Wikipedia talk:Categorization of people/Archive 1

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Archive 1 Archive 2

Policy description

22 January 2005 the Second, amended version of co-ordinated policy description is removed from RfC and Policy Thinktank, and moved to Policies an Guidelines category. See also #RFC comment below on this page.

First part of this page is the former content of the article page. - All this probably needs some more restructuring, as a valuable witness of how the topic was approached.

This is a Wikipedia:policy thinktank article, "NPOV and Balance" section - this indicates that the content of this article can not as yet be considered as a Wikipedia guideline, but that Wikipedians are working on making it one - see also discussion page.

This article was initially created 5 & 6 Sep 2004 by Francis.

So far there is (apart from the remaining questions):

0. This article, as an attempt to a co-ordinated discussion of the topic;
1. The business card principle (see below);
2. An advise: no robotized category assignations of "problematic" categories to people (including some tentative definitions of what "problematic" might be).
3. The "disclaimer template" technique, also tentatively introduced to some categories (see explanation in "SCD" section of discussion page)
4. The "What are you reading?" principle (see below, also discussed on Talk page).
5. More info about "categorization" vs. "listing" techniques, see discussion page.
6. Definition of "problematic" vs. "non-problematic" in a self-regulatory process: see section 1.3 on this page.
7. ToDo-list at discussion page.
8. The "first paragraph" principle
9. The "Spectrum-Toolbox" approach

Important preliminary notice: I'm an advocate of reducing the number of policies needed to cover this topic to the absolute minimum. Nonetheless:

  • having in the end a "set of policies" (like so many wikipedia policies are in the end "sets") cannot be excluded;
  • I consider this still the "brainstorming" stage, so I'm not too wishy-washy about having too many proposals at this stage.

Distinguishing between "problematic" and "non-problematic" categories for people

The business card principle

As yet few problems emerged in Wikipedia when applying categories to people if these categories were a representation of what people had or could have had on their (imaginary) business card.

Possible - and generally minor - problems with this concept of applying categorization to articles on people are rather at the "outskirts", nonetheless some examples are listed here, maybe worth a thought:

  • If limited to this concept Saint Joseph would rather have to be categorized as "carpenter" than as a "saint" in the roman catholic tradition, which somehow does not fully make sense.
  • The present definition of socialite reads something like "being of importance without having anything specific on the business card", which would make it hard to have any category assigned to a socialite with the BC principle.
  • Erik Satie is presently categorised as "20th century composer", while:
  1. His business card, for most of his life effectively read "compositeur de musique" (composer of music);
  2. For a period of his life he objected himself to the denomination of "composer";
  3. Nobody has "20TH CENTURY composer" on a business card, and indeed "20th century" does not apply to some of Satie's most important compositions (like Gymnopédies and Vexations).
  • At the moment Antonio Vivaldi is not categorised as a "priest", while Gregorio Allegri, who also is rather known as composer than as priest, is.
  • Can lists like be considered as the equivalent of a business card for the people who listed themselves on that list, so that if they become famous enough to get a proper Wikipedia article, they can be categorized in this sense?

A general thing that maybe is not completely solved is whether or not "completeness" is a goal when a category is created, in other words: if there is a category like e.g. "priests", is it a goal to include ALL people that belong in this category, or should the attitude rather be to include a representative set? And: should the answer to this question be the same for categorizing articles on people, as for categorizing other articles?

The "What are you reading?" principle

(copied from discussion page, proposal by User:Postdlf):

The best principle that I have been able to come up with is that a category should be limited to what is most notable about that person's life—why are we writing/reading an article about the subject? If someone asked you what you were reading, what would you answer? "I'm reading an article about an American inventor." "I'm reading a category about a U.S. Secretary of Defense." These work. "I'm reading an article about a homosexual" does not work. "I'm reading an article about a gay rights activist" does.


  • Does solve the "Saint" and "socialite" issues mentioned for the Business Card principle (and all other categorization of people in the same vein).
  • Does solve composer/priest issue re. Vivaldi and Allegri (no more mentioning of "priest" category for these people), so gives an answer to the question about "completeness" too.
  • Is a more subjective criterion than the Business Card principle, in the sense that some people would not experience it to be problematic to say "I'm reading an article about a homosexual", while others might find it difficult to say "I'm reading an article about a Catholic philosopher", etc...: the criterion is more dependent on whom you're asking. Also the answer might be different depending on who is asking, probably more than what can be solved by "multiple" categories.
  • User:Quadell's contribution to the talk page seems to indicate this principle is better suited to decide whether or not to mention an article on a LIST, than whether or not to include it in a category.

No "a priori" distinction between problematic and non-problematic categories for people

Up till now the problem with this approach was that anybody intuitively experiencing any kind of problem with a category, had not much other choice than list this article for deletion: then there would be a lenghty discussion on the CfD page (usually much longer than for non-people related categories), rarely leading to consensus, and more important, leading to endless trial-and-error cycles for finding a suitable name for certain categories. And then, some of these names rather started to read like "Disclaimers" in themselves (opposed to the general principle regarding categories that it should be attempted to give short, direct names to categories).

Elaborating a suggestion by User:Sethmahoney on the discussion page, maybe a template-like disclaimer like an improved "SCD" dispute notice could be used for some time, before deciding whether or not a to list a category for deletion:

  • Wikipedians would be encouraged to be more cautious when using this category in connection to people (reducing abusive use), because abuse might lead to the category disappearing altogether.
  • Removing the category from those articles where the categorization is questionable, would still be possible (while when CfD-listed such adaptations are discouraged officially).
  • In the mean time average Wikipedia-readers, when clicking the category link from an article, are averted that the category might have been applied wrongly.

If after a certain time the use of that category becomes less questionable, the disclaimer notice could be removed (this would indicate that there was only a temporary problem with the way the category was used, not a problem with the category itself). If no improvement occurs: category itself is "problematic", and to be listed for deletion (and with more chance to an unanimous vote).

Problematic categorizations

Categorisation of people defined as "problematic" according to the previous section appears to result sometimes in more fundamental differences of opinion, see e.g. the issues raised on Wikipedia:Categories for deletion/unresolved.

In this section "problematic" exclusively refers to what is defined as problematic for categorizing people in the previous section.

As a precaution - and that is maybe the only thing that more or less safely can be said at this early stage of the discussion - it is discouraged to apply "robotized category assignation" to any article, when the used category ***might*** be problematic.

However perfect a list of people belonging to a certain problematic category might be, the perception somehow changes when at the bottom of an article a person is labelled with this "property".

This is probably the core of what this Categorization of people article is about: how to go about with these types of categories with regard to people?

That this is discussed in this separate article has several reasons, amongst which that NPOV was (or can be) advocated as well by those wanting to abolish all these types of categories, as by those wanting to preserve at least some of these categories:

  • it is NPOV not to force into a single POV (and categories are experienced as such when characteristics of a personal level are used);
  • NPOV is about allowing all relevant POV's (and not about some idealised "objectivity" which is rejected by current Wikipedia policies). So if there is a relevant point of view to create categories like "Saints" or "romantic composers", etc..., it should be possible to effectively use such categories.

So another way of stating the central topic of this article is: "How can the NPOV principle best be put in practice with regard to categorization of people?"

