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A user category is a type of category—a grouping of related pages intended as a tool for navigation—that contains the user pages of Wikipedia users. The technical function of a user category, therefore, is to group the user pages of Wikipedia users who share one or more characteristics. Given this technical function, and considering the principle that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia and not a social networking site or personal webhost, the purpose of user categories is to aid in facilitating coordination and collaboration between users for the improvement and development of the encyclopedia.
In addition, as with all categories, user categories should not be used as "bottom-of-the-page" notices. If a Wikipedian wishes to have such a notice, they may edit their user page and add the notice in some other way (such as by adding text or a userbox), rather than inappropriately creating a category grouping.
Appropriate types of user categories
Quite simply, a user category is appropriate if it has the capacity to facilitate coordination and collaboration between users for the improvement of the encyclopedia. Some examples of types of user categories that are generally appropriate include:
- Categories which group users by participation in Wikipedia; such as participants of a Wikipedia collaborative project, or as a Wikipedia functionary.
This includes any grouping of users by participation in a formal WikiProject (e.g. Category:WikiProject Biography participants) or informal collaborative activity (e.g. Category:Wikipedian new page patrollers). This does not include participation in personal userspace projects. Wikipedia functionaries are (among others) administrators, and Wikipedia clerks.
- Categories which group users by ability to improve the encyclopedia
This includes any grouping of users by technical skill (e.g. Category:Wikipedians who edit audio files, Category:Wikipedians who understand ParserFunctions) and ability to access, produce or understand certain material such as sources or images (e.g. Category:Wikipedians in Algeria, Category:User de, Category:Translators fr-en). Any ability that is not relevant to encyclopedia-building, such as the ability to hold one's breath for more than five minutes or to conduct basic conversion of units, cannot form the basis of an appropriate user category.
- Categories which group users by knowledge or understanding of a topic
This includes any grouping of users by narrow technical expertise (e.g. Category:Wikipedian instrument-rated pilots) or a more general familiarity with a subject (e.g. Category:Wikipedian accountants). Any knowledge that is not relevant to encyclopedia-building, such as knowledge of a spouse's reading habits or knowledge that is not verifiable, cannot form the basis of an appropriate user category.
- Categories which group users by interest in a subject
This includes any grouping of users by interest in a subject - that is, interest in editing articles related to a certain topic - so long as the topic is not overly narrow or vague (see below: Categories that are overly narrow in scope, Categories that are vaguely defined). Note that merely liking/disliking or supporting/opposing something does not necessarily imply an interest in editing articles related to it. Any interest that is not relevant to encyclopedia-building, such as an interest in eating éclairs, cannot form the basis of an appropriate user category.
Inappropriate types of user categories
Since the purpose of user categories is to facilitate improvement of the encyclopedia, categorisation on the basis of any characteristic (including particular abilities, interests, knowledge, or skills) that has no or limited relevance to the encyclopedia is inappropriate. Some examples include:
- Categories that are all-inclusive
This includes any grouping of users on the basis of something that may be a characteristic of most or all Wikipedia users (e.g. Wikipedians who use the Internet, Wikipedians who use personal computers, Wikipedians who play video games), or humans more generally (e.g. Citizens of Milky Way, Wikipedian of Earth).
- Categories that are too broadly or vaguely defined
This includes any grouping of users on the basis of characteristics which cannot be readily identified, or which are defined so broadly or vaguely that one cannot draw meaningful conclusions about users based on their membership in the category (e.g. Wikipedians interested in general knowledge, Wikipedians interested in local history, New Age Wikipedians, Mystic Wikipedians)
- Categories that are overly narrow in scope
This includes any grouping of users on the basis of a characteristic that limits opportunities for encyclopedic collaboration to just one or very few articles, such as categories for interest in or fondness for a single individual (e.g. Wikipedians interested in Paul McCartney) or film. This also includes the creation of "personal" categories, in which an editor might wish to group articles, userspace pages, or any other pages categorised by personal preference, such as by user(s) edits or uploads, or even by personal interest.
