Wikipedia talk:Article titles/Archive 33

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Question with superscripts/subscripts

Is it considered acceptable to use Unicode superscripts and subscripts in article titles, like in C² Centauri? Or would they be considered special characters, and thus avoided in article titles?-- 20:55, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

I think superscripts like this are fine. We have several articles that use them. The software does not seem glitch over the difference between a "2" and a "²"... for example if you type "E=MC2" you get hits for articles that use E=MC² in the title as well as articles that use E=MC2. However, I am guessing that this was not always the case... since the disambiguation page is entitlted: E=MC2 (disambiguation)... I am guessing that it was created a long time ago, when the software could not handle superscripts. (and we should probably change it to E=MC² (disambiguation) ). Blueboar (talk) 21:09, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

Perhaps WP:CRITERIA was a mistake

I'm beginning to regret that I ever added bullet points for naming criteria to this page. They were not intended to be rules that people have to follow, and I think it's becoming abundantly clear that they're not a very accurate description of how we title articles. Therefore, they're broken, as policy. A strict reading of WP:CRITERIA does not enjoy consensus support. The discussion that I've just closed at Talk:Climatic Research Unit email controversy#Requested Move makes that quite apparent.

So what should we do with this page? Burn it for warmth? Rewrite it to accurately describe (never prescribe) how we actually make titling decisions? Base everything on hit-counts at Google books? Stop reading policy pages, because they represent legalistic cancer that should be ignored?

I like 3 of those 4 ideas. :) -GTBacchus(talk) 18:48, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

All of our policies are a combination of describing and prescribing. If there was no prescribing, there would be no point to describe. If the criteria are deficient, that's reason to improve them, not ditch them. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater. --Born2cycle (talk) 19:13, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
"If there was no prescribing, there would be no point to describe". That's false. The point of describing is to give people a starting point, and some ideas to consider. It's not binding, though, and the less it's treated as prescription, the better. The idea that our policies are binding rules is a cancer that we need to constantly fight against.

You might notice that I haven't thrown any babies, nor any water, anywhere. However, I think that bullet point criteria are waaaay too likely to be taken as rules, and frankly B2c, you're the strongest evidence of that claim. I'm worried that you're on a crusade to make this policy into a set of deterministic rules, and I think that is destructive. I don't think there's any lack of good faith; I just don't think you understand the role of policy here.

As for what to actually do, I'm really stumped. I don't want to do over at Talk:China what I did at Talk:Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, because I think that gives the wrong idea about how these things should go. I've just been asked to attempt some kind of closure there, and I'm scratching my head over it. I'm not going to remove the criteria from this policy anytime soon, but I am going to think about how to improve the situation.

I don't like the way you've been using the criteria, B2c; I think it's harmful. Are you reading consensus from observations, or are you pushing for something that you think ought to be?

I also don't buy the argument that following sources is automatically neutral, and I don't think the community buys that argument. I could be wrong about any or all of this. I don't know the answers, and I'm suspicious of anyone who says they do. -GTBacchus(talk) 20:44, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

"Are you reading consensus from observations, or..."—I think of it as reading consensus from observations and discussions at places like VP or the policy's talk page in order to craft the policy, and then in "local discussions" like a move discussion the policies carry a lot of weight, unless there is consensus that it's an exceptional case/etc. ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 23:30, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, that's backwards of how I think of it. Abstract discussions here and at places like VP aren't worth very much. Policy is determined in the field, on a case-by-case basis, and then we try to describe the emergent best practices here. Policy is not made on this page, but in thousands of move discussions. Local discussions are precisely where real policy is created.

When I first added a list of criteria to the top of this page, I was trying to describe what people actually do in naming discussions. They don't pull up a list of 5 criteria and start making check-marks, and I hope they don't start. -GTBacchus(talk) 23:45, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

(ec)Really? I think they're pretty accurate for subjects that don't elicit a lot of controversy; although I could be off. And see Wikipedia_talk:Article_titles#.22Considering_title_changes.22 above. Then there's always a balance between the discussion at a particular move request vs. the consensus at pages like this one: who wins when they come to different results? ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 19:15, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
(ec) They're kind of accurate, yeah. I just think it looks too cut-and-dried.

For non-controversial titling questions, nobody even consults this page, because the answer is generally obvious. The policy is really here to provide some guidance on difficult disputes, and I think we're not doing that too well.

I really don't know what the solution is; I just do my best following community consensus in closing move requests. I don't think there's consensus to approach each titling question with the criteria in hand, expecting them to lead us to the right title. That is, unfortunately in my view, what a couple of people seem to be pushing for. It might be worth a broadly advertized RfC.

I'm doing a lot of thinking about this. -GTBacchus(talk) 20:44, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

If you don't like the idea of policies prescribing what to do, then what is the point of an RFC? Wouldn't that be tantamount to a policy prescribing what to do? I'm confused. Or is the RFC about whether the policy should be prescriptive? How would that have any more authority than a policy in the first place? ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 23:30, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
An RfC is a "request for comment". It's a conversation. It's where we ask people how to proceed, and people converse. We find out what the community thinks. My hunch is that the community doesn't want - and doesn't in practice follow - a deterministic set of rules for deciding on article titles. How can I find out if my hunch is correct except by asking people?

I don't know why you linked LOCALCONSENSUS there. When I say policies aren't prescriptive, a more appropriate link is WP:IAR -GTBacchus(talk) 23:41, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Exactly, they work for 99.95% (guessing) of our titles. So, because people ignore them for .05% of the titles - let's throw them out? Makes no sense. --Born2cycle (talk) 20:34, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
No, Born. For 99.5%, they're not needed because it's obvious what to do. The 0.5% of cases where we need guidance are the cases where we're failing to document what the community really wants to do. I don't think the community wants a list of criteria to deterministically resolve seriously difficult titling disputes. Those are the disputes the community wants to evaluate on case-by-case merits. At least that's what I think I've observed. -GTBacchus(talk) 20:44, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't see that as a failure. We may want to discuss the difference between "Climategate" and Boston Massacre, if we can agree what it is; but the upshot of that discussion is what most of us have long known: we do not necessarily adopt the common name, when it is not consensus, and not neutral. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 22:50, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
One take may be whether to use a name or a descriptive title; one of the ways "Climategate" was opposed was on the grounds that it is not now (and may never be) generally accepted as a name. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 23:20, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
(ec)I don't think the discussion was a failure; I just think it shows that the idea of using WP:CRITERIA as an absolute set of rules does not enjoy consensus support. I'm not sure I expressed myself as well as possible in starting this thread. I just want to discourage people from taking that list of 5 criteria as a final word, or even a particularly definitive word, on article titling. I don't like the way they're being thrown around as if we're supposed to go to them in order to make titling decisions.

"Broken as policy" was unduly strong wording, no doubt. I'm just tired of seeing some junk I wrote down one day elevated to "Principal naming criteria" and quoted left and right. It's obvious to me that we don't decide titles by consulting that list. -GTBacchus(talk) 23:37, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

In general that's a good argument to make, because if it's not the name then it won't be natural, recognizable, etc. But in this case usage in reliable sources indicates it does not apply. --Born2cycle (talk) 23:31, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Re: because if it's not the name then it won't be natural, recognizable, etc. Huh?... something like US Strategy during World War II isn't a name... yet I would say it meets all of the five criteria. Blueboar (talk) 00:35, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't think we want to get rid of the concepts of Recognizably, Naturalness, Precision, Conciseness and Consistency... as broad principles to guide us in figuring out the best titles they are excellent... but I agree that they were never intended to be a set of rules to follow. Principles are what underlie "the rules", and what "the rules" are based upon. I suppose you could say that something like WP:COMMONNAME is a policy "rule", one based upon the broad principles of Recognizably and Naturalness.
Perhaps part of the problem was in calling them "Criteria" (a term which can imply a set of "rules")... what if we call them what they are: "principles". Blueboar (talk) 00:25, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Oh, great. "The principal principles"! These principles are criteria.. "A principle or standard by which something may be judged or decided". --Born2cycle (talk) 00:36, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Born, what I disagree with is carrying them around to move discussions, citing and listing them, and using them to make decisions. They're (an incomplete set of) ideas in the background, not a framework for making decisions. We don't decide titles by going down a checklist, or by applying an algorithm. That's what I'm worried the bullet-list format encourages, and I want to discourage it. -GTBacchus(talk) 00:40, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Hmmm... are you suggesting we drop the bullet list format, but keep the language? Blueboar (talk) 00:44, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Maybe. Maybe we just need to add language around the bullet list explaining how it's not intended to be used. We could probably add a criterion (or "principle") or two as well. Neutrality is clearly a criterion that people like to use, and so is accuracy. I know- I know about accuracy, and the problems around it. Still, when it's a simple question of, say, a company that changed its name, accuracy is precisely the criterion that we use. This happens every day, and it generally doesn't even involve the RM process. Also with neutrality, it's a fantasy to say that the community supports the COMMONNAME=NPOV claim with any kind of consensus. We actually think about neutrality in titling sometimes, employing our judgment when it seems appropriate to do so. -GTBacchus(talk) 02:19, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
[1] Submitted for consideration. The dots points are now properties that we have found consensus titles often have, rather than principles to be applied in naming. Hesperian 02:34, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
I find he phrase "Consensus favours" to be cryptic, at best. Also British ;^}. Dicklyon (talk) 04:56, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
That's cool; it isn't an example of my finest prose, just a possible new angle on what we want to say. Go ahead and polish it, including fixing my accent. Hesperian 05:17, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
British, really? So should we keep it, per WP:ENGVAR? (That was a joke.) I'd say that's exactly the spirit I'm talking about, Hesperian. I'm not too fussed about the exact wording. -GTBacchus(talk) 05:40, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Being British myself I find "consensus favours" to be natural. But while looking at the edit and trying to think of a better wording I had a thought. Would be useful to rephrase the points as questions to be considered? To use the first two points to illustrate:
  • Recognizability – is the candidate title a recognizable name or description of the topic?
  • Naturalness – what title(s) are readers are most likely to look for in order to find the article? Which title(s) will editors most naturally use to link from other articles? Such titles usually convey what the subject is actually called in English.
My reasoning is that they are and should be questions that editors use to guide their thinking, not items on a tick-list ("check-list" to our friends across the puddle). Presenting them as questions might serve to guide discussion, rather than create a battleground for competing ticklists. Jakew (talk) 11:57, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Rephrasing as questions works for me. Blueboar (talk) 12:34, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
I like them as questions also. Helps make the heuristic function of the guideline clearer as opposed to the illusion of simplistic black or white criteria. olderwiser 13:23, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
"Tick list"? Really? That's almost as bad as "whilst"!

Presenting the criteria as questions is better than presenting them as rules, but I most prefer presenting them as descriptions of what generally happens. I won't fight about it, though. -GTBacchus(talk) 15:18, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Chuckles* Hmm, I see what you're saying, but I wonder if we could do both. Suppose we clarify the function of the questions in the opening paragraph(s). For example, what if we said something like, "In discussions about page titles, consensus has generally formed around answers to the following questions: [...]"? Do you think that would be an accurate thing to say? Jakew (talk) 15:39, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Yeah, I think something like that could work. -GTBacchus(talk) 17:46, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

(unindenting) Since we seem to have broad agreement on this change, I've implemented it. Jakew (talk) 14:26, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

Question... since we have changed "criteria" to "questions"... what should we do about the fact that we have shortcuts that still use the term "criteria"? Not saying we need to get rid of the shortcuts, but I am a bit concerned that they might send a mixed message. Blueboar (talk) 15:04, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
Hmm, that's a good point. It would probably make sense to create some new shortcuts in the near future: how about TITLEQUESTIONS for a start?. I'm not sure whether it's a good idea to delete the old redirects or not: their existence would reduce confusion when reading old discussions, but it might create some confusion if people continue to cite them using the old criteria-based names. Jakew (talk) 15:27, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree that we probably should not delete them outright (that would cause problems for existing archives and discussions)... I think the best solution is to simply omit listing them on the policy page itself. They can still exist as redirects ... but would do so behind the scenes. This would allow them to slowly fade away as far as usage goes. Blueboar (talk) 15:40, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
Sorry — I completely misunderstood there! Yes, I agree, that's a good solution. Jakew (talk) 15:46, 14 August 2011 (UTC)


I think we should name and document this malady. I'm coming here directly from the second disputed close in as many months at Talk:Crêpe. That page is highly educational for anyone wishing to understand how to apply COMMONNAME.

In particular, it's very easy to make a pair of Google searches, write down two numbers, and come to a conclusion. Those numbers are, however, very often misleading. If searches are analyzed as they were by User:Noetica in that discussion, the results are much more illuminating... but it requires significantly more work.

Actually clicking through to the last page of results, to get an actual count rather than an estimate, is a basic technique. A more advanced - but often enlightening - technique involves looking at the sources themselves via page previews in Google Books or at Amazon. This will reveal to the curious reader that some sources are not in fact about the correct topic, and possibly other surprises, such as the fact that Google often gets it wrong, especially when it comes to reporting on the presence or absence of diacritical marks.

Comments? -GTBacchus(talk) 14:59, 16 August 2011 (UTC)

The point about diacritics has come up before and was discussed (now archived) on the talk page of Wikipedia:Naming conventions (use English). Hence the paragraphs in the guideline Wikipedia:Naming conventions (use English)
  • Search engines are problematic unless their verdict is overwhelming; modified letters have the additional difficulties that some search engines will not distinguish between the original and modified forms, and others fail to recognize the modified letter because of optical character recognition errors.
  • Google hits are generally considered unreliable for testing whether one term is more common than another, but can suggest that no single term is predominant in English. If there are fewer than 700 hits, the actual count (gotten by paging to the final page of hits) may be accurate for Google's particular corpus of English, but whether this represents all English usage is less certain. If there are more than 700 estimated hits, the number gotten by going to the last page will be wrong; Google only loads a limited number of hits, no matter how many there are. Counts over 1000 are usually estimates, and may be seriously wrong.[n 1] If several competing versions of a name have roughly equal numbers (say 603 for one variant and 430 for another), there may well be divided usage. When in doubt, search results should also be evaluated with more weighting given to verifiable reliable sources than to less reliable sources (such as comments in forums, mailing lists and the like). Do consult reliable works of general reference in English.
--PBS (talk) 00:06, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

I agree some qualification is needed. Raw search result data can very easily be misinterpreted. Google is most useful when the difference is very pronounced. But it should not be entirely discounted. In particular, Google analytic tools such as and can help to inform a discussion, although these shouldn't be viewed as definitive any more than raw hit counts. olderwiser 01:08, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Yes, COMMONNAME does not mean "more hits on Google". Actually reading sources is important. Blueboar (talk) 01:37, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree fully. In fact, google search is actually completely useless in this sense for common names that are phrases, for those with slightly different spelling variations, and for comparison when one of the terms has homographs/homonyms. I think and always get A LOT of pushaback for this, that there is absolutely no substitute for reading the sources. --Cerejota (talk) 09:50, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
  • "Actually clicking through to the last page of results, to get an actual count rather than an estimate, is a basic technique." No, it isn't: the "last page of results" only shows how many distinct pages there were in the first 1,000 results. No Google search will you give more than 1,000 results if you click through to the last page (you can check it with a search for "Wikipedia" or "Microsoft" or any term with thousands of actual results). If you start out with a supposed 200,000 resulst and the last page comes after 75 results, then the original count is probably way off. But if the "last page" comes after a few hundred results, then that is not the actual count, but just the way that Google ends after 1,000 results, i.e. a few hundred distinct results. Fram (talk) 10:24, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
This is the essence of the problem with just about every invocation of COMMONNAME I have seen. As a policy, it doesn't really help in most substantive naming disputes. If you need to go to Google to establish what the common name is, rather than consulting with a range of authoritative sources on their use and their recommendations, then there probably isn't a common name case. Indeed, what I've seen recently is the abuse via Google of COMMONNAME to try reinforce certain contemporary political discourses, just at a time when manipulation of discourse is a studied weapon in the armoury of campaign groups and political parties, particularly in the US (which dominates the English language internet).

There is a very good reason we should go with the practice of authoritative sources rather than our own estimates of general usage: we are not lexicographers, we are (essentially) anonymous internet users. They, on the other hand, have experts, stylebooks, consultants and exposure to public criticism. Having COMMONNAME as an overemphasised policy unfortunately makes us vulnerable to the pushing of original (and often very amateurish) research. The truth is, if authoritative sources don't agree in more or less even measure, we typically find criteria other than COMMONNAME for making a choice - such as NPOV, WORLDWIDE, ENGVAR and so on. "Whichever is more common" is a criterion, but it tends not to be the primary one when it's a close call. (And as people point out above, Googlehits can't be trusted to finesse beyond the bleeding obvious.)

I would rather the ambitions people had for the policy were reduced to pointing out that we make choices like Caffeine (not 1,3,7-trimethyl-1H-purine-2,6(3H,7H)-dione) and for some individuals we make choices such as Hulk Hogan (not Terry Gene Bollea), and occasionally Bill Clinton rather than William Jefferson Clinton even though the latter is probably recognised and is the formal title. Beyond that I don't believe the community puts such an active stress on COMMONNAME (rather than NPOV), except when some users find this particular policy page useful in the middle of a dispute. I get worried by talk of using commonname as a basis of "simplifying" naming disputes through "metrics". It's legislating, not reflecting considered practice.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 12:45, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

It may be that COMMONNAME isn't often used to title articles in the first place, but when you look at the discussions that come through Wikipedia:Requested moves, it is mentioned an awful lot. Perhaps that's something we should be discouraging?

I do realize that looking at RM discussions for evidence introduces some kind of selection bias, because at RM, we only see the tiny minority of articles that (a) have a title that someone wants to change, and (b) where the move is blocked by a history existing at the proposed target. Most articles never see such a discussion. -GTBacchus(talk) 18:33, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Pretty much. WP:COMMONNAME gets dusted off to defend or attack "first namer bias". I have been in some pretty contentious RM's and you can basically identify the POV people as those who are screaming COMMONNAME or NPOV without argument, because in the end, thats all this, as written today, does: give a trout with which to beat your opponent, rather than a tool to improve the encyclopedia.--Cerejota (talk) 11:58, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
That's exactly the problem that I've been trying to get us to address. Can you propose a modest revision to COMMONNAME that would help make it clear how it is to be used, or with what weight, or something that would move it in the right direction? Dicklyon (talk) 15:18, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
Is my above suggestion of any help? Jakew (talk) 15:31, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Remember the predictive value of sampling up to 1,001 actual webpages: When counting data in 1,000 Google results webpages, then the results can often show a 97% accuracy (WP:SIZE1001). The trends found in those webpages have a 97% confidence level of predicting the data in all similar webpages (see essay: WP:Sample_size). Hence, if there are many cases of a target spelling actually used within those 1,000 webpages, then it is extremely unlikely (97% unlikely) that the target spelling is not really used in the reported "141,500 results" that Google has suggested. For that reason, when spelling-1 is used in "405 webpages" and spelling-2 is used in "425 webpages" then it is 97% correct to claim both spellings are used about equally, even without looking at the other 140,500 reported webpage hits. For that reason, even though Google only displays 1,000 search-result pages, for many cases, that data is sufficient to make a 97% solid conclusion. Moral of story: Google Search is a fairly good tool. The key issue is to warn when the search-results are not sufficient, because in many cases, they are good for a 97%-accurate prediction. -Wikid77 (talk) 23:13, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

The problem with clicking through to the last page is that Google (including Google Books) will never show more than 1000 results, even if there are millions. (Searching on never itself, and clicking through, results in 382 hits, although Google's searchbot hasn't gotten out of the titles with Never in them.) If we understood the search algorithm better, it would be a useful control on duplicate hits; it's an accurate control on rare search phrases. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:56, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Never say never: Please do not claim, "Google will never show more than 1,000 results" (because there are ways). When I searched in Google for "never" and went to the last page (19) of results, there were 938 matching webpages. Then, I searched for "never never" (Eureka!) and got a list of 857 matches. So, next I searched for "never quit" and got 919 matches. You do the math. No, here it is: 938+857+919 =2,714 matching webpages. For searches where the results are more likely to be repeated for different searches, then use the Google-minus/exclude operator, such as searching for "never" but exclude "never quit" (Google parameters: never -"never quit"). Hence, keep running other similar, thoughtful searches, until there are over 5,000 results, as Sample size=5,000 with a margin of error (MoE) of 1.2%. Google Search is a powerful tool when people know the tips for extracting the data to analyze trends. -Wikid77 07:42, 19 August 2011 (UTC)

RFC: is POVTITLE appropriate policy?

The section WP:POVTITLE has been invoked in several current and recent disputes, and is undergoing discussion above. Is it appropriate policy? Has it been misapplied? Does it conflict with NPOV? Or support NPOV? Does its history suggest that more discussion is needed before treating it as policy? Should it be clarified? strengthened? weakened? Dicklyon (talk) 22:50, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Comment The basic principle seems plenty good to me. However, given the nature of some of the disputes over how best to apply the principle, I would suggest a tweak of some sort. Right now, it starts off with When a significant majority of English-language reliable sources all refer to the topic or subject of an article by a given name… I would suggest something like the following, which has had the word “most” added: When a significant majority of English-language most-reliable sources all refer to the topic or subject of an article by a given name… Something along those lines might avoid editors suggesting Wikipedia adopt the names of what are initially whimsically titled topics that wouldn’t be referred to by those names years later.

    Let’s say, for instance, that the next Lorena Bobbitt-like incident involves her attorney hiding evidence. The whole incident might be widely known for a summer—and capture the public’s imagination during that time—as “Wienergate”; an encyclopedia ought to consider what name things would be remembered as years later, after the “schtick” moniker has worn off.

    In fact, that last sentence (An encyclopedia ought to consider what name things would be remembered as years later, after the “schtick” moniker has worn off) isn’t bad. Maybe someone can put some lipstick on that pig and pass it off as a prom date (candidate for addition to the guideline). Greg L (talk) 00:02, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

Because Wikipedia is not paper based we can have out cake and eat it. If in the short term the incident is known as "Wienergate" then we can use that name and if over time the common usage moves to a different name then we can change to that. For example if this encyclopaedia had existed in 1964 we could have had an article titled Cassius Clay when the majority of reliable sources started to refer to the boxer as Muhammad Ali the article title could have been changed (WP:NOTCRYSTALBALL). -- PBS (talk) 06:03, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
In the Request Move discussion initiated by B2C at Climatic Research Unit email controversy, a few editors have mentioned WP:RECENT (and also WP:NOTNEWS, although I don't see how the latter applies to titles). A reference to WP:RECENT might be a nice shade of lipstick. That is, when neutrality concerns arise, we should take care backing a name which is contemporaneous journalistic shorthand. POVTITLE should preferably be backed with longer term usage in the most reliable literature.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 02:29, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
The distinction between Reliable Sources and Most Reliable Sources is novel and interesting, but it has no basis in actual practice, so far as I know.

WP:RECENT can apply, but it should not be an excuse to not use the only common name used by reliable sources to refer to the topic, in favor of an invented/contrived one. --Born2cycle (talk) 02:56, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

There certainly is a distinction often made in practice between, for example, local newspapers, major nationals, and the scholarly press, and between minor academic journals and journals like Nature. There is better and worse RS.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 03:41, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
In the dozens hundreds of RM discussions I have been involved in over the years, I don't recall anyone arguing a point based on a distinction in the quality of the sources. That doesn't mean it's never happened and I forgot, but if it does happen, it's very rarely expressed by even one person, much less by enough to establish consensus that should be reflected in policy. --Born2cycle (talk) 03:53, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't have as much experience in RM discussions, it's true. However, Mass killings under Communist regimes's very painful move from Communist genocide did involve issues of source quality as far as I recall (it was mixed up with an AfD too, admittedly). But then again, in content the quality of RSs certainly is compared. WP:RSN discussions will often make reference to whether a source is better or worse than others. The concept is certainly not alien on wikipedia.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 04:07, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
In addition, the policy page here itself says In determining which of several alternative names is most frequently used, it is useful to observe the usage of major international organizations, major English-language media outlets, quality encyclopedias, geographic name servers, major scientific bodies and scientific journals. Which to me is saying that NYT is more important in usage considerations than the South Townsvilleton Gazette and Advertiser. This is what I presume is meant in this case by "most reliable".VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 04:26, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
Born2cycle, I have to disagree with your claim that quality of sources is an uncommon consideration. Every time we prefer Google Books over ordinary Google, it's because Google Books tends to return higher quality sources, e.g., scholarly works versus blogs. In fact, Born2cycle, in a discussion that you participated in not even a week ago, I read: "NPOV [...] means going with the best sources about the subject, sources like Science." That's Viriditas addressing you, and you replied to him, so I know you read it.

Source quality arises all the time in move discussions, and I find the suggestion that it does not to be very strange. Should I start a list? Obviously the quality of sources matters, and some are more reliable than others. -GTBacchus(talk) 23:24, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

I don't think that Google Books is preferred over a general Google search because of the difference in the quality of reliable sources. We choose Google books because it is far more likely to return fewer non reliable sources. A raw Google search is usually next to useless because so much chaff is returned with the wheat that winnowing it out is difficult. Also Google Books has the huge advantage of allowing a date range that allows one to exclude Books older than a certain date, or to do comparisons to see if the ratio of different names is changing over time. -- PBS (talk) 06:03, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment It is always possible to be in breach of WP:NPOV even without referring to the practices of the popular press, but the proclivity of the press to sensationalise and to use simplistically the "-gate" suffix clearly does not help us in trying to describe any given event in an objective and encyclopaedic manner. Of course, one understands that such use is driven by the need to be catchy, and the simplistic need to instantly impart to the reader the idea of a scandal of some sort. WP is an encyclopaedia, and its role is to ensure that information is imparted to the reader in an objective manner. The balance to be struck is not to seek to ban occurrences of all such names in the name of NPOV, but to ensure historical events with such "POV" words in their title are undisturbed.

    The problem is that we usually mostly categorise the mainstream press as "reliable sources" although we know their shortcomings – they are owned by a phone-hacker (I jest, but only a little), don't always get their facts right, aren't objective, and almost all drop diacritics (but I digress). Thus seeking to apply that notion of "reliability" to change article titles is so fraught with NPOV issues. For me, as often seen at the NPOV/N, the issue should be the extent to which these can be relied upon to fulfil our objectives; the popular press must seem like the "great unwashed", and ought to be kept at arm's length. When editors attempt to move articles to obviously 'POV' titles claiming a numerically superior popular sources are in support, we must tread carefully. I don't believe that the current wording was meant to be lawyered in the way we are currently witnessing, but I wouldn't want articles necessarily to be moved to euphemistic names, such that "Tiananmen Massacre", as it is almost universally known, ending up at "Tiananmen Square protests of 1989". Nor do I wish to disturb other articles where the event or incident is known by no other name (viz Boston Tea Party, or Nanking Massacre) --Ohconfucius ¡digame! 03:09, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

The article is titled the Tiananmen Square protests because the events covered in the article are more than just the massacre. If an article was written just about the mass killings and the usual name for those mass killing was "Tiananmen Massacre" then there would be a justification for that name. -- PBS (talk) 06:03, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment. As currently written, I think that POVTITLE is slightly problematic. However, I don't believe that it should be removed altogether; rather, I think it should be rewritten in a more cautious style to discourage its interpretation in absolute terms.

    It does not mesh particularly well with NPOV. The closest justification for it is WP:NPOV#Naming, but that is substantially more nuanced. While this policy (erroneously, in my opinion) justifies itself by asserting that neutrality and opinions asserted by >50% of the sources are one and the same, NPOV describes things as a trade-off between neutrality and clarity ("While neutral terms are generally preferable, this must be balanced against clarity"), implying that editors must judge whether there is a sufficient boost in clarity to justify the loss of neutrality. Moreover, it says that popular but non-neutral names "may" (as opposed to must) be used, and that "The best name to use for something may depend on the context in which it is mentioned; it may be appropriate to mention alternative names and the controversies over their use, particularly when the thing in question is the main topic being discussed."

    It also clashes with WP:RNEUTRAL, which says: "The subject matter of articles may be represented by some sources outside Wikipedia in non-neutral terms. Such terms are generally avoided in Wikipedia article titles, per the words to avoid guidelines and the general neutral point of view policy. For instance the non-neutral expression "Attorneygate" is used to redirect to the neutrally titled Dismissal of U.S. attorneys controversy. The article in question has never used that title, but the redirect was created to provide an alternative means of reaching it because a number of press reports use the term."

    One of the problems, to my mind, is that POVTITLE is often interpreted to mean that the most frequently used name must always be used. I think that it should be rewritten to indicate that it is valid to do so, but commonality is but one of several factors to consider, and editors must use their judgement. Other factors include: what is the quality of the sources that are being considered? What is the relative prominence and neutrality of all candidate titles (if there's basically only one common name, which isn't neutral, then the choice may be more obvious than if there are two common names, one neutral but less frequently used, the other non-neutral but more commonly used)? Have sources themselves have addressed the neutrality of names? How does the choice of name affect clarity? How do redirects and discussion of alternative names affect the outcome of the choice? Jakew (talk) 09:13, 8 August 2011 (UTC)

At one point (about a year ago), WP:POVTITLE was close to being a word for word copy of what was said at WP:NPOV#Naming. Since then both pages have been edited to the extent that the two policies no longer mesh properly. This is an example of the all too common problem that occurs when multiple policy/guideline pages discuss the same issue... there was a lack of coordination and centralized discussion. May I suggest that we invite the regular contributors to both WP:NPOV and WP:REDIRECT to join this conversation, with the goal of achieving a common understanding and compatible language between policy pages. Blueboar (talk) 14:02, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, please do invite the others. And remind of the history; did you add it here to mirror what was there? And did what was there have more of a history of consensus? Dicklyon (talk) 14:46, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
As I remember, the bulk of discussion took place on this page, but some of that discussion got off topic and did not really factor into the final language, and it was discussed at NPOV as well... It was not really a case of one page mirroring the established language of the other. The topic of common but POV titles was being discussed simultaneously on both pages, but in a semi-coordinated way so they ended up essentially mirroring each other. Most of the discussions occurred around May - June of 2010 if you want to look through the archives.
By the way... I don't think the two policies need to use the same exact language (I don't think they can, since NPOV#Naming talks about more than just Article titles) ... they just need to use compatible language (ie not contradict each other). Blueboar (talk) 15:25, 8 August 2011 (UTC)
Well, I sure do like the wording better at WP:NPOV#Naming, both now and the May 2010 version; and thanks for fending off Born2cycle's current attempts to rewrite that policy, too. If we could represent that same spirit of balance here, that would be better; that is, moderate the "follow the sources" aspect rather that abdicating NPOV to it as Born2cycle seems to be advocating. Dicklyon (talk) 07:08, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
That would be a definite improvement. Another important question is, does either policy reflect current practice? Have recent title discussions favoured the POVTITLE model or the more balanced NPOV model, or indeed an alternative model altogether? Are there interesting exceptions from which we can learn? For example, has the community applied additional, currently undocumented criteria in some discussions? My gut feeling (very possibly biased) is that there are enough exceptions to indicate that this policy in particular needs to be updated. Jakew (talk) 10:17, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

The whole point of moving this page to "Article title" was to make it clear the the title is not a name. The Article title should be the name that most people will search on even if in the opinion of some people it is biased. Who judges whether a name is biased? Who judges when a name move from current to historical? If we have reliable sources that make those judgements for us wonderful, but it not then whether a "name" is biased or non historical is a matter of opinion and as such divisive for the project. Whether the majority of sources use the name "climategate" is quantifiable and not so open to editorial points of view as to whether it is biased. In my opinion this is like the judgement of whether Lech Wałęsa is "correct" or an "eyesore", and is not something we can agree upon, but editors in good faith can agree on whether reliable sources in English usually use Lech Wałęsa or Lech Walensa. Equally we can agree whether a name (biased or not) is the most common usage in reliable English language sources. Better to use a metric that brings a speedy resolution to naming disputes (and integrates with the content policies) than non quantifiable method that leads to disputes based on the opinions of a small number of Wikiepdia editors. -- PBS (talk) 12:03, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

I don't see that "whole point" on the policy page. If the whole point is to name an article with "the name that most people will search on", why don't we say so? Dicklyon (talk) 14:47, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
Um... we do... see our criteria of Recognizability and Naturalness. Blueboar (talk) 14:55, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
Those are some good points to weigh, not "the whole point"; it doesn't say they necessarily outweigh NPOV. Dicklyon (talk) 16:59, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
All these guides are fine when choosing names that are not subject to NPOV disputes on the grounds that they are biased or disparaging. However, if there are NPOV concerns based on RS, we cannot simply plead google, for three reasons. Firstly, NPOV cannot be wished away, even though some people try to by saying that NPOV is, with various turns of phrase, not really-weally a core policy when it comes to titles. Secondly, we do not, and because this is wikipedia cannot have, a user-generated search-engine based metric that categorically determines anything about real world usage and neutrality, because that would become original research. Who decides the parameters, and who decides what we count? (hits? publications? unique occurrences? books (how much) more than newspapers? All publishers?). These kinds of questions are the subjects of disputes in peer-reviewed research; let's not pretend it's a simple, uncontroversial process. Thirdly, NPOV is clear that being proportionate is not the only consideration. The only way that NPOV is applied differently to titles compared to content is that we cannot fudge by including two (or more) different points of view. POVTITLE is a recognition that NPOV is complicated - sometimes there is a trade-off between being proportionate, fair and as far as possible unbiased.
Anyway, if you want a metric that brings a speedy resolution to disputes, everyone just agree with me. I've just done a search on both my real and user names and the terms "wrong" and "right", and usage suggests that I'm right, in a very real sense.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 15:40, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Comment I would agree with PBS above on this one-it’s really about what the sources say. Too often we use words in our policies and guidelines whose real meanings are inconsistent with the intent they are trying to convey. Three of those words come to mind out of WP:POVTITLE and WP:NPOV#NAMING (from

  • Bias: A particular tendency or inclination, especially one that prevents unprejudiced consideration of a question
  • Neutral: Not aligned or supporting any position in a controversy
  • Point of view: an opinion, attitude or judgment

Indeed we should strive to make our article titles as neutral as practical and use words that don’t blatantly favor one POV over another or infer a bias that is not fully supported by sources. All sources display some bias and some POV. Neutrality (especially our NPOV policy) can only be approximated based on what the sources say. The Marias Massacre or Baker Massacre was indeed a massacre by the very definition of the term: massacre. It is an unbiased and neutral title because the preponderance of sources calls the event by those names. There is no controversy. There certainly is POV, a POV that most all sources agree that the event was indeed a massacre. Having read POVTITLE and NPOV Naming, I find no issues with them as long as they emphasize that we use article titles that are consistent with the spirit and verbiage of the preponderance of reliable sources. (along with the other naming criteria) I think it says that now.--Mike Cline (talk) 15:55, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

If the preponderance of sources go with a title containing Words To Avoid without much fuss then I would tend to agree. However, the subtext to this discussion is that there are one or two editors campaigning for a much lower threshold - easily low enough that "one side" would win in a googlefight simply by generating little more than the bare plurality of usage. Perhaps policy should state reasons for concern about neutrality to establish when we look at POVTITLE rather than COMMONNAME.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 16:04, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
I just read WP:Words to Avoid and it cannot be interpreted without context. Everyone of the sub-sections talk about words used in a specific context, not words used period. Take the word fundamentalist. WP:LABEL. Its use should be avoided when it arbitrarily characterizes someone or some organization as fundamentalist. However, when it is part and part of the name of an organization (Association of Fundamentalist Evangelizing Catholics) it would be perfectly fine in a title. An alternate title would be inappropriate. Bias, POV and neutrality of words is contingent on context. Whether that is clear or not in the policies is a legitimate question.--Mike Cline (talk) 17:27, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

In the end, the NPOV title is the title that is used by (high-quality) reliable sources, even if that title includes what some individuals believe are "biased" or "disparaging" terms. We want non-judgmental terms when editors are making up the name, but we can, do, and should choose "biased" and "disparaging" terms whenever good sources agree on that. So: Boston Massacre is the NPOV/neutral title, even though "massacre" is biased; Teapot Dome scandal is the NPOV/neutral title, even though "scandal" is disparaging; and so forth. To name a controversial article that Dicklyon has been involved in, Homosexual transsexual is indisputably the NPOV/neutral title, even though nearly all sources, regardless of POV, agree that the term is highly offensive to many of the people it labels. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:42, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

That's an interesting example, but I don't recall discussing it as an article title; it's about the only term used for that category in Blanchard's transsexualism typology, and we shouldn't make up another name for that category. But we don't have an article typically on a category in a guy's controversial typology, so it wouldn't be an appropriate article topic or title. As a redirect, it's OK, but one has to be careful how that redirect shows up in links, since it would obviously be offensive to apply it to people that someone judges to be in that category. Dicklyon (talk) 16:57, 9 August 2011 (UTC)
In reviewing that, I see that the redirect Homosexual transsexual was previously an article that talked about the controversial term itself: "Homosexual transsexual is a controversial term used by some sexologists...". It doesn't appear that I ever edited that article or its talk page that WhatamIdoing warred on a lot, but I was aware of the controversy (perhaps not that particular article) as reflected on some related pages (many are aware that my friend Lynn Conway was a leading critic of that terminology, and had her WP bio smeared by some of those same sexologists). Dicklyon (talk) 17:44, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Comment. I think the current text can indeed contradict NPOV, at least in some cases. Neutrality should not be based only on the judgement of editors, but the current text seems to be claiming that common names are always neutral (and this claim is actually based on editor judgement). If there are reliable sources explicitly stating that a specific name is in some way non-neutral (like pejorative terms), this should also be considered when naming an article. I think these guidelines should clarify, that especially when there are multiple common names (and one of them is identified by sources as being non-neutral), we should try to choose the less controversial common name (even if it is not the most common name). And regarding descriptive neutral titles, I don't think there are major problems using them in some very controversial cases.Cody7777777 (talk) 13:17, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
See my response below at #Are common names necessarily neutral?. --Born2cycle (talk) 14:37, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Comment - Remember that part of WP:NPOV is the concept of due weight. This applies to choosing a title as well. If one name stands out as being used by sources significantly more often than others, then it is WP:UNDUE to use something else.
The problem comes when the sources use several names more or less equally... when there is no clear WP:COMMONNAME. In such situations we are faced with a bit of a dilemma: We can only have one title... and we are supposed to follow the sources, which means choosing one of the names used by the sources ... but the very act of choosing one of them will give the chosen name UNDUE weight over the other names. Woops... Huston, we have a conflict.
Thankfully, WP:Article titles gives us a way to resolve this dilemma... it tells us to fall back on consensus to resolve conflicts. Reaching a consensus is often a messy and contentious process... but despite its flaws, it is still the best (and perhaps the only) way to deal with conflicts. Blueboar (talk) 14:33, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I think the basic advice given is sound, but in light of recent discussions I think it could be made clearer (or maybe it already is elsewhere in the policy) that article titles are ultimately determined by editors and in some (indeterminate) circumstances editors might decide that there are good reasons to prefer a neutral name even if it is not necessarily the most common name. Determining "consensus" in difficult cases might involve one or more RFCs. Policy follows practice and with few exceptions should not be formulated as a club with which to beat horses that have already ran their last race. olderwiser 14:53, 11 August 2011 (UTC)


I interpret the remarks above as general support for the concept of POVTITLE, but a desire to move toward a more nuanced and less absolute interpretation, perhaps rewriting it to be more in alignment with careful statements at WP:NPOV#Naming. Anyone disagree? Dicklyon (talk) 17:54, 9 August 2011 (UTC)

A "more nuanced and less absolute interpretation" effectively means "more vague and indeterminate", thus paving the way for everyone to feel justified regarding their JDLI rationalization, whatever it may be. Exactly how is the encyclopedia improved by having more editors wasting more time arguing pointlessly about titles? PBS's main points were not addressed:
  1. The Article title should be the name that most people will search on even if in the opinion of some people it is biased. A "more nuanced and less absolute interpretation" means using a name that is not "the name that most people will search on even if in the opinion of some people it is biased.". Why?
  2. Who judges whether a name is biased? Who judges when a name moves from current to historical? Great questions - and I have not seen answers from the "more nuanced" proponents. The answer of course is either a) the predominant used by reliable sources, or b) some group of WP editors. Choosing b) over a) is fundamentally non-neutral, and a violation of NPOV.
  3. Whether the majority of sources use the name "climategate" [or any other term] is quantifiable and not so open to editorial points of view as to whether it is biased. Exactly. That's what makes the non-nuanced approached neutral and compliance with NPOV.
  4. Equally we can agree whether a name (biased or not) is the most common usage in reliable English language sources. Better to use a metric that brings a speedy resolution to naming disputes (and integrates with the content policies) than non quantifiable method that leads to disputes based on the opinions of a small number of Wikiepdia editors. Right. Asking us to decide, neutrally, whether a given term is used most often is reasonable. Asking us to decide whether a given term is "neutral" is inherently a biased quest fraught with conflict and indecision.
The bottom line is not what the rules say, but what makes the encyclopedia better. Now, one can argue that for every single naming case we should debate which name makes the encyclopedia better, but I suggest the law of diminishing returns applies very quickly in these cases, and the encyclopedia becomes worse to a greater degree from that debate than it could from having that article be at any of the titles being seriously considered.