End Former Article Content - Begin Comments

Preliminary thought

Probably it would be a good idea that people previously engaged in this discussion or some of its aspects, like User:Postdlf, User:Anthony DiPierro, User:Beland, User:UtherSRG, User:Guanaco, User:Aris Katsaris, User:Erolos, (to name only a very few), etc... as also people from the "people" project and its sub-projects, would take part in this more general discussion - this is meant as an open invitation, and as much an invitation for anybody else!

The "Subjective Category Disclaimer"

A possibility to help (!) avoiding that "subjective" categories would be used to label people, could be created by introducing a {{spoiler}}-like "disclaimer".

Tentatively I baptized this disclaimer {{SCD}}, which is an abbreviation of "Subjective Category Disclaimer", with following content:

Original text:


This [[wikipedia:categories|category]] is inherently [[subjectivity|subjective]], and/or can be experienced as unrightfully [[label]]ing persons.

See [[wikipedia:categorization of people]] for advise on how to correctly apply categorization to articles relating to people.)

The text of this disclaimer can be edited at: Template:SCD

This template is intended to be used in the body of the text of category descriptions (another possibility would be to make something in this vein for putting above the "categories:" rectangle at the bottom of articles on people).

Maybe the name choice of "disclaimer" is not all that good, or it could be made less or more prominent when applied to a "category", etc... - I'd be glad to get some reactions!

Note that the Wikipedia article label needs editing for the SCD disclaimer to work with the present choice of words.

--Francis Schonken 12:58, 7 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I don't think the disclaimer will solve the problem, because the category tags will still appear unannotated on the articles. I think the best solution is to have a guiding and limiting principle as to what is a valid use of categories—this isn't any more contrary to wikipedia principles than it is to have the policy that articles cannot be yellow page directories, link repositories, about nonnotable subjects, etc.
Sorry, wasn't clear enough that I never would use SCD as an independent technique, I made a minor adaptation to the text above, and added a notice to the article itself Francis Schonken
And as I have always advocated before, categories are different than mere article content, because they appear (particularly to the non-editing reader) to be part of the wikipedia format and system, and serve to classify an article rather than merely add a fact.
I think the business card principle discussed on the project page is heading in the right direction on this, in that it focuses on what people have done and where they have done it. However, it does leave out what can only be judged in retrospect about a subject, or can only be seen clearly by a NPOV outsider. The best principle that I have been able to come up with is that a category should be limited to what is most notable about that person's life—why are we writing/reading an article about the subject? If someone asked you what you were reading, what would you answer? "I'm reading an article about an American inventor." "I'm reading a category about a U.S. Secretary of Defense." These work. "I'm reading an article about a homosexual" does not work. "I'm reading an article about a gay rights activist" does. Postdlf 13:32, 7 Sep 2004 (UTC)
See re-arrangment of first section of article
Thanks for your ideas! --Francis Schonken 15:06, 7 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I removed the notice from several articles that either don't deal directly with people (you shouldn't find articles about people in those categories) or deal with people who are members of a given profession (Category:Porn stars, for example). I also changed the text significantly. I'd like to throw my vote in against this particular idea as is, though, as it seems to me that it introduces a POV into the category. Maybe making it into a sort of dispute notice (which is basically what I took the liberty to do) is a better idea, though I'm still unsure. That's a lot of parentheses! -Seth Mahoney 05:29, Sep 8, 2004 (UTC)

--Francis Schonken 07:11, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC):

* Yes, I intended it as a tentative way to tackle an issue, OK for "dispute notice"! Is there a place in Wikipedia where dispute notices are listed or otherwise grouped?
* I favour your re-arrangement of the template text: more direct, less "overhead".
* Yesterday, I had tentatively introduced the template for most of the "top" subcategories of the "people" category, for most of the sexology (sub)categories, and for nearly all (sub)categories of "People noted for being in rare medical or psychological categories" (also removing "crime" category from "prostitution" category).
* I suppose I saw a possibility to use such disclaimer for categories that ***might*** (intentionally or unintentionally) be used to label people, even if these categories were not intended to be used for people. See also next point. Example: I added the notice to "people without hands" category, but not to "artists without hands" category: if in the last case the category would be assigned to an artist with, say, one hand, I suppose the assignation would rather be seen as an "error" than as a possible insult. "People without hands" might be more insulting when wrongly assigned.
* Important (and not mentioned yet before): if reading the introduction to List of famous gay, lesbian or bisexual people, Wikipedia might actually get in trouble when the "LGBT" category were assigned to Tom Cruise (even with LGBT category only intended to group other categories, and not intended to be used for people). If Tom Cruise were inadvertedly categorised as "Gay porn actor" effects could even be worse. Well, that are maybe also things to consider w.r.t. the "disclaimer" idea, in order to protect Wikipedia's reputation.
* "POV in the category": yes, I think that's where I intended it to be. Remember that Wikipedia philosophy is that NPOV = POV 1 + POV 2 + POV 3 + .... + POV n (and is NOT equal to objectivity). Categories assigned to articles are somewhere at odds with NPOV (because they might overemphasise certain POV's and obfuscate others), that's why we have the present "categorization of people" article. Explaining in the category text that this category is not more than a POV (or: subjective) can be part of a more global solution, in my view.
Here's what I'm thinking: there are categories (such as Category:LGBT) which either aren't intended to categorize people, or if people are put here, it is because they are peripherally related to the category (putting Laura Schlessinger in Category:Homosexuality or Category:LGBT, for example) or because a subcategory needs to be created (Category:Gay, lesbian or bisexual people from Category:LGBT).
The connection to any category should be mentioned in the article, to avoid confusion (in the case of Dr. Laura, it is clear from the article that she is in Category:Homosexuality because of her publicly stated views on homosexuality, not because she is a homosexual) and, more importantly, to make for better articles.
I don't think that Wikipedia could actually get in trouble for putting, say, Tom Cruise in Category:Gay, lesbian or bisexual people any more than Earthlink could get in trouble for my publishing a web site detailing my (fictional) sex with him. If this is a real concern, though, we're going to have to put the notice on almost every category, as any living person could become upset with any scheme used to categorize them. To specifically target LGBT-related categories not only suggests a systematic POV and enforces that POV, but doesn't address the issue of Wikipedia's possible culpability in miscategorization. More than that even, we might as well give up on Wikipedia altogether, because erroneous information could be added to any article at any time, as I or any other user could, in fact, go to the article on Tom Cruise right now and add that he is, in fact, a homosexual or that he is a child molester or anything else I might want to claim he is.
I was saying above, regarding POVs in categories, that the notice as worded said that a particular category was subjective, etc., and that this claim, rather than fact, was a POV.
If we do use the disclaimer, it should remain on the category only so long as discussion continues on its talk page or until the category is deleted, as is, I think, the way it works with the NPOV and factual accuracy dispute headers.
It seems like your primary concern is that someone might be offended by a particular categorization. I would suggest that we try for established truth in categorization and not concern ourselves with offending people.

