work as a naming principle here. WP recognises that and long abandoned it, in favour of accepting stability and recognising national ties. We should do the same on Commons. Andy Dingley (talk) 17:43, 10 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Agree strongly. "local dialects and terminology should be supressed in favour of universality if possible." No. - this would create huge amounts of local categories contrary to what locals actually call things. There have been several category discussions over the years where sentiment went the other way. We allow both "pubs" and "bars" rather than trying to pretend that every example worldwide is either one or the other despite what people who live there call it - etc. -- Infrogmation of New Orleans (talk) 23:48, 10 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    If there is no counter argument over this point, I suggest deleting that segment. -- Infrogmation of New Orleans (talk) 00:37, 18 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    that convention dates back to 2007. you cannot change commons conventions without at least an rfc. RZuo (talk) 08:39, 18 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    Thank you, so I guess starting an rfc is in order. -- Infrogmation of New Orleans (talk) 15:15, 18 April 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • @Andy Dingley: Has an rfc been started? If not I suggest you start one, as you seem articulate on the issue. Thanks, -- Infrogmation of New Orleans (talk) 19:00, 1 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
 Comment I do not know if an RfC has been made elsewhere on this matter, but if so, it should merely direct participation to this existing conversation, there is no need to forum shop. I do strongly encourage posts on VP and other relevant pages to solicit comment here.
 Oppose I strongly oppose simply deleting the Universality Principle. It is one of the key principles that have guided building and maintaining the Commons category structure. It is absolutely important to permit a standard approach to category management and ensure a consistent presentation of cateories to users. It helps to avoid provincialism and local kingdoms. Given that Commons is a multilingual resource, but lacks at this time a proper internationalization process for category names, it was decided that category names would be in English (other than proper names without a recognized English style) as a general rule. Universality is fundamental to implementing this basic principle.
While Commons has selected English as the language for category names, it does not favor UK, US, or any other flavor of English over the other. Back and forth battles over spelling differences are counter-productive to the mission of categorization. Whether the name of a category is spelled "colour" or "color", "gray" or "gray", etc., is not as important as it being named consistently through the topic tree.
Keep in mind that Commons category names are NOT Wikipedia article titles or any other such thing. They are not prescriptive. The name is not there to tell people how to spell, and not even to say 'things in this category are called 'name' '. Category names are just names for a category, not some attempt to define a name for things beyond the category itself.
Calling a category Butcher's shops in Mexico is not some attempt to say they are called 'butcher's shops' in Mexico, that would be silly, they are called carnicerias there, and renaming it Carnicerias en Mexico would be destructive to the categorization system. Go to Japanese topics and the problem would become even more acute. The Universality Principle is the key principle which encourages the former name instead of the regionally accurate name.
Another flaw with regional naming is that access to Commons media is international, not regional, and international users cannot be expected to learn all local varieties to access our files. Consistent category names are particularly helpful to non-English speakers as asking them to also have to understand regional English differences on top of working in a foreign language is just one more hurdle in the way of international, multilingual access.
Exceptions have been allowed from time to time for certain topics. This is true for many policies and guidelines...exceptions can be made when discussed, there is a good reason for them, and the consensus is to do so. Using that as the basis for flinging the flood gates open and encouraging a mess of category naming by simply removing a guideline without a suitable replacement to prevent unintended consequences is foolhardy, and I can't agree with it.
There are several further reasons why the Universality Principle has been a good thing, and why it should be kept, but here are a few of the key ones:
  1. Consistent names make it easier to maintain the hierarchical category system in accordance with the Hierarchical Principle.
  2. Encourages discussions to happen at the main category level with maximum broad participation in the naming discussion.
  3. Discourages fights over regional variations from continuing 'down the tree' to ever more local (usually lower-traffic) levels.
  4. Simplifies template design and implementation, thus improving consistent look and feel for users throughout the topic tree.
  5. Improves access for non-English speakers (the majority of the world).
Now I like others would love for an internationalization solution (such as WD's labels) to be implemented by Wikimedia, but until that elusive day, UP is key to keeping categories functioning as best possible. Encouraging provincialism and anti-standardization is going to be destructive and thus I strongly oppose simple deletion of the Universality Principle as proposed. Josh (talk) 23:09, 9 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
 Keep I agree with Josh. Most important for me is, that I can search easily for subcategories and parent categories: just type Category:XXX in YYY or Category:XXX by zzz in the search field and you usually get what you want, without having to try variants or to go all the way up or down the category tree. JopkeB (talk) 04:26, 10 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