If we could quantify WP "goodness" in some kind of units - I'd say that in the vast majority of cases the most common name is clearly better. In some cases another name might be better, but, if so, not by much. What we're talking about is whether the encyclopedia is improved by debating the issue in all those cases, and in the marginal ones where the more common name is slightly better (but close enough to debate). I'd really like to see a good argument for how the encyclopedia is improved by all that time and effort (multiplied countless times indefinitely). --Born2cycle (talk) 06:04, 10 August 2011 (UTC)

Let me address these points in turn:
  • A "more nuanced and less absolute interpretation" means using a name that is not "the name that most people will search on even if in the opinion of some people it is biased." More correctly, a more nuanced and less absolute interpretation means that there will be times (probably fairly uncommon) when a name is not that which most people will search for. However, they'll be able find it through searching as a result of a redirect.
  • Why? Because NPOV is one of the more important policies at Wikipedia, usually taking precedence over other policies in the event of conflicts. As a rule Wikipedians feel a very strong commitment to it.
  • [Re who judges whether a name is biased] The answer of course is either a) the predominant used by reliable sources, or b) some group of WP editors. Choosing b) over a) is fundamentally non-neutral, and a violation of NPOV. Wrong. The predominant term used by reliable sources is not necessarily the most neutral term, especially when controversial issues are involved. It may simply reflect or encapsulate the more popular viewpoint, which is not the same thing at all. NPOV applies to us but not to our sources, and it is unreasonable and unrealistic to expect them to adhere to it, even collectively. As with other issues involved with writing an encyclopaedia that conforms to our policies, the only people able to determine if our policies are met are Wikipedia's editors.
  • [Regarding "quantifiable and not so open to editorial points of view as to whether it is biased"] That's what makes the non-nuanced approached neutral and compliance with NPOV. No, it's what makes it easy (hypothetically speaking, if editors were willing to follow it). It almost reduces the article title selection process to an algorithm. I understand that this is what some editors want, and I sympathise with that to some extent. But writing an NPOV encyclopaedia isn't easy. It's hard, and often involves long, tedious, and frequently exasperating debates. And even if you have the very best of intentions, it doesn't work, in Wikipedia's system, to say "here's the formula to use, so stop arguing now", because people will then argue about whether to use that formula or whether to derive their own from first principles.
  • [Re "Better to use a metric that brings a speedy resolution to naming disputes..."] Asking us to decide, neutrally, whether a given term is used most often is reasonable. Asking us to decide whether a given term is "neutral" is inherently a biased quest fraught with conflict and indecision. Again, the problem here is that the former is easy, but let's try reductio ad absurdum. Assigning a unique sequential number to each article is even easier (the database already has one). And not writing an encyclopaedia in the first place is a lot easier than that. Neither of these outcomes are remotely desirable, so clearly "easy" isn't enough. We also need "usable" (which the current policy encapsulates fairly well) and "balance with neutrality" (which it doesn't). Jakew (talk) 08:30, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Of course they'll be able to find it via redirect. So what? Making articles easier to find is not why we put articles at "the name that which most people will search for." Among the reasons we do that is so that readers will be more likely to be reassured that they've arrived at the article they're searching for once they get there (principle of least surprise), so that they're more likely to be recognized when viewed in categories, so that editors are more likely to get think links right, etc.
  • Your answer is a logical fallacy because it presupposes an answer to perhaps the most fundamental question here: whether following the name chosen predominately by reliable sources can be a violation of NPOV.
  • The predominant term used by reliable sources is not necessarily the most neutral term". Strawman. We're not talking about the neutrality of terms, we're talking about who decides which is more neutral. We're talking about the neutrality of views. Remember what the V in NPOV stands for. The issue for NPOV is not whether the result of the name or wording selection is "neutral", but whether the process itself is neutral, thus reflecting a NPOV. We can't expect any one source to adhere to NPOV - but the aggregate of all sources by definition represents a NPOV. That is, neutrality, per NPOV, is about not favoring or disfavoring views represented in reliable sources disproportionate to their representation in the sources. On the issue of which name to use, we are meeting this requirement as best as we can when we use the term used most predominately in the sources. That term might not be "neutral" from the POV of some minority, but by choosing any other term we are disfavoring a more predominate view, and that's contrary to NPOV.
  • No, the NPOV encyclopedia you apparently envision is not only difficult, it's impossible. If there are three terms to use, and A is the name used by the predominate view, B is used by the opposing view, and C is not used by either, hardly by anyone, C is not the NPOV choice. By selecting C instead of A we're favoring the anti-A view favored by B. We're picking sides. That's not NPOV. That's not how you write an NPOV encyclopedia - that's how you write an encyclopedia from the anti-predominate-view view.
  • Again, it's not about easy (although easy is a benefit of following NPOV). It's about following NPOV - which is about fairly representing the views that they exist, whether those views are "neutral" or not (they rarely are). --Born2cycle (talk) 09:07, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
Let me respond again:
Firstly, I agree that there are other benefits to using the most common name. Similarly, there are sometimes drawbacks (such as biasing articles towards one point of view). That's why we need to balance the two.
Secondly, I think it's an understatement to say that not everyone shares your belief that the predominant term is, by definition, NPOV. We can't have a serious discussion about policy unless you're at least willing to entertain the possibility that views other than your own might have some validity.
Thirdly, re "We're not talking about the neutrality of terms, we're talking about who decides which is more neutral." Actually, no. The process by which we choose a term is internal to Wikipedia. The outcome is what matters, and that is how the adherence to the "contract" of neutrality between Wikipedia and our readers will be judged.
It's important to understand that we're talking about different kinds of neutrality here. You're talking about viewpoints about which term should be used to describe a subject, and you're inferring those viewpoints from the fact that sources use a term. In a very limited sense, terms can be viewpoints, but often they're used out of convenience or habit rather than conviction. So it's misleading to consider only the frequency with which a term is used. We might get a more accurate idea of those viewpoints by looking at what RS actually say about terminology; that is, do they argue for terms or against them, and do they do so on grounds that are meaningful in terms of NPOV?
There is a more important sense of neutrality, one that I'm talking about, and that's neutrality regarding the subject of the article; that is, whether its use predisposes towards or otherwise favours one viewpoint about the subject or not. Ultimately the purpose of an article is to convey information about a topic to the reader, in a way that adheres to our policies. And it follows from that this is the more important kind of neutrality.
So, should a non-neutral but common term be used? We may decide to use it, on grounds of clarity, but we should think carefully about it and discuss the ramifications of such a decision. We might decide to use a less common name if the cost to neutrality is judged too much. That is consistent with WP:NPOV#Naming.
In terms of your argument about "picking sides", unless we use a purely descriptive title (which is always an option), we have to pick a "side". That's unavoidable and, as such, it means that any title is non-neutral in terms of your viewpoints-about-terminology sense of neutrality. But (as pointed out) in terms of the more important neutrality about the subject, some names are more neutral than others, and so sometimes by choosing one of these names the outcome is more neutral. Jakew (talk) 10:10, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
1) "Similarly, there are sometimes drawbacks (such as biasing articles towards one point of view)" Choosing a title that is not the most common name for POV reasons is " biasing articles towards one point of view" (the point of view that disagrees with the view that favors the term in predominant use). To defend biasing articles towards one point of view by citing the drawback of biasing articles towards on point of view is the epitome of absurdity.
2) "your belief that the predominant term is, by definition, NPOV". Strawman. I never said that. I don't believe it. That language is not even meaningful. Terms can't be NPOV because terms don't have views. Only people can have views, and NPOV requires us to make decisions from a NPOV - which often results in terms that appear to favor some POV (if that's what you mean by an NPOV term - but I never claimed that follow common name, or NPOV, will result in terms that are not that). Maybe others disagree with that, and I'm willing to discuss that. But I'm not going to waste my time defending a nonsensical position that I don't hold.
3) Outcome-based assessment are doomed to fail - because it's the outcomes about which there is the controversy we're supposed to be neutral about.
4) "terms can be viewpoints" Limited sense or not, absurd! Where's the Mad Hatter? Oranges can be animals! Cockroaches can be furniture! Numbers can smell! Terms can be viewpoints! Meaningful discourse is not possible with such a semantic lottery. Looking at RS regarding what they say about the appropriateness of using terms is only useful if the predominant view is that a given term should not be used, but if that's the case it's highly unlikely, practically impossible, that that term is in predominant use among RS if that's the predominant view about its use.
5) "whether its use predisposes towards or otherwise favours one viewpoint about the subject or not.". Okay, we have some common ground here. Yes, it's possible for a term to predispose towards, or favor, one viewpoint about the subject. We agree there. Where we disagree is whether that means we should not use the term. I suggest that choosing not to use the term because it favors one viewpoint IS favoring another (most likely the opposing/minority view). Yes, the new "neutral" term we come up with might not inherently favor that other view or any other view, but by not using that term that is in predominant use, we are disfavoring the predominant view, and that's a violation of NPOV.
6) Clarity is not the only reason to use the more common term - I do disagree with that implication of WP:NPOV#Naming - and don't believe anyone ever intended it to mean that (clarity is the only reason). The main reason to choose the more common but non-neutral term over any other term is compliance with NPOV - for us to be neutral about which term we use... by following usage in sources, whatever that may be.
7) By choosing a "more neutral" term over the term used predominately in RS you are reflecting a POV that is not "representing fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by RS", directly in contradiction to the defining first sentence of NPOV! Instead, you are unfairly favoring any view that disagrees with the predominate view, you are reflecting those contrary views disproportionately and thus with a bias disfavoring the predominate view.

According to your interpretation of NPOV and reasoning we should move Gringo to Foreigner, Redneck to Uneducated poor farmer, and Spic to redirect to [{Latino]]. It makes no sense. --Born2cycle (talk) 04:45, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

I'll keep this brief, because we've argued enough in a "summary" section already. You've contradicted yourself in points 1 and 5. Re point 2, I don't intend to argue; certainly the impression that you give is that you believe the two to be one and the same. Point 3 is the important one, and you're wrong, because the outcome is the visible product of the encyclopaedia: it's where NPOV matters most. Furthermore, your assumption that there's a "controversy" about the title requires some justification: it may not necessarily be the case. Nor is it necessarily the case that we favour an opposing viewpoint by using a less common term: we might (as in "Climatic Research Unit email controversy") favour a descriptive title that doesn't favour either "side". Regarding terms being viewpoints, I'm just trying to understand and acknowledge the validity of your point of view; if you respond with ridicule I think I'll decline to bother. Regarding point 6, NPOV itself makes it very clear that you're wrong: we're choosing a non-neutral title because we're trading neutrality against clarity. Finally, in your point 7 you seem to contradict your point 4. You argued in your point 4 that terms aren't viewpoints, but now you say "you are unfairly favoring any view that disagrees with the predominate view". If by "predominant view" you mean "predominant term", then aren't you contradicting yourself? If, on the other hand, you're making a distinction between terms and views, then how do you propose to tell the difference given that you seem to reject using explicitly stated views? Can you propose a test by which we can tell the difference? Jakew (talk) 08:45, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

The reason I started the RFC was to see if Born2cycle's interpretation had much support among other editors. My impression is that it does not. My summary was intended to draw out more clarity about that. So instead of more dead-horse beating by him, are there others who take a similar position? Or should we just move forward on writing a more moderated version, and consider his move toward a more strict version closed? Dicklyon (talk) 14:28, 10 August 2011 (UTC)

I think Born2cycle's basic interpretation is essentially correct, but he takes it a step too far in application. Blueboar (talk) 14:42, 10 August 2011 (UTC)
Since you wrote the section in question, would you like to take the lead on a modest rephrasing that will make it clear to him that balance is required in applying the various provisions related to NPOV? Dicklyon (talk) 02:36, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Dicklyon - you keep saying this but none of your statements (or those of anyone else who makes similar statements about me) indicate an accurate understanding of my interpretation and position. When you say your impression is that there is not much support for my interpretation, please explain very clearly what exactly you mean by that. If you would use my actual words from here or from any other discussion about this, that would probably make it less likely to be a strawman. Thanks. --Born2cycle (talk) 04:45, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Your interpretation, as I understand it, is that using the "most common" term for a topic is necessarily neutral; do you need diffs to where you said so? An example is in your proposal at WT:Article titles#POVTITLE, in which you want to rewrite POVTITLE to say "...Simply follow usage and commonality in the sources and use that name as our article title..."; where considerations of NPOV are involved, reality should not be simplified that far. Futhermore, you misapply even that suspect concept on RM such as those at Crepe by asserting what is most common without credible evidence (your words and my comments on them can be found there; let me know if it's worth the trouble of me finding diffs). Dicklyon (talk) 17:52, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar please clarify what you mean by me taking my essentially correct interpretation too far in application. Again, actual words of mine would be helpful. Thanks. --Born2cycle (talk) 04:45, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Are common names necessarily neutral?

I think some people are conflating the following two issues, thinking an answer of "yes" to the first means the answer to the second is also "yes":

  1. Is the name, term or phrase neutral?
  2. Is using the name, term or phrase in conflict with WP:NPOV?

For example, above, Cody7777777 (talk · contribs) says, "the current text [of WP:POVTITLE] seems to be claiming that common names are always neutral, ", which is the basis for the claim that "the current text can indeed contradict NPOV, at least in some cases. ". I don't see anything in the text that means or even implies that. In fact, the text contains a number of statements that are clearly premised on the idea that common names often are not neutral (though using them is still fully in compliance with WP:NPOV):

  • "Sometimes that common name will include non-neutral words that Wikipedia normally avoids".
  • "The commonality of the name overrides our desire to avoid passing judgment".
  • "True neutrality means we do not impose our opinions over that of the sources, even when our opinion is that the name used by the sources is judgmental." [my emphasis].

I don't believe the text, or anyone here discussing it, is claiming that common names necessarily do not violate WP:NPOV because the names are neutral. Using them does not violate NPOV not because the names neutral (which they're not or we wouldn't be talking about not using them), but because editors are being neutral when deciding to use them, and in fact are in compliance with NPOV because by selecting the name most commonly used in relevant reliable sources they are "representing fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views..." In fact, choosing any other name would be not "representing fairly and proportionately all significant views as far as possible", because using the most common name would be going further towards doing that.

In short, we're talking about cases where the most common name is not neutral. "In such cases, the commonality of the name overrides our desire to avoid passing judgment." That is, per WP:NPOV the commonality of the name overrides our desire to use some other name that is more "neutral". Well, it overrides that desire in most of us. Others seem to have some difficulty with this subduing that desire. --Born2cycle (talk) 14:37, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Thank you for the clarifications, but nonetheless there are still problems. The claim that using non-neutral common names as titles, does not violate NPOV, is based on editor judgment (it is your opinion, and other editors, and also readers, can see things differently). It can also be argued, that when we choose a common name, which has been explicitly described (or judged) as non-neutral by sources, we adopt its (non-neutral) point of view (and to me this looks like common sense, and it is possible that many readers will also see it this way). If the most common name does not have any problems, it would obviously be undue weight to not use it. However, commonality is not the only criterion (the other criteria should also have weight), and since NPOV is considered a fundamental principle and pillar of Wikipedia, I think the neutrality of the name should have more weight, if it conflicts with commonality. Cody7777777 (talk) 18:17, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
That helps; thanks.

Yes, it all comes down to the question of whether using non-neutral common names as titles violates NPOV, and that is a matter of opinion. And since that is the matter of opinion at issue, you can't say giving NPOV the considerable weight it deserves as a pillar favors one side more than the other. Both sides are fully compliant and consistent with NPOV given their respective answers to this key question.

So we need to discuss on why and how using non-neutral common names as titles does or does not violate NPOV, because that's where the disagreement lies. --Born2cycle (talk) 18:34, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Regrettably in many cases, this will remain just a matter of editor opinion, and I do not really expect a full agreement will be reached about this. However, in cases where there are reliable sources which explicitly claim that the use of a specific name is non-neutral, then I think its usage by Wikipedia can also be considered non-neutral (at least, unless there are contradicting sources, claiming the use of the specific name is neutral). Cody7777777 (talk) 13:07, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

An initial rewrite

The current text of the "Non-neutral but common names" reads:

  • When a significant majority of English-language reliable sources all refer to the topic or subject of an article by a given name, Wikipedia should follow the sources and use that name as our article title (subject to the other naming criteria). Sometimes that common name will include non-neutral words that Wikipedia normally avoids (Examples include Boston Massacre, Rape of Belgium, and Teapot Dome scandal). In such cases, the commonality of the name overrides our desire to avoid passing judgment (see below). This is acceptable because the non-neutrality and judgment is that of the sources, and not that of Wikipedia editors. True neutrality means we do not impose our opinions over that of the sources, even when our opinion is that the name used by the sources is judgmental. Further, even when a neutral title is possible, creating redirects to it using documented but non-neutral terms is sometimes acceptable; see WP:RNEUTRAL.

My first attempt to rewrite this to be consistent with WP:NPOV#Naming is as follows:

  • Non-neutral titles are sometimes acceptable, as clarity must be weighed against neutrality. When a significant majority of English-language reliable sources all refer to the topic or subject of an article by a given name, Wikipedia should may follow the sources and use that name as our article title (subject to the other naming criteria). Sometimes that common name will include non-neutral words that Wikipedia normally avoids (Examples include Boston Massacre, Rape of Belgium, and Teapot Dome scandal). In such cases, the commonality of the name overrides our desire to avoid passing judgment (see below). This is acceptable because the non-neutrality and judgment is that of the sources, and not that of Wikipedia editors. True neutrality means we do not impose our opinions over that of the sources, even when our opinion is that the name used by the sources is judgmental. The best name to use for something may depend on the context in which it is mentioned; it may be appropriate to mention alternative names and the controversies over their use, particularly when the thing in question is the main topic being discussed. Further, even when a neutral title is possible, creating redirects to it using documented but non-neutral terms is sometimes acceptable; see WP:RNEUTRAL. See also WP:NPOV#Naming.

(All changes are shown in red.)

These are just my initial thoughts, and I'd be surprised if they're right the first time. I've taken some of the new language straight from NPOV, as it seems least likely to conflict that way. So ... comments? Jakew (talk) 16:12, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Something to consider... We have to factor WP:UNDUE in here... I see WP:COMMONNAME as being an application of the concept of due weight - as applied to the unique constraints of article titles (we can only have one title, which means we are forced to give more weight to one name over all others). When a given name is used by an overwhelming majority of sources (be it biased or not), we obviously use that name as our article title to give it due weight (and to substitute some other name would give that other name undue weight). The situation becomes murkier when the choice is less obvious, when the sources are more mixed in usage. Since we physically can't give equal weight to multiple names in a title, we do the next best thing... We give the more common name more weight by using it as the title, and the less common names their due weight by listing them prominently and in bold text (as alternatives) in the lede... and by using them as redirects. I think this applies to arguably biased (non-neutral) names as as much as any other name. To choose a less common, but seemingly more neutral name over a more common but potentially biased name gives that less commonly used name undue weight, and denies giving the more commonly used name its due weight.
Of course, when the sources indicate that no single name is more commonly used than any other, then weight is not an issue... and we can look to other factors (such as the appearance of neutrality) in reaching a consensus.
In other words... applying WP:DUE to titles ... first we look to see if there is a WP:COMMONNAME (and if so we use it, biased or not). If there is no WP:COMMONNAME, then we are free to use other criteria and factors to reach a consensus title. Does this make sense? Blueboar (talk) 17:00, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I see what you're saying, Blueboar, but I'm not sure it's the right way around. Trouble is, there are two types of neutrality to consider. Your due weight analysis is concerned with neutrality with respect to chosen terminology — treating sources' use of terms as a viewpoint about terminology and trying to apportion due weight by choosing the most common. But there is another kind of neutrality as well: neutrality with respect to the subject. The question is what should be done when there is a conflict between the two: that is, when the most common term predisposes towards or otherwise favours a particular point of view about the subject, or which seems to assert a contested opinion about it. I'm not comfortable with your proposed approach, because I feel it overemphasises the first NPOV concern and overlooks the second. I guess that, depending on the context, one or the other may be more important. Sometimes there's more controversy about the subject than about terminology; while I can't think of any examples, it seems perfectly plausible that the reverse is also true. Jakew (talk) 18:13, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
When we have a situation where a term is not neutral with respect to the subject that's a possible reason to not use it as the title. We agree so far, yes?

I presume we also agree that it's not true that we never use such terms as titles. So, the issue is about where to the draw line between using some non-neutral terms (with respect to subject) as titles, and not others. Now, the only fair and neutral way I can fathom to draw that line which is in accordance with WP:NPOV is by looking at commonality of usage in sources. Can you suggest another fair and neutral method? --Born2cycle (talk) 18:40, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Yes, it's called consensus among editors. It's not perfect, but if it's incapable of arriving at neutrality then article titles are the least of our problems. Jakew (talk) 19:19, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
That's a dodge circular reasoning because consensus is how we resolve disagreement among us, not how we individually base our decisions independent of what other editors are saying, which is what policy is supposed to be guiding. I'm talking about each individual editor - if not by looking at commonality of usage, what is a fair and neutral way for a given editor to draw that line between using some non-neutral terms (with respect to subject) as titles of some articles, and not others, in accordance with NPOV? --Born2cycle (talk) 20:48, 11 August 2011 (UTC) some rewording/clarifying --Born2cycle (talk) 21:22, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I'd suggest that editors use their judgement, as they would when applying NPOV (and other policies) elsewhere. It's a hard problem, and I'm not convinced that a formulaic solution that would produce satisfactory results in corner cases is even possible. I'm perfectly happy to use the most common term as a baseline, as the vast majority of the time it's the right thing to do. But when exceptions arise, there's no substitute for individual editorial judgement, extensive (and probably tedious) discussion, and (hopefully) consensus. And I think we need some recognition in the policy that this sometimes happens — "wiggle room" if you like. Jakew (talk) 21:34, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
Ultimately of course it depends on judgement. But judging what? Based on what? It doesn't have to be formulaic, but if there are to be exceptions, they have to be based on something that applies in some cases but not in others. What is that? You don't have to quantify it, but if you can't even suggest what some of the factors and considerations might be, you're talking about pure WP:JDLI, which is generally eschewed. --Born2cycle (talk) 21:49, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
No, Born2cycle, I'm not talking about editors' personal whim. I'm talking about editors using their judgement to test whether a title meets with NPOV (and, of course, explaining their reasoning clearly in the process of discussion). The only way to describe the provisions of that policy, while fully capturing every nuance, is to quote it in its entirety, and I'm not going to do that. I'm also not even going to try to present an algorithm for "how to think like a human"; smarter people than I have been trying that for a long time, and haven't managed it yet. Most WP policies deliberately leave details unstated, as it is understood that it is impossible to think of all applications in advance, and it is expected that editors will apply their intelligence when considering a particular application. I think that's the right approach for this policy, too. Jakew (talk) 09:59, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
I think mixing Non-neutral title and Non-neutral words in this section is a mistake. The mere presence of a Non-neutral word or term as the community has defined them in a title doesn't by any measure make the title Non-neutral. What makes a title Non-neutral is when the title clearly demonstrates bias and POV when there is a controversy about what something is called. As cited many times above, the Boston Massacre is a neutral title because that's what the incident was and is called by the preponderance of secondary sources. If we were to call the Battle of the Little Bighorn the Custer Massacre as a minority of sources have referred to it, Custer Massacre would clearly be a non-neutral title. This section should be talking about the Neutrality of titles, not the presence or absence of non-neutral words.--Mike Cline (talk) 17:12, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree that's a useful distinction - non-neutral titles vs. non-neutral words. We need to be clear about what we mean by a non-neutral title, however, and, specifically, that we don't mean something as simplistic as "a title comprised of non-neutral words", which is apparently the meaning intended by the proposed wording above (Jake, please correct me if that's not correct).

A more nuanced definition of neutral title is: a title that is selected from a neutral point of view.

With that in mind the proposed text is incorrect in saying that "non-neutral titles are sometimes acceptable", as they aren't. What is acceptable is the use of non-neutral words as titles and as part of titles when that reflects common usage in reliable sources. --Born2cycle (talk) 17:40, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

Personally, I'd define a non-neutral title as follows. Suppose that no established names existed for a subject, and suppose that Wikipedia editors came up with a word or phrase to describe it in another article. If that word or phrase would be likely to be challenged on non-frivolous NPOV grounds, it's non-neutral. I know that's a slightly circular definition, and I apologise for that, but it's the best I can come up with. Non-neutral words are a potential reason for such a challenge, but it may be a more subtle issue such as an implied one-sided perspective (eg., "pro-life").
I think that trying to define a neutral title as the most common name will be counterproductive. It will inevitably lead to arguments (such as we've seen above) about what "neutral" means. It's much better to understand POVTITLE (and NPOV#Naming) as an exception to neutrality; that way we can bypass discussions about the definition of neutrality (which are ultimately unproductive) and instead concentrate on whether the exception is warranted or not. Jakew (talk) 18:36, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I think you're on the right track when you talk about the two meanings of "neutral"—the "complies with NPOV (especially DUE)" and the "non-judgmental or non-offensive, according to the personal opinions of individual editors" idea. Wikipedia really only requires that article titles demonstrate the first type of neutrality. NPOV specifically disclaims the idea that a name that is very commonly used in reliable sources should be rejected merely because editors think it sounds biased.
I don't want to re-write this policy to ratify one controversial page move. There are good reasons to avoid "pro-life" that have nothing to do with an appearance of endorsing the self-description: it is an imprecise label used to represent a wide variety of sometimes contradictory views. For example, one can be "pro-life" meaning "opposed to artificial reproductive technology" or "in favor of ART for anyone who wants to have a baby". I've met more than one person who self-describes as "pro-life" and strongly opposes abortion, but definitely wants abortion to remain legal for various other reasons (suicide prevention seems to figure prominently in the list). It would not be entirely unreasonable for us to make Pro-life into a set index or WP:DABCONCEPT article. I believe it would be unreasonable to extend the fight over that page to re-writing this policy in the (doomed) effort to somehow stop the grumbling over that decision. WhatamIdoing (talk) 19:34, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't know of any topic that qualifies as WP:PRIMARYTOPIC better than does the anti-abortion meaning of "pro-life". The other uses exist, but they're rarely used, and I doubt anyone would expect to find them covered at an article named Pro-life. It seems to me the "imprecise label" argument is a non-starter. As it stands, not being at Pro-life is an inexplicable exception to our policies, conventions and widespread conventions. --Born2cycle (talk) 20:45, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
I would offer this characterization of a neutral title: A neutral title reflects the most common and most neutral point on view as what to name the subject of any given article based on the preponderance of reliable secondary sources.
The single most important aspect of the above characterization is having an understanding of what the word neutral means. The dictionary definition is very clear: not aligned with or supporting any side or position in a controversy. I think we must be very careful not to try and apply any other definition to the word. (offensive for instance has nothing to do with neutrality) 1000s of editors who will create articles in the future will see the word Neutral and know exactly what it means: not aligned with or supporting any side or position in a controversy. Any other arbitrary or home-grown WP definition won’t mean a thing.
Our policy then should be for editors to avoid, as far as practical, non-neutral titles. Non-neutral titles being titles that reflect a strong bias one way or the other when there are multiple points of view on a subject and the preponderance of reliable secondary sources reflect wording that is well within the middle ground between the opposing points of view. A neutral title reflects the middle ground as defined by the sources, not individual editor’s POVs, likes or dislikes. We cannot expect to establish a black and white policy on neutrality of titles--too many variables. But, I believe we can clearly characterized what a Neutral title is (what we expect) and what a Non-Neutral title is (what we want to avoid). If we do that, clearly and concisely, then individual discussion on any titling controversy will be governed by those characterizations and whatever the preponderance of reliable secondary sources say. --Mike Cline (talk) 20:49, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
A neutral title is not necessarily common at all. --Born2cycle (talk) 21:23, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
The dictionary definition of "neutral" is exactly what we don't mean when we are talking about neutrality on Wikipedia. We frequently choose titles that are "aligned with or supporting" controversial events. The policy even gives several examples of such titles. The policy does not require real-world neutrality; it requires wikijargon neutrality (which for clarity ought to be spelled "N-P-O-V" rather than "n-e-u-t-r-a-l"). WhatamIdoing (talk) 22:44, 11 August 2011 (UTC)
On this I think you are dead wrong. First, you cannot define neutral with itself (NPOV). Second Neutral Point of View implies there are opposing Points of View (that's the controversy, not that the subject of the article is a controversial topic) and that there is a Point of View that's in the approximate middle. When there are opposing Points of View on any subject, its highly likely there is some neutral Point of View in between. If what we want to prescribe is political correctness and culturalless titles, then we should say so. But pretending to say that NPOV is anything but the middle ground between opposing points of view on any given subject will not help editors create neutral titles. --Mike Cline (talk) 23:16, 11 August 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── The revision seems to be overly watered down in favor of wiki-revisionism. Wording like Non-neutral titles are sometimes acceptable....Wikipedia may follow the sources (my underlining for emphasis) seems to overly endorse political correctness (“being non-judgmenetal… man!”) despite common usage. If a significant majority of most-reliable English-language reliable sources all refer to something by a given name, Wikipedia should *generally* abide as such. Notable exceptions would be trendy names that A) seem unlikely to be remembered years later after the hubbub has died down; or B) names that are so colloquial that they detract from the encyclopedic nature. Whatever we come up with, it should anticipate what readers will type and what readers will expect to be taken to.

For instance, if I type “Boston Massacre" into the search field, I expect to be taken to an article by that name without 16-year-old all-volunteer wikipedians trying to Change The World©™® by coming up with something less emotionally charged against the Brits. By the same token, if I type “Octomom” into the search field (which is what she is known by today as well as five years from now), I expect to be redirected to “Nadya Suleman”—even though 90% of readers can’t remember her name and how to spell it but can all remember “Octomom.”

I think the best guideline would have unique examples (like “Octomom”) and would directly address the principles each touches upon. So I call for everyone here to put in the below section, examples of article names that teach to this issue. I’ll start it off with six. After we have a list of names of article titles and redirects, then let’s see a thoughtful guideline that sweeps it all up nicely. Greg L (talk) 00:07, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

Illustrative or unique titles and redirects to consider when crafting a better guideline

I propose we all leave examples of interesting and/or unique article titles and their redirects here that we think speak to crafting a new guideline. Feel free to post examples that you agree with, as well as article titles you think are a mistake. We can discuss the implications. After that, maybe someone can craft a better guideline. In the below list, I agree with five of the six examples. On the one I disagree with, I don’t have strong feelings about, but still think it would have been best had it been titled as it is most commonly known. Greg L (talk) 00:07, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

This is an open-forum section; additions welcome below the line.

Another proposal

Thinking about the above, I propose the following:

When a significant majority of English-language reliable sources refer to the topic or subject of an article by a given name, Wikipedia generally follows the sources and uses that name as its article title (subject to the other naming criteria). Sometimes that common name will include non-neutral words that Wikipedia normally avoids (Examples include Boston Massacre, Rape of Belgium, and Teapot Dome scandal). In such cases, the commonality of the name overrides concerns that Wikipedia might seem as siding with one side of an issue.

Notable examples where Wikipedia eschews the common name include the following:

  1. Trendy titles that seem unlikely to be remembered by that name years later
  2. Names that are so colloquial that they detract from the encyclopedic nature of project
  3. Names crafted by advocates of contentious advocacy issues.

Article titles should anticipate what readers will type as a first guess and balance that with what readers expect to be taken to. Thus, typing “Octomom” properly redirects to Nadya Suleman. Typing “Boston Massacre” and “Patriot (American Revolution)” do not redirect whereas both “Pro-Choice” and “Pro-Life” redirect to more neutral titles.

I consider the above to be part of my own post (verboten for others to edit) but also to be a live sandbox that I might update after seeing comments from others. Those who want to suggest something other than above should create their own green‑div. Greg L (talk) 00:40, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

Looks OK; I'd think that "the commonality of the name overrides" might be better as "the commonality of the name may override", since that's the main point we're working on here, isn't it? Dicklyon (talk) 02:00, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
This is good — certainly an improvement over my attempt. I agree with Dicklyon's tweak. Also, "siding with one side" is a little awkward; can I suggest "promoting one side" instead? Jakew (talk) 09:03, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
This proposal looks like an improvement to the current. The suggestions made by Dicklyon and Jakew should also be included. Cody7777777 (talk) 13:07, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Ergo…

When a significant majority of English-language reliable sources refer to the subject of an article by a given name, Wikipedia generally follows the sources and uses that name as its article title (subject to the other naming criteria). Sometimes that common name will include non-neutral words that Wikipedia normally avoids (e.g. Rape of Belgium). In such cases, the ubiquity of the name and/or how the name of an event has effectively or functionally become a proper noun (e.g. Boston Massacre) generally overrides concerns that Wikipedia might appear as endorsing one side of an issue.

Other factors warranting adoption of an otherwise seemingly non‑neutral title is if the subject is a proper noun (e.g. Defense of Marriage Act, National Right to Life Committee and NARAL Pro-Choice America), where the topic is highly historical in nature or has long been known by that name (Teapot Dome scandal), and if the subject would be essentially unrecognizable under another name (typing “Whazzup” redirects to the very similar Whassup?).

Notable circumstances under which Wikipedia often eschews a common name include the following:

  1. Trendy slogans and monikers that seem unlikely to be remembered or connected with a particular issue years later (both “Baftagate” and “Antennagate” redirect)
  2. Colloquialisms where far more encyclopedic alternatives are obvious
  3. Persuasive names and slogans crafted by partisans on still-active, contentious advocacy issues (“Pro‑choice” and “Pro‑life” redirect to more neutral titles)

Article titles and their redirects should anticipate what readers will type as a first guess and balance that with what readers expect to be taken to. Thus, typing “Octomom” properly redirects to Nadya Suleman, in keeping with exception #2, above.

How say others? Greg L (talk) 19:05, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm not as keen on it as I was on the above version, I have to say. Some specific criticisms... First, the effective status of a name as a proper noun is mentioned in the first para and then as an "other factor" in the second, which is slightly confusing. Second, I'm not keen on "otherwise seemingly non-neutral" — don't be afraid to say "non-neutral"; since we've already explained that can be permissible. Third, unless I'm greatly mistaken, "Whazzup" does not belong here as it's not a non-neutral name. Finally, I strongly dislike "in keeping with exception #2" — we absolutely should not present these as numbered exceptions; they're examples of situations where we've deviated from the general rule. Jakew (talk) 08:48, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
The new version seems to be detailing too much when non-neutral and neutral terms can be used or not, and this might not be necessary. And I think "may override concerns" is better than "generally overrides concerns". Also, instead of "When a significant majority of English-language reliable sources refer to the subject of an article by a given name..." I would have preferred we had "When the subject of an article is referred mainly by a single common name, as evidenced through usage in a significant majority of English-language reliable sources,..." or something similar, to emphasize that when there are multiple common names, we do not necessarily have to choose a name which is clearly known as being non-neutral (and this would actually be similar to the version from february 2011, where it stated, "When a subject or topic has a single common name (as evidenced through usage in a significant proportion of English-language reliable sources)..."). Cody7777777 (talk) 12:57, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

OK. Then…

When the subject of an article is referred mainly by a single common name, as evidenced through usage in a significant majority of English-language reliable sources, Wikipedia generally follows the sources and uses that name as its article title (subject to the other naming criteria). Sometimes that common name will include non-neutral words that Wikipedia normally avoids (e.g. Boston Massacre, Rape of Belgium, and Teapot Dome scandal). In such cases, the ubiquity of the name and/or the fact that the name of an event has effectively or functionally become a proper noun generally overrides concerns that Wikipedia might appear as endorsing one side of an issue.

Notable circumstances under which Wikipedia often eschews a common name include the following:

  1. Trendy slogans and monikers that seem unlikely to be remembered or connected with a particular issue years later
  2. Colloquialisms where far more encyclopedic alternatives are obvious
  3. Persuasive names and slogans crafted by partisans on still-active, contentious advocacy issues

Article titles should anticipate what readers will type as a first guess and balance that with what readers expect to be taken to. Thus, typing “Octomom” properly redirects to Nadya Suleman, which is in keeping with point #2, above. Typing “Antennagate” redirects the reader to a particular section of iPhone 4, which is in keeping with points #1 and #2, above. Typing “Boston Massacre” and “Patriot (American Revolution)” do not redirect, which is in keeping with the general principle, as is typing “9-11 hijackers”, which redirects to the more aptly named Hijackers in the September 11 attacks. However, both “Pro‑choice” and “Pro‑life” redirect to more neutral titles, in keeping with point #3, above.

I tried to take as much from what each of you wrote and incorporate it all here. That ended up trimming it down to something much closer to my original proposal.

Note that I left …functionally become a proper noun generally overrides concerns… (my italicizing for emphasis). I get my 2¢ in here too. If a signficiant majority of English-language reliable sources refer to something by a given name to such an extent that the name is ubiquitous and/or has effectively or functionally become a proper noun, then mere all-volunteer wikipedians generally have no business trying to change the world—no matter how well intentioned they might be (*sound of audience gasp*). If Wikipedia can have an article on “Fuck”, (not withstanding that our readership has a large proportion of primary school children), we obviously expect readers to be sufficiently sophisticated to understand that we’re not taking sides when they type “9-11 hijacker” and are taken to an article containing the word “hijackers”.

How say ye all? Greg L (talk) 17:53, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

Good by me. Thanks for working on it and incorporating suggestions. Dicklyon (talk) 18:33, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
Thank you, this is clearly an improvement. I do not have any serious problem using "generally overrides concerns" instead of "may override concerns", but I think, there should also be a mention that more neutral alternative common names can also be used where possible (and we don't have to invent descriptive titles). Perhaps the following line "But, in cases where more neutral alternative common names are possible, these can also be used instead." (or something similar) could be added after "In such cases, the ubiquity of the name and/or the fact that the name of an event has effectively or functionally become a proper noun generally overrides concerns that Wikipedia might appear as endorsing one side of an issue." (to explain cases where there are multiple common names). (And regarding the article called "Fuck", as far as I see it is used for documenting the negative uses of the term, it is not used as a title or redirect for sexual intercourse.) Cody7777777 (talk) 18:47, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
  • Cody, I mentioned our article on “Fuck” not in the context of what it might or might not redirect to, but to point out that Wikipedia is written assuming a certain level of sophistication in the reader—as I wrote there.

    As for your suggestion (But, in cases where more neutral alternative common names are possible, these can also be used instead), I am not at all supportive of encouraging wikipedian-crafted, more-neutral alternatives just because they are *possible*—not in the clear context where a given topic is referred mainly by a single common name, as evidenced through usage in a significant majority of English-language reliable sources (my emphasis). This proposal pretty much endorses existing practices on Wikipedia (that is, it doesn’t try to make waves, so to speak), and adheres pretty closely to the general principle of “follow the RSs unless there are good encyclopedic reasons not to.”

    This whole thread and its sub-threads have become lengthy enough that each editors’ views are pretty clear now. Compromise text is not easy; let’s see how the others feel now and see if we have a general consensus on this amalgam of compromise wording. Greg L (talk) 19:04, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

Looks good to me, too, and I echo the above thanks to Greg L for his hard work. Jakew (talk) 18:52, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

I don't think this has changed much, but if the examples are useful, good. As a matter of wording: names do not become proper nouns; they are proper nouns. As originally worded, also, this could be read to support use of Octomom as a title; it's a proper noun, now. The problem with Octomom is that it's not ubiquitous, and may be expected to fade with time. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 21:16, 13 August 2011 (UTC)

  • “Octomom” isn’t ubiquitous? How about 3,830,000 Google hits. I’d bet that not even one in every ten people who are familiar with the term “Octomom” know that the lady’s actual name is Nadya Suleman. But “Octomom” is a colloquialism where using her actual name is obviously far more encyclopedic. Greg L (talk) 22:53, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
    • Why do we take "Octomom" to be a proper name? There are a fair number of sources that write of "the octomom" in lower case, too. Dicklyon (talk) 23:07, 13 August 2011 (UTC)
      • I assume, because we are talking about a *particular one*. How many are there? Greg L (talk) 18:42, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm sorry that I'm a bit late to the party here, but I think these three exceptions here are completely unacceptable, and I have no idea how it has already been implemented in the policy. These exceptions leaves so much open to interpretation and POV pushing. Especially the third one is a problem for me. It's clearly written with the ongoing discussion about naming of the abortion advocacy pages in mind. But I think it completely misses the point of that discussion. The central point was not that the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice" were selfcreated slogans per se. The main point was that it could be proven with reliable sources that these terms are viewed as partisan and unneutral, and that they as a result of that are avoided by high quality sources. I think we atleast should make it a principle that NPOV claims to stray from WP:AT's principles should be backed up by reliable sources, so that we avoid that NPOV in titling becomes an anarchy where WP:V no longer applies and the personal opinion and taste of editors reign supreme. I might be able to accept 1 and 2 if they were written in prose and if it is made clear that they are only for when there are good common name alternatives, and that the first one is really just an extention of WP:RECENT.TheFreeloader (talk) 23:27, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
    • Yes, you indeed are a tad late. I don’t understand your astonishment at how anything has “already been implemented” since this change was extensively debated for nearly seven days and enjoyed wide participation from editors working towards a general consensus. In the military, the expression is “So sad – too bad” whenever one arrives late to a party and professes to be crestfallen at discovering who got drunk and got laid. But your objection still caries weight on Wikipedia and is noted; let’s see if that changes the general consensus now.

      As for your observation that The central point was not that the terms "pro-life" and "pro-choice" were selfcreated slogans per se. The main point was that it could be proven with reliable sources that these terms are viewed as partisan and unneutral, and that they as a result of that are avoided by high quality sources. Let’s compare that to the current text now, which declares the following to be inherently non-neutral and worthy of not using in a title: Persuasive names and slogans crafted by partisans on still-active, contentious advocacy issues. They are essentially the same thing. One big difference pertains to cause & effect. You see, persuasive names and slogans crafted by partisans on still-active, contentious advocacy issues are inherently like shit: off of it comes stink. Your point is amounts to saying “avoid the stink, which comes from the shit.” The existing wording says “avoid the shit, from which comes stink.” Same diff. Cause & effect.

      The more significant difference in your point is over what must be “proven” by RSs about something being biased. That works for long-established issues but breaks down when new articles are being created on new issues. It’s about time we had wording that cut to the chase and said, in effect, “Was the title crafted by partisans who are on dueling sides of an advocacy issue? If ‘yes,’ then think again about naming a Wikipedia article after it.” In short, it expects a healthy dose of WP:COMMONSENSE (*sound of audience gasp*) to be applied without having to wait around for an RS to say “These dorks are biased.” If the RSs come around on a new issue and state as much, that will just validate that Wikipedia was right to have avoided naming an article after it in the first place.

      A (very) serious weakness of your argument lies in the last clause of your argument: …and that they as a result of that are avoided by high quality sources. Uhm… Note Encyclopedia Britannica’s article “Pro-life movement”. The New York Times too (here). The EB is unquestionably a reliable source that is not avoiding naming an article after the (obviously biased) slogan. I happen to agree with the E.B. since I find it absurd to think that anyone would believe that the E.B. is endorsing the views of the pro‑life or pro‑choice movements because they have articles by those names; that’s absurd. I was, however, trying to craft better language that reflects current practices on Wikipedia and doesn’t try to change those practices. In my opinion, there is far too much political correctness run amok on Wikipedia by naive youngsters out to change the world and make it a better place—you know, hold hands on a hill and sing about Coca-Cola (YouTube video), but that sort of thing seems to make wikipedians happy.