-Seth Mahoney 07:35, Sep 8, 2004 (UTC)

-- Reply to Seth by Francis Schonken 08:59, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC):

Hi Seth,
Some clarifications:
* When I read the (long) "GLB people" category discussion on CfD, I think I sported your ideas most of all. I had hoped somebody else would've set up this general discussion of "categorization of people", but nobody did. So, a bit against my own intention, I'm moderating something that in my own eyes is less problematic than it appears to be at Wikipedia. Still tonight I was thinking I'd like to pass on the "moderator" part, so that I could be more direct about my own opinions. But no offence taken - suppose I was overacting the moderator part.
I don't think we're coming at this from very different angles. Funny thing is, I don't think any of us are really coming at this from very different angles. I agree that its probably not so problematic and any issues will resolve themselves in the usual Wikipedia ways - that is, categories wont be the demise of Wikipedia or of Wikipedia's NPOV standards.
* I wanted to throw up the question: should we worry about Wikipedia's reputation enough to put more disclaimers? Your POV is obviously NO. My idea on that point is: maybe we should care a bit, but not in the sense of putting disclaimers everywhere. Basicly I think there is a "copyright" project at Wikipedia (if I understood correctly), and it's up to the people of that working group to see if there is yes or no a problem here.
You're totally right about my POV on this, at least as far as worrying about making true statements that might be offensive. Obviously Wikipedia shouldn't be a vehicle for slander, using the medium of articles or categories.
* I always try to use examples as much as I can outside the realm of GLBT (while personally involved), unless when I can find none.
Good policy. I've been working witht he LGBT categories recently, so they come fairly easily to mind, but you're totally right. Something less personal and less generally contentious would be more effective.
* My basic assumption is: fact outdoes fiction. Wikipedia should in my view not take a step back when facts 'scratch' the image people have of themselves, neither should Wikipedia, still in my personal view, do any effort to support POV's based on fiction (just because they're not so 'shocking' as facts can be). Suppose the Earthlink story'd make great fun though. Don't see much of a difference with your views here.
* I understand your remark about POV in the category better now. And I also see that your rearrangment of the notice is an improvement in that sense, while less POV in the category. I'll try to merge your suggestion of removing the disclaimer when the category is no longer problematic to the article page.
Another option, I was just thinking, or maybe something to use in conjunction with the current notice, would be to have a category dispute notice that can be put on article pages, to be duked out there. Something like, "The categorization of this article is in dispute. See talk page for details." -Seth Mahoney 17:16, Sep 8, 2004 (UTC)
Discussion continued below

Categories and Lists (formerly: Instructive examples)

I renamed your contribution (hope you don't mind?), I think the category-list issues you rise a good start to talk about these topics too. Added an idea below. --Francis Schonken 17:05, 7 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I think two examples might help bring clarity: Category:Suicides and Category:Muslims. Should either of these be categories? Should both? Here's my take.

Relevant points about "Suicides":

  • It's a useful topic. I would be interested in browsing through all the famous people who committed suicide.
  • No one would put "suicide" on their (post-mortem) business card.
  • Some people are indeed most famous for committing suicide. (Jack Kevorkian patients, people who do so in particularly odd ways, etc.) For these people, I might say "I'm reading an article about someone who committed suicide." But for most entries (e.g. Ernest Hemingway), I wouldn't say that.
  • The subject arouses strong emotions and can be inherantly judgemental. It might be considered unfair to label someone as, say, a suicide and an author, as if those were comparable descriptions.
  • There are many gray areas. Whether Salvador Allende or Vincent Foster committed suicide are matters of fierce political debate. Many Muslims would find it offensive to list "suicide bombers" or "martyrs" as suicides.

All in all, I would recommend there be a List of people who committed suicide, but that this not be a category.

Now lets consider Muslims.

  • It's also a useful topic.
  • Many Muslims would put their religion on a "business card".
  • I would rarely say "I'm reading an article about a Muslim." Most encyclopedic Muslim are most famous for other things.
  • The subject can be sometimes judgemental and emotional, but less so than suicides.
  • There is mucho gray area. Is Bandar bin Sultan a Muslim? He drinks and gambles. Is Louis Farakhan?

All in all, I think Category:Muslims should be a category, but the List of Muslims page is pretty useless.

If you agree with these examples, or even if you don't, a general question presents itself: For which traits should there be a category, for which should there be a list, for which should there be neither, and for which should there be both? I don't have a good rule of thumb. Quadell (talk) 16:09, Sep 7, 2004 (UTC)

Have no answer, only an additional thought: sometimes I've seen people defend that for some topics it could be a good idea to have a "category" first, so that Wikipedians can use this category, which helps to make a list in a second step. No clue whether in that case the category should be deleted after the second step?

-- Thoughts by Postdlf, replies intertwined by Francis Schonken 15:40, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC)

As has been discussed at length at Wikipedia:Categories for deletion, list articles are often better than categories because they can be annotated, and they also do not brand an article with a classification.
Of course, if this is adopted like you write it, it works both ways: people should object to making a problem where there is none: e.g. for many modern people there is no problem in being gay. The message that is spread when Wikipedia wouldn't allow these people to be categorized properly, following the principle you give above, reads: being gay is always a problem.
Seriously: I think this principle could be adopted, but would also see it as an argument in favour of having both lists and categories for several topics:
-> Category only used where non-problematic, and without much of an explanation needed. No categories if, generally, all cases are problematic one way or another (think e.g. "suicides" as explained above).
-> List containing as well articles with a problematic edge (with a word of explanation on the problematic edge), and also the non-problematic ones (without explanation). No List if the issue is exclusively non-problematic, and can be explained in general terms in the category intro.
This also comes down to: categorization rather in the line of "representative examples"; Lists attempting "completeness".
If a category is likely to have problematic border issues as to who should be included, then an annotated list is likely a better option.
Well, if one starts to think about it, almost all categorizations have problematic border issues. Were the apostles "priest"s? See also the list of examples I gave on the border issues regarding fictional characters on Wikipedia_talk:Importance. If "completeness" is not a goal for categories, than the fact of having "problematic border issues" is no contra-indication for having a category (unless in those cases where almost any Wikipedia article is in the problematic borderzone)
If a category is likely to lump people together by a trait that may be trivial to an understanding of them, then once again, a list may be better.
Of course the concept of "trivial" is so problematic in itself, while it is so dependent on intuition: what might be trivial for you might not be trivial for me. Anyway: the more "trivial" a property is, the less explanation it needs, and the more an argument to make a category of it (and not have it in a list), by your previous argument. If it is generally considered trivial, it should not be in Wikipedia (see Wikipedia:importance discussion).
One way of looking at this last point is, does it help you understand the individual subjects that you are categorizing by that trait? If it helps you to place a subject in context, to identify something notable about them, and to group them with others by something that creates a substantial relationship, then it's a good category. If it's merely something that individuals may share in common but that tells little or nothing else about them, then it's better as a list, if anything at all. Postdlf 02:10, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Let me give an example: I wrote most of Orlando: A Biography. You might not need to know anything about the "roman à clef" thing I explained in that article: in fact I argue the book is perfectly valid without knowing anything about it. But if not knowing that as well Virginia Woolf as Vita Sackville-West as Violet Trefusis as Harold Nicolson are categorized as "GLB people" you might think the book is about transsexuality (while describing a sex-change), and not about GLB love (which it is). Really, I don't see which details about Harold Nicolson's sex-life should be in Wikipedia, apart that he can safely be categorized as GLB.
Another way of addressing this issue—if there is nothing in an article about the subject of a category, then that subject is an absolutely lousy way to categorize that article. If nothing on that category's subject can be written about in the article other than a trivial mention, then it also is an inappropriate category for that article. Postdlf 02:26, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC)
On the contrary: a category is better when no detailed explanation is needed, as you said above. When explanation is needed better in a list. The only one of the four persons mentioned above for whom I might consider a list better is Virginia Woolf, not because she would not be GLB, but because her niece wrote in her autobiography she thought Virginia Woolf to be "a-sexual", which is a kind of footnote not possible with the categorization system.
I was speaking to the relationship of the category to the article—if there is nothing of substance in the article relating to the category, then it isn't a good category to put that article into. If the subject of a category is not worth writing about in the content of an article, why would it make sense for that article to be classified by that category? Postdlf 16:38, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I completely agree with what you're saying here, but possibly from a different angle. I think that having the general requirement that an article must mention its relationship to a category in order to be a member of that category (perhaps, were we to use Category:Women, not all articles on women would have to specifically mention that they are about a woman, and likewise with similar general categories) can function as an invitation to expand an article, rather than just a restriction on the categories an article can belong to. -Seth Mahoney 17:20, Sep 8, 2004 (UTC)