- Categories that are not-based
This includes any grouping of users based on the absence of a particular characteristic (e.g. Wikipedians not active on weekdays, Wikipedians who don't wish to become administrators, Wikipedians who don't own automobiles), including inability to speak a language.
- Categories which group users by dislikes of any type
This includes any grouping of users based on a shared dislike for a person, group, organisation, event, idea, philosophy, or activity (e.g. Wikipedians who dislike High School Musical).
- Categories which group users on the basis of irrelevant likes
- Categories which group users by advocacy of a position
This includes any grouping of users by support for or opposition to a person, object, issue, or idea, especially when they are unrelated to Wikipedia.
- Categories that are divisive, provocative, or otherwise disruptive
This includes any grouping of users on the basis of a characteristic that, unintentionally or by design, triggers a negative emotional reaction in others, is detrimental to an environment of constructive collaboration, or brings Wikipedia into disrepute. This includes categories for enmity toward a particular group of people, dislike for or hatred of a particular individual (e.g. Wikipedians who dislike George W. Bush), or support for or opposition to a controversial person, group, project, idea, policy, or activity. This also includes categories created in protest or to make a point (e.g. Wikipedians whose religion has been deleted by Wikipedia).
- Categories that are jokes/nonsense
This includes any grouping of users that are patently false (e.g. Wikipedians who are zombies, Wikipedians in their 780s), nonsensical (e.g. Userpages That Are Full Of LOL), undecipherable (e.g. Wikipedians who Watch animals from their POV), or created primarily for humourous or satirical purposes (e.g. Category:Wikipedians who are one of an infinite number of monkeys).
- "Each of the pages in the Category namespace represents a so-called category, a kind of grouping of related pages." – Help:Category#Summary
- "Categories (along with other features like cross-references, lists, and infoboxes) help readers find information, even if they don't know that it exists or what it's called." - Wikipedia:Categorization#When_to_use_categories
- "Wikipedia is not a social network such as MySpace or Facebook. ... Wikipedians have their own user pages, but they may be used only to present information relevant to working on the encyclopedia. ... The focus of user pages should not be social networking, but rather providing a foundation for effective collaboration." – Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not#Wikipedia is not a blog, webspace provider, social networking, or memorial site
- "[Y]our user page ... exists to make collaboration among Wikipedians easier". – Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not#Wikipedia is not your web host
- "Categories are for defining characteristics..." - Wikipedia:Categorization
- "[N]ot every verifiable fact (or the intersection of two or more such facts) in an article requires an associated category." - Wikipedia:Overcategorization
- "A category is probably inappropriate if the answer to the following ... is "no": Is it possible to write a few paragraphs or more on the subject of a category, explaining it?" - Wikipedia:Categories, lists, and navigational templates#Categories
- "...merely being true, or even verifiable, does not automatically make something suitable for inclusion ..." - Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not#Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information
- A list of precedents is available at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/User/Archive/Topical index#Wikipedians by userspace project.
- See Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/User/Archive/July 2007#Category:Wikipedians who like and can work in both English and Metric units
- See, among others, Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/User/Archive/January 2008#Category:Wikipedians who like The Simpsons Movie, Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/User/Archive/January 2008#Category:Wikipedians who like X, Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/User/Archive/February 2008#Wikipedians who like X part 2.
- A list of precedents is available at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/User/Archive/Topical index#Wikipedians by 0-level language knowledge.
- "Wikipedia is not a soapbox, a battleground, or a vehicle for propaganda and advertising. This applies to articles, categories, templates, talk page discussions, and user pages." - Wikipedia:What Wikipedia is not#Wikipedia is not a soapbox
- A list of precedents is available at Wikipedia:User categories for discussion#Wikipedians who support/oppose.
- A list of precedents is available at Wikipedia:Categories for discussion/User/Archive/Topical index#Nonsense/joke/humour categories.