      Nevertheless, I did my best to help craft, without passion or prejudice, consensus text that didn’t try to change how things work around here. Greg L (talk) 00:31, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

      • I think it goes against the whole idea of not just WP:AT but all of what Wikipedia is that we should be prescribe what is and what isn't neutral. Something like that will always just be an opinion, and editors' personal opinions do not belong in Wikipedia, WP:FIVEPILLARS says at much. What is neutral to you may not be to me, and there is no way to reconcile those two opinions. We need outside sources to be the arbiters in that kind of situations. Wikipedia is an encyclopedia build on reliable sources, not on the personal opinions of its editors. I think it is completely unprecedented in Wikipedia policy to have this serious a departure from WP:V and reliance on reliable sources.TheFreeloader (talk) 00:58, 15 August 2011 (UTC)
        • Well, now that you’ve wrapped your position in The Five Pillars (and linked to it in that “If it’s blue, it must be true” manner), it would be swell if you addressed the parts of my above post that showed your argument to have holes in it large enough to drive a semi clean through.

          If it were up to me, we’d lose #3 in its entirety. Instead, what’s there actually withstands scrutiny rather than crumble under the false pretense that the titles we avoid are avoided by high quality sources. As I provided above, there’s more RSs than you can shake a stick at that use the term (and the E.B. has an article by the name “Pro-life movement”). That’s clearly not the reason Wikipedia avoids such titles so please stop asking us to pay no attention to that illogic behind the curtain. Greg L (talk) 01:02, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

          • I think I addressed pretty clearly that it isn't Wikipedia's job to prescriptive on anything. BTW, here is the evidence I was referring to from the abortion rights case[2]. It's evidence like that, based on outside sources, I like to be norm for if trying to make a case about neutrality in titling of articles, not just whatever one's personal opinion happens to be.TheFreeloader (talk) 01:14, 15 August 2011 (UTC)
            • Your arguments are going nowhere here. The link you provided, which is two wikipedians arguing with each other, has something in it where one guy says New York Times - covered; NYT does not use "pro life" or "pro choice" as descriptors as they are not neutral. Do you understand what not using those terms as “descriptors” means? I fully agree with that premiss. That doesn’t have anything to do with how Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica name their articles covering a subject. Time for dinner. Bye. Greg L (talk) 01:24, 15 August 2011 (UTC),
              • Well, even if those arguments don't float, that wasn't my point anyways, it was just an example. My point was that arguments about neutrality in titling have to rely on reliable sources, not personal opinions. You keep avoiding to address that point.TheFreeloader (talk) 01:36, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

"Sometimes that common name will include non-neutral words", Rape is usually a neutral word. Massacre fits the bill better. -- PBS (talk) 01:20, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

  • I say, “call it like it is if it is a long-term grown-up word” Always. Even if it is “Pro-life movement” — just like Encyclopedia Britannica does. We would have only exceptions #1 and #2 in the current exceptions rules and would lose #3 (partisan slogans). But I know that one would fly like a wet noodle. Greg L (talk) 01:26, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

Greg, I think I'm missing your point about the Britannica and NYT. The Britannica link you gave goes to what looks like a redirect to "abortion (pregnancy)"; there's no article at "pro-life movement", or none that I can see anyway. And the NYT article you link talks about the "anti-abortion movement", and uses "pro-life" in the article only in quotes to say how people identify. The fact that the headline writers used it shouldn't be over-interpreted; they work by different rules, to sell stuff by catchy headlines. Dicklyon (talk) 01:48, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

  • Yes, you are correct. I saw this “Pro-life movement” Goggle hit on EB and didn’t read the EB page well enough to see if amounted to an actual article. The EB page looked like one of those “subscribe-to-read” things, so I dismissed it. Type too fast — read too little. I think, therefore, I fully support all three points of the current text (as opposed to my earlier opinion, where I helped author it because it was the consensus view, even though I thought point #3 was namby-pamby). Thanks. Greg L (talk) 02:20, 15 August 2011 (UTC)
    • So, what do you say, do we put in something about NPOV claims having to be supported by reliable sources?TheFreeloader (talk) 02:01, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
      • F, I didn't understand why you restored the "last stable version" when we seemed to be making such good progress. I've reverted that. Tell us what your thinking is. I also don't understand what you mean by "NPOV claims having to be supported by reliable sources"; maybe you can propose wording that would clarify what you're thinking? Dicklyon (talk) 06:02, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
        • I'm thinking that it's good to be conservative when it comes to policy. This thing is far from settled as far as I see it, the RFC is still open, so best not change anything until we agree on this. Also, I don't appreciate my comments being ignored. What I mean by NPOV claims being supported by reliable sources is that it should be proven on a case by case basis that the concerns one is having with a common name's neutrality are concerns which also exist outside of Wikipedia. Else we leave titling discussions open to all sorts of WP:OR type arguments for all sorts of things which can be seen, to some, as not neutral. My central point is, we need to find some sort of way for WP:AT to clearly define how to interpret WP:NPOV when it comes to titling. The old version (kinda) defined it as "the common name is always neutral", but now this language is being weakened, and we therefor need a new way to define it, and I suggest it should be "unless it can be proven to be regarded as otherwise by outside sources, the common name is always neutral". That way there will be room for people who thinks Wikipedia should stand up to higher standards of neutrality than most reliable sources to argue their case, while still keeping personal opinions out of the decision making, the way WP:PILLARS intend it.TheFreeloader (talk) 06:25, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
          • It does seem to me that this was done slowly and deliveratively with lots of involvement, and that nobody has said that the current version is not an improvement on what we started with. If you still have concerns, let's work on that. On your specific proposal, "unless it can be proven to be regarded as otherwise by outside sources, the common name is always neutral" would seem to just shift the argument to what constitutes "proof"; in any case, editors will make their case to each other and try to be convincing; is there precedence for this kind of clause, and has it been found to work? Dicklyon (talk) 15:01, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
            • Well, I cited the abortion naming discussion above as an example where outside sources were used in argument for not using the common name out of neutrality concerns. I also think there is plenty of precedent for this clause in the way WP:NPOV is treated in normal content related issues, where it isn't what you think is "neutral" which is what matters, but true neutrality is to inform readers what the most respected sources on given subject have to say.TheFreeloader (talk) 15:25, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
              • What clause at WP:NPOV are you referring to? Or in some place that refers to it? I don't see anything about proof. I also don't see where your notion of "true neutrality" is specified to exclude "what you think is neutral". To me, the nutshell says it well: "Articles mustn't take sides, but should explain the sides, fairly and without bias." That means even in areas where sources are predominantly biased toward one or another side, doesn't it? The provisions at Wikipedia:NPOV#Naming seem about right, and don't say anything about "proof"; that concept would just escalate the problem to a meta level of argument, I think. Dicklyon (talk) 16:00, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
                • I think WP:V is a lot about proof, and about using reliable sources for determining what should be in Wikipedia and what it should look like. My notion that neutrality comes from following sources, not personal opinions comes from WP:PILLAR. I'm not say that what I am advocating is already Wikipedia policy, I'm saying that it builds on the spirit of the Wikipedia's core content policies. And just to be sure, I'm not one who wants more neutrality concerns making their way into naming debates. If I were to choose myself, the policy would not allow any exceptions from WP:COMMONNAME based in concerns about neutrality. Because who are we to come and say that what reliable sources choose to call something isn't neutral. So all I'm saying is that if we are going to allow exceptions WP:COMMONNAME based on neutrality concerns, then we ought to at least do it in a way consistent with how WP:NPOV is usually implemented in other areas, which is through the use of reliable sources.TheFreeloader (talk) 17:08, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
                  • I agree that things flow from sources; but sometimes the slogan "follow the sources" is used to mean follow the most common POV (or style, or name, or whatever), at the expense of NPOV. I don't quite get your notion of "proof" still; it seems unprecedented to put something like that into policy and guidelines. Dicklyon (talk) 17:14, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
                    • Yea, I was thinking about that wording when I wrote it too. But I thought it was safe to say that it is "proven" that a reliable source regard something as not neutral if it can be shown where they say so themself. But instead how about then just saying "if it can be shown that reliable sources regard the common name not neutral". Also, I think there is precedent for featuring the most common POV most prominently in WP:DUE. And I would much rather have "follow the sources" as a slogan for Wikipedia than "go with what you think is right".TheFreeloader (talk) 17:33, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
                    • So what do you say, do you support removing the current exceptions, and instead require that all exceptions from WP:COMMONNAME due to concerns about neutrality should be made based on reliable sources and on a case by case basis?TheFreeloader (talk) 15:56, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
                      • I think it's true that, in practice, title decisions based on neutrality are often required by Wikipedians to be supported by compelling, source-based arguments. On the other hand, there are certain neutrality considerations that we tend to accept somewhat automatically, such as eschewing the word "terrorist" unless we have compelling reasons to use it.

                        Does that jibe with other people's observations? -GTBacchus(talk) 16:31, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

                        • Well, I actually cannot think of any articles where the term "terrorist", or any the other words from WP:LABEL, is in a subject's common name, but Wikipedia has decided not to use it because of neutrality concern. We do have whole bunch of articles including the word terrorism in this template Template:Terrorism. So I don't think the words to watch are that big a concern here.TheFreeloader (talk) 16:59, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
                          • Can you make us a new version proposal in a box, like Greg made, so we know exactly what we're considering? Or is it as simple as removing "Notable circumstances..." from his latest? Dicklyon (talk) 17:08, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Alright, here is my suggested version:

When the subject of an article is referred mainly by a single common name, as evidenced through usage in a significant majority of English-language reliable sources, Wikipedia generally follows the sources and uses that name as its article title (subject to the other naming criteria). Sometimes that common name will include non-neutral words that Wikipedia normally avoids (e.g. Boston Massacre, Rape of Belgium, and Teapot Dome scandal). In such cases, the ubiquity of the name and/or the fact that the name of an event has effectively or functionally become a proper noun generally overrides concerns that Wikipedia might appear as endorsing one side of an issue.

When a subject has multiple common names, questions about their neutrality may be taken into account when choosing between them. Claims about terms being viewed as unneutral should generally be backed by references to reliable sources expressing the same opinion.

The language needs work, but this is essentially how I think we could comprehensively define how WP:NPOV should be interpreted when it comes to naming of articles.TheFreeloader (talk) 17:27, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Yes, it needs at least a good copy-edit. I think I prefer Greg's; the examples are clarifying. And your stuff about "claims" seems to be talking about an adversarial process rather than a guideline; do we really need that here? Dicklyon (talk) 17:55, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Well, alright, what do you suggest we call it instead? I think it is quite shallow to judge these proposals based on language and presentation. My proposal is substantially different from Greg's proposal, in that Greg's proposal is mainly a list on some things which may be viewed as unneutral, while mine is an attempt at filling in the gap in guidance on how to apply WP:NPOV to article titling.TheFreeloader (talk) 18:17, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
What we call what? All arguments always need to be backed up by something better than opinion; calling out a need to back up claims in this particular provision seems odd and unnecessary. Dicklyon (talk) 16:59, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
No, I don't think it is unnecessary. As it is right now it is possible, as it is often done, to interpret WP:V only to extent to content related matters, and not to naming discussions. I think it is important we make clear WP:V actually does apply in naming discussions. Questions about neutrality in naming is often quite controversial matters with lots of opinions about what is and what isn't neutral. I think we need WP:V for those kinds of discussions to make sure that the neutrality concerns we allow to influence our choice in article titles, are concerns which also exist outside Wikipedia.TheFreeloader (talk) 18:57, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
Ah, I'm finally digesting your point. You had said earlier that you're worried about "an anarchy where WP:V no longer applies and the personal opinion and taste of editors reign supreme." I see it quite differently. I think WP:V should be left for what it is; it has not generally been invoked in all the places where editors have to make choices based on policy and guidelines, and I don't see why it needs to be invoked as part of naming. I do agree that we don't want naming (or anything else) to be just a situation where "the personal opinion and taste of editors reign supreme." But some editorial judgement is generally required in interpreting and implementing policy and guidelines, and everyone knows that if there are disagreements then mere opinion carries little weight in settling them. I don't see any need to mess with that, nor any reason to think that adding something about WP:V or "proof" or "claims" will make it work better than it has been. If we need to add something to remind people of how to argue based on evidence, we can do that more globally, not in the COMMONNAME or POVTITLE section. Dicklyon (talk) 23:25, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
Well, we try to base all other parts of article naming on reliable sources, the nutshell and the lead for this policy explains that, so I don't see why neutrality claims shouldn't also be based on reliable sources. After being part of two discussions about neutrality in naming recently/currently, I think people do need to get reminded that basing their case on reliable sources is the best way to show that their concerns exist outside of Wikipedia/their heads. In the abortion article title dispute most of the discussion in the mediation cabal discussion was based on personal opinions on what people viewed as neutral, which lead to the discussion becoming very disorganized, with nothing to base consensus. The ongoing naming discussion about the China article and the People's Republic of China article has been a discussion with one side almost solely basing their position on personal opinions about what constitutes neutrality. When I tried to ask for any references to outside sources showing that their views were shared by anyone out in the real world, I was told by multiple editors that such demands were unreasonable and irrelevant, as outside sources are not generally used in such discussions.TheFreeloader (talk) 00:17, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
I'm not saying such arguments shouldn't be based on reliable sources; if you repeat "reliable sources" again in an appropriate place, maybe that will help clarify. But it's not a WP:V issue, which is about what to put into articles. Dicklyon (talk) 02:12, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
The lead of this policy says that it: " should be interpreted in conjunction with other policies, particularly the three core content policies: Verifiability, No original research and Neutral point of view." Also the lead for WP:NPOV say: ""Neutral point of view" is one of Wikipedia's three core content policies. The other two are "Verifiability" and "No original research". These three core policies jointly determine the type and quality of material that is acceptable in Wikipedia articles. Because these policies work in harmony, they should not be interpreted in isolation from one another [...]" So I think it is reasonable to say that if people are going to make claims based on NPOV, that they be based on what can be verifiable by outside sources, and do not include original theories about what is and isn't neutral.TheFreeloader (talk) 16:23, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
Your proposal still needs improvements. The second part should have started as "When a subject has multiple common names, questions about their neutrality may be taken into account..." (I think it's more clearer this way, and also avoids repetitions). But, still there were cases where even without multiple common names, editors have used neutral descriptive titles instead, so I think it can also be noted that in some very controversial cases, these may also be considered. And the examples provided in Greg's version can be useful. I agree that sources should be used to determine if a common name is non-neutral (especially if these are not very obvious cases). Cody7777777 (talk) 21:17, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
I've put your improvement into the proposal above, thank you. The only case I can think of where Wikipedia has chosen to against POVTITLE by creating a descriptive name despite having common names available is the abortion movement case. And that is a case which is still being debated (here), so I think it would be wrong of us to try to base policy on an ongoing dispute.TheFreeloader (talk) 21:39, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
I think that this needs to more clearly reflect the text from NPOV#Naming, which makes a point of accepting a common name "even though some may regard it as biased." The disregard for editors' personal opinions about what sounds biased from their POV is a major point here, and it needs to be made more clearly. I suggest expanding the first sentence in this proposal with something like 'even if some editors believe that title sounds biased or judgmental'. WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:41, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
We should be careful of simply recommending disregarding some editors' opinions. I would like to emphasise that with very common names, objections to a name's neutrality should be backed up by reliable sources making such criticism, rather than simply reflect editors' personal judgements. What we're talking about here are valid arguments to bring to a discussion, not a formula.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 16:52, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
(ec) I wouldn't make it about editors. The phrase "even though some may regard it as biased" is more about how a term is regarded "out there", I think. Opinions of editors aren't what policy should be based around, one way or the other, and we shouldn't have to go to special lengths to say so in this particular provision; editors should always focus more outward (not that they always do). Dicklyon (talk) 16:54, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
PBS has ignored this concerned restore the "editor's" that I had removed from W's edit on the policy page. I still don't see why either of you wants to start making this section talk about opinions of editors. We don't normally do that; we could say on everything that we do it even though some editors may have contrary opinions, but we don't do that. The quoted line from Naming, "even though some may regard it as biased", is presumably about how some sources, authorities, or whatever regard it, not the opinions of certain editors, no? Dicklyon (talk) 06:48, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
No its not, as I said in my revision history if we have reliable sources that state a name is biased, we weight that in to the process of deciding the article title. Taking out the word "editors" makes the clause totally different from what I presume WhatamIdoing intended. If we are lucky enough to find reliable sources that talk about an article title either by providing us with a survey of usage, or commenting on it in other ways such as it is a propaganda phrase etc, then that is precisely the sort of information that we want to discuss and use in deciding article titles. It is the uniformed Wikpedia editorial prejudice that we need to discourage because unless people are willing to discuss the problem by researching reliable sources they are unlikely to agree if they hold different opinions in the first place. If editors consider the usage in sources then in good faith they can usually agree on those to find an acceptable article title while agreeing to digress on the "correct name". -- PBS (talk) 15:20, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

Dicklyon what do you see as the significant difference between WP:POVTITLE and WP:NPOV#Naming? -- PBS (talk) 06:03, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

I am not sure that the copying of the WP:NPOV#Naming section over to WP:AT was a good idea for the reasons Blueboar has mentioned -- When we copy stuff from one policy to another over time they get out of sync in subtle ways which then get exposed when a dispute arises and cause disputes on article talk pages and on the policy pages (like this one to become longer than they would if there was only one section in one policy). Perhaps the answer is to replace the bulk of WP:POVTITLE with a brief couple of sentence directing the reader to WP:NPOV#Naming and then change the redirect WP:POVTITLE to point to WP:NPOV#Naming.-- PBS (talk) 06:03, 20 August 2011 (UTC)

Should we eliminate it from one place or the other? My concern originally was that Born2cycle was applying POVTITLE as if it meant that it's alway neutral to just use the most common thing that something is called. The section at Naming was more nuanced, indicating that things need to be weighed. Dicklyon (talk) 06:48, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
No, it makes sense to discuss the issue on both pages. There is an important difference between each section. WP:POVTITLE focuses exclusively situations where the title of the article might be seen as POV or biased, while WP:NPOV#Naming focuses more on what names are used in the text of the article. These do not necessarily have to be the same. For example... per WP:COMMONNAME we use Saint Petersburg as the title for our main article on the city in Russia... but per WP:NPOV#Naming we use "Leningrad" in some sections of the text (depending on what historical era the text is discussing).
However, (again per WP:COMMONNAME... and POVTITLE) we use the name "Leningrad" in the title of our article on the Siege of Leningrad (even though it is potentially POV). Blueboar (talk) 13:07, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
WP:NPOV#Naming was never meant to cover text inside an article is was specifically written and maintained for Article Names (hence the section name "Naming" -- it is just that the section header was not changed when this policy page was moved to its new name). What part of the section WP:NPOV#Naming do you think covers names inside an article? -- PBS (talk) 14:56, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
The fact that the second paragraph starts with "This advice especially applies to article titles" implies that the advice (in the first paragraph) applies to more than just article titles. Blueboar (talk) 20:58, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
PBS is showing the same tendency to ignore the whole of a policy to focus on the part. WP:NPOV in general applies to all article namespace content, WP:NPOV#Naming is the section of NPOV that touches upon titles more directly, but is inseparable from the rest of NPOV policy. Maybe we need to put hatnotes in every sectionally shortcuted policy are saying you should read the whole thing.--Cerejota (talk) 19:17, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
"all article namespace content" The section WP:NPOV#Naming was not written for content but the name article title of the article which is not part of the content of an article. I'v been around long enough to have been involved in discussions about WP:NPOV#Naming before the content was copied over to this policy. It seems to me that this is a classic case of duplication which is now diverging and causing problems. I was disinterested in which policy the advise was presented, but now I am not so sure and tend to think that it is probably better off in the NPOV policy, but which ever it is in it should be removed from the other policy. -- PBS (talk) 20:34, 23 August 2011 (UTC)


When did WP:COMMONNAME come to be such a big and powerful provision, apparently written to supersede the other considerations? Consider where it was at the beginning of September, 2009, when it was just one provision parallel to the others, called "Use common names of persons and things" that just gave this sensible advice:

Convention: Except where other accepted Wikipedia naming conventions give a different indication, title an article using the most common name of the person or thing that is the subject of the article (making the title unique when necessary as described in the following section and in the disambiguation guideline. Where articles have descriptive names, the given name must be neutrally worded.

That month of Sept. 2009 was the "inflationary period", driven by high-temperature gases largely from Born2cycle and Pmanderson. It stretched in and out with lots of pushback, to finish the month with a much bigger section, but still much smaller than today's, called "Use Common Names", incorporating Born2cycle's usual call for "normally titled using the most common", saying: [3]

Articles are normally titled using the most common English-language name of a person or thing that is the subject of the article. If the article's subject has no evident name, a concise, recognizable and neutral description is used instead. In determining what this name is, we follow the usage of reliable sources. As part of this, the name chosen for an article, while in common use, should be neither vulgar nor pedantic: readers will not expect such names to be the title of an article in an encyclopedia such as Wikipedia.
Occasionally, specific subject domains may follow a standardised precedent that is not strictly the common name. This practice is often controversial, and should not be adopted unless it produces clear benefits outweighing the use of uncommon names; when it is, the article titles adopted should follow a neutral and common convention specific to that subject domain, and they otherwise adhere to the general principles in naming articles on Wikipedia. The decision to adopt such a convention may be influenced by factors such as:
  • Most of the articles on the subject do have ambiguous common names, so that the convention extends a standardized disambiguation to articles which do not need disambiguation
  • Many articles deal with subjects with several common names,
  • There is no obvious method to determine which names are the most common or otherwise suitable common names are ambiguous.

This includes PMA's favorite follow the sources language.

Born2cycle inserted "most commonly used" in multiple other provisions as well, but some of them didn't survive.

It seems clear that there was little consensus; all this inflation was hard fought; lots on the talk page, but no clear consensus (as noted on 20 Sept 2009), and no apparent attempt to assess opinions. And today, Born2cycle is relying on policy he wrote into here, on multiple fronts, to disempower editors from exercising editorial judgement, turning control over to people who make claims about how common different names are in sources, for example as was done at Talk:Crepe#Crepe.

Maybe it's time for a process to figure out what a consensus version of COMMONNAME would look like? Dicklyon (talk) 06:01, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

  • This is interesting. I've been working in RM since 2006, and I hardly ever read policy pages, so I think my perspective is based on community interaction, and not on edits to this page. I feel like COMMONNAME has been invoked a lot, since well before 2009, but to check my memory, I can always consult User:GTBacchus/RM closings.

    I started closing move requests in September 2006, and the first time I closed one where someone cites COMMONNAME (using that shortcut) appears to be here, in December of that year, but it didn't carry the day. Same here. Then at the end of December is the first time I moved a page per COMMONNAME, here. That was followed by this and this. Here it failed, here it succeeded, and here it was mentioned. Another success, and another. That gets us to the end of January 2007, so in those first 5 months, I closed 284 moves, where COMMONNAME was directly cited 10 times, "winning" about half the time. I know this is statistically meaningless, but I do like Memory Lane.

    I think COMMONNAME is popular because it's simple to understand and apply, and it gives us the "right answer" a high percentage of the time. What do I mean by the "right answer"? I mean a title that sticks, and isn't reversed in the next move request a few months later. It doesn't do this all the time, however. I think it would be accurate to say that we very often give consensus support to titles that are consistent with COMMONNAME, but in contentious cases, all bets are off, and the community does what it does, which is to weigh the individual case on merits in long and complicated discussions.

    I consider these to be a sign of good health for the project, and don't want to make them algorithmic and cut down the length and verbiage. We learn a lot in those discussions, and not all of what we learn needs to be stated in policy.

    Anyway, those are my late-night thoughts on the matter. I guess I'll sleep on it, and see you gentlemen tomorrow. :) -GTBacchus(talk) 07:06, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

In response to the original question, I'm not seeing how COMMONNAME has become "more powerful" as a result of the changes made to this page - I would say it's been given less emphasis, not more, since it is now acknowledged that commonness of name is just one of a number of criteria that we use to determine titles, not the one overriding one that must be followed unless some other written convention gives explicit permission to deviate from it. On the other hand, I think the common name principle has always been and remains one of the most often used criteria in practice - and perhaps is slowly becoming even more so (we no longer have that once-standard monstrosity "Victoria of the United Kingdom", for example).--Kotniski (talk) 08:00, 12 August 2011 (UTC)

My impression is that it has gone from one of many to a top-level section on its own. There are a number of RMs where Born2cycle seems to be saying that you don't need to look beyond commonname (and even there, bad interpretation of Google hits has been allowed to drive moves such as Talk:Crepe#Crepe; the result there doesn't seem defensible, but correcting a bad move is always hard, as you can see there). He invokes the "most common" language especially in his campaign to strengthen and apply WP:POVTITLE (which was added as a part of, or extention of, COMMONNAME), essentially overriding what others would consider to be sensible interpretations of NPOV. It just seems odd, so I'm looking for ways to get better balance into such RMs, based on consensus. From the history and the controversies that it gets involved it, it's hard to say that this section has consensus. Dicklyon (talk) 15:07, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Would it help if we clearly stated that ultimately "Article titles are chosen based on discussion and consensus"... EVERYTHING else we say in this policy can be seen as a broad statement of intent, geared towards guiding editors in achieving a consensus ... but there are exceptions and caveats to every rule, and every principle must be applied with a degree of editorial judgment. Blueboar (talk) 16:29, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Dicklyon, I realize you don't like my close at crepe, but really this is a complain with how the common name was decided, right? It's not really a complain about COMMONNAME. ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 16:44, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
I don't see this as a referendum on your close there, or on you in any way. It's probably worth considering the status of COMMONNAME separate from any particular recent event. -GTBacchus(talk) 18:23, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
I didn't mean to imply that anyone thought it was a referendum. I'm just trying to separate disagreements about how to apply COMMONNAME from disagreements about how important COMMONNAME is. Does that make sense? ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 18:51, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Oh, ok. Sorry. I guess I see "how to apply COMMONNAME" and "how important COMMONNAME is" as being difficult to separate. -GTBacchus(talk) 19:06, 12 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I was commenting on Born2cycle's misapplication of COMMONNAME. But also on the status of COMMONNAME as a big section in parallel to the section "Deciding on an article title," when it used to be just one provision in such a list of principles. It seems that a number of editors including Born2cycle has wanted to make it the key criterion, to keep the process more mechanical, and then when he applies it mechanically he makes errors that make a mockery of it. Dicklyon (talk) 17:22, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
I think the community tends to be pretty reasonable in applying COMMONNAME. In practice we don't weigh it more heavily than all other guidelines. Whether that's accurately reflected on the policy page is... kind of irrelevant to me, but I know that many people believe in word-magic, and read policy pages. We make exceptions to COMMONNAME for various reasons, including but not limited to: ENGVAR, project-specific naming conventions, NPOV, and MOSTM, to name the ones that spring immediately to mind. -GTBacchus(talk) 18:35, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
It wouldn't bother me either, if I hadn't seen it invoked so much recently as if it's the only thing that matters. Like at Talk:Calculator where it is said to trump Precision, and Talk:Female genital mutilation and Talk:Climatic Research Unit email controversy where some argue that it should trump NPOV (or that it should redefine NPOV). Dicklyon (talk) 22:32, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
The second sentence of COMMONNAME does seem to contradict the previous section: 'Wikipedia does not necessarily use the subject's "official" name as an article title; it instead uses the name that is most frequently used to refer to the subject in English-language reliable sources.' That seems to render the previous section null and void, doesn't it? Should we change that to 'often it uses'? Jakew (talk) 19:06, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
Sure, make the policy internally consistent, but please be sure that it reflects actual practice. We actually use official names quite often, changing article names when radio stations change their call-letters for example, and only when there is some contention does COMMONNAME supersede. In cases such as those radio stations, we don't wait for common usage to catch up to the official name, because of what I'd call "common sense". -GTBacchus(talk) 19:15, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
No... the point that is being made here is that sometimes we use the "official" name, and sometimes we don't use the "official" name (and instead use something else) ... To answer the question of whether to use the official name or something else, we apply WP:COMMONNAME. Blueboar (talk) 23:34, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
But it's the wording of WP:COMMONNAME that we're discussing... I changed it to "prefers to use" rather than "uses", since clearly we don't always use the commonest name as defined in that sentence, as we have five criteria not one. (I think this is the "contradiction" that was actually being pointed out by Jakew above.)--Kotniski (talk) 06:22, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, thank you for putting it so much more eloquently, Kotniski. I think your fix is good, but I wonder if we need to say something to the effect that we try to meet the principles in the section above, and using the commonest name tends to be the best way to do that. That is, emphasising that the principles are the primary goal, and commonality is a means to an end. Thoughts? Jakew (talk) 09:55, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Blueboar, what I'm saying is that, in practice, we don't always use COMMONNAME to decide whether or not to use the official name. Very often, we just go straight to the official name, without even considering COMMONNAME, and that's that. It's only when there's contention that we start to think about naming criteria. I think it's fair that policy should reflect this reality. -GTBacchus(talk) 13:32, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
@No one in particular -- Although I've grown somewhat blasé about it, I've been complaining about the fetishization of Common Name since at least November 2006, coincidentally in another earlier contentious discussion with Serge, who became Born2Cycle. olderwiser 13:58, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
It's a symptom of the larger problem of the fetishization of rules. If Wikipedia were a society, with rules that were meant to insure justice and prevent oppression, it would be one thing. Turns out, though, we're an encyclopedia. -GTBacchus(talk) 16:19, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree, but would add and emphasize NPOV encyclopedia. The problem I see with WP:COMMONNAME is that it doesn't emphasize that it often ignores NPOV in order to improve the encyclopedia, and that this is not to be done lightly. It also has systemic bias in defining commonality and while this is trivial is say, Caesium (instead of the more "common" Cesium) or Automobile (the more common "Car"), it does becomes an issue of extraordinary importance when the "commonness" itself is verifiably under controversy, such as with "climategate" over at Climatic Research Unit email controversy. Pointing out to editors that suspending NPOV is not to be done lightly, or even to consider descriptive or other alternatives to common names if the common name itself is in controversy, shouldn't be seen as extreme position: its defending a cornerstone of the project! I think the problem is that only a very few editors really belief in NPOV, or believe NPOV means compromise and consensus in which they try to cajole as much as they can for "their side", and hence they do not want to be reminded that NPOV matters and created a bunch of rules to codify exceptions and caveats and loopholes using "consensus". WP:TRIFECTA beautifully illustrates this. We are not supposed to be here to be making or obeying rules but making an NPOV encyclopedia of great quality... and fuck anything that gets in the way of that.--Cerejota (talk) 08:44, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
GTBacchus - I accept that COMMONNAME is cited a lot at RM. But how often does it ever actually trump the other concerns I listed - ie when the move is seriously contested (and not just by single obsessive POV editors)? (Apologies for not working out a quick way of answering this myself) I think Cerejota raises an important question about the importance of NPOV - how many editors really support it? I think s/he is wrong to say that very few editors believe in NPOV, but that's beside the point. More interestingly, even if NPOV editors are in the minority overall, they are the ones who end up winning arguments across the encyclopedia. My impression is that COMMONNAME by itself is not taken as a powerful argument where other doubts exist. If wikilawyering is defined as choosing ends and finding policy to support those ends, then my (admittedly less well-informed that your) impression is that that is one of the major uses of commonname.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 09:21, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
Let me clarify. I think the immense majority of us are attracted to the project precisely because of NPOV. I know I was. So that's not my argument. My argument is that a lot of the rules exist as collection of the exceptions to NPOV people needed to make at some point. I find it interesting that things like "Words to Avoid", which were born out historically directly from NPOV and defend NPOV, get thrown to the side and disrespected and even reduced to meaningless, whereas exceptions to NPOV like COMMONNAME which exist as a codified WP:IAR (ie NPOV could itself keep us from improving quality) get used all the time, even when there is no controversy. This is similar to how people throw WP:CIVIL down the drain against vandals and malicious editors, which often lead them to think that if they label someone a vandal or a malicious editor they can get away with WP:CIVIL violations - which then promotes a negative editing environment. I am a rules minimalist, but if they exist, we do need COMMONNAME as rule because it is useful, but it should also draw a bright line that says "I stopped being a tool for improvement, so I need to be ignored". JUst think the countless hours saved actually improving Climatic Research Unit email controversy, rather than bickering about the title like we did? And all that bickering was a result of a lack of clarity in COMMONNAME that neutrality should only be compromised when doing so doesn't compromise the article neutrality itself - how does a reader approaching the topic feel if the article is named after a term the article shows is in dispute? Who would the reader feel the encyclopedic voice supports? The article that taught me this is Israel and apartheid analogy, which began with the COMMONNAME "Israeli apartheid". Naming it Israel and apartheid analogy has proven to be the single most important step towards improving that article and turning it into an encyclopedia article. It is still a POV magnet, and has many issues to improve, but it used to be nearly perma-tagged with {{NPOV}} and yet it has remained untagged for a while (1RR from arbcom also helped). All of that was made possible by choosing a descriptive title rather than a COMMONNAME - changing the title because of NPOV made the encyclopedia better. We shouldn't ignore that.--Cerejota (talk) 09:49, 18 August 2011 (UTC)
In that sense I agree with you. I particularly like the elegance of the view that many rules beyond the pillars are basically elaborating IAR exceptions to the pillars. I too believe that descriptive titles are not as heinous a solution to intractable disputes as some seem to think. One problem is that a few editors have studiously conflated neologisms and descriptive titles, and understood the ban on the former to be a ban on the latter. Your point that"neutrality should only be compromised when doing so doesn't compromise the article neutrality itself" is very well put. Perhaps that should go into policy, as I think it expresses one of the main reasons why NPOV trumps COMMONNAME in discussions.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 11:22, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

(Unindenting) Just a thought: there's clearly debate over the relative importance of neutrality and frequency of use, but it's also clear that they do matter, at least sometimes. So would it be worth adding bullet points for both of these to the "Deciding on an article title" section (with appropriate caveats)? The effect of this would be to make commonness one of several principles — I think that's consistent with practice, do others agree? Jakew (talk) 09:39, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

I would not.
Why is use of common names valuable? Becasue they are recognizable and natural; they have no independent virtue.
Again, why, and when, are neutral terms valuable? When we are inventing a descriptive term; when a common name exists, and is universally used, we have it as the article title: Katyn massacre.
So one is superfluous; the other limited to what is already said. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 14:43, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
Actually, that's a good idea, PMA: just make it clear that COMMONNAME is in support of recognizability and naturalness, and has no other independent principle going for it. Then, any title that is common enough to be widely recognizable and natural is good enough, and we can defuse some of the counting nonsense. Dicklyon (talk) 15:13, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
I was going to agree with Jakew, but PMA's analysis changed my mind (sorry Jakew). Commonality is a useful way of expressing naturalness and recognisability. And it also raised something that has been bothering me - the way that current policy suggests that there is only one common name for something. Instead, Commonname should allow for more than one potential title to be admitted for consideration on grounds of widespread attestation. An example: I've been involved in a move discussion at East-West schism. The desired move was to Great Schism, which seems to be generally opposed because that title applies to another event too. In looking into it, I realised that in the literature two commonly used names exist that would be appropriate - the current one and Great Schism of 1054. For me, the essential idea of COMMONNAME would mean that both qualify as suitable. The choice then is not a count, but a style preference of some sort. This would mean that if (as an imaginary example) one title has 55% usage and another 45% usage, if the 55% used one raises serious enough concerns on (for example) POV, worldwide or ambiguity grounds, then the 45% one, which is also widely attested but not problematic, also qualifies perfectly well on grounds of commonality. It's attested enough; we lose little or nothing in recognisability and naturalness, but at great gains in other areas.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 15:50, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
Okay. I think we need to clarify the relationship between the main principles and commonness, and clearly and explicitly stating that the latter is based on naturalness & recognisability works for me. I do still think, however, that there's room for adding neutrality, as this is a principle that we do consider, always in descriptive titles, and occasionally in the case of common names (eg., the community's rejection of "climategate"). Obviously we'd need caveats and a link to the section giving more info, but I think it should be included in recognition of the fact that does affect the choice of some titles. Thoughts? Jakew (talk) 16:26, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
I agree neutrality needs to be mentioned, as its absence from COMMONNAME has led some people to imply that NPOV somehow doesn't apply. There are two separate neutrality issues, however. There are titles with "words to avoid" in, and then there are titles which in Cerejota's excellent formulation, "compromise the neutrality of the article". (Katyn massacre is an example of the former (acceptable through near universal usage), Climategate the latter (not acceptable because of the implication that there was a cover-up of climate science discovered).VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 16:39, 19 August 2011 (UTC)
I have added The most common name for a subject is often used as a title because it is recognizable and natural; one should also ask [#Deciding on an article title|questions] outlined above; ambiguous or inaccurate names for the article subject, as determined by reliable sources, are often avoided even though they may be more frequently used by reliable sources. For a discussion of neutrality in titles, see [#Neutrality in article titles|below]. When there are several names for a subject, all of them fairly common, and the most common has problems, it is perfectly reasonable to choose one of the others. (The brackets are piped links to the sections immediately above and below.) This appears to reflect this discussion without saying anything that will inspire dissent. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 17:12, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
Pretty good, except I am going to changing some wording, I hope un-controversially: "Neutrality is also to be taken into account, for a discussion of neutrality in titles, see [#Neutrality in article titles|below]." It is more direct. The way you worded it makes neutrality seem as an optional intellectual exercise, when in fact it is part and parcel of article naming and in particular in considering "commoness". --Cerejota (talk) 19:18, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
That is a non-trivial and potentially controversial change; one reason I only mentioned neutrality as a link is that the next section gives a limited role to neutrality; Boston Massacre is the title because it is the term everybody uses, even though it would not otherwise be neutral; even the sentence The Boston Massacre was not a massacre is the natural phrasing. Thoughts? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 21:50, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
Would substituting "NPOV" for "neutrality" work? Titles should always be consistent with NPOV, but WP:NPOV#Naming does sometimes permit titles that are not, strictly speaking, neutral. Jakew (talk) 22:08, 22 August 2011 (UTC)
The point that bares repeating is that our titles (like everything else in Wikipedia) should be based on the sources... and the sources do not need to be neutral... we do. That means we present what the sources say with neutrality. When a significant majority of reliable sources all use the same words or terms as a name for something, to not use that name would mean that we are not editing with neutrality. We are substituting our own personal opinions and POV over that of the sources. In other words... a common name like Boston Massacre actually is a neutral title, even if it may seem non-neutral. Blueboar (talk) 00:03, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
I disagree: "significant majority" is the wrong standard there. We should accept a title if it is used in "almost all" or an "overwhelming majority" of reliable sources (like your Boston Massacre example), but if it's a significant majority using a term with obvious bias, and there's a significant minority using an obviously more neutral term, as often happens in controversial areas, then it's a no-brainer for us to choose the more neutral one. The problem is how to write it to give us that much (or some appropriate amount of) editorial discretion. We need to stay consistent with WP:NPOV, which says "NPOV means representing fairly, proportionately, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources;" I don't think that choosing one biased POV term when less biased ones exist could be considered fairly, proportionately, and without bias, even if that term has a majority behind it. In this I support Pmanderson's added sentence, "When there are several names for a subject, all of them fairly common, and the most common has problems, it is perfectly reasonable to choose one of the others." Dicklyon (talk) 00:30, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
Thanks. I agree with the rest of this too, although it is quite possible that what Blueboar calls "significant" and what Dicklyon calls "overwhelming" are much the same thing. To discuss one more pressing example, we don't want to make the threshold for using Climategate when it passes 51% or even 61% of some set of sources; we should use it in one of two conditions:
  • Either reliable sources generally come to agree that it is accurate,
  • Those who think its implications are inaccurate use it anyway.
To me this is one point of Boston Massacre: even those (and there are many of them) who doubt that it is properly called a massacre use the name in saying so. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 20:53, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

"Death of" or "Murder of"

Which is better for an article title: "Death of" or "Murder of"? There has been an edit/move war at Murder of Keith Blakelock. The argument for 'Murder' relies on it being the common name, while proponents of 'Death' cite NPOV and it being a more encyclopaedic title. Is there a possibility of 'one size fits all' for this or do we think it best to be a per article basis? violet/riga [talk] 12:02, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

Appropriate titles are always determined on an article by article basis... guided by the broad principles laid out in this policy. In this case, we can be guided by, and apply the same principle that we do for titles that include the term "allegation" ... While no one is currently charged with the crime, there has been a finding of murder in a court of law, it is therefore appropriate (and not POV) to use the term "Murder" in the title. Blueboar (talk) 12:34, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
Well yes, but that only covers one part of the argument for 'Death of'. Is "Death of..." a more encyclopaedic and consistent title?
When it is clear someone was murdered, there is nothing POV about using murder, as Blueboar said. When the overwhelming story of the person in the article is their murder. using "death of" is possibly misleading and, while not a euphemism exactly, has a similar effect (if the crime is not the main focus, then normally the article just takes the person's name). I don't know what "encyclopedic" means in this context but I am always suspicious when people say anything is "unencyclopedic" without assigning substance to that charge. We generally use the common name for articles, and we should almost never invent our own name where there is a common name. So if this was unquestionably a murder, and that is the focus of the article, and it is the common name, death of would be inappropriate. Note that we have many articles using murder of in the title. See here.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 13:25, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
Just because you don't quite understand the use of "unencyclopaedic" does not mean that it should be viewed with suspicion. The point is that "Murder of" is more sensationalistic than "Death of". I totally understand all the policies that we currently have - I raised it here for discussion of a common convention rather than ways existing policies fit in. There is sense in having a common naming convention across articles, though there is also sense in using common names. violet/riga [talk] 15:54, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
We can not have a common convention on the use or non-use of a specific word. Sometimes that word will be appropriate and at other times it will not. Blueboar (talk) 15:59, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
A murder is always a death therefore it is possible in most cases if that were decided. violet/riga [talk] 16:30, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
You misunderstand. "Unencyclopedic" standing alone is tautological. "X doesn't belong in an encyclopedia!" "Why?" Because it's unencyclopedic." Circular reasoning without substance. Here, for titles, you have identified sensationalism as a concern but sensationalism implies there's an element of false exaggeration, and here there is none I see, just a word that aptly describes what occurred. You're right that death is a broader set. All murders involve death, and the reverse is not true. That does not mean using death as a stand in for murder is not deceptive. When a person says someone died, we normally take that to implicitly mean they were not murdered (or assassinated or committed suicide) because that is the way we use language for such matters. We use specifics unless we are hiding what happened. As I said, it smacks of euphemism. This is all beside the issue that we should almost always use the common name, if indeed there is one here.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 18:06, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
I do understand as I've been a party to such discussion for many a year. While some people bandy the term around I assure you that I did not. I was using it to illustrate the the use of professional, mature, and balanced language. Moreover I value consistency and the use of "Death of ..." in some places compared to "Murder of ..." in others can show a lack of coordination. Your point about euphemisms and unintended biases from a "Death of ..." is an interesting one, and such a viewpoint was what I hoped this discussion would raise. violet/riga [talk] 19:29, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

The title will be dependent on the article content. if the article is about a murder case and the background to the case and a murder trial etc. then it should be Murder of e.g. Murder of Sarah Payne or Murder of Danielle Jones. This is also where the subject of the article is only notable through being murdered. Death of is where the subject is already notable and the circumstances surrounding their death are also noteworthy but are not murder such as Death of Michael Jackson or Death of John Lennon. Both subjects are notable and the deaths are also notable due to the subjects and the reasons behind the death are also discussed and there is no focus on criminal aspects.--Lucy-marie (talk) 19:44, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

I'm liking this thought, though there are some exceptions. Death of Mark Duggan for example is only notable for his death but it is immediately controversial giving any police shooting a "Murder of ..." title especially before any true investigation is complete. However in such cases WP:COMMONNAME would likely apply. violet/riga [talk] 20:06, 14 August 2011 (UTC)
John Lennon's death was not a murder? That is a novel view of the situation, regardless of the article title. Rlendog (talk) 14:59, 15 August 2011 (UTC)
It certainly depends on the specifics. It's also worth remembering that figuring out the True™ title is often easier when we have some distance from the event, and that WP:There is no deadline. In fact, many articles that people might title as "Murder of..." turn out to be non-notable, and are almost unheard of after the initial, short-lived media frenzy dies down. WhatamIdoing (talk) 02:32, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

In any event the word "murder" should never be used on WP unless a competent legal authority (court, coroner, etc.) has declared it to be so. Conversely refusing to use "murder" when it is clearly relevant could be inapropriate euphemism. I'm not so sure that notablility only for being murdered or if the victim is already notable for other reasons is a relevant criterion for deciding the use of the word "murder". (Would for example John Lennon's death be more deserving of being called a murder than the death of an otherwise non-notable bank teller killed during a notable robbery?) Roger (talk) 07:27, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

The non-notable bank tell probably would not rate a stand alone article under WP:ONEEVENT, so we would not have to choose between "Murder of Joe Bankteller" and "Death of Joe Bankteller". We might have an article on the robbery (entitled something like: "2012 Bank of Townsville Robbery") and in that article, it might be appropriate to mention that Joe Bankteller was killed during the robbery. I agree that we would avoid the term "murder" unless someone was convicted of "murder" (as opposed to some other charge such as "Homicide"). What makes the Blakelock article so interesting (and contentious) is that three people were convicted of murder, but the convictions were subsequently overturned. Thus, we have a legal finding of "Murder", but no legal finding as to who committed the murder. Blueboar (talk) 13:57, 15 August 2011 (UTC)
What is wrong with saying "Joe Bankteller was murdered during the robbery" if the robbers have been convicted of murder? Roger (talk) 14:16, 15 August 2011 (UTC)
Nothing, assuming that's what happened, and I don't believe that Blueboar meant to imply otherwise. Also, a legal conviction isn't strictly necessary: for example, we could have a murder without a legal conviction if, say, the killer committed suicide before being convicted. WhatamIdoing (talk) 14:41, 15 August 2011 (UTC)
Or, indeed, there could be consensus that the action was murder, even if nobody was convicted for it, or the conviction were widely regarded as wrongful. (Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey may be an example for this.) But murder is a claim of fact as well as law, about the intent of the killer, among other things. Those seem to be in dispute here. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 22:30, 15 August 2011 (UTC)

Case-by-case is how we should always approach any content issues. Any bright-line prohibition is basically begging WP:IAR. I agree with Blueboar that what makes the Blakelock case interesting is the circumstances that surround it beyond the actual action (which is what makes it also be an article on itself, otherwise it would be part of the article of the riot in which he was killed. I disagree on his interpretation of legal proceedings, in overturning the conviction, the whole process, including the finding of murder is overturned. Furthermore, the controversy around the accused is a big political issue (according to the RS). I basically had little idea of this until I became involved on 2011 England riots and I renamed and article now under AfD, and people raised WP:OTHERSTUFFEXISTS arguments and I started exploring the articles and found a bunch of mostly British articles with "murder" in the title. It seems there is a media sensationalism around violent deaths in the British press, and even usually reliable sources go apeshit with any violent death. Perhaps we in the US are so jaded that a "murder" can be called a death or killing until there is a guilty verdict, but the reality is that when I went into the articles, some where indeed using "Murder" in the title in an appropriate fashion from my perspective, but some weren't. So I boldly went in, because WP:BRD is nice. My arguments are there, where they belong, the article talk, where they should be discussed.