--Francis Schonken 19:07, 8 Sep 2004 (UTC):

Well, the only example I've been able to come up with (Harold Nicolson and the GLB category) is maybe rather exceptional:
-> Relevance is described in Wikipedia, but in another article (the Violet Trefusis article), and I still see no need to repeat all that in the H. Nicolson article: H. Nicolson is primarily known as a peace treaty negotiator, and his GLB nature would seem a bit irrelevant to his importance in history when explained in the H. Nicolson article itself.
-> BUT, people might come to the H. Nicolson article from the Orlando book article, and than his GLB nature would be relevant. On the other hand I see no reason to explain all that in the Orlando book article, and/or to link H. Nicolson article to articles on the Orlando book or Violet Trefusis directly.
As for the actual "guideline" resulting from this discussion, I suppose something in the vein of: "As a general rule, it is preferable that an article makes clear why the categories assigned to it are relevant". OK?
BTW - did we agree on all other points re. List vs. Category distinction and use?
It seems that the issue with this specific article could be addressed by adding a paragraph on the Orlando book to the Nicolson article (which is a pretty small article, and could thus use it). It would then justify the article's inclusion in Category:Gay, lesbian or bisexual people.
That's exactly what I had in mind regarding the guideline.
I don't speak for everyone, but I don't agree with the distinctions regarding lists and categories that have been elaborated here. Here's why:
* Lists seem sneaky to me. It is fairly difficult to tell, especially for an article that lots of other articles link to, that it appears on a list. Categories are not sneaky. They appear on the bottom of the article. If someone disagrees with a categorization, it can be removed or taken up on the talk page, just like any other bit of information. Categories should be preferred in most cases.
* If inclusion in a category is justified in the article, this is better than a short blurb in a list as to why an article is a member of that list, as it places the inclusion in context. Well-justified categories should be preferred to lists in cases where an explanation is required.
* Adding a category to the bottom of a page doesn't force the reader to accept any bit of information as true, any more than any other bit of text in the article forces the reader to accept it as true. On the contrary, as it is more obvious, it invites a user who disagrees with it to make a change. Due to the more obvious nature of categories, categories should be preferred to lists in cases where they might be applied falsely.
* Adding a category to the bottom of the page doesn't force the article into that category. If it is a bad fit, another editor, maybe one of us, will change it. Similarly, the existence of a category (say, Category:Porn stars) doesn't force a POV onto Wikipedia (unless we are making the claim that "porn stars exist" is a POV). On the other hand, adding an article to an obscure list is more likely to stick as fewer editors are likely to see it. Due to the ease of adding and removing individual articles to a category, and again, to the obviousness of categories, categories should be preferred to lists where a particular categorization scheme may be contentious.
-Seth Mahoney 19:40, Sep 8, 2004 (UTC)

Regarding the "what are you reading" principle

Why, exactly, does "I'm reading an article about a homosexual" not work? I understand that that is (usually) not a person's primary claim to fame (though in the case of, say, someone like Quentin Crisp that case could and should be made), but plenty of people have interest in contributions to society by homosexuals in fields that have nothing to do with gay rights and are interested in those contributions because they are made by homosexuals, which is a long way of saying, plenty of people would have no problem saying "I am reading an article about a homosexual". -Seth Mahoney 04:44, Sep 8, 2004 (UTC)

Or, perhaps more to the point of categorization, plenty of people in plenty of situations would have no problem saying (and indeed might find it most appropriate to say), "I am reading a series of articles about homosexuals." -Seth Mahoney 16:45, Sep 8, 2004 (UTC)


As I see no imminent danger any more for the categories I want to use re. the Bloomsbury group, I restarted work on some of these articles (postponed because of the "categorization of people" issues) - anyway through the discussions here I feel more confident of being able to do so in a way that is less prone to controversy. Nonetheless work regarding the general treatment of categorization of people is far from finished, so I start a "To Do" list here (please complete the list and/or volunteer for some of the described jobs) --Francis Schonken 06:50, 9 Sep 2004 (UTC):

  1. re-structure & rewrite the body of the "categorization of people" article - done ("first attempt") --Francis Schonken 07:00, 13 Sep 2004 (UTC);
  2. re-manage list of people-related CfD articles now on wikipedia:categories for deletion/unresolved, including probably attempting to de-problematise some of these categories one level with te {{SCD}} technique described and commented above. I started working up the major topics from the "/unresolved" list, from bottom to top:

"One paragraph" principle

Here's my own recommendation: that categorization of people (and fictional characters as well for that matter) should be pretty much limited to the information that a reasonable one-paragraph synopsis of their articles would entail. In most cases the *first* paragraph of the article itself can be taken as a guide, given how it tends to tell the most crucial information about the person.

Let me know what you think -- I think this is a bit less limited and a bit more reasonable than the similar "business card" idea. Aris Katsaris 01:42, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)

And btw, no categorization based on religion. What a person believes and what he says he is are often two different issues, so calling someone Muslim or Christian doesn't indicate a fact but rather only his own claims about his beliefs. Aris Katsaris 01:42, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)