In, From, Of[edit]

The common English language words "In" "From" and "Of" have distinct meanings familiar to native and advanced speakers. Perhaps they are not clear to some second/third etc English language speakers. Possibly some users have chosen to deliberately disregarded the meanings in a quest for some sort of uniformity in category names. Whatever the case, we seem to have a number of examples where the terms are misused. "In" refers to location and time. The location where a photo is taken is "in" that place. "From" refers to origin, for example the place a person is native of, or where an object was manufactured. "Of" is more general, and can refer to either or both "in" and "of"; it states a general but significant connection. (For example, if a Nerf herder native to Tatooine moved to Alderaan and had their photo taken in Alderaan, the photo could accurately be categorized in "Nerf herders from Tatooine" and/or "Nerf herders in Alderaan", but it would be a falsehood to categorize it as "Nerf herders in Tatooine" or "Nerf herders from Alderaan".) Is there agreement that these three small words should be used accurately in Commons categorization - and if there is not, what is the counterargument? Wondering -- Infrogmation of New Orleans (talk) 18:58, 1 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think people often use the first word that pops up their mind. Sometimes they choose the word according to their intention with the category, without realising that the limitation imposed by the choice would require a parallell category tree with mostly the same content. Often the only thing you know is "in", as your motif is in that place when you take the photo. For celebrities "of" makes more sense, as you usually know where the person lives, but not necessarily where they are from (and that may be irrelevant, cf "Presidents from France").
There is also a true problem: you might want to include both presidents and nurses in People in/from/of X by occupation. Do you need three such categories for each country (or city, or whatever)? If you settle for just one (as we normally do), you probably don't want visiting presidents included, so you should say "of" (you really don't want "from"). So to avoid the visiting presidents you choose "of", and still include Nurses in X, and thus also those in the country for Médecins Sans Frontières, or on a workplace retreat across the border.
LPfi (talk) 20:13, 1 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Along which lines this recent move by User:Trade seems a bit odd. We can easily know these people are in the United States, but the change to of seems to raise questions about our knowledge of the particular people in each photo. - Jmabel ! talk 01:03, 2 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It makes no sense for one set of age groups to use "of" and another set of age groups to use "in". I choose the former as that seemed to be the norm with men, women, children, boys and girls. Trade (talk) 18:55, 2 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I assume none of them is served by using "of". It is probably inherited from "People of", which includes authors, politicians and other celebrities. The age group categories are mainly for random people who might not be locals – that's at least my impression – and should thus use "in". –LPfi (talk) 20:17, 2 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have no strong opinion as to which construction is better in this particular case. I only note that the three words have different connotations, and movement of any media from one to the other should always be done with awareness for every single file, making sure no inaccuracies are introduced. I do feel very strongly that "consistency" should never be used as an excuse for falsehoods in categorization. -- Infrogmation of New Orleans (talk) 20:56, 2 May 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Of, from, in, and other prepositions should be used consistently, however in practice this needs some work. LPfi is correct that generally it seems people use what seems logical at the time of naming, or what sounds right to them. This is because while English speakers usually know what they mean when they use prepositions, there are also a lot of different relationships that can be defined by a given preposition and multiple prepositions that can be applied to some relationships. As an experienced English speaker, this may not pose much of a challenge to sort through most of the time based on context and such. However, for a less-experience English speaker, or especially one relying on translation tools to navigate English-named categories, this is more of a problem. Thus for Commons categories, there is a more simplified preposition employment that seems to work well while being relatively simple:
  • Of is the broadest preposition and thus can serve well in cases where only one relationship is categorized (as noted this is most topics). Alternatively, in cases where there are various prepositional relationships for the same two topics, 'of' works as the parent 'catch-all' with others as sub-categories. Essentially, an 'of' category means essentially "'Topic A' related to 'Topic B'".
  • In is more specific: "'Topic A' located within 'Topic B'". This is usually geographic, but can be other spatial situations, and is usually indexed in a 'by location' index.
  • From has to do with origin: "'Topic A' with an origin of 'Topic B'". Exactly what this means can differ based on the topics, but is usually indexed in a 'by origin' index.
  • With indicates setting or composition with other subjects: "'Topic A' depicted with 'Topic B'" or "'Topic A' with component 'Topic B'".
  • By is generally reserved in the topical tree to incdicate "sorted by" in indices where is it is "'Topic A' by 'sort criterion'" and in the media by source tree to indicate the creator of the topic: "'Topic A' created by 'Topic B'".
These are just the basics but cover the vast majority of actual use cases. Unfortunately, there are a lot of topics which use other interpretations of the above prepositions, so we are a long way from standardization across Commons. In any case where it might not be clear, more specific prepositional phrases can be used ('born in', 'in service with', etc.) as it makes sense. An example where several are used is Aircraft.
Applying the case above (Teenagers in the United States), "in" is the more specifically correct to indicate that the category is for pictures of teenagers actively located in the United States, regardless of origin or such. "Of" could include Canadian teenagers visiting the United States (they are 'in' the US), or Americans visiting Canada (they are 'from' the US). "Of" does have some connotations of ownership or belonging to, and so if indeed both of the listed cases exist and are deemed worthy of a category, the Canadian visiting the US should be in Teenagers in the United States and the American visiting Canada should be in Teenagers from the United States. Both of these categories can then be grouped in Teenagers of the United States. Josh (talk) 23:54, 9 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Museum exhibits and "November 2012 in Strasbourg"[edit]