In general terms, in this discussion what I see is a misunderstanding of what "common" and what "npov" means in the context of titles. The way I see it, the gist of WP:POVTITLE is that we have to make a balance between the need for neutrality and the need for commonality, giving more weight than we do to commonality in the article text itself, but not ignoring NPOV.

It is clear to me that some of the suggested edits to the policy seek to change this call for a nuanced and balanced consideration, into a bright-line allowing of POV titles. I do not believe the community would be comfortable pushing NPOV aside in such a fashion. One thing is in some cases err on the side of commonality because current consensus supports it, another is to diminish WP:CCC and WP:NPOV with a bright-line allow. WP:AT allows for descriptive titles, so using a name like "climategate" is not mandated or even necessarily preferred - it simply wouldn't a policy violation to do it. Most (but not all) of the people that push hard for POV titles are usually people that agree with the POV the title would support, and we need to adjust for that bias (the anti-POV bias is offset by genuine . If on top of that pre-existing bias, we adopt bright-line commonality, there wouldbe hundreds of thousands of articles that would be renamed, everything from Caesium to Automobile, not to mention politico-religious controversial articles. As you see, the petty differences of POV pushers have been wisely chosen to be stopped by not having bright-line policies on anything but BLP and behavior issues. We should continue to do so. I take NPOV over commonality in all but historical matters that are not of contemporary relevance, even if there are contemporary debates around that. Hence we shouldn't have articles titled "pro-choice" or "pro-life" or "climategate" or "murder of contemporary controversial figure for which no one has been found conclusively guilty", but we can have articles for "Peterloo massacre" or some such. --Cerejota (talk) 04:35, 16 August 2011 (UTC)

What does "contemporary" mean? In Irish politics 1641, 1649 and 1690 are still of contemporary relevance. Have you ever looked at the edit wars that take place over Palestine or eastern Europe there are admins who spend much of their time on Wikipedia trying to keep a lid on those disputes, and what about Liancourt Rocks or Catholic Church? See also Wikipedia:Working group on ethnic and cultural edit wars. If there is one common name then we should use it. That is not to say that when in cases like Liancourt Rocks where there are three common names, weighting should not be given to a neutral one, but that is different from using a descriptive name (If you are not familiar with LR then see its entry in WP:LAME#Liancourt Rocks). As Wikipedians can not agree on Catholic Church or Roman Catholic Church should we use a descriptive name? Take your example "climategate", it is no longer in the news and newspapers that contained it are not even fish and chip paper any more, so what makes it contemporary? Even if it were contemporary not alternative name has been given instead people who did not want it did not propose a different name instead then proposed a descriptive one. I think descriptive names should be discouraged if there is a proper name to be used. -- PBS (talk) 11:02, 16 August 2011 (UTC)
Contemporary means, in the way I am using it: "sufficiently controversial that not changing the title to a less common, but NPOV, article title, results in the near impossibility of generation a Good Article". So, it can even be - and has been - an issue in very old controversies in which otherwise solid editors have lost their minds. If its controversial today to the point of keeping us from improving the encyclopedia, then a title change is in order. The way I see it, the reason we use common names in titles is to improve the encyclopedia, in the case of articles titles by driving traffic and making them easy to spot. If abandoning NPOV to get a common name doesn't help to improve the encyclopedia, then why do it? --Cerejota (talk) 09:39, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
BTW, the only alternative to a non-neutral common name is not necessarily a descriptive name, we can also use an NPOV less common name.--Cerejota (talk) 09:45, 17 August 2011 (UTC)
Then take the example of the Catholic Church and Roman Catholic Church both controversial which third alternative would you recommend? -- PBS (talk) 15:03, 20 August 2011 (UTC)
There is no reasonable controversy in that one, you will need a better example: Catholic Church is how the Church itself uses, so a self-description overrides, in my view, any other consideration - the controversy is an idiotic debate - Perhaps we should ammend WP:AT say exactly that: self-description is better than neutrality *poof* that "debate". Its how I am a keen defender of WTA (or the weak version that it was re-titled to "word to watch") in titles and in most content, but throw that away for titles of book or for articles on the terms themselves.--Cerejota (talk) 13:57, 21 August 2011 (UTC)
Actually, there has been a lot of controversy (and endless debate) on that one... In the US at least the Church uses both names "officially". However, looking at English language sources, over all, a significant enough majority use "Catholic Church" (without the additional "Roman")... so WP:COMMONNAME indicates that we should use that as our title. Blueboar (talk) 20:42, 21 August 2011 (UTC)

minor corrections

Changed "discussion of" to "policy on" at WP:COMMONNAME, as this is not a discussion essay and wikilawyers love to pick on these things to try an "win" an argument. Changed the intro of the WP:POVTITLE's list of common reasons not use a common name to explain these are neutrality reasons, because neutrality is not the only reason not use a common name - there are others in the policy.

Both of these are hopefully non-controversial changes as they do not change the meaning, just use more precise language.--Cerejota (talk) 19:31, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

I think Neutrality is also considered; our policy on neutral titles, and what neutrality in titles is, is below. would be the same content and shorter; but since I do not intend to change policy, I put it up for discussion here instead of inserting. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 20:59, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
Done, since there was no discussion and I don't think this changes policy. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 20:05, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

Not so minor change

I no longer see the argument, which Blueboar repeats above, that what almost everybody uses to describe a subject is neutral; to impose "neutrality" on it is to substitute our judgment for that of the sources. Is this disputed, or is this absence collateral damage? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 20:05, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

I don't get that argument either. Makes no sense to say that something is "neutral" just because it's common. But I thought you were committed to staying out of this stuff. Guess I misunderstood. Dicklyon (talk) 20:27, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
No, I am committed to staying out of the Manual of Style; this is not part of it - there was an ArbCom decision on that during the date delinking affair. I would not have responded to you unless addressed; although I do appreciate your effort at collegiality here.
As to the substance of the matter: this is really no more than your own comment: We should accept a title if it is used in "almost all" or an "overwhelming majority" of reliable sources (like your Boston Massacre example), with a little analysis of why this is compatible with WP:NPOV. Boston Massacre does not express a POV, because all points of view use it, including those who think there was no massacre (quite common) and those who think the British were blameless (not as common). Similarly, Edward the Confessor no longer expresses the view for which it was coined: that Edward was laudable for his ascetism. Everybody uses it, including anti-Christians, and those who think his practices unChristian superstition; so it does not express a point of view. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 20:41, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
I would suggest that it's compatible with NPOV because of the existence of WP:NPOV#Naming, which creates an exception for the use of non-neutral names under certain circumstances. If that section were absent from NPOV, the standard for using non-neutral (but common) titles would have to be far stricter. I share Dicklyon's disagreement with the argument that a common title is neutral; neutrality and commonness are two different things. Jakew (talk) 20:56, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
All right, then there is disagreement. However, please note that I said (as I quoted) almost everybody; that's more than commonness. Once a name becomes practically universal, what point of view can it be expressing? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 21:00, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Yes, sorry, somewhat missed your point—I agree that with a threshold of almost everybody it makes sense. Of course, we'll still have to discuss whether that threshold is met, on a case-by-case basis, probably. Dicklyon (talk) 23:12, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Yes neutrality and commonness are not the same, not per policy nor per the English language. Over at "CRU email controversy" I made a rather long dissertation of that that I should have made here, but you can read above further elaboration. Also, can we stop using Boston Massacre as an example in discussion (in the text for now I am okay with it)? There very specific reasons that event came to be known as such in historiography, and some of them are precisely related to the reasons Wikipedia has an WP:NPOV, one of the reasons was that the winning side of the American Revolutionary War was the USA, and in the 19th century, history was always written by the winners. In the 20th century this began to change, and the concept of a Neutral Point of View emerged - a concept that is still controversial in academia, criticized by relativists (who argue one can never have a neutral point of view so why even try to pretended one does) and absolutists (Who argue there are no sides to a question, just truth and falsehood) alike. However, modern controversies as subjected to more varied sourcing, to less groupthink, and in the case of wikipedia, the WP:NPOV policy. Lets say that "Boston Massacre" got grandfathered into existence. It doesn't mean it is a good example for the naming of new articles about current or recent events. That is unwittingly attacking NPOV by accepting the criteria for naming events that existed long before NPOV as a concept existed. This is an NPOV, collaborative free encyclopedia on the internet, not some old-timey Almanack written by partisans in a nation-creating war.--Cerejota (talk) 23:44, 25 August 2011 (UTC)

That is a bad example for such an argument; while the United States wrote more on the Revolution, many of the losers wrote about the Boston Massacre; the British had a larger, and more prolific, publishing industry. One of the books found complains that the Americans call it not the Boston Massacre, but the "bloody massacre."
I agree that it is unlikely for any name of a recent event to have the degree of unanimity we are discussing here, and still be open to question on these grounds. (The Velvet Revolution may be an example, if it still counts as recent.) But let us discuss Charlemagne: as a matter of historiography, he was originally so called because he won; but what point of view does it convey now, in the twenty-first century? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 02:31, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

I think my point about "grandfathering" just flew over your head like a shot heard 'round the world... You might consider my point invalid yet, but I am fully cognizant of the debate contemporary and until the British and the US made kissy-kissy and became BFF. That is why it is so relevant as an example of "grandfathering". If we were naming this even today, using Wikipedia, there would have been an ArbCom case deciding that the entire American-British conflict area (Known as WP:ARBAB) is subjected to sanctions, and the article would be titled the 2011 Boston British Army incident. That is my point. You cannot use examples that didn't go through the vetting process of our consensus-based NPOV, V, and RS rules to advance a position. In fact, you can, but to do so is hilarious. In fact, we should change the examples, but I won't be too fuzzy and will live with them... just find one example in which there is current live controversy and on which both sides are present in wikipedia, in which the common name as you define exists. It took me months to get Gaza War to be named Gaza War, in spite i tbeing the RS common name for most of that war, except the first few days. We had to fight the hordes screaming Gaza Massacre and Operation Cast Lead - ultimately NPOV won, not COMMONNAME. Consensus, dear fellow editor, is whatever the current version is :).--Cerejota (talk) 06:48, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
I linked to (and was quoting) nineteenth century sources, well before any "special relationship".
Please do explain why objectivity in historiography should be considered a twentieth century development, not concerned with Leopold von Ranke. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:39, 27 August 2011 (UTC)

Recently added bullet points

The name

  1. Trendy slogans and monikers that seem unlikely to be remembered or connected with a particular issue years later
  2. Colloquialisms where far more encyclopedic alternatives are obvious
  3. Persuasive names and slogans crafted by partisans on still-active, contentious advocacy issues

The first contradicts WP:CRYSTALBALL, this is not a paper based encyclopaedia so the name can be changed when the common name changes and besides trendy slogans and monikers can stick. At what point in the future "years later" does a name stop being a trendy name?

The second one is a weasel reason, for using descriptive names when there is a common name with justification other than "I don't like it". There may be cases when WP:IAR is appropriate, but we should not be crafting this policy in such a way that people can use bullet point such as this one to wriggle out of basing the name that used in reliable sources.

The example given in the third one is confusing because it is mixed up with National varieties of English it is worded in American dialect "contentious advocacy issues" (and uses a specific American example which means little to people outside America as the names mentioned are not usually used for abortion and so a better reason for choosing another name is "Fixed-wing aircraft".

--PBS (talk) 21:00, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

Would you be happier with the first if it said Trendy slogans and monikers which are not yet normally used of a subject? I think the examples intended are things like Octomom (which, although I figured out who was meant without clicking, I had not heard) and (for the third) Climategate (which is used by one side of an argument and rejected - as inaccurate - by the other). I am sorry not to provide British examples; but I do not know them and might not recognize them - which is the problem. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 21:17, 23 August 2011 (UTC)
On the first one if they are not yet normally used then they are not an exception to common name. I am not sure what the third one is trying to say. During the recent discussion on climategate a number of editors said it was biased but they all did that without reference to a reliable sources making such a claim, and it is evident that sources such as the Indy do use the term in their bylines even when reporting that the outcome of the independent inquiry into the affair. We frequently use "persuasive name[s]" if the press uses them, take for example the name of terrorist organisations, one of the few examples I can think of where the press did not do so was for the "Baader Meinhof gang. It was not until they were dead, that the press started to use the name Red Army Faction for those who followed the same path (even thought they were clearly not an army) -- in Britain the initials RAF were are not used for obvious reasons "RAF kidnaps a prominent business man" would have been a very confusing byline! -- PBS (talk) 04:20, 24 August 2011 (UTC)
The Independent's reporter uses climategate in lower case, and in scare quotes, both of which express some doubt it's an established term. The practice of headline writers is not the considered judgment of the paper. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 19:58, 25 August 2011 (UTC)
Critics call it "climategate". Septentrionalis PMAnderson 02:45, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
I wrote byline deliberately, they are the Indy's and NYT's equivalent of an article title. Yes critics may have coined the term the word has common currency among heavyweight newspapers of the day. -- PBS (talk) 08:56, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
Usage has gone beyond just critics and the press... the term has been used in scholarly writing as well. Whether it has been used enough to pass WP:COMMONNAME is a slightly different question. Blueboar (talk) 13:01, 26 August 2011 (UTC)
I see that Google Scholar has expanded to include Telegraph op-eds; but much of that result is scholarship. Let's not while it's still being used in scare quotes, as in B Nerlich: " 'Climategate': Paradoxical Metaphors and Political Paralysis". Can we find a way to put that into these bullet points? Septentrionalis PMAnderson 14:42, 26 August 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Oh it passes COMMONNAME. The question if it is worth pushing NPOV aside, something POVTITLE allows but doesn't require. These two cannot be separated, as some try to do. They are Ying and Yang...--Cerejota (talk) 06:51, 27 August 2011 (UTC)

Cerejota's question is more on track, but I think we are getting sidetracked here, I was addressing the bullet points and so far no one has sprung to the defence of the first two. As to the third, we are now addressing a specific example through sources (how I think it should be addressed), in which case the bullet point is not relevant. If "Persuasive names" are adopted by neutral parties and are common coin then we should use them even if the are not neutral (see my terrorist group example). But notice that even when the initial headlines are not neutral often in cases like "9/11" neutral terms tend to come to the fore (even if it should be 9/11 to be ISO compliant!). I do not think the points bring more clarity to the section. -- PBS (talk) 08:56, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
I think the key is to remember that usage changes over time... Something can start as a trendy slogan, moniker or colloquialism and become the accepted and widely used name. Hell, the same is true even with names and slogans crafted by partisans (Boston Massacre was crafted by partisans after all). I don't think it matters how a potential title started ... what matters is the preponderance of the name/title (compared with any other potential titles) in current usage. If and when current usage changes, so should our title. Blueboar (talk) 12:25, 27 August 2011 (UTC)
PBS, as you want a defense I'll give it to you:
  • Trendy slogans and monikers that seem unlikely to be remembered or connected with a particular issue years later
We could probably fix it as per WP:CRYSTAL, but this is basically an emphasis on avoiding neologism, in particular, avoiding neologism that have no reasonable expectation of enduring. THere is a difference between crystal balling and making a resonable expectation for the future. For example, we make a similar valuation at WP:NOTNEWSPAPER in order to not accept as notable any widely reported news. Sometimes, mistakes are made, and a few months down the road it has to be fixed, but usually the judgement is not mistaken. Likewise, it is possible to make a reasonable expectation of a trendy name that will not be in used down the road is not to be used. If this expectation turns out to be mistaken, nothing is lost because it is trivial to reverse.
  • Colloquialisms where far more encyclopedic alternatives are obvious
I can think of several examples for this one. For example, choosing Caesium over Cesium. Sometimes, the common name in reliable sources is incorrect for an encyclopedia because it is colloquially used, while we are choosing to use some narrower authority for definition. In history, some colloquial terms have become the standard formal term. When that happens, we can change it easily. But in general colloquialisms should be avoided, even if common, because they tend to be transient historically, or even highly variable across the English speaking world. FOr example, colloquialisms like "fag" mean entirely different things across time and location.
  • Persuasive names and slogans crafted by partisans on still-active, contentious advocacy issues
This is reinforcing what WP:POVTITLE tells us. The key here is "persuasive". We do not exist as an echo chamber for the latest viral snowclone a given partisan campaign has invented. Perhaps the most clear refinement of this principle is the general prohibition of using "Operation names" in MILHIST MOS: operation names are given only by one side of the conflict, for events often not named by the other side, and which are generally named for propaganda reasons. This principle does apply more generally. Furthermore, being partisan slogans, there is no way to tell if they will endure into neutrality, so its better to go neutral than go common.
I like this kind of open ended bright-line and more policies need this. I am happy with the message, but are open with stylistic changes.--Cerejota (talk) 04:11, 28 August 2011 (UTC)
The problem seems to be here that you want to emphasise these points, but they rely heavily on the discretion of editors and that with he use of this discretion discussions will be more than votes on "I don't/do like it". I see this like that of the using of diacritics, people may not be able to agree on their appropriate usage but they can agree on their usage in reliable sources. In a similar way I think that asking people to make judgements about whether something is a "Trendy slogans and monikers" is a recipe for disagreement and for people to push their own "I don't like it" agenda. Much better to go with the common name than ignore it by introducing rules that will be used by POV warriors. In the rare occasions where this is not the best path then IAR can be used. The reason this is better for this policy is because even if in the end the decision comes down to IAR, it means that the argument to use IAR will be made on top of a survey of the usage in reliable sources, rather than just "I don't like it". This bullet point will encourage people to take a stance without any analysis of usage in reliable sources. "oppose because its obviously a moniker" ... "It doesn't matter that its used in many reliable sources because its a moniker". BTW I am baffled by your example of "choosing Caesium over Cesium" because Cesium is a spelling mistake just like encyclopedia ;-)
Let me give you an example of the problem with the second one everyone in London referrers to the clock tower of the Palace of Westminster as Big Ben, "look there's Big Ben", but that expression used to mean specifically the biggest bell in the tower. Is Big Ben being used as a colloquialism for the name of the "Clock Tower, Palace of Westminster"? If this bullet point stays there will be pedants who would use it for such arguments, even though the reliable sources are split on the usage and most unreliable sources use the term to mean the tower and the bell -- it is possible (they say) to see Big Ben from the London Eye and hear it from there as well.
Point three what term do we use if we agree that Roman Catholic Church and Catholic Church are "Persuasive names and slogans crafted by partisans on still-active, contentious advocacy issue"?
--PBS (talk) 20:55, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────Point by point:

  • That happens with all policies. Just because some editors want to wikilawyer their way into a perceived "victory" in a discussion is not a reason to not make policy clear and specific when needed. There is no way we can make editors conform to policy or make them understand it. We can, however, reflect consensus as best as we can. I think your argument that a lack of specificity is counter-productive is unpersuasive, and actually contradicts the experience I have had. Bright-line policies, like BLP, are violated on a minute by minute basis, yet the reversions of these violations are easy to make because they are bright-line. We need more bright-lines, not less. "Trendy slogans and monikers" might yet promote what you are saying, but that is a relatively minor problem. More importantly, and you seem not to consider this, it will (and has!) also keep meatpuppeted/SPA partisans from overwhelming good faith consensus building and using Wikipedia as a platform to promote their ideas - even if their ideas are notable, it doesn't mean we should cover them under the name they have carefully and strategically considered for their cause when other, more neutral, alternatives are available. Partisan opponents, likewise, are prevented from using derogatory trendy slogans against their opponents. Protecting neutrality is much more important to the project than keeping the "I don't like it" crowd under control. This a recognition that we are not unfeeling robots and will often not have NPOV in mind, even if we should. I have no idea how can you construe this clause as enabling "POV warriors" when it actually disarms their primary tool of choice when pushing POV, the "commonness" of their slogans to use them in article titles.
  • Do a Google Scholar search for "cesium" or "caesium". Which is more commonly used? And that is in scholarly sources, the most reliable of sources. This is a case were the correct name is not the the common name. And this is not an exception, but the rule. For example, many species of organisms are given their scientific name, rather than common name, because common names are often highly variable, and even used for related but different species. Clearly, while common names are preferred, often a more obscure name helps the encyclopedia improve its coverage.
  • Big Ben is an extremely bad example, and shows you are not understanding the purpose of the policy at all and not even its letter. Common names are preferred *always*, and should only not be used when there is a number of reasons, none present in Big Ben. Unless you can point me to another structure with an independent claim to name, a notable, significant controversy around that naming, that it is a colloquialism (rather than a common name), or other reasons, it is an ok common name. Either you are being facetious or you do not the meaning of colloquialism.
  • Point three doesn't apply to "Roman Catholic", clearly, as that is the given name of an institution. It is, clearly, about slogans or names given to issues not institutions or group given names.

I am seeing a tendency in your questions to try an find examples that disprove policy. Don't. At best, any exception is a case-by-case valuation by those editors of WP:IAR, at worse, those articles are an un-addressed violation of policy that should be addressed by interested editors. Policy cannot be disproven by usage, usage should be according to policy - albeit usage is often why policy develops. Please concentrate on the actual principles of the policy, rather than actual implementation, which are actually unrelated. Specially when speaking about relatively recent changes to policy, for which one can expect a large number of grandfathering to happen, such discussion is not productive and can be seen as disruptive.--Cerejota (talk) 21:39, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

I have not replied promptly because your comments seem to have moved from discussing the points to discussion my actions. If I were to reply then I think it will distract from the point I made. I think it would be healthy if some others would join in the conversation. -- PBS (talk) 10:45, 1 September 2011 (UTC)

Google Trends and WP:COMMONNAME

In a conversation over determining whether one title or another is the common name, I happen to think of Google Trends. The case being discussed was Calcutta vs. Kolkata. The Google Trends comparison is here:

I think this can be a nifty way to determine common names (of course among other things, including common sense). What do others think and is it worth adding to this article (or to Wikipedia:Search engine test)? --RA (talk) 20:31, 5 September 2011 (UTC)

Advice on job-title capitalisation?

There's been a move request at Talk:Chief Mechanical Engineer to downcase the title of that article, per WP:Job titles (part of the title policy), and the MoS section on the same point. The move request was notified at the UK Railways WikiProject (at variance with the generality of the article title, this article was intended to be specifically about chief mechanical engineers in British-related railway companies). At that stage, this was expressed in the one-line lead followed by a huge number of unreferenced examples of holders of such positions mostly in the 19th century. In trying to fathom the theme of the article, I failed to see that the title should have been more specific as well as downcased: the job title is used generically (still is) and the scope is restricted at the same time (not US-related, not chief mechanical engineers in power stations or on ferries or in aeronautics or factories).

Now, the railways editors really care about the notion of chief mechanical engineers—in good faith, like the wider phenomenon of corporate and professional upping of importance via capitalisation—but where will it all end? They descended on the RM and !voted en masse against downcasing.

Because I pointed out the shambles the article was in, an editor has kindly worked on it, adding references and expanding the information. But the theme is still scoped in relatively narrow terms, and in the main text it's not, for example, Joshua Smithers, Chief Mechanical Engineer, Northampton Railway Company.

I do think we need a centralised approach to this. Almost the entire category of transport occupations is in lower case, as are just about all other occupation categories. Why must this one stick out? And is it hogging the name-space of the generic article that probably should/will be created on chief mechanical engineers? (There are quite a lot of chief this and chief that articles, surprisingly.)

Your advice and comments at the RM would be appreciated—maybe I'm confused now. I'm leaving the same notice at WT:MOS. Another editor has recently come in and downcased throughout the article main text, I see, to negative reaction by at least one editor on the talk page.

Thanks. Tony (talk) 16:06, 7 September 2011 (UTC)

Hmmm... tricky... If we follow the principle of consistency, we see that other job position articles like Chief executive officer and Chief financial officer use the standard format (upper case on the first word, lower case thereafter). If, on the other hand, we follow the principles of Recognizably and naturalness, we see that most of our sources capitalize all the words (using Chief Executive Officer, and Chief Financial Officer), which indicates to me that our standard format is probably wrong in this case. WP:Job titles does not help... it seems to allow for both depending on usage (and is obviously focused on how to capitalize in the body of the text, rather than in the article title). I am going to have to think about this one a bit more. Blueboar (talk) 19:39, 7 September 2011 (UTC)
There are two distinctions:
  • One is between a particular job title, as when we discuss Governor Smith, the Governor of [state name here], against the general description, "the governors of the fifty states." The first should be capitalized; the second may or may not, and Wikipedia often doesn't.
  • The other is between job title and function. Most organizations of more than a dozen have a chief financial officer (function); they may or may not title him Chief Financial Officer (title). Some call him Treasurer or Chancellor of the Exchequer; many call him CFO as well as whatever other title he may have. The first use is generally uncapped; the second capped.
As often, where a given text falls is partly a question of intention. Mechanical rules are not generally helpful. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 20:29, 7 September 2011 (UTC)

Any suggestions?

Trying to decide on a title for a list-type article to replace Sputnik program. It seems there was no Sputnik "program" as such, just a series of launched objects, the first of which were called Sputnik 1, Sputnik 2 and Sputnik 3, followed by others which were officially named differently, but were called Sputnik 4 etc. in Western circles. Please join in at Talk:Sputnik program#Name of replacement article. --Kotniski (talk) 15:21, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

Abbreviations as article titles

Could I get people's advice on this issue, a move request I've made to downcase an item that was upcased, apparently just because the abbreviation is upcased. The latter goes against MoS and the rulings of major external style guides, even though it's done as a habit by some in the telecom industry (or should I write the Telecom industry?). But it's not the downcasing I'm asking advice about—that seems obvious, except for the opinion of one editor who seems to want to upcase just about everything, and inconsistently in many instances; no, it's whether "Asymetrical digital subscriber line" should be rendered just as "ADSL" in the actual article title, rather than just a redirect. The possibility has been raised by User:LtPowers. I'm cautious about using the abbreviation only in the title, although I concede that it's much more recognisable by the public than the expanded version. Tony (talk) 02:40, 15 September 2011 (UTC)

Military titles

Articles about military titles with more than one word, such as Lieutenant Colonel, Major General, Wing Commander, etc. (its a long list!), do not follow the general rules outlined in this article and should have a specific exception mentioned so we can avoid confusion in the future. Can we add a section to this article for military titles to reflect the current consensus for capitalizing all the words in the title? See this Talk:Able_Seaman_(rank)#Requested_move discussion for a recent example; more comprehensively Wikipedia_talk:WikiProject_Military_history/Archive_68#Rank_articles:_capitalization_of_title here. Thank you! Kirk (talk) 01:38, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Please see Wikipedia:Manual of Style (capital letters)#Military terms. The policy fully supports MoS, and deffer to the MoS for the specifics in most cases - it is about the principles of article naming, not the implementation of article naming. Hence there is no need for this overly specific clarification. See also WP:MILMOS for other military related conventions.--Cerejota (talk) 05:29, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't understand your logic - I'm arguing there should be specific guidance on this subject in the Article title section because editors are confused and frequent edit wars happen regarding the capitalization of these article titles, so there is a obviously a need for a specific clarification. If not here then where? Kirk (talk) 13:37, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
I am saying that this policy is not the one that handles military ranks, Wikipedia:Manual of Style (capital letters)#Military terms does. This policy says (at Wikipedia:Article_titles#Explicit_conventions): Wikipedia has many naming conventions relating to specific subject domains (as listed in the box at the top of this page). Sometimes these recommend the use of titles that are not strictly the common name (as in the case of the conventions for flora and medicine). This practice of using specialized names is often controversial, and should not be adopted unless it produces clear benefits outweighing the use of common names; when it is, the article titles adopted should follow a neutral and common convention specific to that subject domain, and otherwise adhere to the general principles for titling articles on Wikipedia. In other words, the policy already addresses the point you are making. The problem with including this specific one in here, is that then we would have to include all the specific ones in here, and there are literally dozens of such naming conventions, which would make this page huge. The frequent edit wars should be stopped by simply pointing out the appropiate naming convention, and pointing out that this policy supports this convention. I am rewording the paragraph and including a wikilink so this is made obvious. --Cerejota (talk) 16:16, 16 September 2011 (UTC)
The naming convention at work is Wikipedia:Naming conventions (capitalization) which specifically says "proper nouns" are exempt of the "Only first letter cap" criteria. Wikipedia:Manual of Style (capital letters)#Military terms says that ranks are proper nouns unless used generically. The focus of the discussion at Able Seaman is if the article is about the proper noun, or if it is about the generic term. Capitalization, in that sense, is not trivial. --Cerejota (talk) 16:22, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

Giving it some thought, maybe what is need is a discussion on creating and raising to guideline the Wikipedia:Naming conventions (military ranks). I am raising this at MILHIST.--Cerejota (talk) 17:32, 16 September 2011 (UTC)

primary topic

No one else spoke up so  Done--Cerejota (talk) 03:27, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

I changed this statement:

If the subject of an article is the primary topic (or only topic) for its common title, as reflected in reliable sources, then the article can take that title without modification.

to this:

If the subject of an article is the primary (or only) topic to which a name refers, then that name can be the title of that article without modification.

This was reverted by User:Cerejota on the grounds that it "might be more concise, but also says something different".

Okay, it might say something slightly different (a bit more), but doesn't it accurately reflect reality? I mean, does anyone challenge the veracity of the revised/concise (second above) statement in terms of how articles are actually titled?

Also, I suggest the original (current, first above) wording is misleading. That is, an article may use a name for its title if the article's subject is the primary use even if the name is not the topic's "common title , (as reflected in reliable sources)". Almost any article for which natural disambiguation is used to give it a unique title has a title for which the primary topic is the article's topic, but the title is not the topic's "common title" (the "common title" is not available which is why natural disambiguation is used). --Born2cycle (talk) 20:01, 17 September 2011 (UTC)

You eliminate the reference to reliable sources and comonality, which is central to the clause. We do not pull titles out of thin air. You completely changed the meaning of the clause. Yes the English on "only topic" needing fixing, but you hid a significant change in policy behind a wording fix. Policy can change, but this seems to me to be the kind of change that requires discussion.--Cerejota (talk) 22:52, 17 September 2011 (UTC)
No change in policy was intended. But I see your point, though I don't agree that aspect of usage and policy needs to be repeated here (it's covered thoroughly elsewhere). My concern is with the use of the term "common title" in the original/current wording because that incorrectly implies "most common name". Why that's inaccurate (in terms of usage as well as policy) is explained above.

Anyway, to address your concern, how about this?

If the subject of an article is the primary (or only) topic to which a recognized name (as reflected in reliable sources) refers, then that name can be the title of that article without modification.

Either that addresses your concern (as well as mine), or I'm still missing your point. --Born2cycle (talk) 01:34, 18 September 2011 (UTC)
Sometimes, rarely, BRD works as it should. This is such a case apparently, so thanks ;) Here is the thing, I am not clear that "most common name" is not what is implied, as per WP:COMMONNAME. Redundancy in policy is often needed because of short-cutting.--Cerejota (talk) 04:58, 18 September 2011 (UTC)
I think BRD is great - it embodies many fundamental aspects of WP, including AGF. I already explained how policy would be contradicted if indeed "most common name" is implied... every article with a title created through natural disambiguation, like Chevrolet Corvette, would be in conflict here. Is "Chevrolet Corvette" the most common name for the topic of that article? No. But the topic of that article is the only topic to which "Chevrolet Corvette" refers.
More importantly, let's not forget the reference to primary topic here, which clearly implies common usage in reliable sources:
  • A topic is primary for a term with respect to usage if it is highly likely—much more likely than any other topic, and more likely than all the other topics combined—to be the topic sought when a reader searches for that term.
  • A topic is primary for a term with respect to long-term significance if it has substantially greater enduring notability and educational value than any other topic associated with that term.
So let's say this even more succinctly then I did originally:

If the subject of an article is the primary (or only) topic to which a term refers, then that term can be the title of that article without modification.

Now, given that we're talking about a term for which the topic in question is either the primary topic, or is the only topic to which the term refers, is there any policy or convention which might be violated if that term is used as the title of the article about that topic? In other words, putting aside the differences with the original/current wording, do you have any specific policy-based objection to this proposed wording? If so, what is it? --Born2cycle (talk) 17:00, 18 September 2011 (UTC)
Ok I think I narrowed down what activated spidey sense, how about this:

If the subject of an article is the primary (or only) topic to which a term refers, then that term can be the title of that article without modification, provided it follows all other applicable title policies.

I am just into wikilawyer proofing shortcut policy, feel me?--Cerejota (talk) 22:38, 18 September 2011 (UTC)
Not as concise as it could be ideally, I think, and you didn't answer my question. Anyway, I'm with you, believe me. Not trying to introduce any loopholes. But I suggest we take context into account, which is disambiguation and precision, and that the point of this statement is to make clear that neither additional precision nor any other modification is required when the article subject is the primary topic for the article in question. Does putting that first help? And how about if we state it in terms of existing titles?

No additional modification should be added to an article's title if the subject of that article is the primary (or only) topic to which that title refers.

Now, that's just consistent with the rest of WP:PRECISION. Again, can you think of any example to which this would apply but which would be in conflict with some other policy? Unless you can, I suggest the "provided it follows all other applicable title policies" qualification is superfluous. --Born2cycle (talk) 23:36, 18 September 2011 (UTC) --Tightened up. --Born2cycle (talk) 00:08, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
Oh, things like WP:POVTITLE, WP:COMMONNAME could be violated by using a precise term. Again, I think there is an unfortunate tendency to isolate policy sections, and I like language to make clear. I cannot provide specific examples of this specific policy section being misused, but in general this is a problem that doesn't only happen with WP:AT. For example, WP:NOTNEWSPAPER gets thrown around ignoring all other policies.--Cerejota (talk) 00:26, 19 September 2011 (UTC)
No one else is chiming in, you're okay with the version with the qualification, I believe that's an improvement, so let's go with that (except I took out the "title" at the end so it says, "...provided it follows all other applicable title policies."  Done --Born2cycle (talk) 03:20, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

RfC involving aspects of WP:Article titles and WP:NPOV#Naming

There is an RfC at Talk:Climatic_Research_Unit_email_controversy#Request_for_Comment_regarding_Name.2FTitle that is dealing with issues regarding WP:Article titles and WP:NPOV#Naming, specifically common names versus descriptive titles and how WP:NPOV applies in a non-neutral common name situation. All editors, especially disinterested ones, are welcome. Moogwrench (talk) 22:34, 20 September 2011 (UTC)

Its a long discussion, and in the interest of full disclosure I'm a climate article editor fully behind the mainstream scientific view, but with edit history that I hope demonstrates an increasing understanding of NPOV. That said.... Moogwrench wants to rename the article to "Climategate", citing WP:POVTITLE. The discussion shows that the phrase is inherently biased as a matter of definition not mere opinion, major media can talk about the subject without using "climategate" so the term is unnecessary, and it was coined by partisans to an advocacy issue (Global warming) ([refs about crafting of term]). So the matter comes down to either:
  • (A) the spirit of the NPOV law as numerous editors have argued every time someone tries this,
  • (B) the consensus of the community to disregard the rules if they defeat our purpose here, or
  • (C) in a wikilawyer hypertechnical question based on disqualifier #3 in WP:POVTITLE, is the matter a "still-active, contentious advocacy issue"? That depends how you care to slice and dice. People who embrace the inherently biased, unnecessary partisan-crafted phrase "climategate" will wish to carve out a subset of the issues, and then say there are no formal proceedings about them, and on that basis declare that "the contentious advocacy issue" is no longer "still active" so disqualifer #3 does not apply. Moogwrench took that very position [here].

Originally I erred by considering the issue to be related to the emails and work of certain researchers specifically, and I have shown that this certainly is an enduring issue in the public eye, regardless whether there are formal proceedings. While I still stand by my original view that this is all "still alive", as I write here I realize that disqualifier #3 deals with a "contentious advocacy issue". Upon reflection, I believe that is the issue Global warming in all its glory, and not just some sliced and diced subset. There's no need to rename the article in the inherently biased way some partisans would like to see. Note especially that the earliest champion of this phrase has spoken thus

If you want to know the truth about Climategate, definitely don’t use Wikipedia. “Climatic Research Unit e-mail controversy”, is its preferred, mealy-mouthed euphemism to describe the greatest scientific scandal of the modern age. Not that you’d ever guess it was a scandal from the accompanying article. It reads more like a damage-limitation press release put out by concerned friends and sympathisers of the lying, cheating, data-rigging scientists.

[[partisan James Delingpole source].

Since this comes up over and over and over, it should come as no surprise that [article title restriction has been proposed].