I don't know that I agree. I see your point, but it seems useful for me to see that Richard Nixon was a Quaker, to click on Category:Quakers, and see some of the other interesting Quakers throughout history. Yes, list of Quakers would also work, but the category seems more natural to me. On the other hand, the whole religion thing could easily get out of hand quickly. So I'm not sure what the best policy is. Quadell (talk) 03:14, Sep 10, 2004 (UTC)
You find a category about Quakers useful, but that's because it's a very small religious group which would therefore be manageable in a category -- and yet the mere presence of such a category would force the inclusion of categories for every other religion there ever existed. Can you imagine how horribly huge and unmanageable a category about Roman Catholics would be? Or about the Eastern Orthodox? And at that point we would fall to the problem of including people by default because we think they probably were that (given the culture they lived in) rather than because we *know* of it as a fact that concerns the life of the person itself. Religious beliefs of people is really a can of worms if used as category IMO. Aris Katsaris 04:02, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
(by Francis Schonken 19:15, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)): I commented below on the "Opening paragraph" principle. Re. "no Religion categories for people": I agree religion (and sexology, and disabilities for that matter) are the most "slippery" topics when attempting to use categorization (reason of existence for this article), nonetheless:
-> The argument Aris is making re. difference between what one says and what one does is (my POV) as faulty as can be:
-> This would make impossible to categorize Le Corbusier as an architect: he said he was an architect, everybody believed him, but in fact he was a raté painter (my opinion as an architect with a diploma, while Le Corbusier had none in that respect).
He designed buildings I believe? He was an architect, he didn't just claim it. What the fucking hell are you talking about? Aris Katsaris 21:36, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
-> Even categorizing Hitler as a "Führer" or "political leader" would be impossible with this argument (while by now everybody is convinced he was a very bad leader, seen his desperation the days before comitting suicide). (side-note: it is generally acknowledged Hitler was a raté painter too)
Yes, Hitler may have been a painter, but exactly because you wouldn't find "painter" under a one-paragraph synopsis of his life, you wouldn't categorize him as such -- while his leadership of Germany is extremely important and would definitely be included in such a synopsis. Are you responding to *my* argument or something of your own invention? Aris Katsaris 21:36, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
-> Seems Aris is more occupied with the moral value of religious systems than with the way they work and affect people. To me such approach appears very un-wikipedia: encyclopedic endeavours should rather concentrate on how the systems work, and leave the moral judgement to the reader. It's up to the reader to choose for one religious sytem or another (or none), and when making this choice nothing better than a good encyclopedia that gives him/her as well the theoretic NPOV explanations of all these systems, and easy access to examples of people that made clear to belong to one denomination or another. And that's why categories can be used for such things.
What the FUCKING HELL are you babbling about? I was clearly concerned about the subjectiveness and uncertainty of claiming someone is a believer of something. By saying someone is a Christian you claim that he believes in Christianity -- but noone *truly* knows what another person believes, we only know what they said they believe. On the other hand categories such as "Catholic saints" or "Islamic scholars" or "Talmudic Rabbis" (or whatever )are quite specific and objective and I have no problem with such categories. For example sainthood in the Roman Catholic church is something quite specific -- we know who were and who weren't. We don't know which people are believing Roman Catholics *period* however. And you can't use baptism as a criterion either. Aris Katsaris 21:36, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
-> When NPOV is defined as POV 1 + POV 2 + ... + POV n, then I think we all have to admit POV 1 can not be denied to the person whom the article is about, if there is no particular general reason to doubt that POV (but for "doubting" I suppose he'd have to be a nutcase: not so many recognised nutcases in wikipedia).
Do you think that your abstraction makes your case clearer? Make your argument specific. Aris Katsaris 21:36, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
-> Note that there is a Catholic church category, with many subcategories intended to be used for articles on people (I thought even Eastern Orthodox is rather developed in subcategories). Well, I can understand Aris he is not volunteering for managing that lot (neither am I!), but that is different from making impossible that others manage it to the best of their abilities, including the (sub)categories intended for people of these denominations.
Bull. The category contains subcategories about *beatified* people and about Cardinals and Popes and priests and stuff like that. The stupid "Roman Catholics" subcateg was clearly made by some parochial American intended to include Roman Catholic American politicians, since Kerry Kennedy and Jeb Bush are pretty much the only ones it contains -- and if it was expanded to its fullness, it would be quite unusable. Aris Katsaris 21:36, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Debating the issues

It seems like the issue we keep coming up against regarding the categorization of people is this:
First person: if a person fits into a category, the category should exist and the person should be categorized by it. Category:People with blue eyes is perfectly fine, if someone wants to start it.
Second person: there are certain things we just don't tend to think it is okay to talk about: religious beliefs, sexuality, political beliefs. Basically, categories should be restricted to what makes for acceptable office conversation (no, really!). -Seth Mahoney
As a sidenote I am NOT the second person. I'm all in favour of having category such as "Gay activists" or "Roman Catholic priests" or "Fascist leaders" or whatever. My problem is not with taboo subjects, my problem is with non-notability and with fuzzy sets. Aris Katsaris 22:46, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
That's fine, though in the end all sets dealing with people's characteristics will be fuzzy. Does Category:Fascist leaders include the Italian futurists? Does Category:Roman Catholic priests include ex-priests? Does Category:Gay activists include, say, Plato (or Socrates, whichever you prefer)? Whose definition of artists or writers justifies a person's inclusion in Category:Artists or Category:Writers? I think all these categories should exist, but that their members should be included based on debate, which is something that will generally not happen with lists. -Seth Mahoney 23:11, Sep 10, 2004 (UTC)
I think its pretty clear by now that I'm closer to the first person. The second persons seem to be arguing:
Certain categories (say, Category:People with blue eyes) will become large and unmanageable.
My response: so don't manage them. Lists have been getting along just fine without managers. Categories don't really need them either. If you stumble across an article that belongs in a category you're aware of, add it. If you stumble across an article that doesn't belong in a category its assigned to, remove it. That's it.
Certain categories represent traits that are secondary to a person's fame.
My response: we shouldn't be categorizing based on why a person is famous. We should be categorizing based on what characteristics a user may want to search by.
Certain categories will require, for the sake of an NPOV balance, the creation of opposite categories (gay people/straight people, black people/white people, etc.)
My response: this isn't true with all categories. For example, with Category:Gay, lesbian or bisexual people there is no necessary corresponding Category:Straight people because it is assumed, unless noted otherwise, that a person belongs to Category:Straight people - there's no need for the category because everyone belongs to it by default. This isn't necessarily right, but its the way things work. For other categories (say, Jewish people/people from all other religions), so? Let's go ahead and create them, or let someone else do it if they think it is justified by the existence of another category.
So here's my proposal toward a resolution. Let's list everything, all the reasons we might have for excluding certain categories, along with example problem categories, in one place (like, say, right below this entry), then invite everyone we can think of to participate, and duke it out. We can make our next generation proposals from what is left after the scuffle.
-Seth Mahoney 22:10, Sep 10, 2004 (UTC)
"If you stumble across an article that belongs in a category you're aware of, add it."? So my mere knowing that a category "People with blue eyes" exists makes me obliged to categorize an article under such a mad scheme? And yet how can I alter an article's category and *not* add it to all the relevant categories that exist that I know of? Unlike lists, categories make their obnoxious presence known to *all* articles they contain. Categories are *intrusive* even as lists are unintrusive.
I didn't say you were or should be obliged to do anything. The idea I was getting at (if you'll refrain from invoking straw men for a minute) is that most users will end up being particularly familiar with a few category trees. They will probably end up adding appropriate articles to those trees as they come across them. This is good. As for categories making their "obnoxious" presence known to all articles they contain, as far as I'm concerned that's a good thing. Like I said elsewhere, lists to me seem sneaky. They aren't obvious, which means they aren't as likely to be debated. Categories, as you said, are obvious, which means that an article's inclusion in a category, unlike a list, is in the end more likely to be a product of debate, meaning that we are likely to end up with higher-quality categories than we would lists.
We shouldn't be categorizing based on why a person is famous? Nonsense -- which characteristics are important for a subject and which are secondary is an issue that *every* article has to face.
No, see, that doesn't actually address what I said. For quick reference: we shouldn't be categorizing based on why a person is famous; we should be categorizing based on how a user would probably try to look a person up, which would obviously include all the things a person is famous for.
Do you really want to have a hundred categories for every article? Don't you think that the noise-signal ration is gonna increase very much if we have such categories as "People whose names' second letter is a vowel"? The meaningful categories are going to get lost in an ocean of nonsense.
No, I don't want to have a hundred or even ten categories for every article, but I don't think that's a slippery slope we're going to end up falling down. I don't think that Wikipedians in general are morons prone to doing stupid things (and before you start throwing out the examples, yes, I've seen them but I think, considering the number of editors out there, they represent a minority) like categorizing based on whether or not the second letter of a person's name is a vowel. Additionally, we have lots of articles that seem to have a sort of unofficial team presiding over them who, I'm sure, once the categorization thing settles down a little, will begin to choose which categories are the most important for an article to belong to. Finally, a lot of appropriate categories are redundant because they're included somewhere down one of the many trees each category is a part of, so in most cases ten or twenty categories appropriate to an article will not be necessary.