See Category:November 2012 in Strasbourg and @Edelseider:

Should images be categorized to these narrow date/place categories solely on the basis that this is when a passing Commons photographer happened to press the shutter? I am thinking here (as this category is filled with) of museum exhibits which happen to be displayed in Strasbourg and were accessible on that date to be photographed, no more than that. The focus of the subject has no inherent link to either place or date.

Most of these images have nothing to do with Strasbourg in 2012, except for the coincidence of their photography. They are not of Strasbourg as a subject, by an artist connected to Strasbourg, of a subject of that date or even part of a temporary exhibition on that date. All of those would be justifiable reasons to categorize them.

The metadata here is about the image, not anything to do with the subject. We also record that they were taken with a Nikon P900, but we wouldn't invent "Category:Photographs by a Nikon P900 in Strasbourg".

All this does is that it dilutes the content that really does depend on "November 2012 in Strasbourg". Even when that's a relatively broad link, such as "the 500 year old church in Strasbourg, with people of 2012 wearing the fashions of that era walking past". Such a link does still have some temporal relevance, but a museum gallery is deliberately timeless and isolated. Andy Dingley (talk) 09:32, 12 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Andy Dingley: I can see your point, but you've missed the bigger picture. These November 2012 photographs happen to have been taken during an exhibition ([1]), which is a special occasion and a specific event in time. Most of the artworks were on loan from abroad, this photo for instance shows a painting usually displayed in the National Maritime Museum in London. --Edelseider (talk) 09:44, 12 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Also, artworks tend to change over time - they darken, cracks appear or become larger, or they are restored and suddenly look brighter and fresher. Commons is full of photographs of artworks in a state before restoration and a state after restoration. --Edelseider (talk) 09:48, 12 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The exhibition aspect is far from clear though. If that's the case, then I'd suggest creating a category for that exhibition, placing the images into that, and placing that exhibition category into the place/time category. This would make it much more visible.
As an example, why is File:Loutherbourg-L'Abbaye de Tintern, sur la rivière Wye.jpg here? It's part of a well-known series of paintings connected with SW England / Wales and still in SW England. There's nothing here evident to connect it to Strasbourg, so the categorization is never more than confusing.
If the history of the artwork is so important (and almost never place related), then categorize that on the artwork. An obvious example is Rembrandt's Night Watch and the several restorations that has had. Andy Dingley (talk) 10:17, 12 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Short answer: a time in place category is always welcome. Slightly longer answer 1: the more we try to decide that this is relevant for some photos and not for others, the less likely people are to add them. I'd really like to have everyone add this as a near-reflex on uploading. Slightly longer answer 2: yes, a category for an exhibition is also great, but exhibitions are usually longer than a month, while our usual time in place categories for recent history of cities are a single month. - Jmabel ! talk 13:58, 12 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Why do we bother with categorization? It's not to give a definition of the content (and can't), it's navigational, in order that relevant content can be found by those searching for it.