Thanks for your attention. Now you get to decide whether to apply the spirit of the law, or start slicing and dicing. NewsAndEventsGuy (talk) 16:00, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

And in the interests of balance, I would like to cite Jimbo Wales as to what he said last year regarding the issue (again, with all the usual caveats, Jimbo is just an editor, like anyone else, he has his own opinion, which is not policy, etc.:
"I think there's a pretty strong case to be made for "Climategate" as the name for the article, as it is clearly the most common name in the press for this. I think it fairly obvious why people don't want it called that - but that call is not up to Wikipedia. We must call it what it is called, and what it is called, is climategate. (This is not a decree, but my point is that it is pretty obvious that - contrary to the wild claims of coverup and so on - we do have a well-sourced article that is comprehensive and informative and fair... but with a pretty silly title that no one uses. The scandal here is clearly not the "hacking incident" - about which virtually nothing is known. The scandal is the content of the emails, which has proven to be deeply embarrassing (whether fairly or unfairly) to certain people.) The result of the silly title is that there is traction (unfairly) for claims that Wikipedia is suppressing something.--Jimbo Wales (talk) 03:26, 10 March 2010 (UTC)" (emphasis mine)
-User_talk:Jimbo_Wales/Archive_55#egregious_abuse_of_Wikipedia_in_nearly_all_climate_change_BLPs (diff)
NAEG, like many editors, believes that using Climategate for the title would be an inimaginable breach of NPOV and essentially considers Wikipedia to be an important actor in the debate/controversy (hence citing Delingpole and also refering to the capacity of Wikipedia to "influence society"). Jimbo's message is that true NPOV means just going with what the sources use and reflecting, not advocating ("it's not our call", he says), what society calls things and writes about in its reliable sources.
Like I said above, and in the RfC, I know Jimbo is an editor, just like you and me, but he is also the founder of Wikipedia, an administrator, and I believe has a pretty firm grasp on the policies of the project and its overall vision. I am inclined, therefore, to agree with him. And in any event, you can hardly say that he is a "slicer and dicer" of Wikipedia policy, a proponent of a violation of the spirit of Wikipedia, or a Wikilawyer. Moogwrench (talk) 16:48, 21 September 2011 (UTC)
Moogwrench, who asked for a lawyeristic debate, can not dispel the backfiring of Disqualifier #3 by
(A) An ad hominem attack on what NAEG (that's me) may or may not think

::: (B) Implying that wiki uses consensus only so long it agrees with Jimbo's views (no disrespect to anyone intended, but sounds like we need a WP:GODSAYS shortcut to a policy about that form of anti-consensus argument)

(C) Omitting from his post titled "in the interest of balance" the excellent rebuttal to Jimbo's argument that was just called to Moogwrench's attention by another editor [here]
I don't agree with davesouza's points, and I don't see anyone suggesting that Jimbo did either.Moogwrench (talk)
Since we're now rehashing past arguments, all this shows is that article title restriction really is appropriate. NewsAndEventsGuy (talk) 17:16, 21 September 2011 (UTC)
How so? No one ever showed that Jimbo ever agreed with davesouza's logic, so I don't see how citing him is some kind of trump card, or that that somehow effectively rebutted what Jimbo said. Moogwrench (talk) 17:42, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

WP:JIMBOSAID--Cerejota (talk) 17:45, 21 September 2011 (UTC) ──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Thanks C, I didn't realize there were so MANY essays about Jimbo-said. Moog, whaddya say we respect everyone's time and focus on the core question:

Should a name that some press uses, and some press says some critics use, and some press doesn't use at all, for a still-active contentious matter of advocacy..... a name that was crafted by partisans.... a name that is not essential for discussing the topic..... a name that already redirects to the existing article.... should that name become the very name of the article despite the 3rd disqualifier in WP:POVTITLE?

Moogwrench says YES by implying Jimbo's quote justifies ignoring disqualifier #3 in WP:POVTITLE, and that failing he argues that the end of formal proceedings (though not actually ended) means we are no longer discussing a matter of "still-active contentious advocacy". Perhaps we should stop beating people with tangents and red herrings and give them a chance to speak? NewsAndEventsGuy (talk) 18:07, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

Common Names

It seems to me that this may need to be removed or a compromise needs to be made. It seems that people believe we should use common names for everything instead of proper names. Eg. Sailor Moon has a main article that is of it's common name so should all the pages do that? I don't think so. And here's why. If you look at the Harry Potter series it doesn't use the common Harry Potter names for the books or movies. Eg. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has a common name of Harry Potter 7 (and also it has the abbreviated name of Deathly Hallows) due to people who may not know that Deathly Hallows is the seventh book in the series. Does Harry Potter use the common names? No it doesn't but people seem to want to run to this cause I suggested we move the List of Sailor Moon chapters to it's proper name of List of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon chapters which is it's Japanese name. The English name is inappropriate as it is an abbreviation of the Japanese name that was chosen when the anime was dubbed. You're probably wondering my point. My point is this: this whole common names thing seems to be a pick and chose thing and personally I think it only makes problems for all of us and probably should be changed or have exceptions made. For example if there's a main article that uses the common name as Sailor Moon does then the rest of the off articles need to go by their proper names instead of the common name. JamesAlan1986 *talk 11:16, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

I do want to add that I don't think we shouldn't use the common name inside the article I just don't agree with using the common name as the article title. JamesAlan1986 *talk 11:30, 21 September 2011 (UTC)
Have you read our essay on Wikipedia:Official names? Blueboar (talk) 14:00, 21 September 2011 (UTC)
Yeah but it's confusing me to death here LOL! Can you dumb it down for me? LOL! JamesAlan1986 *talk 14:11, 21 September 2011 (UTC)
The "common names" principle certainly does have exceptions (it's only one of several considerations, not all of which have necessarily been successfully formulated here yet). But if the main article is called Sailor Moon, then other related article titles would probably also use Sailor Moon, since the same considerations would apply to those as to the main article, plus the additional point of consistency. Unless there's some other factor involved with those other articles.--Kotniski (talk) 14:31, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

In the case of Sailor Moon that is more along the lines a common used name for the franchise instead of the actual products themselves. All sources do it even if the evidence in front of them points out differently. The best example is the manga it's commonly called Sailor Moon Vol. 1 but the product itself is under a separate name. I think for all cases and purposes the only articles that should go by common name are the main articles and not the "off articles". It's also noted under "Treatment of alternate names" that we are suppose to put proper names in the article but the List of Sailor Moon chapters doesn't. JamesAlan1986 *talk 14:45, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

About that last point, yes. Go ahead and put that in. No one should have any complaints there because you're following our guidelines. As for the article's name, List of Sailor Moon chapters also has some other aspects applied to in, including being a descriptive title, ie there is no product out there called "List of Sailor Moon chapters". Then there is stuff like length, ie when there's not a clear overwhelming evidence to use a longer name, Wikipedia prefers shorter names and Sailor Moon is defiantly shorter than Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, does it follow the same pattern, etc. All of those don't necessarily push it towards being what it is because, being that the official title is Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon some of the criteria would favor List of Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon chapters. The biggest one here is what English sources use and specifically what independent secondary English sources use. That's not entirely clear so even if we remove that aspect and say that what they use isn't consistent between the two alternatives, we have to go with the other criteria. If we look there, the 1st two are debatable which one it would favor. The 3rd defiantly favors the Pretty Guardian one and the last two favor the status quo. Plus there is consensus on the current title so the best way would be to convince people that #1 and #2 would favor the longer title which is an uphill battle.
EDIT: BTW you can always pipe a redirect from Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon to the main list if things don't work out and probably should.Jinnai 15:47, 21 September 2011 (UTC)
Let me try to explain the concept a bit more clearly... We are using the word "common" in the sense of "most frequently used". So, the concept behind WP:COMMONAMES is not to say that we favor unofficial names over official names - the concept is that we favor the most recognizable names over those that are less recognizable... ie we use the name readers are most familiar with and most likely use when searching for information (the name our readers will expect to find the article at). This is determined by examining the sources and seeing if they (as a body) use a particular name significantly more often than other names that could be chosen as the article title. If so, we use that name as well.
So... if the sources tend to use the "official name" there is no problem with our using the official name. On the other hand if they use something else, so should we. So... look at the English language sources on your topic... see what those sources use. If they routinely refer to the topic by its full offical title of "Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon", then we should use that. If they routinely refer to it by the shorter "Sailor Moon", then use that instead. In either case, the other name should probably be linked as a redirect. Blueboar (talk) 16:00, 21 September 2011 (UTC)
Well I tried what Jinnai said but I'm not sure it's right as I don't know what the symbols are or how to post them right. JamesAlan1986 *talk 17:39, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

Article specificity

Did I do the right thing by moving Financial Management Standard to Financial Management Standard (Queensland)? I'm finding a lot of articles with very generic titles that turn out to be non-generic and specific. Tony (talk) 01:37, 17 September 2011 (UTC)

Is there are need to scope the article in the title? Your suggestion would imply that every piece of legislation needs to be pre-emptively disambiguated, but we do not normally do that. Instead for Australia we add a year to the name of the legislation (see List of Acts of Parliament of Australia, and I presume that we should do the same thing for acts of the Parliament of Queensland as well. In which case shouldn't the name be "Financial Management Standard 1997"? -- PBS (talk) 13:41, 17 September 2011 (UTC)
Seems to me that the article with the title Financial Management Standard should be a short main article to tell the reader what a "Financial Management Standard" actually is... something fairly generic that could apply to any location. Then we should have a series of disambiguated sub-articles on the specific standards are applicable to specific locations (Financial Management Standard (New South Wales), Financial Management Standard (Queensland), Financial Management Standard (Moose Crossing, Saskatchewan), or what ever.) Blueboar (talk) 14:03, 17 September 2011 (UTC)
Can't do that because the definition can be unique to a particular act even if they share a name, and your suggestion would lead to 1,000 of extra pages (think how many acts are passed into law each year by the US federal government alone). It makes more sense to list them by year and if there more than one such act over time, then create a disambiguation page in the usual way (at the moment as there is no other act we know of with the same name as the Queensland act there is no need for a dab page). If two or more legislative bodies create legislation with the same name in the same year, then then create a dab page for that legislation and year with for example Financial Management Standard 1997 (Queensland) Financial Management Standard 1997 (United Kingdom), as per our usual way of handling disambiguation. -- PBS (talk) 14:19, 17 September 2011 (UTC)
Right. This is all fairly academic. First, is there any evidence beyond a hunch that there are other entities named "Financial Management Standard"? Second, if there are other entities with that exact name, are there articles for the other entities (or are you willing to create them)? If not, the article should be located at that title with no further disambiguation. Full stop. If there is some existing article that might address the generic topic, that could be linked either in a hatnote, if there is potential for confusion, or listed in a see also section. If there are other ambiguous entities and articles exist for them, then we can consider what is the most appropriate disambiguation method. Until then, we're counting angels dancing on a pinhead. olderwiser 14:29, 17 September 2011 (UTC)
PBS has just moved it back to the generic. I think every reader will find it odd to learn in the opening sentence that it's not about financial management standards generically, but about a highly specific financial standard. How close does WP:TITLE get to advising about this. I just wonder why the first such article should grab the broad, generic term, and leave subsequent article creators with a quandary: at the very least, it will have to be changed later, or we'll have to put up with inconsistency ("Financial Management Standard" ... oh, it's for Queenland, huh; but "Financial Management Standard (Scotland)"). The continuing, but now low-level move request at Talk:Chief Financial Officer partly involves the same issue. It's definitely not a generic article, but applies to a position in UK and related railway companies. Do we then have to revisit it when someone does want to create a generic article on the roles, status, history, of chief financial officers, whether employed in power stations, by NASA, or ferry companies? Tony (talk) 01:41, 23 September 2011 (UTC)

PS, and why do we have Institute of Directors (where? Ah, the UK) and Chartered Secretaries (Hong Kong)? It's a mess, and I believe we need to develop better advice for editors. Tony (talk) 02:04, 23 September 2011 (UTC)

If there are subsequent articles that require disambiguation, the first article should be retitled unless there are indications that it is the primary topic. That is what should happen. Unfortunately this sometimes causes more dissension than one would think. For example, many English place names occupied the undisambiguated title even though they might be entirely unremarkable places and there was often significant resistance to moving them to a disambiguated name because it was felt all the other places were derivative of the English place. But in this case, I'd expect the general concept, if there is such a thing, to be at Financial management standards. A fully capitalized title is a proper noun and if there is in fact only one article on such an entity, then there is nothing to disambiguate. olderwiser 02:17, 23 September 2011 (UTC)
  • So, forgive me, I haven't followed this policy for as long as I have MoS. wp:title doesn't seem to talk about this scenario; do editors know that it's expected when they create articles? Tony (talk) 10:21, 24 September 2011 (UTC)
I can't speak for other editors. I think WP:Disambiguation has fairly widespread acceptance. olderwiser 10:31, 24 September 2011 (UTC)

Unusual "were you looking for?" entries such as "WikiProject North Carolina"

Current dablink:

"Multiple shortcuts redirect here; you may be looking for What is an article?, Manual of Style (Article layout), Username policy, Manual of Style (biographies), Manual of Style (titles), Wikipedia is Not Censored, WikiProject North Carolina, Article message boxes, Amnesia test, or Attribution."

Do we need "WikiProject North Carolina", "Amnesia test", "Wikipedia is Not Censored" here? Facts707 (talk) 12:18, 22 September 2011 (UTC)

I generally find this sort of clutter annoying. They're there because WP:AT and WP:NC point here, and someone might conceivably have thought that those shortcuts lead somewhere else (perhaps in the distant past they did). Personally I would get rid of that line - if people have got to the wrong place, they'll try a different search term and get there soon enough.--Kotniski (talk) 12:21, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
Thanks for the info - I was bold and redirected WP:NC to go to WP:NOTCENSORED with consequential edits. Facts707 (talk) 12:37, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
WP:NC goes here because it used to be called Wikipedia:Naming conventions. You may have just broken hundreds of links in various archives. Powers T 12:44, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
Exactly what I was going to say. Take a look at What links here for WP:NC. olderwiser 12:47, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
My guess is that there is a historical reason why each of these short cuts point to this page... so, I would not change the redirects. However, I agree that we don't need all of these "are you looking for WP:X?" notes. Blueboar (talk) 13:58, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
I changed WP:NC into a disambiguation page since there is apparently some ambiguity and there are objections to including every shortcut both on this page and on WP:NOT. As a disambiguation page, editors can find whichever use might have been intended. olderwiser 14:45, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
I am still concerned about broken links in talk page archives. Powers T 15:28, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree. WP:NC has pointed here for close to 8 years. It's hard to believe more than a handful of the thousands of incoming links intend anything else. This is akin to a clear primary topic for WP:NC. Station1 (talk) 15:55, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
(after ec) What exactly is the concern? Readers can get to the intended target (assuming of course that there is sufficient context to determine naming conventions was the intended referent). Unless there is agreement to restore the shortcut hatnotes, I don't see there is any other way to resolve the ambiguity. olderwiser 15:57, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
olderwiser does not mean there is no consensus. It's clear that NC probably should redirect here. I'm sure if you brought it up at WP:NOT given how long its linked here, people would say the same thing. A hatnote about WP:NC linking here for people looking for WP:NOTCENSORED may be warranted, but that's just replacing one set of hatnotes with another.Jinnai 16:18, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
I agree WP:NC should point here (the page was called Naming Conventions for ages, and people still use that shortcut quite a lot). But I don't think it necessary to include a hatnote to everything else in project space that NC might conceivably stand for - that produces clutter at the top of the page that distracts everyone who comes here, and helps no-one in particular all that much.--Kotniski (talk) 16:28, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
(after ec) Jinnai, I'm not sure what you intended to say with your first sentence: olderwiser does not mean there is no consensus. The first few editors posting in this section all agreed that the shortcuts were unnecessary. Regardless of how long the redirect existed, there is ambiguity with regards to what WP:NC might mean. Especially as the shortcut is at present not at all intuitive given the current title of what used to be the Naming Conventions page. My point is that given the ambiguity, either we include hatnotes and suffer with the clutter or we leave the "shortcut" as a disambiguation page. olderwiser 16:30, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
Or perhaps I have misunderstood. It appears several editors are saying the ambiguity is irrelevant and that there should be a redirect and minimal hatnotes. Personally, I think keeping the shortcut to a page that has been renamed such that the shortcut is non-obvious only perpetuates confusion. olderwiser 16:36, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
I think several editors are saying that. I have no big problem with leaving the hatnote as it was even if it was a little long. On the other hand, for those few people who might type "WP:NC" in the search box looking for something else, I agree that they'll figure out that they should type WP:North Carolina or WP:NOTCENSORED, with or without a hatnote. Station1 (talk) 16:56, 22 September 2011 (UTC)
I don't know if we need one for WP:North Carolina. I could be wrong, but I don't think its probably much sought page. WP:NOTCENSORED is though.Jinnai 20:20, 22 September 2011 (UTC)

I support restoring WP:NC to be a redirect to this page rather remain as a dab page. There is no precedent for WP:NC redirecting to anything but this page, so there can be no expectation for it go anywhere else. Like others have noted, all we accomplish by leaving it as dab is break countless links that use WP:NC to point to this page. --Born2cycle (talk) 21:56, 23 September 2011 (UTC)

The confusion with the "were you looking for...?" links involves more than just the shortcut WP:NC... I seriously doubt that someone looking for WP:Username policy, WP:Manual of Style (biographies), or WP:Article message boxes would ever end up here by mistake (WP:Manual of Style (titles) is a bit more possible, but even that is a stretch).
I think what has occurred is that someone has mixed up a) items that logically should be in a "related policicies" or a "see also" section and b) items what should go under a "were you looking for...?" hatnote. Blueboar (talk) 22:50, 23 September 2011 (UTC)
No, but someone looking for WP:Naming conventions might think to use that shortcut.Jinnai 01:23, 24 September 2011 (UTC)
The guidelines for this policy page are still called naming conventions and this page acts as grand central station for them. -- PBS (talk) 02:02, 24 September 2011 (UTC)
"Username policy" is because of the WP:NAME shortcut. Dunno about the others. I've removed a bunch. Powers T 14:13, 24 September 2011 (UTC)

I've reverted WP:NC to point back to Wikipedia:Article titles. There is no consensus here that it should be a dab page. Powers T 14:13, 24 September 2011 (UTC)

While there's a clear consensus against mucking with shortcuts like WP:NC, I see no support for keeping weird things in the hatnote, so I'm deleting them.

Precision and disambiguation and primary use

There is an RFC discussion going on about a specific page and the primary topic. Over the past two years, I have been disambiguating the inbound links to the dab page currently at the main name space as a result of a previous move request. In that two year period less then 5% of the inbound links have been for the page suggested for moving to the main name space. The page hit count does show different results since the proposed page was at the top of the dab page for a while and our helpful dab team replaced a ton, several thousand, of incoming links with the wrong page. So my question is, can 5% of the new inbound links over two years constitute the primary use? If it can, then this policy needs a major rewrite. I'll leave the page name out of the discussion for right now, but I'm sure that anyone interested can figure it out. Vegaswikian (talk) 17:34, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

Early versions of Caesars Palace started with the sentence: "Caesars Palace is a hotel and casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. " [4]
I presume that's an example of a wrong link, as it now says, arguably more correctly, I'll admit, "Caesars Palace is a luxury hotel and casino located on the Las Vegas Strip in Paradise, Nevada". But let's recognize that the original version, thought not optimal, was not that far off. It was no great travesty. I think the argument could be made that the original version, though not technically correctly, might even be more helpful to readers. See my detailed comment about this at Talk:Las Vegas#Request for Comment - primary topic?, and also that of User:Toohool who notes, "Every major American city is used, to some extent, synonymously with its metropolitan area." I wouldn't limit that to American cities, or to major cities. --Born2cycle (talk) 19:17, 21 September 2011 (UTC)
Except in cases where the city is not the primary topic. The Las Vegas Strip has a stronger claim for the primary topic then the city. But that is not even being considered. Vegaswikian (talk) 19:46, 21 September 2011 (UTC)
That claim is based on the assumption that when people say or write "Caesars is in 'Las Vegas'" by "Las Vegas" they are not referring to the city, but to the strip. I challenge that claim. I suspect in most cases what they mean is the city in a sense that expands beyond the strict city limits to include the famous nearby strip of casinos.

It's like saying "San Francisco" should be a dab page because when people say "San Francisco" the could mean the entire bay area, and the bay area has a stronger claim to be the primary topic for San Francisco. That's absurd, of course, but so is the argument that the strip is the primary topic for "Las Vegas". --Born2cycle (talk) 20:11, 21 September 2011 (UTC)

Well, your assumption is based on an opinion that is not supported by common usage. Vegaswikian (talk) 02:29, 23 September 2011 (UTC)
My assumption is that when people say "Las Vegas" they don't mean just the Strip; that is, they are not excluding the city proper from the concept to which they refer when they say or write "Las Vegas". That assumption is not supported by common usage? You believe they usually mean the strip and only the strip? That per common usage, for example, the Golden Nugget is not in "Las Vegas"? I am not aware of any basis for that view.

My view is that by common usage both the Golden Nugget and the Bellagio are in the place to which people most commonly refer when they say or write "Las Vegas", and, so that place is the primary use of "Las Vegas". I also claim that the topic of the article at Las Vegas, Nevada, if it were expanded to include a section on the strip (and a link to the complete article), along with a note stating that technically the Strip is not within the city proper, would be about that primary topic place. --Born2cycle (talk) 21:37, 23 September 2011 (UTC)

Las Vegas is clearly a place on it's own merits. It is not restricted to the city and the strip. So the Las Vegas Valley best covers what readers expect when they say Las Vegas. Clearly the strip is more likely the intended destination then the city. But expanding the city article to include areas 12 miles away but excluding areas that are adjacent to the city is simply a bad idea. You could make a better argument that the strip is the primary topic then the city, but it too fails the criteria for being the primary topic. Given that the city is less then 5% of the incoming links to the dab page clearly says that it is not the primary topic. Las Vegas is a brand and a destination marked by a county and several cities! It also just happens to be the name of two cities. Vegaswikian (talk) 02:23, 24 September 2011 (UTC)
12 miles? The north end of the strip -- Sahara Ave -- borders the city limits... they're adjacent, not separated by 12 miles! (it even says so at Las Vegas Strip).

When you say the city is less then 5% of the incoming links to the dab page, what you mean is that the city proper is less than 5%... I'm dubious about it being quite that low, but I won't dispute that, because it's irrelevant to my argument. My point -- which I made above with the example of Caesars Palace which you ignored -- is that the city proper plus the adjacent strip is almost all of the incoming links... that's why that topic -- the city proper plus the adjacent strip -- is the primary use.

I mean, what you're arguing is that the Las Vegas Convention Center is not in the place commonly referred to as "Las Vegas". That's just absurd. --Born2cycle (talk) 03:08, 24 September 2011 (UTC)

No, I'm saying that the convention center is in the valley and is a part of what everyone considers Las Vegas and it should be covered by the Las Vegas article which should not be the city article. The arguments that the city article should be expanded are that it should cover areas 12 miles or more outside of the city but exclude areas adjacent to the city. That is simply not supported by any thing. Vegaswikian (talk) 05:05, 24 September 2011 (UTC)
What are you talking about? Who is arguing "that the city article ... should cover areas 12 miles or more outside of the city?"

You know, "San Diego" is sometimes used to refer to the entire San Diego County, just like "San Francisco" is sometimes used to refer to the entire bay area. Similarly, "Las Vegas" is sometimes used to refer to the entire valley, and sometimes it's used to refer to the city proper, but, as the links to the dab page show, usually they are used to refer to the city plus the strip. Usage of "Las Vegas" to mean the entire valley is much less common. --Born2cycle (talk) 06:34, 24 September 2011 (UTC)

Ah, now I understand. Las Vegas occasionally is used to describe the city. It is most commonly used to describe casinos, hotels, entertainment, venues and all other activities that are in the Las Vegas Valley which is normally called Las Vegas. All cities are not by default the primary use. Vegaswikian (talk) 07:17, 24 September 2011 (UTC)
No, the casinos, hotels and entertainment venues are not called "Las Vegas"... the place where all that is located is called "Las Vegas", especially in the relevant context here: usage in Wikipedia articles which link to Las Vegas. The exact boundaries implied by each invocation of "Las Vegas" is impossible to determine, but I think it's safe to say that the place defined as the city, plus the strip is going to be the best fit in most cases. That is, if we exclude the strip most references will be incorrect, but if include the entire valley we'll be including much more than is usually implied. --Born2cycle (talk) 17:55, 26 September 2011 (UTC)

The word is "than",not "then". Roger (talk) 08:31, 29 September 2011 (UTC)

Dead example and bad advice anyway

This example needs to be replaced: "Diacritics: canon vs. cañon". Cañon is not an article title, and I seem to recall that we have years and years of precedent against ever having page names that are only distinguished by diacritics, because non-expert users cannot search for or even type them. Indeed, the non-diacritic version of an article title should always redirect to the diacritic version or be a disambiguation page that links to it. Or vice versa - sometimes we prefer the non-diacritic version as the actual article title, per WP:COMMONNAME. I'm thus removing this junk. — SMcCandlish Talk⇒ ʕ(Õلō Contribs. 15:18, 27 September 2011 (UTC)

Well done, SMcC. I have copyedited the addition you made, without changing the message.
NoeticaTea? 00:04, 28 September 2011 (UTC)

Quarterly update

Nice to see all the changes to the page this quarter, but it's probably more than I have time to digest. Anyone want to list the changes at WP:Update/1/Content_policy_changes,_2011? - Dank (push to talk) 02:51, 30 September 2011 (UTC)

U.S. Post Office vs. United States Post Office

In looking at various of these articles, the names used follow the two forms in the heading of this section. I find it hard to believe that the common name for these apparently randomly uses these two forms. I think that part of the problem may be the policy of WP:NRHP prefers to use the name on the nomination form no matter how appropriate that may be. It results in building articles having names like Whitney & Company for a building since that is apparently listed on the nomination form that way but per our policy should probably be listed as Whitney & Company building since the article is about the building and not the company. This guideline also produces article names like U.S. Post Office (Saratoga Springs, New York) and United States Post Office (Canandaigua, New York). Both of these should probably use one form or the other. So do we choose one or let the nomination form be the decider of our names? If we elect to use the current setup, should we allow these to be sorted by article name which produces odd results or should we use a default sort and force them all to sort as United States? Vegaswikian (talk) 06:04, 29 September 2011 (UTC)

There was an RfC about this not very long ago, but I don't remember the link offhand. I believe the general consensus was that U.S. in this context is always an abbreviation for United States, and can be changed. I've done that once or twice as I've come across them but haven't gone out of my way looking for them. Station1 (talk) 06:36, 29 September 2011 (UTC)
The RFC discussion was at Wikipedia:Requests for comment/Naming conventions for United States federal buildings. The Congressionally designated legal names of many of these buildings can be found at Wikipedia:WikiProject United States courts and judges/United States Congressional naming legislation. After that discussion I changed a number of them to spell out the name, and it seems that they were changed right back, so I've moved on to other things. Cheers! bd2412 T 14:19, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
Well, I have been changing some back. Besides the unencyclopedic look that this generates, it also messes up default category sorting. So mixed names are bad on two fronts. Add to that the naming for courthouses and customhouses and this random use of U.S. is the odd man out. And as noted in other places, the listing material for NRHP does not follow any standard and should not be used for the source on any names. It produces article titles like Albers Brothers Milling Company about a listed building and not about the company. Vegaswikian (talk) 19:24, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
For what it's worth, I agree and I think we should have a policy in place to this effect. "United States" should by default be spelled out where it appears in the name of a building. bd2412 T 20:15, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
This is already policy: "Avoid abbreviations: Abbreviations and acronyms are generally avoided unless the subject is almost exclusively known by its abbreviation (e.g. NATO and Laser)" (WP:Abbreviation). - Station1 (talk) 04:20, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't see any need for further discussion or RFCs on this point. We know that we have a small percentage of articles that do not perfectly reflect the community's desires, e.g., that contain inappropriate abbreviations. What we need now is a WP:BOLD editor to just go fix them, with a suitable edit summary/reason for move. I'd bet that 90% of the moves from "U.S." to "United States" would be uncontested, especially if they're accompanied by a suitable explanation. If a handful of editors require further education, then WP:RM can handle it. WhatamIdoing (talk) 23:58, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
As far as I know they have been all changed. The only change remaining is all of the links in U.S. Post Office. Vegaswikian (talk) 02:08, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

These are all that I can find:

[list of articles all now moved]

Cheers! bd2412 T 13:48, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

Specific–vague and titular–generic: two axes in choosing article titles

Colleagues, the time has come to re-examine certain principles that were adopted years ago when we were small, young, and innocent. WP continues to amass articles; we are approaching four million—one for every hundred native speakers! Each of these articles needs a fitting title, and the phenomenon of "information convergence" bears down on the project ever more obviously. I believe we need to be more flexible, to enhance specificity in titles. On top of this, we have widespread abuse of capitalisation, tending away from the generic to the titular (the French mock us with murmurings like: "English-speakers are really just Germans masquerading as human beings"). Sometimes these axes interact, and I think more detail should now be built into the policy so editors have better guidance as they attempt to follow the larger goal of serving readers' actual needs.

Here are three ongoing examples, with the generality of the titles rather than their capitalisation at issue:

Tony (talk) 04:43, 3 October 2011 (UTC)

Over-capitalization continues to be an issue, too. My lastest RM is at Talk:Kerckhoffs's Principle. And an example of the failure to respect specificity, or "precision" as we call it, is at Talk:Calculator#Why isn't this article titled electronic calculator? and subsequent sections; it seems that more emphasis on the "precision" part of WP:TITLE#Deciding on an article title, as Tony is suggesting, would help here. Dicklyon (talk) 05:06, 3 October 2011 (UTC)
Help? Only if you see an actual problem here that needs solving. Our article titles need only be unique, not fully qualified, as they are primarily technical measures. Overprecision is a problem we've fortunately avoided to date. Overprecise titles are harder to link and harder to find, except where they are aided by consistency (as with U.S. place names). Powers T 11:31, 3 October 2011 (UTC)
The discussion at Talk:French Quarter is marked by failure to distinguish between French Quarter, a proper name which occurs in three or four cities, and French quarter, a common noun with adjective, which may exist in any city divided into ethnic quarters (especially in Western Europe or the French colonial Empire). The others appear to have much the same problem.
Looking at the archives of this page, there appears to be a consistent avoidance of over-precision; we do not want a certain island country at United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; after United Kingdom, additional precision offers no value to compensate us for the length and awkwardness. JCScaliger (talk) 19:21, 3 October 2011 (UTC)
The discussion at Talk:French Quarter is marked by failure to have any firm grasp of what a proper name is, or to appreciate the fluid and complex nature of that concept. Please tell us what you mean when you speak of "proper names" here, JCScaliger. Do you say that the second word in "the French [Q/q]uarter" is a common noun, or a proper noun? Answer first for the case of New Orleans, and then for the cases of Tianjin and Shanghai. Do you say that "the Queen" is a proper name? Always? Sometimes? Is the second word in this case a common noun, or a proper noun? If we are going to make policy about titles of articles, we had better gain a more secure sense of all this – or at least recognise that the grammatical terminology is not carved in stone. Erratic assignment to such categories as "proper name" should not be decisive in settling RMs.
When you have explained yourself on that front, we might look at your straw-man argument concerning "over-precision". Some of us would like to know: how can it be "over-precise" to inform readers at a glance that an article about a French quarter is specifically about the one in New Orleans? We know it can do some good so to help readers, in this case at least. How can it do any harm, to anyone?
NoeticaTea? 23:48, 3 October 2011 (UTC)
It can do harm because most people who search for or link to "French Quarter" want the New Orleans neighborhood (from among the articles currently on WP). As LtPowers noted, by making it a disambiguation page instead, searchers must click through a page where they don't want to be, and editors are more likely to inadvertently link to a dab page, if they do not notice they must instead type out the more cumbersome piped link. Station1 (talk) 00:41, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
Station1, Tony answers this below. I agree with him, and the point is important enough to amplify. Type as far as "French qua" in the search field, and see the prompts:

French Quarter
French Quarter (Charleston, South Carolina)
French Quarter (disambiguation)
French Quarter Mardi Gras costumes
French Quarter (San Francisco)

How on earth does that help, if someone is after a district of New Orleans (or indeed any of the other bearers of the name, for which there is so far no article)? This would be helpful:

French Quarter
French Quarter (Charleston, South Carolina)
French Quarter Mardi Gras costumes
French Quarter (New Orleans)
French Quarter (San Francisco)

Why think that New Orleans specialists, or insiders, are any more able to assess the comparative currency of the term "French Quarter" inside and outside New Orleans? So what if they assume that theirs is primary? The prompts lacking the qualifier "New Orleans" help neither them nor anyone else.
NoeticaTea? 22:41, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I agree that the dropdown menu mitigates the issue to some extent. But the dropdown menu does not help anyone who simply types "French Quarter" in the search box and hits Enter, fully expecting to get to the article about the French Quarter (or, more specifically, the French Quarter expected by a majority). It also wouldn't help anyone looking for an article on the French Quarter who didn't know in advance that it's in New Orleans (though I suspect they are few in this example, that could make a difference in other cases). There are costs and benefits either way. but I think the concept of a primary topic is more useful than not. Station1 (talk) 00:17, 5 October 2011 (UTC)
  • I've never heard so much fizz: you type "French Quarter" into the search box and it will give you a choice of all articles starting with that, and further down, of all occurrences of the item within articles. Tony (talk) 04:07, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
  • I'm generally fine with the titles as they are (with the exception of Southwest Museum of the American Indian, which should just be Southwest Museum). Noetica's arguments seem to violate both WP:COMMONNAME and WP:PRIMARYTOPIC, and add the headache of making article titles longer than they need to be. Noetica has also advocated using topics that don't have articles (some of which probably never will, as they fail GNG) in determing primary topic, which is a quite dubious argument. KEEP SHORTER TITLES. Purplebackpack89≈≈≈≈ 15:33, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
Four answers, Purple:
  1. You do not explain how my arguments (which ones?) "violate WP:COMMONNAME". The text there makes various provisions, and lays out a range of factors for nuanced consideration; and it links to other principles that are also a matter of balance.
  2. You do not explain how my arguments "violate WP:PRIMARYTOPIC". From that guideline: "Although a word, name or phrase may refer to more than one topic, it is sometimes the case that one of these topics is the primary topic." Crass argumentation at RMs assumes as an axiom that there is a primary topic. A distortion of the guideline. Even if a primary topic can be established, this would be just one factor among many – in meeting the needs of real people, really looking for real information.
  3. How is the addition of, say, nine letters to a title any sort of a "headache"? It is done only once, and does not automatically make a title longer than it "needs to be". How long or short does a title "need to be", to be most useful to readers?
  4. You misrepresent me concerning topics that don't have articles. I have never connected that with the matter of primary topics. Again, there is not always a primary topic at all. The assumption that there is, and that it trumps everything else, is pernicious. It's time to readjust priorities.
NoeticaTea? 22:41, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
Nit picks aside, WP:PRECISE clearly states: "When additional precision is necessary to distinguish an article title from other uses of the topic name, over-precision should be avoided." I see no reason above or elsewhere to deviate from this clear principle.

If "deviating from principle" can cause "headaches", and it arguably does, then adding nine letters to a title is indeed a "headache", by definition. And we're not talking about some silly contrived principle here - this is one of the most influential principles consistently followed in almost all titles in Wikipedia. --Born2cycle (talk) 23:02, 4 October 2011 (UTC)

Some additional points: The WP Search field with "drop down hints" is not the only way to search WP. While in that context using a base name rather than a clearly qualified name for a primary topic when there are other uses makes sense, that has always been true to some extent in WP (say in lists of titles that belong in a category), and, yet, we still choose to put primary topics at the base name. Besides, for the search situation, if that's really a concern, there is nothing that prevents the creation of French Quarter (New Orleans) as a redirect to French Quarter. In fact, I just created it accordingly.

I don't who or what you think is making the assumption that there is always a primary topic, clearly that's not true as is made quite evident by the number of dab pages located at base names. Unless you're arguing that the French quarter of New Orleans is not the primary topic for French Quarter, by suggesting that that article be at French Quarter (New Orleans) you are advocating something contrary to what WP:PRIMARYTOPIC states. --Born2cycle (talk) 23:15, 4 October 2011 (UTC)

How is it contrary to what WP:PRIMARYTOPIC says? It says "If a primary topic exists, then that term should be the title of the article on that topic (or should redirect to an article on that topic that uses a different, more appropriate title)." So if the primary topic of "French Quarter" is the one in New Orleans, then it's perfectly OK to have that redirect to "French Quarter (New Orleans)", which by other criteria, such as precision, is indeed a more appropriate title. A redirect hatnote could then be used for those minority of readers who were looking for other or more general French quarter info. Dicklyon (talk) 23:25, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
Agree with everything Born2Cycle and Dicklyon said. You're making this too hard when a host of WP policies say "keep titles as short and simple as possible". Purplebackpack89≈≈≈≈ 23:33, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
Well, I don't see how you can agree with both of us! And I don't see that the guidelines say that. Dicklyon (talk) 01:28, 5 October 2011 (UTC)
Dicklyon - gotta give you that one! Okay, so while [[Topicname]] redirecting to [[Topicname (additional precision)]] is not a violation of WP:PRIMARYTOPIC, it is a violation of WP:PRECISE, since [[Topicname (additional precision)]] clearly includes unnecessary additional precision that [[Topicname]] obviously does not. --Born2cycle (talk) 23:48, 4 October 2011 (UTC)
You read WP:PRECISE rather differently than I do. It seems OK with the disambiguating information. Dicklyon (talk) 01:28, 5 October 2011 (UTC)
WP:PRECISE is OK with the disambiguating information for additional precision, when it's necessary (when it's not over-precision).

Are you saying it only discourages over-precision through the use of natural disambiguation, but not for parenthetic disambiguation? --Born2cycle (talk) 21:23, 7 October 2011 (UTC)


B2C, earlier you dismissed clearly enunciated points concerning policy provisions as "nit picks" (see above). You have had a big part in wording those provisions. There is growing reason to suspect that you pursue an agenda counter to the aims of the Project, though I cannot see why you would want to do that. Of course we try to assume good faith; but when we find you seeking tight and narrow adherence to those recently reworded provisions in RMs, or in justifying ad hoc moves, the default assumption is shaken. If the interests of readers are neglected in favour of the "letter of the law" (recent "law", in this case; formed with little evidence of genuine consensus), this is a cause for concern. When we find you rushing to get changes to WP:MOS after your strenuous efforts concerning Iodised salt (!) came to nothing, suspicions are strengthened. They are also strengthened when we observe your routine hounding of admin GTBacchus, impugning his competence whenever things don't go your way.

A review of those shakily founded provisions, to which you make specious appeal, seems to be in order. This strange insistence on the shortest possible titles at all costs, on whatever legalistic pretext can be mustered, is unhealthy. It does not help readers; and when people start dismissing that as a consideration, we ought to be even more concerned. I look forward to a broad, slow, careful, consultative review – by well-adertised RFC, without preconceptions or prejudice. I look forward to taking part in such a process, rather than in frenetic bouts of reform that bypass due process and work to the benefit of no one, and to the Project's detriment.

NoeticaTea? 05:19, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

There are so many errors and misconceptions in this post that it would take multiple paragraphs to correct and explain, so I won't. I will say this: as far as I know, the main aspect of policy that is relevant here - making titles concise and not overly precise - has been in titling policy and guidelines in one form or another much longer than I've been involved, and I've had little if anything to do with wording and rewording the related language. More importantly, this underlying principle is routinely referenced by countless editors in RM discussions, and the only reason I am an advocate of it is because it is strongly supported by consensus. --Born2cycle (talk) 21:42, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

B2C one reason for setting up [[Topicname]] redirecting to [[Topicname (additional precision)]] (or similar) is to help people sort out redirects. One example was the Boer War usually an editor (or the author of a third party source) means the Second Boer War but not always. For correct adjustment of incoming links it helps editors to have such a construct and there is no overhead for the reader as they go strait to the article anyway. When I originally split the Wikipedia article on the "Boer War" into two (first and second) and at the time trying to sort out which war a particular biography was referring to was not always easy. I had to leave perhaps 10% of the links pointing at the original article name as I could not tell which Boer War was being referred to (most often it would have been the second but not always). If I had kept the Second Boer War at its common name "Boer War" and only then those 10% of links would have been impossible to tell from those that correctly went to the subject. -- PBS (talk) 22:07, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

Seems like a good argument that neither Boer War is the primary topic for "Boer War" - in fact I see that Boer War redirects to Boer Wars, which is effectively a dab page/article. This is all consistent with all policies and guidelines, so far as I can tell, albeit having a dab page/article like that is somewhat unusual, but not out of line. --Born2cycle (talk) 05:40, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
WP:PRIMARYUSAGE discusses the difference between primary as overwhelmingly more common (in which sense the second Boer War may well be primary) and primary as most important use of the term (in which sense there probably isn't). A valid distinction and worth considering; the reason not to copy it here is the possibility of abuse: "Our sense of Foobar Province is obviously more important than yours, so we are primary usage." JCScaliger (talk) 21:15, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
In many cases the issue comes down to a lack of decisiveness about what the actual content of the article is. In the case of Calculator (versus "Electronic calculator"), the question is a simple one: Does this article contain information about earlier pre-electronic calculators? It turns out that it does not. Instead, it has an "other uses" tag pointing to Mechanical calculator and leaves the reader in the messy position of having no place to go to read about calculators in general - for example, what is the history of the calculator? What should be happening here is that there ought to be a parent article that talks about calculators in general - everything from counting stones through abacus to mechanical and then electronic calculators - with a "main article" tag pointing to the present article, which would then be appropriately named electronic calculator. The issue here isn't about the name - it's about the content and structure of the articles in the general area of automatic calculation. A similar issue is discernable in French Quarter where an article about French quarters in general should be linking to a number of articles about very french quarters in specific towns with titles like "French Quarter (New Orleans)". When the content is a mess, the selection of a title is inevitably difficult. Firstly one has to be clear about the scope of the article - then the title should be more obvious. SteveBaker (talk) 14:25, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

Article titles using two names to refer to a single subject

Hello all, I'd like to request some outside input at WT:VG regarding naming of articles, and the possible precedent implications of a recent article move. It boils down to whether the article title "Sega Genesis and Mega Drive" (both names referring to the same thing, article previously at just "Mega Drive") is OK or not, and specifically whether WP:AND allows this. The discussion is here. Thanks, Miremare 00:56, 1 October 2011 (UTC)

The "and" is untenable, even before we get to the inclusion of two alternative names. Tony (talk) 02:41, 1 October 2011 (UTC)
The difficulty here is that the two protagonist groups favoring Sega Genesis and Mega Drive fought a long and bloody war over this and came up with Sega Genesis and Mega Drive as a consensus-driven compromise. There is therefore consensus on the article talk page for a title that seems to be a clear-cut violation of WP:TITLE. When User:Miremare attempts to do something about this, both sides in the original debate unite in wanting to stick with their hard-won compromise title. It's very difficult to tell them to go back to re-open that long and bitter debate. What's worse is that nobody outside of that circle of editors gives a damn whether they choose Sega Genesis or Mega Drive since the product in question was known by both names. It would be helpful if some experts on article naming would step into the debate and...
  1. impress upon the editors the inappropriateness of their compromise solution.
  2. offer reasoned guidance as to which of the two contentious names should be chosen.
IMHO, flipping a coin would be a great solution! SteveBaker (talk) 14:13, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
Local concensus can't override community concensus. The name is clearly inappropriate. However, the article was last moved on September 30, 2011[5] so I assume this was the result of a recent discussion. It might be better to wait a few months before revisiting the issue. We don't have deadlines and the sky won't fall if one of our articles has a terrible name. A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 14:30, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
It sets a precedent for confusing names, too. There are a huge number of products that are released with different names in different regions. If this naming stands, people are going to point to it as an easy compromise every time a name dispute occurs. Pretty soon we'll have "Gasoline and Petrol" as though it were some sort of mixture of two fuels, and who knows what they'd do with the first Harry Potter book!
I've never edited the article so far as I can remember, so it's really nothing to me personally, but I'd prefer to see it fixed before people working on other articles get the idea that this name change was a good idea and a successful conflict resolution technique. APL (talk) 17:13, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
APL: That's a good point. Can one of the senior (i.e. experienced) editors of this policy give us some advice on how to proceed? A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 17:48, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
I have no specific knowledge about this topic - did not look at the article and don't know what this is about, so this is totally general and objective advice: Collect data on how commonly each name is used in published English reliable sources and go with the name that is most commonly used. If it's a wash, and there is no consensus favoring either name, then go with the name first used for the title of this article. But the current title with the "and" has to go. --Born2cycle (talk) 18:07, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia is not a bureaucracy. While we should try to follow the rules most of the time we can ignore them if they are getting in the way of improving the encyclopedia. Now, I'm sure many people would say "picking either name will improve the encyclopedia", but in this particular case more good may be done by allowing the editors to stick with there consensus name. That way we get more happy editors contributing to the article, which will improve the encyclopedia.