Aris Katsaris 22:46, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Seth Mahoney 23:03, Sep 10, 2004 (UTC)

Spectrum-Toolbox approach (or: A sweeping proposal)

So, taking the todo list above as my inspiration, I'd like to try to approach re-writing the policy proposal with an eye toward the /unresolved CFD disputes.

I think that there are actually several different types (or a spectrum, if you will) of people-related categories. There is also a "toolbox" of mechanisms and standards. I think that different policy tools are appropriate to different types of people categories.

With this approach, we would need to make two distinct decisions for each dispute - what standard should apply to the case, and which side of that standard a given inclusion falls. The former may often be easier than the latter. -- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)


What tools are at our disposal? (Please feel free to add more.)

  • Include all possible members
  • Apply normal Wikipedia "notability" standard
  • Apply the "business card" standard
  • Apply the "first paragraph" standard
  • Apply the "What is this article about?" standard
  • Restrict membership to non-controversial cases
  • Categorize but post a general disclaimer on the category and in member articles
  • Categorize but post disclaimers about specific people (with specific reasons given) on the category and bottom of relevant article pages
  • Using lists instead of categories
  • Segregating certain types of articles to certain parts of category-space
  • Not classifying people by a given attribute by any means

Personally, I find the "first paragraph" standard to be better than "business card" or "What is this article about?", because disputes should be resolvable by simply pointing to the fact of whether or not a particular characteristic is mentioned in the opening paragraph(s). Normal standards for articles can then be used to resolve the underlying issues. Different people have different ideas about what they would put on their own or on other people's business cards. I could ask "Is the Abe Lincoln article about a tall person?" and kinda-sorta reasonably answer yes, but that's obviously not what's intended by the standard. That is to say, it's easily bent to one's own biases. I'm also in favor of specific disclaimers. -- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Spectrum of People-Related Category Choices

What types of people-related categories are there? What tool or tools should be applied? (Please feel free to add more types, examples, and recommendations. Also feel free to disagree with these neat, tidy boxes.)

  • Non-controversial, well-documented
    • Examples
      • Athletes at the 2004 Summer Olympics
      • Presidents of the United States
      • Candidates for President of the United States
    • Tools
      • I recommend including all possible members that have articles, since the categories are sharply defined. Denote any factual disputes with specific disclaimers. -- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  • Classification on an notable, well-documented characteristic
    • Examples
      • Notable people of notable blindness
      • LBGT activists
      • Abolitionist authors of the 1700s
      • Republican politicians of California
      • Recipients of formal honors
      • Linguists
      • Models
    • Tools
      • I like using lists for this, as well, since they can be annotated, but categories might be acceptable. In either case, I think a "first paragraph" standard should be applied. People who self-identify with these categories are not problematic. People who do not-self-identify with these categories but who are deemed includable should be noted with disclaimers.-- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  • Classification based on notable but problematic, fuzzy, overloaded, or controversial characteristics
    • Examples
      • Notable people of notable homosexuality
      • Gay icons
      • Communists
      • Pirates
      • Impostors
      • Murderers
      • Serial killers
      • Conservative politicians
      • Drugs cheats in athletics
    • Tools
      • I would prefer lists or articles for these. -- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
      • Disaggregation is a useful technique here. For example, dividing "Communists" into "Members of the Communist Party, USA" but doing an article on "Suspected communists" which puts allegations, suspicions, and evidence into the appropriate social and historical contexts, "Activists for socialism", etc. "Impostors" needs to be broken up into "Celebrity impersonators", "Drag queens", "Criminal impostors", etc. "Murderers" might be divided into "People convicted of murder", etc. "Conservative" is a subjective and multi-dimensional status which might best be disambiguated into party membership, activist status, leadership status, authorship status, etc., possibly in lists or articles. -- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Perhaps specific standards should be made for various subclasses (corresponding loosely to subtrees in category-space) of the above or the below (suggestions below). -- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)

  • Political classifications
  • Demographic (race, gender, etc.) classifications
  • Sexual (orientation, behavior, etc.) classifications
  • Criminal classifications
  • Cultural classifications

(Where does "Jewish philosophers" belong here? -- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC))

  • Classification based on incidental but problematic, fuzzy, multi-dimensional, subjective, or controversial characteristics
    • Examples
      • Suicides
      • Alcoholics
      • Black people
      • LBGT people
      • Atheists
      • Muslims
    • Tools
      • All of these are interesting and important to have, so they should not be forbidden. Because of the potentially high number of people with these classifications, briefly-annotated lists are probably the best option, but categories are certainly inappropriate. -- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  • Classification on an incidental, objective characteristic
    • Examples
      • Left-handed people
      • Amputees
    • Tools
      • I recommend using lists instead of categories, and including anyone with an article, and notable people who do not have articles. Otherwise, there's too much clutter in articles and categories become too large to read or for the database server to handle. We should come up with a way for readers to easily find the list of "lists of incidental characteristics" from people articles. Perhaps from the bottom of articles. -- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  • Blatantly POV categories
    • Examples
      • Stupid people
    • Tools
      • Disallow. -- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  • Meta-categories
    • Examples
      • People known in connection with misdeeds or punishment (e.g. Jurists, District Attorneys, Criminals, Pirates)
      • People by time of events involving them (e.g. 19th century people, Births by year)
      • People by nationality
      • People associated with wars (e.g. World War II people, Resistance members)
      • Swedish royalty vs. Swedish monarchy
    • Tools
      • I think dealing with these sorts of dispute is simply a matter of coming up with titles that are descriptive and NPOV but not too wordy, and a sensible higher-level organization. -- Beland 05:52, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC)
  • Roles
    • Examples
      • Pope
      • Samurai
      • Captain
      • Mother
      • Slave
    • Tools
      • I think these should be decided simply on the basis of whether or not they are NPOV. But more importantly, I think they should not be children of Category:People so much as Category:Roles or equivalent. For clarity, Category:People should be reserved for actual individuals. But of course there should be cross-references between categories about people who fill a given role, vs. categories about roles of a given type.

General comments on the Spectrum-Toolbox approach (and "opening paragraph" principle)

  • By --Francis Schonken 16:40, 10 Sep 2004 (UTC):
    • If we were both collaborating in how to organize a local library, I'd think we would soon agree on using this Spectrum-Toolbox approach the way you describe it in detail. However, I fear it might not work well as a Wikipedia instruction because of the complexity and its administrative look-and-feel (wikipedia is wrought by volunteers!). Nonetheless the "set of tools" idea agrees with me a lot. E.g. today I've been thinking of making a split-up of tools in three groups, not according to which type of "category" one is working on, but in what stage of the process the tool could be applied: these three stages would be:
      • Creation of a category;
      • Assigning categories to articles;
      • Reading the encyclopedia and being disturbed by one or another category.
    • not all tools can be used in all of these stages - so this would maybe enable to simplify the scheme - I'll try it out if this leads to anything.
    • Still think the "Business Card" principle is the least "subjective" (if well understood, i.e. well explained if we would attempt to use it as a criterion in one or another stage), e.g. Abe Lincoln never had "tall guy" on his BC or letterhead or anything of the kind, and would not contemplate something like that would he live today (and I don't think anyone would question such assertion). The BC principle is "what would Abe Lincoln have put on his OWN BC?", not: what would someone else have put on it. "Opening paragraph" is a good idea too, I'm sure, but still "more subjective" than BC principle. We had the "robotized category assignment" revert wars, I'd fear to combine that with "opening paragraph rewrite" wars. Nonetheless I'm thinking of using something that is maybe a combination of the "what are you reading" principle and the "opening paragraph" principle: the "Could you give me up to five words/short expressions that best characterize this person?" principle: In fact, indeed, these are the characterizing words that also should be found in the opening paragraph, and it is only a slight variation of the kind of principle Postdlf proposed.