An artwork categorized with time and place adds nothing, unless that association has meaning. What if I photograph the same artwork fifty times, and put it in a different cat each time, because it's been hanging on the same museum wall for years. That's of no use to anyone.
The exhibition context has value, but only if it's identifiable. The Tintern painting gains nothing from being in Strasbourg in 2012, because nothing else tells me that it was there for a specific event (and I know that normally it's not even in the country). If the exhibition has a category, then I'm fine if that's no more specific than 2012, because that's how I'll be looking for it (over-sliced Commons cats are also a problem from those who don't know SPARQL and have a working query endpoint). Andy Dingley (talk) 16:08, 12 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Very much agree, especially with dilutes the content that really does depend on [some category name like "November 2012 in Strasbourg"].
It not only dilutes but there are further issues such as not being relevant, not being what the user looks for there and being distracting. One of the reasons why I don't think the image that will come to your attention first at Category:Wooden ladders in Russia is appropriate in that specific category, albeit there are more problematic cases. Prototyperspective (talk) 17:03, 12 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Exey Panteleev is a problem all of their own Andy Dingley (talk) 11:10, 13 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's useful for someone who wants (years later) a sense of what was in that time and place. I wish I had clarity of like this on a ton of third-party images we have from Seattle over the course of more than a century. - Jmabel ! talk 17:30, 12 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Agree in principle. And partly precisely because of that (the usefulness and relevance you described), such images should not be in this cat.
...or at least only in a subcat of it to which a user likely navigates through other routes or means (cats are not only 'navigational') than via for example a cat "November 2012 in Strasbourg". Prototyperspective (talk) 22:55, 12 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"a sense of what was in that time and place" Yes, very much so. So a photo of a group of people in mini skirts in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam in 1970 shows us something of museum visitors of that era and place. But a simple reproduction of a Rembrandt on the wall there has been there much the same for a hundred years beforehand, and likely hundreds to come. The intersection of photographer / time alone is too trivial to record by category (we have the metadata otherwise).
But what's worse in this case is that there is some relevance, but that the blunt categorization to month rather than to exhibition doesn't show that. Andy Dingley (talk) 11:10, 13 July 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]

New line in Commons:Categories#Selectivity principle[edit]

The outcome of Commons:Village pump/Archive/2023/08#How independent is Commons in deciding which categories are appropriate? was an extra line in Commons:Categories#Selectivity principle: "There should be one category per topic; multi-subject categories should be avoided." I just did that. Could an experienced user please look whether that is OK so, or should still a translate tag be added? JopkeB (talk) 14:28, 20 August 2023 (UTC)Reply[reply]