Obviously, some people will see this as the start of a slippery slope, but really we just have to look at each case on its merits. Slippery-slope arguments lead to more rules and more bureaucracy.

Yaris678 (talk) 18:36, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

What we have here is a classic case of WP:ENGVAR... the same thing was given two different names in different parts of the English speaking world. I would agree that the title should either be Sega Mega Drive or Sega Genesis (with whichever name is not used for the article title linked as a redirect, and prominently listed as an alternative name in the opening sentence). The question is, which should be used for the title?
The first thing to look at is whether WP:COMMONNAME applies... is one name used significantly more than the other in sources (and yes, I am aware that "significantly" is open to interpretation... that is allows us to consider all sides of the issue). The really important thing here is to think of readers... is the average reader more likely to search for the article using "Genesis" or "Mega Drive"? We will get both... but as long as a reader can quickly understand that a) the system has two names and b) we are using one of those two names... they will not be surprised if they find themselves redirected. Blueboar (talk) 18:42, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
Coming up with a name just to appease the editors involved with the article who can't agree is rarely the approach taken, for good reason: it does not improve the encyclopedia. In such a case you do need to seek broader input. I'm disappointed the closing admin closed when and how he did. A much better action would have been to make it an RFC and seek broader input, as was started here.

I think the case can be made that this was prematurely closed even though it was open for a week, because mostly only editors involved with the article, and not many experienced with naming conventions, were involved, as is made evident by the sparsity of most of the comments. I suggest that a new proposal be made to move the article to either of the two names. --Born2cycle (talk) 19:05, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

Well, the problem here - as I understand it - is that the local consensus of the editors of the article have settled on this title as a compromise. Read the post above. I'll excerpt from it:

The only way to change local consensus is to get as much of the community involved as possible. I'm thinking we should create an RfC, posting a notice on the Village Pump, etc. Assuming we want to do this, where should we have the rename discussion? Here? The article's talk page? Village Pump? Jimbo's talk page? :) A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 19:14, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

So how many places are you going to try and ask to get this overturned Miremare? This is what, at least the third different group you've asked? As for the discussion at hand, WP:COMMONNAME cannot apply because its vague wording makes it possible to look at sources in such a way that anyone can clearly purport that one is more than the other. Also since this was a merged article, with a unique naming history determining the first will be just as contentious. Sega Genesis was the first article created long before the article Mega Drive. Later those were merged and the initial naming Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis was chosen. The current title is the one closest that this page allows. Only after then was Mega Drive chosen as a biterly contested move location and as said the data from commonname cannot clearly indicate it was the correct one and it certainly wasn't the first.Jinnai 19:37, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
The fact that it's a merge that got edit warred over is not really a "unique naming history". Merges happen all the time. Famicom and Nintendo Entertainment System were once separate articles. So were The Golden Compass and Northern Lights (novel). They managed to get through it OK without awkwardly implying that the two products were part of a matched set or a bundle or something. APL (talk) 23:06, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm not familar with Northern Lights novel, but the former ultimately was the NES because of WP:ENGLISH. Here Genesis and Mega Drive are both English and inspite claims to it ENGVAR doesn't really apply since its not a clear US vs. the World argument Miremare tries to neatly package it as. Anyway neither of that shows that it wasn't the first. The first was the Mega Drive/Genesis combination title.Jinnai 23:29, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
Well, as the articles mention, "Golden Compass" is the American title of "Northern Lights" which is British. The article certainly isn't titled "The Golden Compass and The Northern Lights". APL (talk) 05:36, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
Okay. I understand. However things are much more complicated with Genesis/Mega Drive than a simple name change for 1 region stating with Genesis was the original English name.Jinnai 14:05, 12 October 2011 (UTC)

I've proposed that the article be moved to Genesis (Sega Mega Drive). I believe this title meets all requirements and addresses all objections. See: Talk:Sega_Genesis_and_Mega_Drive#Requested_move. --Born2cycle (talk) 23:50, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

Moving pages when subject name changes

It has always seemed to me that we have little problem renaming articles when the name of their subject can be verified to have changed. Whether it's Kate Middleton to Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, or to Delicious (website), it seems pretty routine. But I'm getting incredible pushback from an editor at Talk:VELOCITY Broadcasting#Requested move. Am I way off base here? Powers T 00:21, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

I think it's a mistake to think of these cases are coupled just because they have something in common. There's no rush, and the proposal in question, to a title with the same all-caps problems, is objected to by many. You should probably start a new RM without the all-caps, and see if it gets supported. Dicklyon (talk) 02:53, 17 October 2011 (UTC)

Motion of no confidence in WP:PRECISE and WP:PRIMARY TOPIC

"That given the massive expansion in en.WP articles over the past few years, clarity for readers (i.e., the level of specificity in article titles) needs to assume a greater role in our decision-making, and the notion of primary topic needs to be re-examined in this light."

The zealous application of these recent inventions is damaging the project. What we now see is walls put up against editors who are trying to clean up clusters of related articles and in some cases single articles, which are titled so vaguely that they are misleading. Please think of the context from which people visit our articles—google searches, category lists, wikilinks that are often unpiped, and often from a non-American and even a non-English-language background, without the cultural knowledge that has been assumed in the current hard-line attitudes to clear article titling.

There seems to be an obsession with keeping article titles stubby over all other considerations. We have marshes of related article titles with inconsistent levels of detail and specification, and the awkward notion of primary topic, which often justifies banging a square peg into a round hole at the expense of related topics—whether existing WP articles or those that are very likely to be created in the future. Primary topic very often leads inadvertently to POV—the privileging of one topic over its siblings present and yet to be born. Further, it confuses editors WRT the generic–titular up- and down-casing of titles, and the much harder-to-fix uncertainty as to whether a topic is generic or titular. (Take the classic example of pressurized mating adaptor, which inadvertently claims by implication that it's NASA-invented and -owned; this is not at all the case, but the lead needs to be clear about this, and still isn't. It's POV, and I'd be offended if I were the original inventor.

Look at this shambolic marsh:

Votes on the motion

  • Support the motion as proposer. Tony (talk) 06:58, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Support the motion. I welcome this initiative, and look forward to similar moves to reform a dysfunctional process. NoeticaTea? 22:00, 8 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Capitalization is not POV; it is the standard method of distinguishing between common nouns and proper nouns. "Primary topic" is not novel; it is in this version of WP:Disambiguation, from 2002, and there are earlier forms; the only change has been clarification of the language. JCScaliger (talk) 20:38, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. There are a great number of topics for which encyclopedia users would share a reasonable expectation of what would sit at that name. There is no perfect system of naming articles, but I see no reason to upend what we've come up with. Cheers! bd2412 T 20:55, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. This seems like a grab bag of miscellaneous gripes. I agree with the comments of BD2412. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Bkonrad (talkcontribs)
  • Oppose Throws the baby out with the bath water. I think the motion reflects legitimate concerns for us to discuss, but it goes too far to simply say we have no confidence in these policy concepts. Blueboar (talk) 15:11, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
    • I agree, except I'm curious about one thing. What are the "legitimate concerns" that this motion reflects? That article topic and scope cannot be determined from many titles? Is this news? Is this a problem? Why is this even a concern? Since when has conveying article topic and scope ever been a requirement for titles, especially for articles of topics with clear and obvious unique natural names? Why should it be one now? The only point worth discussing I see here is to explain these are apparently legitimate concerns are actually based up on unrealistic and impractical expectations regarding how descriptive titles are supposed to be. --Born2cycle (talk) 19:22, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
      • There may be legitimate concerns behind the pejoratives; if these comments are recast, we may yet see what they are. I don't see them now either. JCScaliger (talk) 03:02, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose Agree with others in opposition and will add: a minority does pop up and now then that seems to believe that since some titles are very clear and specific about what the article's topic is, that we should strive for all titles to be that clear and specific about their topics. I suggest that titles that do happen to clearly convey what their topics are are a fluke, not the norm, and that the primary purpose of titles about topics that have names is to convey what that name is. It is the purpose of each article's lead to be clear and specific about the article's topic and scope.

    Articles about topics that don't have names, and so must have descriptive titles often invented by WP editors (but hopefully by following a convention), are treated somewhat differently. Also, articles about topics with names that require disambiguation also tend to be somewhat more descriptive about their topics. Let's not be confused by titles that must be descriptive in deciding how to title articles about topics with clear and obvious names that don't require additional precision/description for disambiguation. --Born2cycle (talk) 17:15, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

  • Oppose; it is in no way the role of the article title to provide full context for every subject under its remit. That is the role of the lead sentence in the article. The title need only be as unambiguous and as natural as possible given our technical constraints. Powers T 20:36, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Support, somewhat. They're close to OK, but sometimes I agree that having a primary topic isn't enough to conclude that more precision wouldn't be a good thing. Like French Quarter, which would make so much more sense as French Quarter (New Orleans); same with some of Tony's other examples that are meaningless generic-sounding terms where a clue would be really useful. Dicklyon (talk) 03:13, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose per Konrad and BD, mostly. The upshot of this is longer article titles that are unweildy. The editor's proposal is too vague, and anyway I like PRIMARYTOPIC as is. Furthermore, "articles likely to be created in the future?" Absolutely not, no way, no how. That's CRYSTAL if it ever was. We can't base article titles based on the assumption that another article will come along years from now. Deal with it once the article is actually created and passes GNG muster Purplebackpack89≈≈≈≈ 03:34, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose to blanket rules. There is a good bunch of proper names that sound generic, but that have no generic meaning when lowercased. For example, we have Internet Protocol which sounds generic, but there is no such thing as an "internet protocol", there are only "network protocols". I don't see how changing the name to Internet Protocol (protocol) could help the reader. Special cases can be sorted out in RMs. --Enric Naval (talk) 22:25, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

Comments and discussion on the motion

Taking the first one in the list "Intern Architect Program" do you have any evidence of another Intern Architect Program run by another country? I know that you recently moved Financial Management Standard to Financial Management Standard (Queensland) (that I reverted and which was discussed at Wikipedia talk:Article titles#Article specificity and Talk:Financial Management Standard. If such a change was to be made then what you are talking about is among other things pre-emptive disambiguation which has always been found upon. However I know in the past I have created pre-emptive disambiguation pages because I really could not be bothered with sorting out the inevitable mess I knew would arise, and I know others who feel similarly. However I suspect that if we tolerate it in policy then we will end up with almost ever page being pre-emptive disambiguated is that a path we really want to go down? IE all British legislation will be moved from "name year" to "name year (state)"? At the moment as far as I know the only guideline where we do this pre-emptively is in WP:MILMOS for units like 1st Division but that advise is largely historic now as most such articles already exist for multiple counties. -- PBS (talk) 10:58, 8 October 2011 (UTC)

PBS (and others too), I have no idea who that anonymous editor was, moving my "support" vote and leaving a deceptive edit summary. Someone in New Zealand, it seems. (I'm in Australia.) Weird. But anyway, how about keeping this readable and orderly? I have refactored so that any voting on the motion is clearly visible in one place. We can work together and have a reasonable and respectful discussion. I do not expect serious and focused points to be summarily set aside as nit picks. I hope we will all avoid provocations and ill will here. NoeticaTea? 04:21, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

This would appear to be more of the same misunderstanding as French Quarter above; much the same discussion, with the same confusion between a proper noun and a common noun, took place at Talk:Halley's Comet#Requested move. JCScaliger (talk) 20:38, 9 October 2011 (UTC)

For another example, Architecture Studies Library is a proper name; the one at UNLV is the only one I can find. We may want an article on architecture library, as a general concept; but if so, we should write one; this is not it. The hypothetical architecture library would discuss what architecture libraries are, in general terms, and give a list of them; it is difficult to imagine most of the article on the UNLV example finding space there. (Nor the corresponding material on other individual libraries: the number of carrels or the names of the special collections, for example, would not fit.)
I can see a move to delete the article, or to merge it with an article on UNLV, or on its library system; I would probably support some of them. But decapitalizing the title and leaving it alone merely gives a misleading title (the reader will not find any general information on architecture studies libraries in the article) to a doubtfully useful article. JCScaliger (talk) 21:28, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
Again you write concerning proper names, and seem to assume that the concept is simple and understood. But I repeat what I put to you in the section preceding this one:

The discussion at Talk:French Quarter is marked by failure to have any firm grasp of what a proper name is, or to appreciate the fluid and complex nature of that concept. Please tell us what you mean when you speak of "proper names" here, JCScaliger. Do you say that the second word in "the French [Q/q]uarter" is a common noun, or a proper noun? Answer first for the case of New Orleans, and then for the cases of Tianjin and Shanghai. Do you say that "the Queen" is a proper name? Always? Sometimes? Is the second word in this case a common noun, or a proper noun? If we are going to make policy about titles of articles, we had better gain a more secure sense of all this – or at least recognise that the grammatical terminology is not carved in stone. Erratic assignment to such categories as "proper name" should not be decisive in settling RMs.

I am again waiting for answers; and I now add this question: how, if at all, do you distinguish the terms proper noun and proper name? None of this is tangential; it is central to the difficulties addressed in the present section, and the last. We are supposed not merely to issue statements here, but to discuss. Let's work for a shared understanding of our central terms.
NoeticaTea? 22:56, 9 October 2011 (UTC)
All of this post is tangential; this is a talk page, not a seminar in linguistic philosophy.
Whether "French Quarter" is a single noun, or a noun modified by an adjective, or both, makes no substantive difference to how it is spelled; all else is arguing whether the rules of chess should say "rook" or "castle" instead of playing it. (All three are defensible, if arbitrary, choices; I speak of it as adjective+noun, following the typography; that's clearest. Likewise, to call a name which may consist of more than one word a proper name instead of a proper noun is a convenient choice; arguments about whether a "noun" can have internal spaces should be filed next to discussions of angels and pins.)
Those, if any, who are genuinely ignorant of the difference between a common and a proper noun should consult a grammar, or an encyclopedia. There are plenty of them; I understand that an unreliable one is being written collaboratively on line, not far from here. JCScaliger (talk) 00:10, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
The grammars disagree among themselves; the best are far more circumspect about such expressions. I wanted to know how you are using that technical term. I asked direct and relevant questions. You made those questions relevant, by treating some univocal notion of "proper name" as a touchstone for deciding practical issues – here and in RMs. But when challenged to say what you mean, you first fall silent and now claim that the matter is not relevant. If there are simply "convenient choices" to make, please make them and inform us of your decisions. Current grammars, as I say, disagree. If you know better than they do, please share that knowledge so we can get on with a well-founded discussion in which our own words, at least, are understood. If we do not do that, we speak in circles about "proper names" and expressions deserving capitalisation.
NoeticaTea? 00:25, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
This has now ascended from a meta-discussion to a meta-meta-discussion, combined with unsourced claims about unspecified "best" grammars.
Does anybody besides Noetica have trouble with the distinction between a common and a proper noun? As Wittgenstein showed repeatedly, no distinction will survive analysis indefinitely; but we are writing practical advice for harried editors, not (again) conducting the sort of philosophy from which he wished to cure us. JCScaliger (talk) 00:33, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
A misleading question, JCS. Compare this one: "Is any number besides three an even number?" I do not have trouble with the distinction; rather, I recognise its complexity and fluidity. On current evidence, you are the one exposed as having trouble. I simply asked what you meant by a term that you introduced, through my concrete examples. You were unable or unwilling to give adequate concrete answers. Wittgenstein will not come to your aid if you chose evasion over direct engagement. Just don't pretend the matter is easy, if you can't easily answer what then must be easy questions. NoeticaTea? 02:11, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Architecture school in the United States: this is an article about architecture schools in the United States, not about some institution with the name Architecture School in the United States. The string school is a common noun, therefore; and we are consistent and clear in leaving the s uncapped; we might be more natural if we considered an exception to our habit of titles in the singular. JCScaliger (talk) 00:42, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Architect Registration Examination, as it is given in the United States. If there are Architect Registration Examinations elsewhere, we should either disambiguate, or expand the article to include them. If not, it's not a problem; anybody wanting to find out about something of that name does want to know about the American test. But this is a question of fact; I don't see how fiddling with the capitalization resolves it. JCScaliger (talk) 00:55, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
    • It appears to be some sort of grievance that the titles of these articles don't say what English-speaking country they pertain to. Why should they? Canberra doesn't; London doesn't; Springfield, Illinois does only by implication. Why are these articles different? JCScaliger (talk) 01:05, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
      • The appropriate level of specificity needs to be explained in greater detail in the policy, not wham-bammed like a hammer on any attempts at reasonable clarity for titles that are currently ludicrously general and bely the actual topic. Major cities, fine. "Architect Registration Examination", not fine, unless it's generic (and downcased accordingly). The policy needs to present examples of what is too specific and what is not specific enough, rather than this one-size-fits-all approach that does our readers a huge disservice and diminishes everyone's ability to navigate about this huge site. 13:23, 10 October 2011 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by Tony1 (talkcontribs)
        • In my Oppose comment on the proposal above, I referred to those who believe "that we should strive for all titles to be [as] clear and specific about their topics [as are the titles of some articles that happen to have titles that are clear and specific about their topics due to being descriptive because the topic has no name, or due to additional descriptive precision added to the title because it required disambiguation]." This (unsigned?) comment is an example of that kind of belief. --Born2cycle (talk) 17:26, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
        • I see a question of fact (are there other Architect Registration Examinations than those covered in that article? If so, that should indeed be dealt with - on that talk page, not here; we cover both ambiguous names and lack of global coverage already), and a declaration of taste. If Tony1 has grounds for that declaration other than WP:IDONTLIKEIT, he has not conveyed them. If enough people share the dislike to move the article and one of them can explain what it is they dislike, WP:AT should reflect that; if Tony1 can explain it himself, he may convince others to agree. In the meantime, tastes differ. JCScaliger (talk) 18:13, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
        • Yes, whether a title is specific enough should be determined by individual talk page discussions; that's why this policy presents questions (which suggest goals), and not examples. Whether a given example answers a given question adequately is something on which opinions have changed from time to time. Setting an example which is subject to these tides is merely to import controversies here instead of resolving them; setting a benchmark so obvious as to be beyond change will only affect those articles which have a simple and obvious title - and don't come here. JCScaliger (talk) 18:33, 10 October 2011 (UTC)

List of ongoing move discussions where this issue is relevant

Motion of confidence in WP:AT, including WP:PRECISE and WP:PRIMARY TOPIC

That while some titles do have descriptive titles that clearly convey article topic and sometimes even scope, many articles, especially articles about topics that have clear and obvious unique names, have titles that concisely convey only the name of the topic, and don't describe the scope or even topic at all. In most of these cases, as long as the name of the topic is accurately conveyed, that's not a concern. Though titles are sometimes descriptive due to being about topics that don't have names, or because of needing to add additional precision to the title for the purpose of disambiguation, in general describing article topic and scope is not the purpose of titles; that is the purpose of the article lead.

Votes on the motion

  • Support. As nom. --Born2cycle (talk) 19:32, 10 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Support but postpone indefinitely. These seem to be widely supported, but we are not a debating society. JCScaliger (talk) 02:59, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose – while I think that WP:AT is mostly fine, I constantly take issue with Born2cycle's interpretation of it, so it apparently could use some tuning, and I certainly don't want to see him given reason to think that we all agree with his interpretations. For example, where WP:PRECISE says "that term can be the title", some interpret it as "that term must be the title". And where WP:PRIMARYTOPIC says "If a primary topic exists, then that term should be the title of the article on that topic (or should redirect to an article on that topic that uses a different, more appropriate title)", some interpret it as "If a primary topic exists, then that term must be the title of the article on that topic." These could use some clarification. Dicklyon (talk) 03:07, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
    • That would be unfortunate. Rereading the motion in that light, however, does not show any such interpretations. This is, however, one reason we are not a legislature, and not governed by "motions." JCScaliger (talk) 03:11, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
      • If the motion is really only about topics that have "clear and obvious unique names", why are we bothering to discuss it? I do agree that there's no disagreement on things that we all agree on, if that's what you want. Dicklyon (talk) 03:16, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
        • The motion speaks for itself. Not sure why you're bringing in your misconceptions about these other things that are not part of the motion, but I suppose that speaks for itself too. --Born2cycle (talk) 16:58, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
      • The "motion" includes several things the policy now says; including the comment that topics for which there are clear and obvious titles should use them (the vast majority); but it does not discuss only them. JCScaliger (talk) 01:28, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Support: If I oppose the no confidence, I must support the confidence, mustn't I? PRIMARYTOPIC is perfectly fine with me, needs to be used even more IMO, especially when there are three articles or less Purplebackpack89≈≈≈≈ 03:36, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose. The motion is barely coherent. Its heading points one way, and its details appear to make a mélange of assertions that are not well signalled in that heading. Of course I support WP:TITLE; but under sectional political pressure it has developed flaws. The wording of WP:PRIMARYTOPIC looks helpful and orderly at first glance, but we see from its abuse at RMs that it needs reform. I think we need to elevate consideration of readers' needs as a guiding principle. The evidence is that people lose sight of this at RMs, and they cite WP:TITLE even as they unwittingly compromise the utility of article titles. NoeticaTea? 01:29, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
    • By "utility of article titles" are you referring to how well titles describe the topic and scope of the corresponding article, or something else? --Born2cycle (talk) 15:37, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
By "utility of article titles" I mean, in the end, usefulness to readers. There is no more important consideration. See how that consideration is reflected in the five principal criteria near the start of WP:TITLE (some formatting and text omitted; underlining and bracketed comments added):

Recognizability – Is the candidate title a recognizable name or description of the topic? [Regrettably, actual mention of readers has been removed from this. Why? By whom? After what discussion toward consensus? Still, recognition by readers must be what is intended.]
NaturalnessWhat title(s) are readers most likely to look for in order to find the article? Which title(s) will editors most naturally use to link from other articles? Such titles usually convey what the subject is actually called in English. [Can it be denied that the needs of readers here outweigh those of editors?]
Precision – How precise is the title under discussion? Consensus titles usually use names and terms that are precise (see below), but only as precise as necessary to identify the topic of the article unambiguously. [... To identify the topic of the article to whom, if not anglophone readers all over the world? Diverse readers with their own local mix of knowledge and uncertainty, and their own divergent expectations.]
Conciseness – Is the title concise or is it overly long? [What criterion for excessive length could be salient if not the needs of those reading the title?]
Consistency – Does the proposed title follow the same pattern as those of similar articles? [... With consistency primarily for whose benefit, do we think?]

Utility of titles is their usability by readers. That is clearly paramount – or it surely ought to be. Recent legalistic development of provisions in WP:TITLE seems to have encouraged a legalistic frame of mind at RMs. We see titles favoured that serve narrow principles rather than the overall objection of serving readers' needs. I hope this can be changed.
NoeticaTea? 07:11, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm sure we all agree that usability by readers is of paramount importance, and that making our titles concise is part of how we do that. The difference seems to be regarding the trade-off in utility between longer/more-descriptive titles and shorter/more-concise titles that are sufficiently precise to be unique. It's wrong to characterize those of us who favor titles that are only as precise as necessary as not giving usability by readers as much importance as those who favor more descriptive titles. Rather, we challenge the notion that a more descriptive title necessarily increases usability for readers. --Born2cycle (talk) 23:00, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

Discussion on the motion

  • Comment This and this were an interesting case in point. --Ohconfucius ¡digame! 07:40, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment—Look at this idiocy: Recovery Plan, which I've moved. It refers to "Endangered Species Recovery Plan", pursuant to a 1973 Act of the US Congress. Or what about this one, which I haven't moved: Single-unit. Tony (talk) 10:10, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
    • Single-unit doesn't even have a discussion page; it's hardly evidence that our titling policies are flawed, since the title of the article has never been discussed. I've moved it to a better title anyway. Powers T 12:15, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment I'm concerned that this may be part of a move to automate title choices (ie take editorial judgement out as much as possible and decide by things like googlehits), which the proposer is known to think is a good idea. For example, the motion does not mention the issue of POV titles which do not pass POVTITLE (and which may therefore necessitate switching to a descriptive title) - the proposer has in the recent past expressed the view that commonality defines neutrality such that the most common found name in a hit count is by definition the most neutral (and all objections on NPOV grounds are automatically invalid). As examples, I found the Plymouth discussion quite disturbing. I'm surprised some people thought a make of car would, in an encyclopedia, take precedence over the historically important city. The Anne Hathaway discussion too: primary topic is not simply a matter of numbers; we can't be switching around based on what's fashionable one year or the next. Encyclopedic aspirations aside, I would like to see mention made of the role to be played by editorial judgement and consensus where matters are not (and never will be) cut and dried.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 10:38, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
Though I disagree with Krol in examples (I think Plymouth should be a disam; largely because of the American city and colony more than the car), I agree with him in abstract. The upshot of this is titles that are too long and may violate POV. Take for example, the move of Missouri Executive Order 44 from Extermination order. The first thing you should notice about those titles is that they're completely different. The reason I fought for this move was not only because "extermination order" is vague, but also because MXO44 didn't exactly lead to a mass extermination, and therefore violated POV
I think we may even be barking up the wrong tree altogether. Most of the problems we have with titles come from people who don't understand article conventions creating or moving titles. I think our energy would be better served getting page patrollers to pay attention to titles in addition to Purplebackpack89≈≈≈≈ 15:10, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
Krol, primary topic has changed significantly, particularly with respect to taking historical importance into account, since the Plymouth and Hathaway discussions. Anyway, what does this have to do with the motion? --Born2cycle (talk) 17:06, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
B2C, it's all about how this motion will be used in future arguments (why have this motion when there's the no confidence motion going on at the same time? What's the substantive difference?). Certain elements in WP:article title have in recent times been subject to some (in my opinion unsuitably) strong readings by certain editors (and not just you), in particular with regard to a general notion that popularity of a term basically outweighs anything else. Primary topic is clearly one of those elements open to that, as is the converse principle of commonname. I would be more comfortable if the motion emphasised that Article Title forms a suitable guide to decision-making. As it stands I've seen text like that in the motion interpreted as a hard statement of rules, and I'm concerned it might be cited like that in the future. (What is not mentioned also matters, as we saw with WP:Criteria, where any principle not listed was argued by some thereby not to matter, even if elsewhere in the text other principles were clearly listed as important.) I would also feel more comfortable if the reference to descriptive titles was that they can be applied where topics have no suitable (or appropriate) name, not just no name. If these were in, I'd support. VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 07:04, 12 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment - Simple fact... choosing the most appropriate title for an article is ultimately a matter of consensus (the policy even says so). Consensus is often a messy process. People frequently disagree (sometimes vehemently). The only way to get past disagreements is through discussion. When forming a consensus, we should take policy and guidelines into consideration... but (and this is important) the end result of a consensus discussion might well be to favor one aspect of policy one over the others (and which aspect gets favored can and will be inconsistent from one situation to another). Indeed the consensus might even be to ignore certain aspects all together. This is why WP:AT intentionally does not present a set of rules to be followed in every case... it instead lays out broad principles... things that we should to take into consideration when reaching a consensus. The policy does this very well (which is why I have confidence in it). It only fails if you try to make it into something it was never intended to be... a set of rules. Blueboar (talk) 15:19, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
    • I agree with you, but this motion does not even broach the issue of whether the policy is rules or not. --Born2cycle (talk) 17:06, 11 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Comment. This is why I get the feeling that many people are disagreeable - they disagree for the sake of disagreeing. Look at some of the oppose commentary above. So typical. Do they disagree with the substance of what is proposed? No, they look at who made the motion (yours truly), and then decide to disagree because of who proposed it (and what that implies in their minds), not with the substance of what is proposed. The tell-tale signs are that the comments are about the proposer rather than about the words of the motion.

    Can't we simply put aside past agreements and find common ground? That's what this motion is supposed to be. That, and a clarification about an important point, I believe. A point for which I was sure there was wide consensus support (which not all of my views enjoy, I know). --Born2cycle (talk) 17:17, 11 October 2011 (UTC)

B2C, I looked at the form and content of the motion you put, and found it badly written, with no clear intention, and no obvious focus on the needs of readers. Compare the preceding well-worded motion that you thrust to the background (though it was still under discussion):

"That given the massive expansion in en.WP articles over the past few years, clarity for readers (i.e., the level of specificity in article titles) needs to assume a greater role in our decision-making, and the notion of primary topic needs to be re-examined in this light."

I could therefore not support your motion. I did think, even as I composed my comment when I opposed, "how typical"! Just as you have thought and written, against those you oppose. Common ground would be great. But it takes concessions on all sides: and at the very least a readiness to answer bona fide questions in full. I don't see enough people doing that. It also takes usually accepting appointed judges' decisions, even if we don't like them. Only rarely is it worthwhile to make a fuss. Put the hard work into finding common ground, yes. That is the best base from which to drain the swamp of ignorance and unclarity. Better, at least, than the growing obsession with legalistic provisions that can be neatly applied without regard for the actual purpose of Wikipedia – provisions currently modulated at RMs more effectively by sectional and local interests than by any frank appeal to the global reach and purpose of the Project. NoeticaTea? 07:39, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
Finding common ground and agreeing to compromise are two completely different strategies for dealing with disagreement. I'm all for the former, but the latter is what paves the road to Hell.

Common ground for us should be the principles for which we have broad consensus agreement. That's what forms the basis of my arguments, including this proposal. If your common ground is something else (like from whatever is the spring for the idea that "[the level of specificity in article titles] needs to assume a greater role"), then I don't see how agreement is possible. --Born2cycle (talk) 16:41, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

Thank you for your definitions. I like it when people provide those. I had worked with different ones, but I can be flexible. The discussion has become far too vexed and noisome for any good resolution just now. I look forward eventually to a resounding and universal endorsement of this idea: "Titles should be chosen for the greatest usefulness to readers." The rest is detail; and the provisions of title policy need to be monitored so they keep serving that overall goal. That's my push. Perhaps we are all now clearer about some of the issues. How about dropping the discussion, and revisiting the issues when we've all digested what's been said this time? More words will not nourish understanding, if they pass through without slow consideration. NoeticaTea? 23:06, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Huh? - What's with all these legalistic machinations? Motion of confidence? Is this Wikipedia, or Robert's Rules of Order? Why are we letting lawyers run roughshod over our project? For people without lawyerly inclinations, there is no problem with the rules. The only problems are when people try to turn them into fodder for lawyering. Stop lawyering. Stop with the "motions". Write an encyclopedia. -GTBacchus(talk) 18:40, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
GTBacchus, your annoyance is understandable. Myself, I would not have introduced such motions here. But I certainly understood Tony's one, and I support it as raising a serious concern that I share with him. There are genuine problems with provisions on this policy page. You must be aware how they are interpreted at RMs, and when deciding how to close RMs you have to interpret them also. The issues belong squarely on this talkpage. I don't think they are well treated in current discussions here, or in recent weeks. The standard of debate is pretty poor. I think we need more focus and more frank answering of genuine questions, for a start. What can be done to achieve that? It takes insight, patience, and respect on all sides. B2C, JCScaliger, you, me – we can all be accused of not meeting those stringent demands. Let's all try harder. Uncompromising confrontation is no solution; nor is just leaving the room muttering about the ones who have stayed. NoeticaTea? 22:53, 13 October 2011 (UTC)
Noetica, I appreciate your conciliatory words, and I take them to heart. I think you understand that it is my carefully considered opinion that the whole language of "motions" and other such legalistic notions are antithetical and destructive to Wikipedia. It's important to think about how we interpret our titling guidelines.

That said, thinking about these issues by staging debates on this page is misguided. On this page, we should be talking about what we've observed of consensus in the field. That's all we need to talk about here: What's commonly held, what's still muddy, and how can we most efficiently write that down, in a way that gives the least possible grist to the lawyers' mill? I would be so delighted to talk about specific RM decisions, but people want to argue about abstract concepts instead. Wikipedia is neither a legislative body, nor a debating society, and I'm concerned that we're encouraging both of these destructive wrong aims.

We need to encourage people to read guidelines less, have more contempt for guideline pages, and listen to consensus more. We need to encourage people to debate less, and listen more. We need to encourage people to care less about the precise wording of guidelines, and listen to specific consensus decisions about specific questions. Abstraction to general principles can come later, or not at all. It's not clear how much it really helps the project. -GTBacchus(talk) 20:42, 14 October 2011 (UTC)

Why do we mislead editors?

Can someone tell me why this policy doesn't provide sufficient explanation, preferably with quite a few examples of too specific and too general, to avoid this kind of horror?


Tony (talk) 10:35, 14 October 2011 (UTC)

In what way is Devolvement a "horror"? And how would you suggest we fix it? Blueboar (talk) 13:24, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm assuming Tony is horrified because it is so vague; you'd have no idea what it is by looking at the title. There seems to be some debate about whether identifying something by the title alone is even a goal. To answer Tony, I would say that the subject of that article is not the primary topic of the term, since it is not more important/common/whatever than all other uses of the term combined. It should probably redirect to delegation? I don't know. ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 17:19, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't see any other uses for "devolvement" in WP, so, not only is it the primary topic for "devolvement" (regardless of what its title is, Devolvement would redirect to it), it's the only topic for "devolvement". Now, whether there is a title that better answers our primary criteria questions is a separate issue, but that discussion is for Talk:Devolvement. --Born2cycle (talk) 17:31, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
"I don't see any other uses for "devolvement" in WP"—delegation. That subject is the PT for the term devolvement, I think. ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 18:10, 14 October 2011 (UTC)

The article should simply be deleted, as there's no notable topic there. Or an article on devolvement in finance might be useful, but pretending it has something to do with India in paritcular is lame. Dicklyon (talk) 17:35, 14 October 2011 (UTC)

👍 Like --Born2cycle (talk) 17:53, 14 October 2011 (UTC)
It may well be uniquely Indian jargon. Most other dialects would find devolution. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 04:58, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

Scare quotes in titles under discussion

There is a discussion about the use of scare quotes in article titles here, please participate. Roger (talk) 13:27, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

Significant majority in WP:POVTITLE needs defining

As a slight spin off from a blocking policy discussion I made the point that "significant majority" isn't clear enough and is too easy to bend as being anywhere between ~50 and ~95%. I think we should give an approximate numeric figure for clarity as to what "significant majority" means. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:22, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

My proposal for that figure is ~80%, but I'm perfectly happy to go for something else - a line in the sand is much more important than what the value is. The idea of this is to avoid doctoral thesis length discussions - like the one that was had on abortion naming, because this policy wasn't clear enough. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:30, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
I think it this needs to be a bit ambiguous as it depends on the situation. In particular I think it depends on the strength of the claims that a certain term is non-neutral. If only very weak evidence can be found for a term being considered non-neutral, I think 80% is way too high a requirement. On the other hand, if there is good evidence (like in the abortion case) that a certain terms are considered unneutral, a 70 or 80% requirement would seem be reasonable.TheFreeloader (talk) 19:46, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
I can definitely live with (~70-80%) being the addition - that would still have been enough to avoid some of the discussion at abortion - as ~65% was as high as was attained there for pro-life.
Given neutrality is non-negotiable you are unlikely to win the point with the current rules if its less than ~70% in favour anyway. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:50, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
Significant is not just about numbers... quality of sources factors into a significant majority just as much as quantity. Best to leave this intentionally undefined. Blueboar (talk) 20:06, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
I agree with this, and if we give a specific number, it might also give the incorrect impression that usage can be exactly measured with something like Google search results.TheFreeloader (talk) 20:21, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
So how do we propose to solve the matter of doctoral thesis length discussions over this stuff - and/or dispair from editors who can't be bothered to write a doctoral thesis to win the point?
I would have thought the issue of "just doing a Google" is more than covered by the bit saying "English-language reliable sources" - claiming editors will start ignoring that more if a (rough) range is given seems like a strawman argument to me. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:28, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
Do we have a 'standardized' table anywhere with common terms so that we don't have to keep inventing definitions? Something like:
Type of consensus Percent Comments
Majority 51% not normally used
Consensus 70-80%
Override 75-80% When overriding a previous consensus poll
Strong Consensus 75-85%
Note: Editor opinions are not votes so the consensus is determined by the closing administrator based on the strength of offered facts, policies and guidelines.
Not sure if doing something like this is good or bad, but it may allow using a 'standard' term without defining it everyplace it is used. Also if this does seem like a good idea, can we implement it here or does it need a wider forum for discussion? Probably moving to a sub page and and RFC if that is what we need. Vegaswikian (talk) 21:36, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
I suggest changing the wording from:

as evidenced through usage in a significant majority of English-language reliable sources...


as evidenced through usage in at least about two-thirds of English-language reliable sources...

That's more specific without being too specific. --Born2cycle (talk) 21:57, 19 October 2011 (UTC)
That sounds good. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:59, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── I oppose any such attempt at artificial numerical precision. It ignores the quality or relevance of sources, and assumes too much concerning the precision of Googlebook searches and the like. Too many provisions in policy and guidelines are being read legalistically and literally, without considering the overall good. We need to look again at that, and get our bearings. We should not add more opportunities for descent into increasingly unhelpful detail. The needs of readers are ignored too often, in mechanical application of rules.

NoeticaTea? 23:00, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

I don't understand this aversion to a "mechanical application of rules". I mean, if the rule suggests a bad result, we always have IAR. And the need to use IAR more than very rarely suggests a bad rule. But if a rule can be followed mechanically and rarely if ever creates a situation that requires IAR, what's the problem?

On the plus-side when the rules can be applied mechanically, that means there is no need for spending time and resources arguing about whether this or that point is more important, and editors can focus on more important tasks. The encyclopedia would be improved with more "mechanical application of rules", not less! --Born2cycle (talk) 23:19, 19 October 2011 (UTC)

I have to agree with Noetica here. I think the premise of rule-bound editing promotes an environment in which the rules become more important than the content. olderwiser 00:16, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
For me, the aversion stems from the fact that this policy isn't intended to be a set of firm "rules". It is instead a statement of broad principles. I see the policy as consisting of a number of "considerations"... things that should be taken into account during the admittedly wishy-washy process of consensus building that determines how we choose the best title for an article.
Say, for example, we do a google search and find 100 sources... they are split 70/30 in favor of a particular usage... we take that into consideration. It might or might not be what determines the article's title. However, we should also look at the quality of those sources. If the 30 are all high quality sources and the 70 are all unreliable personal websites, we need to take this into consideration as well. It might or might not be the determining factor. There is no formulaic approach here. And sometimes the only way to find the best title is to spend a long time arguing the pros and cons of each title and how each relates to the considerations layed out in the policy... until we reach a consensus. Blueboar (talk) 00:20, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict) Bkonrad, I don't see how, especially in this context of titles, which isn't about content by definition (unless you mean something other than "article content" by "content"). Good rules just provide a consistent and predictable way to make consistent and good decisions for our readers. Again, rules that don't do that can be quickly identified by the fact that we found ourselves invoking IAR to get around them. But even there, the solution is to fix the rule so that IAR is not needed, not to make all the rules more vague and less useful.

For example, consider the RM discussion over at The Bubble Boy. Noetica opposes the move based on a complicated utility argument, while Powers and I oppose per the simple and mechanical application of primary topic.

Now, imagine if everyone had to argue in terms of utility in every RM discussion. It would be a nightmare.