Another way of looking at things

Wikipedia is all about a sort of organic, democratic, as-little-actual-administration-as-possible approach to organizing information, and this has worked well for it. Generally speaking, instead of rules we have guidelines and suggestions, as we know full well that with a project of this size and scope there is no acceptable one-size-fits-all approach. With that in mind, maybe we shouldn't try to have formal guidelines or strict rules but watch the categories that interest us and come to a democratic solution for each. Another option would be to involve appropriate projects in category disputes (like Wikipedia:WikiProject Philosophy or Wikipedia:WikiProject Sexology and Sexuality), or start a Category:People project, or a project monitoring a subcategory of Category:People. When problem categories arise:

  1. Let categories be for a while. We should keep our eyes on the ones that we think might become problems, but give them a week or so to develop. If they do begin to appear problematic, start a discussion on the category's page and try to resolve any issues you might have with the category. If your issues are the category's existence, list your reasons, let someone address them, and come to a conclusion.
  2. Keep in mind that your POV regarding a category is a POV, and we can get closer to an NPOV category structure by involving members with differing POVs.
  3. If no consensus is reached or no one responds, list the category on CfD.
  4. The one rule of categories here: always, always seek a democratic solution. Start debates, push others to get involved, but always act with others.

-Seth Mahoney 21:53, Sep 10, 2004 (UTC)

(Francis Schonken 07:40, 11 Sep 2004 (UTC) reply to Seth:)
See new "coordinated" proposition on article page. I tried to approach this as much as I could with "self-regulatory" tools, probably the best in wikipedia context. Thanks Seth for reminding about this important insight (which is close to what I had written some days earlier in the copyleft article, but seemed to have forgotten about).

Splitting/not splitting categories by gender

Perhaps we should start with trying to agree on something small, and then move up from there. We currently have a proliferation of category schemes that both do and do not categorize people based on gender. Do you think there should be a rule?

Personally, I think the distinctions between "gods" and "godesses" and "actors" and "actresses" is an accident of English, and not a very useful semantic breakdown. So I prefer recategorization under gender neutral phrases like "deites" and "actors and actresses". I'm not sure just "actors" is acceptible, because it still has a gender connotation for many English speakers, and some people will assume the corresponding "actresses" categories exist, and try to look there or put people there without looking.

BTW, are there precedents elsewhere in Wikipedia policy? --Beland 04:32, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Hi Beland, there are of course Wikipedia_talk:Manual_of_Style#Gender-neutral_language (treating gender-neutrality as a wikipedia policy), and the Sie and hir article that treats a particular implementation of gender-neutrality. Personally I'd try to make categories gender-neutral as much as possible (but not in the "Sie and hir" way, which seems over the top in my view). Some categories might be difficult: if Aris objects to using deities as example here, try this one: w:category:priests (I re-managed this one as an umbrella-category yesterday, so not limited to a single denomination) - making this category gender-neutral could be the next step. --Francis Schonken 07:48, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)
This isn't really the proper place to discuss the categorization of deities. That should be properly done in Category talk:Deities and probably add mention of the discussion as well in Category talk:Gods and Category talk:Goddesses. For the record I agree with you -- I'd prefer merged categories for all those deities, regardless of gender. That's what I did with the (much smaller) Category:Fictional deities category which was likewise subdivided into fictional gods and goddesses until I merged it. But as I said -- such an extensive change would need discussion of it in the relevant categories, not here.
As for actors and actresses, I do find the name a bit long and awkward. I'd argue in favour of putting them all in Category:Actors with a note that this category applies to both male and female specimens of the kind.. However I think this ought to be discussed again in the relevant categories, before we do any mass merger. Aris Katsaris 05:27, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)
At least in the US, we generally refer to all people who act, male and female as actors, so actor has become the gender-neutral term. I think also priests is gender neutral. A female priest is also a priest (except in certain religions, like Wicca, we don't use the term priestess). Generally, I'd like to see gender-inclusive categories, except when a category just is gender exclusive (for example, Category:Mothers or Category:Queens). -Seth Mahoney 21:22, Sep 17, 2004 (UTC)

I attempt following summary & list (Francis Schonken 19:05, 19 Sep 2004 (UTC)):

  • General policy: Category names as much gender-neutral as possible, unless where there is a specific & acceptable reason not to do so.
  • List (cases can be added as they come up, so we can keep this as a reference, and for voting where necessary):
    • category:actors: experienced as enough gender neutral (for the time being).
    • Priests/priestesses: proposition: category:priest(esse)s - or is that too unpractical? Note that "Wicca" would not end up in this category (for the same reasons as up till now "imams" are excluded by the category definition). But antiquity had quite some women whose function now generally is translated to "priestess" (see also priest article that explains that two different groups of ceremonial people are now translated as "priest", which implies "priestess" if they were a woman - which was not all that exceptional in antiquity). Other proposition: continue this exchange of ideas on w:category talk:priests
      • The problem with Category:Priest(esse)s, aside from its unreadability, is that, for example, in the Episcopal religion women can be priests, and they are still referred to as priests. The use of priestess seems confined to modern pagan religions and ancient religions, which would push a POV. Maybe have two categories (I know this goes against what I said above): Category:Priests and Category:Priestesses, and add people by title, not gender, so there will be women in Category:Priests. Then again, are there any people that are both encyclopedic and who it would be useful to categorize as priestesses? -Seth Mahoney 20:57, Sep 19, 2004 (UTC)
        • Look at my suggestion at Category_talk:Priests. We don't need the category "priests" at all -- it's bizarre to have the same category to refer to the priests of ancient Egypts and the priestesses of ancient Egypt and modern Christian clerics (whether Eastern or Roman Catholic) but *not* Rabbis. We can instead create a category "Christian clerics" and have "Episcopal priests" (or Episcopal clerics or whatever the title is) be a subcateg of *that* if the need ever arises for such a categ. Aris Katsaris 02:26, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)
    • Queens/kings: I don't think presently there is a need for either a "kings" or a "queens" category: the umbrella category would be something like category:royalty I suppose, and if this category gets too large I would rather split up by country than by gender. Also: for royalty "series boxes" seem more advisory than categories.
    • Don't know for categories like "mothers"/"fathers"/"parents" - would wait till someone would need/propose such category for a specific reason.
      • "Monarch" is the gender-neutral world for "kings"/queens and we already differentiate monarchs by country. Aris Katsaris 21:40, 19 Sep 2004 (UTC)


Does this page still need to be listed for RFC? Maurreen 04:57, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)


FYI: Template:SCD, which is used on several of the people category pages, and references Wikipedia:Categorization of people is currently listed for deletion at Templates for deletion. BlankVerse 17:00, 15 Jun 2005 (UTC)