Good rules are consistently based on fundamental principles that get us quickly and efficiently to the "right" outcome without mess or fuss. That's a good thing. --Born2cycle (talk) 00:26, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

B2C, your argument is premised on the rather dubious assumption that it is possible to reduce the activities of creating and maintaining Wikipedia to mechanistic rules. That is an article of faith I cannot buy into. Human knowledge is messy and complex. And Wikipedia, as an attempt to present a partially refined distillation of such knowledge, is also necessarily messy and complex. You assume that there are "right" outcomes, but in many cases, especially those that involve divergent positions, there is no predetermined correct outcome. Uncontroversial issues, for the most part, are resolved currently without significant mess or fuss. Difficult issues will continue to be difficult regardless of any mechanistic rules you might want to conjure. olderwiser 01:08, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
First, we're talking here, WP:AT, exclusively about deciding titles, a relatively clear and simple part of writing an encyclopedia (as compared to deciding what goes into article content, how to organize it, etc.). Second, I know we can reduce much of that title-decision process to mechanistic rules. I'd say probably well over half the articles here could be easily titled correctly (the same as they are currently named) by a computer program. As you know, many articles were so titled (U.S. cities, for example). And of course there is the First Last convention for people. Disambiguation is a separate matter, but even there it's often mechanistic too. So the issue is not is it mechanistic or not, but how mechanistic is it, and, can we make it more mechanistic, and, if we could, would that improve the encyclopedia. I think it would simply because it would mean less time/resources on title decision and therefore more time/focus on content, if nothing else. See new sub-section below for more details on what I mean. --Born2cycle (talk) 01:29, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
The illusion that article titles can be reduced to rules, and the inference that such rules can and should be broadly applied with minimal human intervention, is I think a very bad thing. I'll repeat again, those actions that are not controversial already take place with minimal mess or fuss. Difficult issues will continue to be difficult regardless of any mechanistic rules you might want to conjure. If it is possible to provide better guidance without the illusion of mechanistic rules, I'm fine with that. IMO, such guidance is better framed as general principles and resources that describe current practices and that are flexible enough to be applied very broadly, even if the results are not always cleanly deterministic, rather than algorithmic formula that give a misleading aura of certainty. olderwiser 01:46, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
We seem to agree that there are easy cases and difficult cases. The difference is that you seem to be believe the difficult cases are destined to be difficult cases no matter what, while I believe many of them can be easy cases too, with improved rules.

I can defend my position with countless examples. But first, I will point out that the easy cases are precisely those cases for which existing mechanistic rules, whether they are explicitly stated or understood via common sense, apply.

Now, here are some examples.

  • City names. For most countries just use the city name if it's unique or the primary use of that name. If it requires disambiguation, see the country-specific convention for disambiguation. For certain countries (on a known list - therefore mechanistic) use a specific naming convention even if the name is unique or primary.
  • ENGVAR We have a mechanistic rule for deciding what to do in cases where different varieties of English spell the name differently: go with the first established variety.
  • TV episodes Use the name of the episode if no disambiguation is required. If disambiguation is required, add the name of the series with parenthetic disambiguation.
  • People. Use First Last unless: the person is most commonly known by some other name, or disambiguation is required. If disambiguation is required, use parenthetic disambiguation with the commonly known distinguishing characteristic of the person (usually their occupation).
My point is that the easy cases are easy precisely because we have clear mechanistic rules that apply in those cases. It follows then that the difficult cases are difficult because we don't have clear mechanistic rules that apply in those cases, and, if we did, they would be easy cases too. That doesn't mean that we could or should come up with mechanistic rules for every single titling case in WP. I suspect the law of diminishing returns begins to apply at some point. However, in general, if we try to make our rules more mechanistic and apply in more cases, where we can, I'm sure we will succeed in reducing the pile of difficult cases by a significant degree.

This is why it's so frustrating to see efforts at making more rules more mechanistic obstructed by the argument that this stuff is not supposed to be mechanistic. Sure we've made (say) 70% of the cases easy by having mechanistic rules for them, but God Forbid let's not try to improve that to be 80% or even 75%. We need to decide all of these individually "by consensus".

It's that objection (in so many words) that I can't understand. Am I missing something? --Born2cycle (talk) 03:19, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

A large part of why I object to promoting the illusion of mechanistic rules is that such formulaic rules too easily become weapons to suppress minority opinions. I think guidance framed as formulaic algorithms tends to shut down meaningful dialog and encourages legalistic hair-splitting. Where there is clear guidance to be formulated, based on current best practices, then by all means we should try to articulate that guidance as helpfully as possible. But I think that guidance is best framed as general principles supplemented with examples rather than simplistic thresholds, as the proposal presented in this section seemed to. olderwiser 03:43, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
Okay, this helps. I understand that you and many others object to... shall we say, "rules for the sake of rules"? Rules that make us lose sight of what's really important? If that's what you're getting at, is it similar to the objection one might have to being ticketed for going 67 mph in a 65 mph zone? In that case, the important issue is to not be going so fast as to constitute a hazard, but since "so fast as to be a hazard" is a very subjective and difficult-to-measure-and-enforce standard, we come up with the more precise "max 65 mph" (a simplistic threshold). However, if that rule is rigidly enforced, then it becomes more about the rules than the reason for having those rules. Something like that?

But here's the difference. In traffic there are real important issues at stake. I mean, people are trying to get somewhere. People could get killed. Fines have to be paid. Time has to be taken getting the ticket, going to court, traffic school, etc.

But that's not the case here. I mean, mostly we're talking about which of two (sometimes more) candidate terms should be the title of a Wikipedia article. There's nothing really that important at stake here, is there? So if we have a simplistic threshold-based rule that indicates some title other than some other title... so what? Why is it important that - for the purpose of choosing article titles - we have this nuanced approached to make sure we get it "right" (as if there is a "right")?

What seems to me to be at stake is WP editor time. If the candidates for a given article are, say X, Y (foo) or Z, and the simplistic threshold-based mechanistic rule indicates X, what benefit is there to spend hours (sometimes week, months or even years) arguing about whether one of the other two might be better? The cost of doing that is clear, but the benefit is not. Not to me.

Now, I can hear you laughing out loud from here, because I, personally, have spend countless hours arguing about this stuff. But if you look at my history, I think I'm pretty consistent about not arguing that some candidate is better than the other for some nebulous reasons, but because the mechanistic rules (policy, guidelines, conventions), as I can best understand them (and they are imperfect beasts), indicates one rather than another. And the other thing I try to do, is improve the rules so that they are less ambiguous, to get that percentage of articles for whom the titles can be determined simplistically/mechanically without prolonged discussion to be higher rather than lower. So what I try to do is get the titles better in line with the rules, and the rules better in line with the titles, so that we have a better/lighter/more precise/more effective title-deciding process.

In short, I understand the aversion to deterministic rules and their oppressiveness in general, especially in real life, or even with respect to all kinds of issues related to article content, but specifically with respect to picking titles for articles? Why is it so important to have freedom to finesse (if you will) in this particular context? Why not come up with simplistic/mechanistic, even Draconian, rules with respect to the relatively unimportant task of deciding titles? Who are what would be harmed, and how, presuming the titles that are indicated by such rules are within the reasonable range, if you know what I mean? --Born2cycle (talk) 05:34, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

No, the speeding analogy mostly misses the point. In general, and especially in a dynamic culture with a very fluid constituency such as Wikipedia, I think reduction of action to formulaic rules produces undesirable effects. While you personally might be committed to using continual improvement processes to revise rules as needed, that is relatively uncommon. People are, I'd suggest, more inclined to see rules as received knowledge that places constraints on activities rather than internalizing through participation what the principles are and how they can be applied in a specific situation.

I think that a large part of the success of Wikipedia is due precisely to the fundamental principle that Wikipedia does not have firm rules. Although this may make some Wikipedia processes such as AfD or RM seem like Calvinball to those who prefer the certainty of rules-based thinking, I'd argue that the long, often-repetitious discussions that you dismiss as unproductive are actually very near the heart of what makes Wikipedia successful. It is participatory engagement in defining what principles are important in a given context and how such principles can be applied.

Besides, the issues that result in lengthy discussions are rarely something that can be determined by a simplistic threshold-based mechanistic rule, or at least not by any rule that would enjoy wide support among the participants in such discussions. I'm sure you think otherwise, but that I guess that is at the core of our disagreement. I'd frame the issue as a matter of rules versus principles. The U.S. Internal Revenue Code is an example of what happens when rules-based thinking takes precedence over the thoughtful application of principles.

For an interesting perspective on how rules can produce unwanted results in a context outside Wikipedia, consider these opinions on accounting rules [6] and [7]. From personal experience, the U.S. FDA "rules" regarding the validation of software can sometimes produce a culture where the goal of software testing shifts away from ensuring that software functions as needed to support critical operations towards doing the minimum amount of testing that will pass muster with auditors. That is, I think rules-based thinking encourages a mindset in which the objective becomes legalistic parsing of the rules rather than honest engagement with principles (or complying with the letter of the law without consideration of the spirit). I've also just discovered this interesting essay on the topic. There are relevant perspectives from education theory as well. Consider this essay. I especially like this quote from Kenneth Burke:

Imagine that you enter a parlor. You come late. When you arrive, others have long preceded you, and they are engaged in a heated discussion, a discussion too heated for them to pause and tell you exactly what it is about. In fact, the discussion had already begun long before any of them got there, so that no one present is qualified to retrace for you all the steps that had gone before. You listen for a while, until you decide that you have caught the tenor of the argument; then you put in your oar. Someone answers; you answer him; another comes to your defense; another aligns himself against you, to either the embarrassment or gratification of your opponent, depending upon the quality of your ally's assistance. However, the discussion is interminable. The hour grows late, you must depart. And you do depart, with the discussion still vigorously in progress. The Philosophy of Literary Form 110-111.

Wikipedia is exactly such an ongoing discussion in which individual participants come and go. I think we should encourage engagement in the discussion and I can't help but feel that reducing actions to mechanistic rules short-circuits that engagement.

I suppose a part of what I see as the issue is terminology. While I don't think that you see your "rules" as having the force of law, I think that casting them in the framework of mechanistic rules has an effect similar to giving students a textbook with all the received knowledge pre-digested for them, rather than having them engage with the issues and understand what principles apply and how they should be prioritized in specific contexts. olderwiser 15:38, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Again, please read the section below. I'm quite clear about the rule-following part being the initial and only hopefully but not necessarily the final step in the naming process. I think of the policy and guidelines and conventions as an oracle which we consult, and then decide if we go with that or not. But, if we decide not, then we explain to the oracle why his answer was inadequate, as best as we can, so that he hopefully can give us the appropriate answer the next time.

Another analogy is the rules of solitaire. You are free to follow the rules, or not. But if they're good rules, following the rules will be more satisfying. --Born2cycle (talk) 15:51, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

I have read the section below and it does nothing to assuage my concerns. It appears to prioritize rules over principles and is based on a dubious assumption that there is a correct title which can be determined by the application of rules and the further dubious assumption that rules can be created which consistently satisfy all the varied constituencies of Wikipedia editors across the diverse contexts of articles. olderwiser 16:35, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't understand how you could read it to mean any of that that. First, given that the outcome of the rules is evaluated in phase 2a to verify the choice made by the rules is consistent with our principles, and rejected if it's not ("2a evaluates the output of phase 1, either approving the outcome or coming up with another one"), how do you read it to mean that it prioritizes rules over principles? Of course, the whole point is to have rules that are based on the principles. The difference between a good rule and a bad rule is that the good rule produces results consistent with the principles, while the bad rule produces results that violate the principles. But that's how we identify the bad, or broken, rules, so that we know they need fixing. Hence the two-phase approach, and, in particular, phase 2b, the rule-fixing part. That's the whole point. To say that this prioritizes rules over principles completely misses the main idea!

Given that this approach accounts for cases where the rules do not produce a selection ("if it doesn't indicate anything for a given situation, or ..."), how do you conclude that it assumes "rules can be created which consistently satisfy ..."? The goal is to improve the rules so that they do produce a good result consistent with our principles in more and more cases over time, but never is it assumed that they will ever be perfect in that regard. Just better next year than this year, hopefully. In other words, we try to continually improve the rules so that there are fewer and fewer cases where there are questions and issues that need to be resolved via debate and discussion.

I've put a lot of thought and effort into this approach, and it's frustrating to see you object to it on grounds which are based on such enormous misconceptions about what, it seems to me, it clearly says. I apologize if I was not clear and that's why you misunderstood. --Born2cycle (talk) 17:02, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

(edit conflict) Exactly, Blueboar. Often, the existence of a significant minority alternative is what's important, not the majority percentage. This request if a bad idea. Not that I'm in favor of spending a long time arguing, but that trying to work with percentages will make that worse, not better. Take a look at Born2cycle's history that led me to refer to him as Born2count; flaky counting approaches have led to lots of long hassles, and I'd rather see that stop. Maybe the moniker was unfair; his affinity for "mechanical" may indeed be more related to "cycle"; who knows? Dicklyon (talk) 00:30, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict)Blueboar, good example, which would be relevant if our principle or rule was simply, "go with the most number of hits according to google". But that's not what we say. Instead, we talk about predominant usage in reliable sources, etc. So a rule that says look at raw google results without regard to the quality of the sources would be a bad rule looking for an improvement. But a rule that is properly worded does not make bad suggestions like that. The measure of the "goodness" of a rule is the ratio of how often it indicates the right title vs the wrong title, assuming a context in which it applies. As that ratio approaches infinity, we have a rule that we can depend on mechanically, but the dependence should never be blind. There is always IAR, there is always the opportunity to tweak and improve. In fact, the whole point of improving the rules is based on the assumption that it's possible to follow them mechanically. Otherwise, why bother? --Born2cycle (talk) 00:33, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
We may not say "go with the most number of hits according to google" but have a look at the current debate at Talk:Burma#Requested move: Burma --> Myanmar, to see such a method being put forward. -- PBS (talk) 15:14, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
There is nothing wrong with examining the number of google hits. The number of google hits is one of several tests we can use to help us determine how common a particular name is ... but it isn't the only method of doing so, and it does have limitations. Also, commonality, while important, is not the only consideration we must take into account. Choosing the most appropriate title for an article almost always involves finding a balance between the various principles and considerations that are laid out in this policy. Each article title is unique, and so determining where that balance lies will be a bit different from one article to the next. Sometimes striking a balance will be easy... and sometimes it will be very difficult. Blueboar (talk) 16:15, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

The two phases of the title decision process

There are really two phases in the title decision process. The first phase is the objective application of the relevant rules, a process which ideally suggests exactly one title. The second phase is the subjective evaluation of what was indicated by the first phase. If the first phase indicates exactly one particular title and there are no objections, great. However, if it doesn't indicate anything for a given situation, or gives multiple candidates, then not only do we have make the decision subjectively, ideally it's an opportunity to improve the relevant rules too. In that sense phase 2 itself has two phases, 2a and 2b: 2a evaluates the output of phase 1, either approving the outcome or coming up with another one. 2b is only needed when the outcome of phase 1 is not approved in 2a; it's rule evaluation/improvement.

Ideally, the second phase is just a formality and 2b is never needed. In reality, phase 1 does not always work out so perfectly and 2b is an opportunity to review and improve our rules. But as our rules are improved and honed like this, we should be getting a higher and higher number of cases where phase 2 does not find a problem with phase 1, and the percentage of title decisions that can be made mechanically approaches 100%. --Born2cycle (talk) 00:49, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Or... we can accept that there are no firm "rules" for people to apply ... instead we have a set of "broad principles" that we should consider and weigh against each other... and which will help us reach a consensus as to what the most appropriate title for a specific article is. In which case the process is much more fluid... examine all the possible titles and see which principles indicate which titles. Weigh these principles against each other, taking into account the unique circumstances of the article. Finally, reach a consensus as to the best title for the article. Blueboar (talk) 16:15, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes, that's the other -- currently more popular -- approach. But why - and again we're talking only about deciding titles here -- do you believe that it is better? How is the encyclopedia improved by a system that requires people to discuss and debate issues that are ultimately unimportant, when we could have a system that, in many more cases than occurs currently, gives us a definitive answer without all that time-consuming pointless back-and-forth? --Born2cycle (talk) 16:41, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
While you might dismiss some issues as "ultimately unimportant", the fact that such issues produce such lively and prolonged discussions indicate that not everyone shares your opinion. olderwiser 16:52, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
(ec) I think it better because it gives us the flexibility to take into consideration unique circumstances. I think it better because I believe that the issues being debated are important (otherwise people would not debate them) and all that time-consuming back and fourth isn't pointless (in fact, I think it a rather important part of the process, as in the long run, reaching a consensus will result in fewer debates later). Blueboar (talk) 16:55, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
All failing to have firm rules does is result in doctoral thesis length discussions on article moves, as we suffered this year with Abortion and China to name two examples. This is obviously bad as either you waste huge amounts of editors time or people give up. The latter meant we had China, a WP:VITAL article, at the clearly wrong title for the first 10 years of the projects existence, which is just embarrassing.
The only level to which people are ever going to class reliable sources (to give "flexibility" any point at all) is to class sources into academic sources and non-academic sources. To give a sample argument on source quality beyond that prove to me that the Economist is a better source than The Times - its obvious, but you aren't going to be able to prove it. In support of this being tedious in the aforementioned "China" move discussion (which overall was at least a doctoral thesis in length) none of the pro Taiwan guys even bothered to criticise Xinhua (beyond being a Chinese source) in terms of source quality .
While changing the rule might cause in some rare instance to not be able to have the correct title (which I cannot think of a single real world example - as if its not controversial no-one will care to argue against moving anyhow) the current position de-facto leads to the inability to change the status quo except in the most obvious of cases. It effectively de-facto sticks a percentage of 90% (and probably ~60% against not moving an article) in front of the significant majority statement in terms of what you are able to do - which definitely isn't the intention of the text from this discussion. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:39, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict)Guys, regardless of what we imagine about what others think... do you think it's relevant to the quality of Wikipedia whether it's Yogurt or Yoghurt? Chicago or Chicago, Illinois? Toyota Prius or Prius? Bill Clinton or William Jefferson Clinton? Those are off the top of my head. Here are some from WP:RM: Immanuel Christian School or Immanuel Christian School (Winnipeg, Manitoba)? Adapted Physical Education or Adapted physical education? Cannibals – Welcome to the Jungle or Welcome to the Jungle (2007 film)? How is the quality of Wikipedia even affected, much less improved, by doing something other than just randomly choosing either one in each of these and countless other similar cases?Not that I'm suggesting randomly choosing - I'm just trying to understand how you think WP is improved by these choices. I mean, how would WP be harmed by having a rule that said something like this... if consensus cannot decide which of two titles is best, go with the one that is first alphabetically?

Blueboar, I agree in general that reaching a consensus will result in fewer debates later - but that does not really address what we're talking about here. A system with more deterministic rules is going to produce titles on which there is more consensus more often at the outset than a system with less deterministic rules. --Born2cycle (talk) 17:47, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Conversely, how do discussions of such moves detract from the quality of Wikipedia? If you think that the title an article has is unimportant, you are under no obligation to pay any attention to these discussions. Your examples from RM also fail to support your argument because, for example, the request to move Cannibals – Welcome to the Jungle to Welcome to the Jungle (2007 film) may well be because there is a redirect with an edit history at the title. Some admin editors might be bold and just move the page, other editors have to use the RM process, perhaps because they are not an admin or perhaps because they genuinely wanted other opinions on the matter to establish that it is not a maverick unilateral move. In so many cases there is not a single obviously correct title. Even China is far from being obvious (although I agree with the result in that). Similarly, the abortion-related title would also be very poorly served by imposing a top-down authoritarian regime in titling articles (which is what B2C's proposal sounds like to my reading). The only people "wasting their time"are those who choose to participate in the discussions. If you don't think the title of an article is important, then there are many other ways you can spend your time on Wikipedia. I can appreciate that you might feel this is an inefficient way of doing things, but I'd argue that it is very much a part of why Wikipedia is as successful as it is. olderwiser 18:27, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
So its "far from obvious" to pick the name for the People's Republic of China used by 95%+ of English language sources to refer to it. The only legitimate reason not to use "China" would be if we used the official name to refer to every other country - but we don't do that we use the common name. This is a dispute the rest of the world figured out in the 1970's.
With regards to abortion having a top down solution sounds perfect. That's essentially what's been asked of Arbcom in the ongoing case (wasting yet more time obviously) about the topic. Having a top down solution would prevent people from being able to argue it backwards and forwards at a micro level which is what leads to doctoral thesis length discussions.
WIth regards to choosing to discuss these things that is true, but we shouldn't be using the clearly wrong title for articles because people "can't be bothered" to argue the case because it just turns into a slow moving mudfest. That isn't healthy and doesn't deliver good results. If you have a top down rule - even if it leads to going the wrong way on your favourite article (not that any examples have been provided) - everyone can agree that its at least fair. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:09, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
(after ec) This is not the place and I've no interest in revisiting the discussion on China. Whatever your opinion, the extensive and contentious discussion speaks for itself regarding the non-obviousness of the title. Sometimes an arbcom ruling is the only recourse for resolution. But that is a last resort and I vehemently disagree that Wikipedia should institute practices to make top-down rulings more prevalent. What might be a "clearly wrong title" to you, is not so obvious to others. If you care about the title of an article, then engage in discussions. If you think discussions about choosing an article title are a waste of time, there are plenty of other things you could be doing. I also disagree that such discussions are unhealthy. They are what Wikipedia is. These only become unhealthy when participants become uncivil. I don't understand your last sentence. olderwiser 21:43, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
If you go on the street or down the pub and talk to people about China, no-one is going to have any issue figuring out which country (the People's Republic of China) you are discussing and if you use "People's Republic of China" they are going to think you are very odd. You are quite right that it has been controversial on wikipedia, however it is not controversial off wikipedia.
With regards to a top-down rule being "fair" it means you are going to treat all articles in a class in a consistent way - and I think most people can live with that.
Forcing discussions to be doctoral thesis length in order to resolve things is not healthy. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 06:03, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
Bkonrad, it would be helpful if you answered my question in addition to asking yours: Conversely, how do discussions of such moves detract from the quality of Wikipedia? I'll go ahead and answer yours never-the-less. All the time spent arguing about titles is not spent on improving the quality of WP, that's how it detracts from the quality of WP.

"In so many cases there is not a single obviously correct title." But in the vast majority of those cases there is not a single obviously correct title because people like you object to honing the rules so that there is a single obviously correct title, for at least most of these cases. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy!

I ask again, how in your opinion would the quality of Wikipedia even be affected, much less improved, by doing something other than just randomly choosing either the existing or proposed title in most cases brought to RM? --Born2cycle (talk) 19:45, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

(after ec) I purposely did not answer because I felt the question was irrelevant as the converse is equally as meaningless. The titles of articles matter to some people and so far as people care about what articles are titled that affects the quality of the encyclopedia. No one is forcing anyone to spend time arguing about titles. If you think it is a waste of time, then there are plenty of other ways you can improve the encyclopedia. But you do expend inordinate amount of effort on article titles, so you must think titles matter.

But in the vast majority of those cases there is not a single obviously correct title because people like you object to honing the rules so that there is a single obviously correct title, for at least most of these cases That is so ridiculously false and even insulting that I'm not even sure where to begin.

From the sound of it, we might as well autogenerate random unique sequences of characters for article titles rather then let human tendencies to have different perspectives on things get in the way. olderwiser 21:43, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

First you say it's "ridiculously false and even insulting" to say that you object to honing the rules so that there is a single obviously correct title, for at least most cases, and then you proceed to object to exactly that, with a straw man argument about auto-generated random unique sequences of characters.

Surely you understand that there are many ways to establish rules for deterministically choosing meaningful and reasonable titles for many more articles than we currently do; and that resorting to random unique strings is not required at all (though of course that is the extreme most simplistic way to establish titles deterministically).

But please clarify. Are you saying it's impossible to select meaningful and reasonable titles with deterministic rules, therefore we shouldn't even try? Or are you saying we don't want to do that even if it's possible, because vague non-deterministic rules with conflicts worked out in discussion and debate is preferable? --Born2cycle (talk) 22:04, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

The reason that there might not be a single correct title for many articles has nothing whatsoever to do with honing the rules or any objections I might have to your dubious propositions. We do have guidance that helps select article titles in most uncontroversial cases. I do think the guidance can be improved and is constantly being refined. But even in relatively uncontroversial cases, it is not always obvious what the best title is and I very much doubt that mechanistic rules can be formulated that will definitively resolve such cases. And BTW, that wasn't a straw man. It was pure sarcasm. olderwiser 22:22, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
Well then, I will reword. First you say it's "ridiculously false and even insulting" to say that you object to honing the rules so that there is a single obviously correct title, for at least most cases, and then you proceed to object to exactly that, with an argument dripping in sarcasm.

Anyway, so, is it your doubt that "mechanistic rules can be formulated that will definitively resolve such cases" that is at the root of your objection to even trying to formulate and adopt such rules? What if you were shown a set of rules that did exactly that? Or at least did a much better job than our policy etc. currently does in terms of percentage cases for which titles are deterministically selected by the rules? Would you still object to adopting them? If so, why? --Born2cycle (talk) 22:41, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

Your re-wording does not help. What I object to is the notion that there is a single correct title for every article and that such a title can be defined with a set of rules which are broadly acceptable. If you can come up with such a system and prove me wrong, that's just wonderful. But until then, don't expect me to jump on your bandwagon. olderwiser 23:24, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Okay, that helps. Now I know you're not against deterministic rules even if they're possible.

So, let's get to the heart of the matter. Would you agree that it's possible for one set of rules to deterministically select a title for a given percentage of all articles, requiring discussion for the remainder, and that there is almost certainly a revision of those rules that would increase that percentage, and reduce the size of the remainder that requires discussion? If so, would you also agree that such a revision would be desirable, and, conversely, that a revision to the rules that decreased the percentage of articles whose titles could be selected deterministically, and which increased the remainder that required discussion, would be less desirable? --Born2cycle (talk) 23:34, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

I would have thought that an objective application of rules and guidelines would be a pretty good approach, and I pretty much thought that was how I worked. But so often I found myself in conflict with Born2cycle, who claimed to be doing similarly, that I realized that the application of rules is in fact always subjective. And his attempts (and mine) to rewrite the rules to better support his (or my) opinion by "clarifying" what we think the rules mean, or to change the weight of different inputs to the decision process, make it clear that a mechanical process is not likely to work, unless the mechanics includes rewriting the rules as you go. Do the outcomes of these discussions make WP better? In many cases, not, or only a little, not commensurate with the effort invovled. So I try to just comment on the ones that involve matters of principle that help us make WP better and more consistent, or to put up a line of defense against those trying to move WP style in a direction that I think is worse (e.g. Enric Naval, the great capitalizer). Dicklyon (talk) 21:09, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

But the clearer and more prescribed the rules are the less subjective that discussions are. Currently there is no move discussion which I'm involved in - this change which I have suggested is simply to increase clarity based on previous discussions which have taken far more time and effort than they should. To be honest its also true that this policy is fairly clear - and that helps a lot - but obviously we can do a better job. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:13, 20 October 2011 (UTC)
Dick, I want nothing but to make the rules more deterministic. Show me a proposal that makes the rules more deterministic (that's reasonable enough for you to genuinely support it), and I'll show you a proposal that I'll join you in supporting. Yes, ambiguous rules can be mis-interpreted, and that can lead to conflict. But let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater - just because some rules are ambiguous and unclear doesn't mean rules can't be unambiguous and clear.

Consider our ongoing disagreement about titles being descriptive vs. concise. The reason I favor concise is precisely because that's a relatively deterministic rule. On the other hand, "descriptive" is most certainly not - once you accept that titles should be descriptive, that opens up a whole can of worms. How descriptive is sufficiently descriptive? If adding one more word clearly makes it more descriptive, must we add it? What about another word? And another? Where is the line?

But maybe I'm missing something. Propose a change to the rules that makes descriptive titles more acceptable, but also is more deterministic than the current situation (e.g., "precisely, but only as precise as necessary... titles should be concise"), and I will support it. --Born2cycle (talk) 21:37, 20 October 2011 (UTC)

B2C, why don't you come up with a formula of some kind, and apply it at titling discussions. If the result that that formula predicts is the one chosen following discussion in the clear majority of disputed cases, then you can bring it to the policy page as evidence of a formula that expresses what the community considers best practice. If it doesn't, hone it. You're doing things round the wrong way by trying to change policy first. By trying to change policy first, you'll simply meet opposition from a lot of editors (like me) who do not believe that introducing a formula for greater determinism in the way you want will be able to handle the subtleties and complexities of disputed cases. I've said this before, but people rely on policy in disputes, not when an issue is uncontroversial. At the moment, I keep seeing your approach being rejected quite a bit, which suggests the formula isn't working yet.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 06:15, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
Well obviously policy is only relied upon when the matter is controversial. But if the policy is clear then people are far less likely to disagree with you and it won't just be your analysis. This allows you to pick winnable battles and to reduce the length of discussion when you are discussing something.
Fixing the policy in abstract is far less likely to be controversial than fixing it during a dispute. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 06:27, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
I certainly don't mean that B2C should try change policy in a dispute - I've criticised him for doing that in the past. What I mean is road-test a more deterministic policy formulation over the next month or so, posting predictions before the dispute is finished, to see if that more deterministic policy has successfully captured what we actually decide in disputes. It would help to separate out two issues that have been thoroughly mixed up: streamlining how we make decisions, and what B2C would like those decisions to be. Sometimes it's hard to tell if B2C favours certain outcomes not because they're better, but because they're easier to model.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 06:58, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't think this is the sort of determinism that B2C or Eraserhead1 are advocating. I suspect they would prefer a mechanistic decision tree process that would result in exactly one title that would by fiat become the "correct" title regardless of what any discussion among editors might select as the title. olderwiser 13:02, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Seva, that's a good idea to come up with a formula of some kind. And I've started on such a project in the past. See User:Born2cycle/how2title and User:Born2cycle/Titles. These are not production-ready, but give you an idea of what I'm thinking about. I've abandoned how2title, but need to incorporate some of that into Titles, which is just getting started.

But that's kind of an extreme/ideal approach, and my discussions above were not really related to that. What I'm trying to discuss here is the general idea that more determinism in our "rules" (uses loosely as in IAR) regarding titles is desirable, and more ambiguity is less desirable; and that changes to policy and guidelines should take that into account. That is, we should ask ourselves the following about each change... Does this change make deciding titles more or less deterministic?.. Because more deterministic is better. More deterministic rules are better because that means less gray area and fewer seemingly endless disagreements and discussions about titles which often are about decisions that do not affect the quality of the encyclopedia (and hence are a waste of time). Let's make our rules more deterministic so less time is wasted on disagreeing and discussing issues that do not affect the quality of the encyclopedia, so more time can be spent on improving the encyclopedia.

You say "Sometimes it's hard to tell if B2C favours certain outcomes not because they're better, but because they're easier to model". Yes, that's because I often equate (within reason) "easier to model" with "better". That's because I believe in the vast majority of RM discussions there is no "better" as far as the encyclopedia quality is concerned. What is better, is having definitive rules that flip a coin for us so that we don't have to waste time deciding which of two equally good options is "better". Of course, some choices really are "better" than others, but in those cases our rules should already select the better title, and, if they don't, that's a sign they need to be updated.

And what I mean by "within reason" can be best explained by example. Either of the rules "always use UK English spelling" or "always use US English spelling" would be easier to model than ENGVAR, but it's unreasonable, given our goal of using and reflecting all varieties of English. But that doesn't mean we don't have rules - it means we must have more nuanced rules. Adding nuance to the rules does not preclude retaining determinism in the rules, if an effort is made to do so.

What I'm really trying to do here is persuade my colleagues here that it's worth putting in the effort to make our rules work like the learning/improving oracle I described above, and thus approaching title decisions in the two-phase approach also described above. --Born2cycle (talk) 16:36, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

No, it isn't worth it. We don't have an oracle; we don't even have rules. While they remain real-world controversies, we are unlikely to settle the titles on any such issue as Abortion or China; the only conceivable way is for more editors to care about Wikipedia titling than care about fetuses or about the Taiwan Straits.
Frankly, I think this even less likely than that the outside world will settle either issue so conclusively that the vanquished party will give up using Wikipedia to make its case. Since the advocates of Charles James Stewart are still trying to use WP as a trumpet, a quarter-millennium after Culloden, I do not foresee that either. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 21:30, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
If I understand you correctly, you're saying it isn't worth it not because you believe it's impossible to create more deterministic rules, but because you think it's unlikely that more deterministic rules will settle the titles on the most controversial issues (like abortion or China). Yes?

Well, if more deterministic rules would help settle titles for all but these most controversial issues, would it be worth it then?

And what about dividing this page into two parts (maybe still on the same page, maybe not), where the top part is principles, and the bottom part is rules? Then we would have rules, and they could be continually improved by using the above 2-phase method until they settled all but the most controversial titles, and even some of those. How about that? --Born2cycle (talk) 22:10, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

No, that is a separate issue; I do believe it to be impractical to create more deterministic rules which do the encyclopedia any good. That, at base, is the proposal for an algorithm which will successfully predict taste and judgment; there aren't any. That will happen some time after there are algorithmic natural-language translators which work. Since the judgment we require includes the questions which sources are current, which sources are reliable, and which sources are talking about the subject of the article, we will, shortly after that, be able to turn over article-writing to the algorithms.
Furthermore, our present conditions imply that any rules we come up with must apply to any subject on which the encyclopedia could conceivably have an article, and be applicable by hand by a group of hobbyists. That ain't happening, ever.
It would be relatively easy to come up with a set of deterministic rules which don't work; several editors have already come up with amateur beds of Procrustes which they are compelling the encyclopedia to fit on one or another matter. We don't need another. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 14:17, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
B2C, you mention abortion as a controversial issue which obviously wouldn't be handled by an algorithm of the sort you intend. Yet in the titling debate over pro-life/pro-choice, you specifically tried to apply Commonname even though the sheer number of editors present was a clear sign that this was a difficult case. What has changed in the interim that has led you to recognise that there are cases that need to be dealt with "by hand", as it were, and what are your criteria for identifying them?VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 15:16, 22 October 2011 (UTC)

Are we really arguing that giving a rough percentage (I like 2/3) for what "significant majority" means will make the policy worse? -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 15:36, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
No. But I believe it would make the policy worse:
  • The percentage should vary from article to article: very common topics would have lower percentage thresholds than very rare ones.
  • Partly for this reason, we disagree on the percentage; I would prefer 80%, but I may be thinking of a different class of topics.
  • in practice, writing 2/3 in will produce desperate arguments on whether the "true" figure is 65% or 68%; we have enough nonsense about pluralities now. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 17:04, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
  • And currently we cannot decide if it means 60% or 95%. Disagreeing over 65 or 68% would be a tiny issue compared to that. Even if the topic is rare it still needs to have a title and setting the number too low isn't going to make a big difference. An editor can claim that they think it means 60% or 95% and unless you can show they have double standards theres nothing you can do about it. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:21, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
The reason the China thing was finally sorted out sensibly was because in the scale of things - thanks to the hard work of Born2Cycle and others - we did actually get the right result due to the article titles policy being fairly good - but if it was even clearer there would have been less effort to get there. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 16:03, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
Finally sorted out? That was one move request. Wait six months, and there will be another. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 17:04, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
On what possible justification? The whole "its not NPOV" argument was completely discredited and there's nothing to go in its place. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:21, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
Please supply a link to the discussion. But do you really imagine the contending arguments over the Taiwan Straits have never been discredited before? They were bogus to start with; which didn't prevent them being made. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 17:33, 22 October 2011 (UTC)
Sure. Even if we assume you are correct - having a continued discussion (or one every 6 months) about the same topic, whatever it is, is hardly an argument in favour of less deterministic rules rather than more deterministic rules - if you have more deterministic rules - even in controversial topics which they might not fully address will probably address them more clearly and mean that continued long discussions can be avoided. Obviously with deterministic rules you still have a borderline (although a smaller one) but if there are less cases that fall into that camp - maybe abortion would be one - can be sorted out at Arbcom or by fiat/vote if needed. A good current example of a borderline case is Ireland, where there are good arguments for it being the country and for "all Ireland" aka the island. If we improve the rules less cases will fall into this middle ground camp which is better for the project as a whole. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 18:25, 22 October 2011 (UTC)

Commonname and Google News

The guidance here recommends Google Books and Google News for providing info for deciding commonname issues. But I think there's a bias with Google News that hasn't been taken into account.

Press agencies syndicate their content, so that a piece written by staff can end up being published on multiple news sites.

A hundred articles produced by the New York Times, the Guardian and and Sydney Morning Herald gets you a hundred returns on Google News. But a hundred articles produced by AP, AFP and Reuters could get you thousands of returns. So, lets say the first three prefer "tomayto" and the second three prefer "tomahto". Google news would tell you that "tomahato" wins by many hundred percent. But that's not a real reflection of the reality that the sources are split fairly evenly. It's actually a wildly unreliable place to look, at least in cases where house style is likely to be an issue.

My proposal is that News should not be recommended in the guidance, just Books.

--FormerIP (talk) 00:02, 21 October 2011 (UTC)

This is why you must always go beyond just the raw hit count and actually look at the results of a Google News search (or the results of a regular old Google searche). Looking the results of a Google News search can give you an indication of common usage. Blueboar (talk) 00:14, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
Well, in the real example that prompted me to post this, we are talking about millions of results. So how do I go about that? --FormerIP (talk) 00:25, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
Not easily. :>) Probably the best way is to take a representative sampling (say the first ten pages of the search result) and see how many of the hits are repeats of the same article printed in multiple papers and how many are unique. It won't give you an exact indication... but it will give an indication. Figuring out the most common name is rarely an exact science. Remember that the goal isn't to come up with the correct title, but to come up with a consensus as to the most appropriate title.
That said (and to play devil's advocate)... the concept that underlies WP:COMMONNAME is the concept of Recognizably - what terms and usages will the most number of English-speakers (our readers) recognize and think of when referring to the topic of the article. If an agency (AP, Reuters, etc.) reporter uses "X", and that report is picked up and repeated in lots and lots of papers, then lots and lots of people will read that report and be influenced by it. There will probably be more readers who come to recognize the usage "X" than there are readers who recognize the usage "Y". (or to put it another way... While "Y" may used by more individual reporters, "X" is read by more people). This leads to the valid argument that we should ignore the fact of repetition, and go with raw hit counts. Despite the fact that many of the hits are repetitions, the raw hit count actually gives us a clearer picture of what more people will recognize.
That said... there is a valid counter-argument to this (one that shows how complicated the issue can become and why we can't make firm rules about all of this)... The New York Times has a far larger circulation than say the Albany Times-Union or the Plattsburg Press-Republican. In fact, the NYT has a far larger circulation than the Times-Union and the Press-Republican put together. Now... Let us say that both the Times-Union and the Press-Republican pick up and print an AP report that uses "X"... but the NYT report uses "Y"... even though a Google News search will give us a hit count of 2-1 in favor of "X", more people will have been exposed to (and thus come to recognize) "Y".
So... Hit counts are useful, they can tell us something... but they don't tell us everything. Hit counts should be looked at and factored into the discussion... but we still need to look beyond the raw hit counts. We need to examine a) how many news reports use a term, b) which news reports use the term, and c) which papers picked up the report and repeated it. As I said at the beginning... not easy. Blueboar (talk) 15:25, 21 October 2011 (UTC)
I'd be inclined to keep Google News - as news sites are an important part of establishing usage. If there are a number of obviously high profile sources (e.g. the BBC) that have an opposing view then they can be stated individually if needed - I would expect most of the time people would be happy with raw hit counts anyway for most discussions.
Unless you can deterministically show what a high importance reliable source is we should avoid making detailed criteria based on it. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:21, 22 October 2011 (UTC)

Does combining the two names of a topic with "and" create a description of that topic?

Does combining two names of a topic with "and" create a description of that topic? That question is being discussed here. --Born2cycle (talk)

And I'm utterly perplexed about why you want to keep talking about this. Dicklyon (talk) 17:14, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
I think it's an interesting and important case. YMMV. --Born2cycle (talk) 20:19, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

Examples of articles about topics with names whose titles are descriptions

The lead of this page states:

An article title is a convenient label for the article, which distinguishes it from other articles. It need not be the name of the subject; many article titles are descriptions of the subject.

This has been interpreted to mean that articles about subjects that have names "need not be the name of the subject [and can be] descriptions of the subject".

Does anyone know of any examples of articles with titles that are not the name of the topic, but a description, about a topic that does have a name?

Unless those situations are not as extremely rare (if they exist at all) as I believe they are, I propose we change this wording to something like:

An article title is a convenient label for the article, which distinguishes it from other articles. Titles are usually but not always the name of the subject; articles about topics that have ambiguous names require natural or parenthetic disambiguation, and articles about subjects without names are usually descriptions of the subject.

--Born2cycle (talk) 20:14, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

I see an attempt to rewrite policy in the middle of a discussion because you disagree with other editors on what "description" means. Any rewrite based on Sega Genesis and Mega Drive should wait until this is sorted out or have support there. Since this change was only brought about because of another editors interpretation that conflicts with yours and you did not notify, I it becomes had to AGF with this proposal. (I am seperating that last from the seeking of more people to whether such articles exist which is perfectly fine).Jinnai 20:40, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
Yeah you shouldn't re-write policy during a discussion in which you are involved. Any case where the common name is used by less than 2/3 of sources is clearly going to need a descriptive title if the common name has neutrality issues. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:22, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
With regards to examples Climatic Research Unit email controversy. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:49, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
Not exactly descriptions, but perhaps relevant for one of the disputes that might be motivating the request, there are a few other subjects known by two name where the resolution was to use both names in the title. For example, Mount Aspiring / Tititea, Mount Grey / Maukatere, Mount Watkin/Hikaroroa, Aoraki / Mount Cook. I'm not aware of this going beyond New Zealand. olderwiser 21:55, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
This is a clarification of what is already policy. Wholehearted support. Where a topic has a name that is unambiguous with other existing titles (or is the primary topic for the name, even where there are other ambiguous names) we only use descriptive titles where there are overriding concerns. This does no damage at all to the exceptions, just captures the general precept already in place in a more clear way. In other words, the criticism of this, that it is an end run, appears baseless.--Fuhghettaboutit (talk) 22:12, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
Eraserhead has just cited an example where we use a descriptive title, although there is a name; the name is only partially accepted, and those who do not accept it regard it as partisan. The assumption that Wikipedia prefers names as such is destructive to neutrality, and we should be extraordinarily careful not to encourage it. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 22:47, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
Another excellent example: History of science. Blueboar (talk) 23:05, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
What is History of science's non descriptive title? -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 23:06, 24 October 2011 (UTC)
Okay, so when the name is inappropriate to use for reasons of propriety, we occasionally use a descriptive title, as in Climatic Research Unit email controversy. Anything else? Like I said, it's very rare to use a descriptive title for an article about a topic that has a name. If you're not convinced, see how long you have to repeatedly click Random article to find another example. I suggest you allocate several hours to find one, days to find several.

As to proposing a change during a discussion, I'm just asking for clarity on what is consensus on this issue in general. --Born2cycle (talk) 23:26, 24 October 2011 (UTC)

I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. The vast majority of titles are uncontroversial and don't need anyone getting out their googles. I'll repeat what I said above - policy is needed in disputes. If a title is disputed, it's not representative of the vast majority of titles. We cannot base marginal cases on what happens in non-marginal cases. So I don't see what the frequency of descriptive titles has to do with anything. Oh, and Mass killings under communist regimes is another descriptive title, changed from Communist genocide, and then there's Henry Louis Gates arrest controversy, which could have been called Gatesgate and at one time was callled Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. by Cambridge police. You might want to look at the subsections of Category:Controversies by year, for example Category:2009 controversies, most of which are descriptive.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 02:05, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't think that is quite right. Exceptional cases make bad policy. Exceptional cases are exceptional because they can't easily be anticipated. Policies and guidelines help in two ways. First they document current best practices (a sort of self-instruction reference) and second they provide a framework for resolving issues that might arise because it is impossible to anticipate every contingency. olderwiser 02:26, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
You've misunderstood me. I certainly didn't say we should make policy based on exceptional cases. What we should do is recognise the existence of marginal cases, which are actually rarely exceptional in the sense that there are no other cases like them. In exchanging marginal and exceptional you're making the same mistake as B2C: Mixing a proportion of the whole with a large enough sample of cases on which to base policy. For example, 100 article titles with a similar problem is only 0.003% of our total number, but 100 is far and away enough to work out a viable policy on the issue those titles raise. I'll try to rephrase the principle: best practice in disputes cannot be based on looking at what happens when there is no dispute.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 02:49, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
There's no denying that there are truly exceptional cases. I just don't think most of the ones that go through are RM are truly exceptional, and, more importantly, most could easily be uncontroversial if policy was tightened down, like by adopting this proposal. --Born2cycle (talk) 03:36, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
The proposal makes a change that implies that descriptive titles are only used when no "name" exists. That's not what happens in some cases. In some cases, the leading (by googlehits) "name" has been found inappropriate (usually because it is POV) and we have used a descriptive title instead. Controlling the name of something is a political weapon. We should not reward the ability of one side in a debate to be on message (for which there are even iphone apps these days to back up the echo chamber of the blogosphere) with their preferred title. Two good recent examples are "Obamacare" and "Climategate".VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 04:14, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
As I acknowledged above, there should be an accommodation for when we choose not to use the topic's name for reasons of propriety (or however you want to word that). But this is very rare, even for those in the RM log (see how many current examples you can find in the queue right now). Anything else? --Born2cycle (talk) 05:00, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
The way you've worded it, it sounds like we would not provide an accommodation where the "name" is inappropriate (only where there is no "name"), and it reflects an approach you've tried recently in much the same way: stating that descriptive titles are used only where there are no "names" at all. As for the number in the queue at any one time, I'll restate what I said above: the proportion of cases in relation to the whole is irrelevant. The better question is: are there enough in terms of numbers that we need to address the problem in policy? By the way, in your deterministic formula, what are the criteria for a name not being appropriate? (I asked you this above, but didn't get an answer.)VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 05:49, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
If it were up to me, there would be no such provision: if it's the way the topic is most commonly referred in reliable sources, then we should use it as the title, without regard to propriety, period.

But, if consensus insists on having this exception, I would propose that all names be assumed to not be inappropriate to use for reasons of propriety, unless there were reliable sources that said otherwise. If the issue of whether it is inappropriate is itself controversial in the sources, then go with the preponderance of what current respectable news sources are doing, as determined by consensus. There is no way to avoid a few leaves in the tree that depend on judgment as determined by consensus, but the goal is to winnow the tree such that visiting those leaves is rare.

But for now, we could easily accommodate it with this wording:

An article title is a convenient label for the article, which distinguishes it from other articles. Titles are usually but not always the name of the subject; articles about topics that have ambiguous names require natural or parenthetic disambiguation, articles about subjects without names are usually descriptions of the subject, and when the name is not used for the title for reasons of propriety, a descriptive title may be chosen instead.

Better? --Born2cycle (talk) 06:53, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Much better. I absolutely agree with the principle that inappropriateness should be establishable in reliable secondary sources. One recommendation: sometimes there is more than one "name" in use - where the most popular one is inappropriate, we can go with the second most popular if there are not problems. Could you change the last sentence to "when there is no name available for reasons of propriety, a descriptive title may be chosen instead."?VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 07:15, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
BTW, here is an ongoing discussion about a proposal to move from a commonly used name to a descriptive title for reasons of propriety: Talk:Girl gamer#Requested move.
Thanks for the link. I commented there (sigh...disagreeing with you again...;-) ). I think that's actually a case of "girl gamer" not being the name for the topic (it's too narrow going by scholarly use), not that it's sexist as such.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 10:10, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

An article title is a convenient label for the article, which distinguishes it from other articles. Titles are usually but not always the name of the subject; articles about topics that have ambiguous names require natural or parenthetic disambiguation, articles about subjects without names are usually descriptions of the subject, and when there is no name available for reasons of propriety, a descriptive title may be chosen instead.

--Born2cycle (talk) 07:26, 25 October 2011 (UTC)


  • I support this change under the condition that 'propriety' isn't used and another word (or phrase) is used instead - I don't think its a commonly used word. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 07:35, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
    • Over 2M ghits and it's the exact meaning we need. But maybe somebody else can think of alternative wording. --Born2cycle (talk) 08:29, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
      • Well maybe I'm being a bit unreasonable but it would be better to use something else. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:16, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
      • I oppose this in the strongest possible sense and then some as it is a blatant attempt for B2C to change policy to win an argument in a discussion he is heavily involved in. I don't know how many rules this breaks but espeically its problematic that he has not notified the proper parties (those on the Talk:Sega Genesis and Mega Drive talk page who don't ahve this page on their watch list. He cannot win the argument so he resorts to his shady attempt to change policy without notifiying interested parties who may not agree with him when it will directly affect them. I don't know how many rules this breaks, but it is certainly not proper dispute resolution procedure.Jinnai 17:07, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
        • I would presume we could exempt that discussion from this change. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 17:16, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
          Why? Anyway that discussion has already exempted itself from guidelines/policies in general, I think. Except for maybe IAR. ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 17:24, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
        What is wrong with trying to nail down policy/guidelines when problems with them come up? I could understand if you think it is better to wait and see what the outcome of that discussion is and then change the guideline to reflect what happened there. But "I don't know how many rules this breaks"??? What are you talking about?ErikHaugen (talk | contribs) 17:24, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Well, for me, nailing down the policy is much more important than any one particular title decision. I have no qualms with refraining from using any policy wording that was revised after a particular discussion began. Although that discussion brought my attention to this lack of clarity in the wording, beyond that this discussion has nothing to do with that one as far as I'm concerned.

As to the impropriety wording, how about...

An article title is a convenient label for the article, which distinguishes it from other articles. Titles are usually but not always the name of the subject; articles about topics that have ambiguous names require natural or parenthetic disambiguation, articles about subjects without names are usually descriptions of the subject, and when there is no name available for POV reasons, a descriptive title may be chosen instead.

This has the bonus of linking directly to WP:POVTITLE, to clarify what that means. --Born2cycle (talk) 17:39, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
  • Oppose as stated. This will be read to imply that descriptive names may not be chosen when an arguably neutral name exists. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 18:03, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Well, of course there is always IAR, but are descriptive names ever chosen when an arguably neutral name exists? Where? Even Fixed-wing aircraft is arguably the name, not description, of that topic. --Born2cycle (talk) 18:15, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes. Any name is arguably neutral, even Climategate; go look at the arguments that have been made there. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 18:22, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
While I certainly don't want to revisit that title Jimbo certainly thinks Climategate is appropriate. The only reason not to use Climategate as the title there is a project-wide consensus of neutrality. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 18:53, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
Fair enough, but the latest revision, with the link to POVTITLE, means that the decision about whether the title is actually neutral is made per that part of the policy. So having a name that is merely arguably neutral does not mean that descriptive means may not be used; the name has to be actually neutral per POVTITLE, and agreed by consensus, for that to be true. --Born2cycle (talk) 19:04, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
If I understand B2C's latest post, his proposed additions would apply only when there is consensus that a given title is neutral, which in practice is when there is consensus to use it. Pages where there is consensus don't need to apply this policy; they need only WP:Consensus. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 14:58, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Page changes

I'm of the opinion that any changes to the page from discussions here may need a separate discussion, with exact wording, announcing the intent to make the change when there is a consensus. As it is now, I suspect that many editors are too busy doing real work to participate here reading the discussions every hour and commenting multiple times. If it needs a discussion, the proposal probably needs consensus for the wording change. Vegaswikian (talk) 19:16, 25 October 2011 (UTC)

Seems sensible. Sorry for not doing that. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:51, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure about the sensibility. That approach encourages non-participation in the discussion. The whole point of starting a discussion about a change is to alert those who watch the page about it. You should at least chime in. But after a discussion occurs, and there is consensus among those who participated, to do a fly by to revert and then leave again, is not conducive to making decisions through discussion and consensus building. --Born2cycle (talk) 20:53, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
One issue with Wikipedia discussions (which I was trying to address with my suggestion) is that they often go on too long. While everyone should get involved in discussions if possible, and its extremely annoying when people don't, a balance needs to be reached with expecting people to reply over and over as people have other commitments. But then again you need some back and forth sometimes to get the point across - especially when it isn't simple.
The reason I waited a few days here with the 2/3 addition was to give people a chance to respond further. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 22:28, 25 October 2011 (UTC)
I continue to strongly oppose the change, and the philosophy on which it is based. The exact proportion which is significant does and should vary according to circumstances; we should not be hard-wiring it into policy. It may belong in a guideline; write and propose one and see what happens. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 00:16, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
If you strongly oppose the change why stop talking then when I made a really strong point? I gave you several days to respond.
And if you think "The exact proportion which is significant does and should vary according to circumstances" - if you really believe that you must therefore support doctoral thesis length discussions on article titles - or discussions where the percentage is between ~60 and ~90% always continuing until one side of the discussion is bored of it - as that is the reality that that point will produce. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 06:43, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

I only see the phrase "two-thirds" once on this page, introduced on Oct. 19, and roundly opposed. How could someone get the impression that it won consensus? Dicklyon (talk) 02:13, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

Point well taken. Editors tend to ignore discussions that are not addressing a real problem or are not perceived as POV pushing. Hence the need to wake everyone up when there is a real proposal on the table. There are too many changes to the MoS without clear and defining consensus behind them. Vegaswikian (talk) 02:25, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Because after some back and forth I bought it up again and after that PMAnderson made two points before I made a strong point and they said nothing further. Given I can't mind-read its impossible to know whether the individual has given up on the discussion or changed their mind, and its not reasonable to expect people to admit publicly when they have changed their mind as they would then lose face.
Additionally no-one else made any comments at that point. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 06:43, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
I did not comment further because I regarded your whole long post as so confused that one would have to answer at much greater length to explain what all was wrong with it. Silence did not imply consent, and it will not now. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 14:26, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
I don't really see how the post about the current rules implying a large range is confusing at all. The second post simply stated that having more deterministic rules is hardly going to make re-discussions more likely and making the same point as the first post. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 07:40, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

I also absolutely oppose the introduction of this two thirds idea or anything like it. It would create all kinds of problems, largely to do (yet again) with the use of googlehits. The reason why Climategate had problems as a title was to do with how the term was used (often in scarequotes, often explicitly described as a term used by the skeptic/denialist camp, and in other mentions the term itself was being protested). The problem with using google hits and "pro-life" was that this picked up on direct quotations of anti-abortion activists in publications which themselves explicitly avoided the term in their manuals of style as POV. It also treats reliable status as a binary condition - all reliable sources count for one, with none seen as more reliable or authoritative than another (small town newspaper counts for as much as WSJ and NYT, which in turn count for as much as authoritative academic publications, for example) - and that's quite apart from google news and scholar not effectively representing the sum of "reliable sources".

In fact, it's a good example of how these kinds of formulas fail to reproduce community decision-making outcomes. People are a lot smarter than the very basic arithmetic presented here, and we would lose a whole lot of intelligence as an organisation if we brought in rules like this. If there is an algorithm that reproduces current outcomes in disputed cases, or helps us reach such outcomes faster, fine. This isn't it.

The other obvious problem would be the POV wikilawyers, who would try out all kinds of permutations of searches in search of the one that produces the magical number. They would then bang on and on about it until unsuspecting editors passing by might think (possibly in the spirit of finding compromise) they have a valid point.

As a note - I wouldn't make an edit based on a sense of "winning an argument". You need to achieve consensus, which is something different. It's a bit like our policy of "verifiability, not truth".VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 08:38, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

I agree with VsevolodKrolikov, and also want to place on record my absolute opposition to this or any similar scheme. Any mechanism based on a fixed numerical threshold (whether it is 2/3rds or any other number) is totally unacceptable. It violates the principle of consensus and would also result in the introduction of adverserial instead of collegial editing processes. Writing Wikipedia is not a contest. Roger (talk) 09:42, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
The fundamental problem with your point is that people can do this exact same "gaming of the system" with the current rule. Except the percentage they have to get is ~60% rather than 67%. And at the other side the percentage they have to get is ~90% rather than 67%.
With regards to grouping sources you can easily group sources a bit - by looking at Google scholar and specific news websites - and that argument is going to carry more weight than a straight Google hit analysis. But you know, the same applies now, and in the Burma vs Myanmar discussion a whole bunch of people used straight Google hits to make their arguments with the current rules.
With regards to "winning the argument" I was assuming that people might be prepared to change their minds based on new evidence - I suppose that's idealistic but that's how discussions on Wikipedia should be. However to be fair your entire argument about how people make better decisions than an algorithm is entirely based on people being prepared to change their minds with regards to the evidence. If people are going to make their arguments entirely based on their pre-conceptions an algorithm is clearly going to deliver better results. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 07:40, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
I absolutely agree that one of the chief problems in many, many disputes is that at least some of the participants simply ignore evidence that should lead them to reconsider their position. One of the defining characteristics of a POV warrior is variable standards of evidence depending on how much it bolsters their position. I also agree that there is wikilawyering over what "usage in a significant majority of reliable sources" means. POV warriors will typically be on the side that wants as low as threshold as possible in their own particular case. But stating a specific number does not solve the problem. We don't have a clear way of getting the number, as I explained above. We'd replace one form of wikilawyering with another, and one which would be worse. The terms "usage" and "reliable source" are abused in order to support POV warring.

Here's an example: Disputed term A gets 30 thousand hits. Term B gets 20,000. Terms C, D and E get 17,000 each in our magical RS search engine. I've been in disputes where these numbers would be used to demonstrate that A has two thirds usage in reliable sources - because it's two-thirds more than the next most common title.

A is, of course, disputed in real life. Let's say of all the sources using term A, a third of them use it either to quote someone using the term (but they avoid using it themselves) or to critique the use of it as a biased term. Do we count that as a "use" of term A, or as evidence that term A is non-neutral? A wikilawyer just repeats the 2/3A, 1/3B mantra again and again. S/he might add for good measure: "maybe they're critical of term A, but they're still using it. Term A obviously recognisable". If you mention term C, they'll add up A and B and say "only a small minority use that term". It's bad stats, as it's possible that over half of all sources use C. We don't know how big our overall sample is - just that A gets the most hits.

What if eight of the top ten encyclopedias and eight of the top ten major broadsheets avoid term A for MoS reasons, but three hundred local newspapers picked up by google use it? Do we dismiss these former sources as "elitist" or having a "liberal POV" and as such undeserving of greater weight than the local rag for a town of 50,000? I've had that thrown back when presenting evidence of usage.

I've come across all of these tactics, and in such situations, pursuing a simple numbers rule decreases, rather than increases the quality of decision making.

We should look for the best quality reliable sources first, and not only for their actual usage, but also for their commentary on usage. This is better than doing bad stats on bad samples. You say "you can easily group sources a bit - by looking at Google scholar and specific news websites - and that argument is going to carry more weight than a straight Google hit analysis", but your edit to policy didn't say anything like this. A fundamental problem is that we can't operate a 66.67% rule and differentiate between the quality of reliable sources.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 10:56, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

The issue with your example is that C, D and E all have a "score" that's pretty close to B so dismissing them outright is clearly ridiculous and in bad faith. Even they were 5000 that would still be fairly substantial and it would be very difficult for the closing admin to ignore the evidence. Additionally even when comparing just A and B A is used just 60% of the time so wouldn't meet the criteria anyway.
The only point where you could plausibly begin to dismiss the lesser used sources would be where A had something like 40,000 hits, B had 20,000 and C, D and E had 1700 hits apiece. However if you point out that C, D and E exist and that therefore the total percentage for A is only 61% that would be a pretty strong argument that the closing admin would have to take into account as clearly 61% is reasonably clearly less than 67%. However under the current criteria the closing admin could, quite legitimately, say that they felt 61% was a significant majority if they wished and you wouldn't be able to legitimately challenge them on it.
You are probably right that people would start using numerical analysis more if there was a target - but that would probably actually raise the general standards of debate as the standards are generally pretty low (with the exception of people who follow this page). If there had been a higher standard of debate on abortion people would be more likely to accept the outcome - as it would be less subjective - and therefore less likely to change depending on who closed the discussion. There has been far less complaining about the China move request, where in raw numbers it was only 50:50 than in the abortion move request, where as I recall it was at least 70:30 in favour of the move because the standard of discussion was much higher - although to be fair the sources are much clearer on China as well.
While in the abortion move request due to the value being fairly low its likely that people being more unreasonable would try and use the lowest possible value for POVTITLE it isn't always obvious that that would be the approach taken. With the China move request the people who didn't want to use the common name would have been pushing for the highest possible value of POVTITLE that they could use to claim that using "China" to refer to the People's Republic of China didn't meet that policy. The only reason no-one made that argument is because when its 95% against your position its very difficult to argue that that isn't a "significant majority".
Your other points do have merit but they seem like issues that came up in the abortion debate with the current policy, and that the best way to combat those issues would surely be to make the policy clearer in other ways that my proposal here, or if the points they are making are particularly unreasonable to deal with them as WP:POINTy behavioural issues. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:28, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Thinking a little more it is definitely fair to say that if people just made lots of straight Google comparisons that wouldn't be ideal. However we could also change the policy to clarify what possible ways there are of showing a significant majority legitimately (e.g. comparing academic sources and comparing high quality news sources etc.) which would help raise the general standard of debate and which would hopefully address your concerns as well as giving a fixed target that I think would be useful. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 19:48, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
The example I gave of various names indeed is from the abortion debate, although my term A was the title the article moved away from. Although it would seem to be in bad faith to argue 2/3 as 2/3 when compared to the next most common title, actually it involved a lot of good faith and intelligent people, involved in a debate between two names (which a move usually is), getting drawn into this kind of binary analysis.
As for China, viewing the whole question of the move as purely a commonname one of "when people use "China" are they referring to the whole of China (including Taiwan), or to just PRC?" would be confused and an example of how issues get misframed. It depends what you're talking about. If you're talking about any period before 1950, it doesn't even make sense. If "China" had come into being in 1950, we'd probably still have PRC and RoC as article titles, even though most people would mean PRC when they talked about "China". The issue was how to accommodate the basic problem of a very unevenly split country with a long history, and where even official successor status has been inconsistent. (What would we have done if "Germany" were still divided?). The move was made not simply on commonname grounds. One of the adjudicators has been getting very annoyed with people subsequently ignoring the need for clearer-than-normal disambiguation hatnotes - and he used the word "compromise" to describe the ideas behind the move in general.
What needs to be in policy is evidence that any particular title is disputed. Discussions tend to focus on editorial arguments why a term may be POV; we really should be providing real world evidence. The level of opposition to a term should influence the threshold of common usage. If a title contains a "word to avoid", but nothing can be found to suggest that this title is considered biased, then the threshold should be lower; if there's a number of good RS arguing that it's biased, the threshold should be higher.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 02:58, 28 October 2011 (UTC)
If this were still 1988, we would have East Germany and West Germany, as we do use North and South Korea.Septentrionalis PMAnderson 15:30, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Its clear one of the issues we both agree on with the abortion debate was the lack of a proper statistical analysis of all the possible terms - this is hardly going to be less likely to happen with a specific numeric target. If there was a specific numeric target to reach you could do that analysis including all the possible titles and walk away from the debate - if the closing admin then didn't take that into account you could quite reasonably ask them why they didn't and expect them to reconsider their closure in relation to it. Having a proper statistical analysis of the different sources would have made the discussion far more satisfactory. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 20:40, 28 October 2011 (UTC)

Revolving titles.

In the current/ongoing/protracted naming debate over at Sega Genesis and Mega Drive, the latest proposal to break the editorial logjam between the two most logical titles is to use the titles Sega Genesis and Mega Drive in alternation - moving the article back and forth between these two titles every year!!

I can't begin to say how dumb this is - but I'm exhausted by the argument - I'd appreciate some vociferous responses to this suggestion. SteveBaker (talk) 17:08, 26 October 2011 (UTC)

I found it quite exhausting as well. Why this subset of editors can't just pick a name and leave it be like every other article on Wikipedia is beyond me. Powers T 17:19, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Because we have people who are fans of this videogame console who have become so wedded to their preferred name that they simply can't give it up - no matter that it doesn't matter a damn to the encyclopedia which of the two names the article is called by. It's almost a WP:COI. Now they are even prepared to see the 'bad' name be there for a year at a time so long as their 'better' name then shows up for the next year and are now debating which name should come first. It's become quite ridiculous and it needs for someone with some authority to step in and arbitrate - or enough people to go there to create an overwhelming consensus based upon WP:RETAIN (which seems to be the only tenable grounds for picking one name over the other). We have hundreds upon hundreds of other articles about badge-engineered products that resolve this exact question in a standard manner (pick one name, redirect from the other)...without resorting to mentioning both names with "and" between them, creating made up names that the product was never known by, and now "rotating names" on an annual basis. The only reason this article can't be named just like all of the bazillions of others is editor intransigence. There is no logic to it. <sigh> SteveBaker (talk) 17:42, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
This reminds me of another problem article: Some editors are apparently determined to prevent a Grilled cheese sandwich (with two pieces of bread) and a Cheese dream (exactly the same thing, but with just one piece of bread) from being in the same article. To this end, the two-pieces version has been merged to (cold) Cheese sandwich, which explains that the one-piece cooked version is the well-documented historical origin of the two-pieces cooked version. Wikipedia is a phenomenal, wonderful thing, but we sometimes make very strange choices, and then prance around saying that we can't do the sensible thing, because the prior discussion resulted in silly decisions. WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:48, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Off-topic: This is one of the funniest comments I've read in a very long time. Thank you. :) — KieferSkunk (talk) — 01:28, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
  • facepalm* Powers T 18:26, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Not to be confused with Cheese on toast. --Born2cycle (talk) 19:11, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Or Welsh rarebit. SteveBaker (talk) 20:23, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
It might be helpful for everyone to keep in mind this.[8] A Quest For Knowledge (talk) 19:40, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Yes, I sympathize with that sentiment - but we can't use that as an excuse to allow a million articles to be mis-named, or a thousand or...just where do you draw the line at the number of intolerably named articles? There is also an issue of precedence. We saw through that discussion that Pokemon Red and Blue is a somewhat dubious title that was held up as a precedent for naming this article incorrectly - and then someone found Hispanic and Latino Americans - which is also decidedly 'iffy' (Reliable sources say that "Hispanic" and "Latino" are synonyms). The more of these you allow just because editors can't agree between the sane, rational titles - the more it starts to look like a precedent for problem resolution - and before you know it, you have chaos. In this latest case, how would you feel about articles with serious complaints of bias having (as a compromise between edit-warring editors) an agreement that the wording would be switched back and forth between the two poles of opinion every alternate week? SteveBaker (talk) 20:23, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Well its not like everyone there agrees with it. I for one find it the worst counter-proposal thus far.Jinnai 20:10, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Can anyone think of a policy or guideline that prohibits this kind of foolishness? ButOnMethItIs (talk) 23:05, 26 October 2011 (UTC)
Nothing prohibits moving an article from one reasonably-supported-by-policy-title to another, and if there is consensus do that periodically... no way can it be prohibited. --Born2cycle (talk) 00:47, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
It's true that policy cannot foresee every weirdness sprung upon wikipedia. A Bad Idea indeed. One could argue the obvious principle that we should not allow internal squabbles to spill over into article content and titling. Also, that titles are expected to be stable, and this wouldn't be.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 02:54, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
ArbCom does have the power to stop the idiots; this is just as silly as, say, most of the Eastern European naming controversies. (The Gdanzig mess does involve real world hatreds, but that makes its WP reflex even more clearly a violation of policy.)
If this actually settles the matter, I see no real objection to it. Either title is reasonable; they may be the two best titles available. Unless a reader happens to drop in at the switch, he will never notice.
But let us see if they can agree who goes first, and whether the self-denying ordinance will be obeyed a year from now. I doubt both; but then I've read the life of Diocletian. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 04:35, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Seriously, I wish we had an editor-in-chief who could decide stuff like this. (Although can you imagine what Perry White would have to say about this.) Perhaps we could ask for a software update that randomizes the names of disputed articles? =/ Herostratus (talk) 05:32, 27 October 2011 (UTC)
Maybe we could use an algorithm to produce a result, maybe we could use a straight vote, or a Google hit count. If people object, possibly it could go to Arbcom. A revolving title sounds like a terrible idea IMO. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 07:43, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

Hi folks - proposer of the title revolution here. I'm not a video game person whatsoever; I've simply been following the titling discussion with interest, and occasionally popping in with a dispute resolution suggestion. My first attempt was a neutral descriptive (amended when my first descriptive title proved unpopular with the video game insiders). Next, I was supportive of a request for an arbitration panel to choose among the various titles. When these proposals went nowhere, I suggested the rotating title. You can see my proposal here, but essentially the rationale is that when you have two titles that equally satisfy the naming criteria, but no consensus to pick either, a rotation ensures that the title will always be satisfactory. As for whom we serve - the readers - they will not notice or care which one you pick. As PMA noted above, neither will they notice the switch, any more than they notice any of the other hundreds (thousands?) of title changes we make every year. And if this does indeed settle the issue, then we have happy editors who can get back to improving article content instead of wasting energy on titling disputes. I know it's weird, but I think it deserves serious consideration in this case. Ask yourselves: isn't having Sega Genesis this year, and Mega Drive next year better than having Sega Genesis and Mega Drive every year? Dohn joe (talk) 16:47, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

Before it should be allowed, there should be an RfC on it at a minimum.Jinnai 20:47, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

You know, when I saw the heading on this, my first though was that someone was suggesting we animate the title so it would "revolve" (ie spin). But that would be silly - a half-revolution per year cycle would be far to slow! Blueboar (talk) 22:41, 27 October 2011 (UTC)

Scientific Names

I am not at the present making a proposal here I may later. This is to obtain opinion and valid reasoning. First up I will acknowledge that I am a taxonomist and hence a scientist, hence I probably have a bias against common names because of the scientific innacuaracy they introduce into an artical, I acknowledge that up front.

I feel that WP would be better served and do better justice to international conventions on naming of species, if the scientific name of a species was the title of the page, with all common names known set up as redirects. My reasons for this are as follows:

  • The scientific name is multilingual hence recognised in any language, this would allow editors from other than english WP to search our pages for the species they have not made pages on yet. For people looking for information who do not know the english common name to find the species easier. You cannot publish on the web and assume you only write for North America, in fact I would have though you would want anyone to read it.
  • It would acknowledge that the official name of any species is the scientific name, not the common name, that most common names are regional and there is considerable regional variation and overlap. As an aside as the official name for a species in all languages, they do not qualify as jargon.
  • The scientific name for the most part is unchallenged, whereas common names are often challenged. This makes the scientific name a more stable anchor point for each species. As a web site, WP relies on page titles and their stability for ease of connectivity between the pages. I feel there would be more stability in the scientific names.

These are my views, as this is the policy page I would like to see the reasons for not using scientific names, not the "because its policy" I see everywhere. I get that its currently policy and I abide by it, I am wondering if the policy is a good one, with respect to species of animals, plants etc. I am not referring to other uses of common names here.

Thank you, Faendalimas talk 20:10, 31 October 2011 (UTC)

Titles like Brown bear and Flamingo answer the principal naming criteria questions better than would Ursus arctos and Phoenicopterus. There might be some topics for which the scientific name meets that criteria better, but I suggest we identify those on a case-by-case basis rather than make this a general practice. --Born2cycle (talk) 20:18, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
It's difficult. I would strongly suggest that Lion, Tiger, Dog, Cat, Elephant and so forth are the correct titles for such commonplace and obviously indisputably named animals - so for that reason alone, I couldn't subscribe to a "binomial-only" naming policy. But the alternative (to use only common-names) is also untenable. Consider things like mushrooms: We have (for example) the Panaeolus species of which there are about a hundred sub-species. Only two of those mushrooms even have common names. It seems wrong to have two of the Panaeolus XXXX articles named for the common name and all of the others with the binomial name - so applying the binomial name uniformly seems to make more sense in the case of mushrooms. Picking either binomial-only or common-name-only rules doesn't work.
So where do we draw the line? That's a pretty difficult question - but if you insist on a ruling, I don't think we can reasonably demand to rename Tiger to Panthera tigris - and I don't think we should rename those two mushrooms - so we'd have to come up with some really complicated and arbitary rule here. I honestly think that in this case, we should rely on editors to make the right decision on a case-by-case basis. Also, to apply this rule across the entire encyclopedia would be a truly massive undertaking - and to quell the rioting in the streets at (for example) Talk:Felis catus would be (to say the least) disruptive to the future of the encyclopedia. Therefore, I strongly recommend that we tiptoe quietly away and hope nobody notices this idea! SteveBaker (talk) 20:51, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
If I actually turned this into a proposal I would not recommend it be retroactive. The part that bothers me the most is people finding some obscure common name or even making one up and moving pages without even asking, citing this policy as validation. So pages such as Lion etc would not be affected nor would I want them to be. On a side note some of those pages you mention do not link to a species but really a family, eg Elephant. Faendalimas talk 20:58, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
Possibly some clarification here would be reasonable - but I don't think this is it. -- Eraserhead1 <talk> 21:04, 31 October 2011 (UTC)
I agree - if we're going to write a policy, then it needs to have explicit reasons why Lion should not be renamed in some future move debate. Merely grandfathering in existing article titles is not enough to avoid ridiculous rename debates in the future over articles like Lion - and it would have the unfortunate side-effect of protecting the poorly named articles that you're complaining of right now so that they could never be harmonized in the future. We need a better policy that somehow expresses just how common the common-name must be in order to overturn the default choice of the binomial name. eg "Choose the binomial name unless the common name is found to be in regular use in reliable sources in the majority of English-speaking countries." SteveBaker (talk) 14:16, 1 November 2011 (UTC)
I could give support to something that gave weight to a local common name in the same way Strong national ties effects WP:ENGVAR. Also to resist using common names that are conservation related, it's not good to learn that such and such "common animal" is actually endangered in a particular region. Regards, SunCreator (talk) 22:30, 2 November 2011 (UTC)
All too often we think about policies and guidelines, not from the perspective of our readers, but from the perspective of a few editors, each with their own biases. This discussion about Common Names and Scientific Names is a good case in point. We have millions of readers, yet we make pronouncements about how they are going to “collectively” behave with absolutely no basis for those pronouncements. The comment above (as an example) about the inadvisability of changing Tiger to Panthera tigris implies that if that was done, no reader would ever find the article and if they did, they would be disappointed that is wasn’t entitled Tiger. We have a very robust redirect methodology that ensures just about any article can be found simply regardless of what you search for. Once found, does the reader actually care what the title is—it’s the content, not the title they are looking for. But there is a consequence for our readers of this inconsistent naming dilemma. The one example of that is with our [Book Creator]. If I were to create a book of the pages in Category:Felis, I’d get a table of contents that was half common names and half scientific names, and a book with page headings equally inconsistent. Not a professional outcome. From the perspective of a reader, what I’d like to see are combination titles that would look something like this: Panthera tigris (Tiger) where a common name if it existed would be parenthetical to the scientific name. If there was no common name—lots of those around, the scientific name would suffice. This would not be a disruptive change, because redirects would still lead readers to the right place. Yet readers would see a consistent application of taxonomic and common names throughout the encyclopedia.--Mike Cline (talk) 19:23, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

Geographic distribution and commonname

About Talk:Sega_Genesis_and_Mega_Drive#Requested_move_.28November_2011.29 A user argued "Even if every single Indian would identify the system, in English, as "Megadrive", it still has no direct bearing on this naming. WP:Commonname is about sources, not the consumers themselves." For users unaware, "Sega Genesis" is the title used in North America, while "Megadrive" is used in English-speaking countries everywhere else. The geographic distribution influences what sources use. "Megadrive" is also the original Japanese name of the console. The pro Genesis users argue that Genesis clearly appears in more sources than Megadrive, so, despite the geographic distribution, Commonname clearly prefers "Genesis." Do you agree with his assessment? WhisperToMe (talk) 04:23, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

The user is me. The context was that supporters of the less popular of the two titles continue to argue that since the naming split is mostly along American/Commonwealth lines, we should determine the WP:COMMONNAME by counting the total population of all commonwealth nations, including India, and comparing that to the total population of the USA.
I disagree. WP:COMMONNAME clearly says that article names, as with everything else, should be determined by reliable sources, and not by trying to synthesize original data with mathematics and guesswork.
I stand by my statement, and find it difficult to understand how anyone could disagree, given the plain reading of WP:COMMONNAME. APL (talk) 17:38, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
I think the problem, if there is one, is with the conflation of 'presumed reliable sources found on Google books/scholar' with the totality of sources. The subject in question is old enough that a lot of RS aren't online, and many were magazines so won't hit those two indexes. There were a LOT of gaming mags in the UK in 90s, for instance. SamBC(talk) 18:05, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
That's as may be, but I want to emphasize that it's separate to the proposed head-counting that I was addressing in the sentence that User:WhisperToMe seems to have taken offense at. APL (talk) 18:08, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
You said: "WP:COMMONNAME clearly says that article names, as with everything else, should be determined by reliable sources" - The assertion that Blueboar supports is that WP:COMMONNAME supports both titles, so one cannot use COMMONNAME to decide which of the two are better, meaning one has to use alternative criteria. He suggested using other principles in "Article titles" and, if that failed, a coin toss.
WhisperToMe (talk) 04:28, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

I would just like to add that the opposite arguments have also been made (before the India argument came about) by the people who wanted the commonwealth name. The people who wanted the name that existed in the commonwealth countries argued that because the US population was disproportionately large it would lead to a disproportionate amount of scholarly work and reliable sources on the subject, so that even though the name "Sega Genesis" appears far more in reliable sources, that amount should be discounted (or ignored) and the name used in the most countries should be the commonname. I've always contended that the current policy is completely fair and neutral...just look to the prevalence of the english language reliable sources. If there is a significant majority for one name and that name otherwise doesn't have problems under the general naming criteria, you're golden.LedRush (talk) 18:17, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

As often happens when ENGVAR is the issue... I think we need to simply accept that there is no single "common name" for this subject. Instead we have two commonly used names, either one of which would be acceptable as the article title. Neither one is "wrong", neither one is "right". If WP:COMMONNAME does not resolve the issue, we need to look to the other principles that are laid out in the policy. If all else fails... simply have a neutral editor flip a coin, and then abide by that coin toss.
As long as the name that isn't chosen to be used as the title is redirected to the article, and as long as the name that isn't chosen is mentioned in big bold letters in the opening sentence, it really does not matter whether this article is entitled "Sega Genesis" or "Sega Megadrive'. Those searching for the article will find it, and will very quickly see that they are at the correct article. That is what is important here. Blueboar (talk) 19:32, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
This Friendeditor speaks my mind SamBC(talk) 20:04, 3 November 2011 (UTC)
It appears that there is an overwhelming majority of sources which support one name, clearly making only one choice the commonname under the wording (and spirit, IMO) of the policy. The question is whether the "fact" that N. America is (i) more populous than the other regions in which the console was launched should discount those RSs (and if so, by how much); or (ii) less populous than the other regions in which the console was launched and therefore we should look to pure population and not to reliable sources, as the policy suggests?LedRush (talk) 20:06, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

This isn't really the place to rehash the exact same debate currently ongoing on the Sega Genesis and Mega Drive talk page. Specific article aside, pre-internet sources aside, User:WhisperToMe seems to think I need to be taken to task for my assertion that sources, not population numbers should decide the issue. APL (talk) 20:13, 3 November 2011 (UTC)

Not "[...]seems to think I need to be taken to task for my assertion that sources" It has nothing to do with you as a person/editor, APL. It has to do with ideas. I challenged the assertion that says: "based on the number of reliable sources, Genesis is clearly approved by Commonname while Megadrive is not approved by common name." - Based on what Blueboar says, both titles are acceptable under Commonname, so we are forced to use new criteria to choose the better of the two names. WhisperToMe (talk) 04:27, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
Well, the question here is about whether the policy has us look to the number of English language reliable sources or if the policy has us look to populations of countries to either discount the number of reliable sources from a region or to override the lack of RSs from another (thus replacing the concept of english language reliable sources with population).LedRush (talk) 13:54, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
I've said before that WP:Commonname has a problem if it's applied as if there is either one commonname or no commonname. It needs to be rephrased to make it clear that more than one common name can exist - and as such other criteria need to be taken into account in making a choice.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 14:05, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
I don't think anyone is asking that we interpret teh policy as if there is either one commonname or no commonname. The current language contemplates there being more than one commonname, and then points us to the 5 basic questions to determine the best name from there. The question here is do we read the policy to direct us to english language reliable sources in analyzing which of the names is the commonname (or to coming to the conclusion that there is more than one commonname). Specifically, should the population of the countries be used to either discount number of RSs from one region, or to inflate the weight we provide to one name based on where that name is used, despite a lack of reliable sources from that place (and if we do, how do we implement these fuzzy ideas)? It sounds like you (Vsevolod) are on board with having other what criteria do you think should be used and when (meaning, before we look at Reliable sources, as we look at reliable sources, or after we determine that reliable sources don't point to one commonname?).LedRush (talk) 14:17, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
I think that the nature of this split (by geography among sizeable nations) indicates there is no single common name. We don't need googlehits in this case - it's abundantly clear that overwhelming usage in each country was one or the other, and ghits will simply reflect its (understandable) US bias. My own preference, given this evenness would be to consider which name was the original one, and why there was a split. I would have to go with Megadrive, as the North American name was the exception: Megadrive was the name the company wanted and got in most places around the world. I would also take non-English sources into account in a stalemate like this (we're the global lingua franca wikipedia). But I'm probably biased - I'm a Briton settled in Japan.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 15:09, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
No one is really using google-hits except on the the instant case reliable sources call it the Genesis about either 700% to 1000% more (scholarly journals and books, not internet based, but obviously picked up by internet engines) in addition to RSs in the article which favor the term Genesis.
But, let's not talk about the specifics of one case, but rather the policy in general. You seem to be saying that in situations where large geographic areas have different names for the same item there is de facto no common name (or multiple commonnames), and we should use whatever name came first. Your solution seems extreme and directly contradicted by the policy as currently written (which asks us to look for english language reliable sources). Then, you interestingly also want to factor in non-english language reliable sources somehow (would that happen after we've decided that because we're dealing with large geographic area there is no common name, or is there still some kind of weight put to reliable sources?). I just don't understand your proposal on how the policy as currently written works, or how you proposed it should work.LedRush (talk) 15:42, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
Hold on, you've gone and extrapolated what I thought might be important in a specific case as if I was making statements about policy in general, and then twisted it rather a lot. No wonder you're confused (or perhaps you just didn't like my conclusion). I'll try to take you by the hand through it as if it were a general case. Let's be clear: we're talking about here is what kind of tie-breakers we should employ when we can't choose based on common name.
  • If there is no decent way of considering the common name between two English variants based on prevalance, and if the topic is a global one, we might take into consideration usage in the rest of the world. The "Use English" requirement is not sufficient to distinguish in this case, so we look to extra ways of distinguishing. It's not denying the "use English" dictum, as both commonnames are clearly English already. (Foreign usage doesn't make a word less "English".) It might improve usability, given that English wiki of all the wikis almost certainly has the largest non-native usership.
  • If there is a precedence in time, we might want to take that into consideration, particularly if there is evidence that the intent of the maker was to have that name everywhere. In this specific case, as far as I understand, if Sega had had their way, it would have been called Megadrive everywhere.
Both principles point to one outcome, and it's one I suspect you don't like. But there's nothing here contradicting policy. Policy has produced a stalemate, so we look for additional principles. I don't see in this stalemate any tie-breaking argument for the other name that does not rely on giving particular priority to American users.VsevolodKrolikov (talk) 15:59, 4 November 2011 (UTC)
Well, I tried to extrapolate based on your immediate conclusion because (a) this isn't the article talk page; and (b) we're having a discussion of policy should generally be interpreted. It seems like now you're saying that we first conduct the normal commonname test (whether any name has a significant majority of reliable sources). Only if that outcome is not conclusive would we take into the factors you're talking about ((1) rest of world usage; (2) first in time principle). The current policy has us look to the 5 core questions if we can't use the normal commonname test to get to an answer. You've suggested a different way. And, honestly, I don't have a huge problem with this different way, though I wouldn't want to ignore the 5 core questions.
Unfortunately, none of this addresses either the instant case or the instant question. For the instant question, we're asking, in general, when analyzing whether one name is used in a significant majority of english language reliable sources you should either (a) discount RSs from high population countries/regions; or (b) add weight based on populations which might use the name. You seem to be saying "no" in your process above. If I am misinterpreting your position, I am sorry and would appreciate you to correct my mistakes.LedRush (talk) 16:39, 4 November 2011 (UTC)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── In cases like this it is best to revert to the last stable name and failing agreement on that the name used in the first version after the article was not longer a stub. That is the method that has worked for lots of articles eg gasoline and tram (to name on from either side of the pond).-- PBS (talk) 08:57, 7 November 2011 (UTC)