Ending the "SCD template" discussion above, Seth Mahoney wrote: "Another option, I was just thinking, or maybe something to use in conjunction with the current notice, would be to have a category dispute notice that can be put on article pages, to be duked out there. Something like, "The categorization of this article is in dispute. See talk page for details." -Seth Mahoney 17:16, Sep 8, 2004 (UTC)
Taking the suggestion of the two alternative notices, after the recent vote (see: template talk:SCD), an additional template was created , see template:CategorisationDisputedPeople --Francis Schonken
  • The existing SCD template was reworded, then someone decided to move the reworded version and create a new template at SCD with the old wording. This is confusing since it destroys edit history; I've undone the act. Radiant_>|< June 28, 2005 11:06 (UTC)

Appears I forgot to sign my last contribution above properly. "SCD" is not a dispute template, never was. If you want to use a "dispute template" for categories, use template:CategorisationDisputedPeople. There was no majority for destruction of the SCD template; "rewrite" supposes some sort of consensus too (which failed thus far, and for which the present page is the more appropriate platform, rather than TfD). Anyway, "edit history" being preserved, I filled the content of the SCD template with what it was intended to look like, when discussed here, now several months ago. That the new template apparently triggers more discussion than it solves, can be seen from the new contributions below on this page, so I'm glad the content according to the original intention is back. --Francis Schonken 8 July 2005 22:40 (UTC)

[copied from user talk:Bill Thayer:]

Hi Bill, several months ago you changed the SCD template from

This category may wrongfully label persons. [...]


This category may label persons incorrectly. [...]


"wrongfully" doesn't mean what the writer thought!

in the "edit history".

I wondered what you meant by that, since there's new talk about that template. [...]

--Francis Schonken 9 July 2005 09:30 (UTC)

"Wrongfully" was just a (glaring) misuse of English; it's someone's idea of "wrongly", because it sounds better.... Another very common example is "amphitheatre" where "theatre" is meant. "Wrongful" is in fact a legal term of very specialized application.
Well, "incorrectly" was not what was intended by the template. I had first written "unrightfully labeling persons". Then a native English speaker (Seth, taking part in the "Categorization of people" discussion at the time) had changed to "wrongfully", saying that "unrightfully" was bad English. I have to rely on native English speakers here, which I am not. the Categorization of people guideline does not advise to apply the SCD template when there are obvious material errors ("incorrectly"), but when wikipedia categorisation is not used in the most appropriate way. Do you think something like this would do better:

This category may label persons inappropriately. [...]

It's about the meaning of "label" too, which I intended to use in the meaning of racists inappropriately labeling jews, not in the meaning of a secretary making an error and putting the wrong label on an incoming letter. So if there's any suggestion to have a better and less ambiguous word for "label", I'd lend my ear too.--Francis Schonken 9 July 2005 11:40 (UTC)
"improperly", "inappropriately", or "wrongly" would all do, with various nuances of meaning. Yes, "incorrectly" is not what's meant, I see that now. (And "label" is just fine, or has become so by now: everybody knows what it means.) Bill 9 July 2005 11:43 (UTC)
Tx for the input, I copy this part of this talk to Wikipedia_talk:Categorization_of_people#Template:SCD now - and for the time being I choose "inappropriately" to be put in the SCD template. We'll see where that leads us. --Francis Schonken 9 July 2005 12:09 (UTC)

Categorisation by race

We should not do categorisation by "race". At the moment, some people are categorised by "race" (Michael Jackson), while others are not (George W. Bush). It seems only "black" people are categorised by "race". This is a racist bias. To remove the bias, either no, or all, people should be categorised by "race". Since "race" is not clearly defined, it's better to do no categorisation by "race" than to try to define a "race" for every person in Wikipedia. Since "race" is not clearly defined, it is not possible to categorise by "race" at all. See User:Gerritholl/stupid categories for a list of race-based categories. Many should disappear. See also: Wikipedia:Categories for deletion. Gerrit CUTEDH 28 June 2005 13:17 (UTC)

If by "race" you also mean ethnicity, it is untrue that it is applied only to black people. It is applied across the board, the only obvious gap being that we don't have Category:WASPs. See Category:American people by ethnicity. These categories provide significant user value, and should be kept. Some individual ones may be stupid, but that needs to be argued on an individual basis. -- Visviva 29 June 2005 03:43 (UTC)
I say categorize by nationality and culture, not race. Michael Jackson is an African-American, so he should be classified as such. Robert Blake is an Italian-American, and should be categorized as such. To the best of my knowledge, George W. Bush has no strong ethnic ties to another culture, so he is properly termed an American. It is not POV to identify an African-American person as an African-American; some articles read rather ridiculously (Rosa Parks, for example) without the mention. --FuriousFreddy 8 July 2005 14:25 (UTC)
I noticed that Category:White people was deleted. I've been trying to wrap my brain around that decision. We have Category:People by ethnicity/race, Category:Black people, and Category:European Americans. Not having a Category:White people appears to create a gap. - Nat Krause 14:28, 3 August 2005 (UTC)

People by date

Are there no categories for birth/death by date? I know that there is a page for each day of the year, but births/deaths have to be manually added to the page. Why wouldn't there be a category for each day for both birth and death? Gorrister 6 July 2005 13:17 (UTC)

It's on the project page, see Wikipedia:Categorization_of_people#People_by_year --Francis Schonken 8 July 2005 22:54 (UTC)
OK, I see people by year on that page, but not people by day of the year... Gorrister 8 July 2005 23:21 (UTC)
That's everything I know of. So, no, I don't think there are categories for day of the year, only lists. I suppose there are bots though to collect these birth and death days and add to lists, like it is done for years for adding to cats. But I'm no expert in that region. --Francis Schonken 8 July 2005 23:43 (UTC)

People with "missing" nationality.

I've been spending some time going though writer stubs trying to sub-divide it a little, and I noticed something: There is an alarming number biographical articles that make no mention of the persons nationality (or they may say where they where born and then say that they have worked mostly somewhere else, wich makes it unclear what nation they are most asosiated with). I asume the editor simply takes it for granted or something. On the more fleshed out articles you can usualy figure it out by looking at where they have worked and what universities they graduated from but it's not always possible. Granted most of these are stubs, and will hopefully grow natuarly to include nationality in time, but the more generic a stub is the less likely it is to attract attention, and without a known nationality they can't be put in some of the more spesific stub categories where they are more likely to attract the attention of "locals" with some knowledge about the person.

So I was thinking, does anyone think something along the lines of Category:Biographies with missing nationality, with a matching template, would be usefull? It would not be a "permanent" category, more like a "pseudo stub" category (except artuicles might not nessesarily be stubs, just missing one piece of importnat info) that would serve as both a strong hint to editors to explicitly state the person's nationality, and possebly a usefull tool for people looking for something to improve or research. Just something I've been thinking about ever since I found the Category:Year of birth missing, Category:Year of death missing and Category:Biographies needing help categories wich seem to work along the same general idea. I guess the later could also do the job, but it's less spesific. --Sherool 10:19, 12 August 2005 (UTC)


I just wanted to give a heads up that I gave this page a major rewrite today. I tried not to change the content very much. I did substantially change the structure of the content, to try to make it more usable by people being sent here by the {{SCD}} and {{CategorisationDisputedPeople}} templates, with no background on the topic. I also tried to outline the current major methods of categorizing people. I hope this helps! -- Reinyday, 01:34, 29 August 2005 (UTC)

Hi Reinyday,
it happens not so often that I come and look here again, now almost a year after I got involved in this one. What coincidence, just at the time you do this rewrite. For what I see you're doing a great job. I just removed one mentioning of "business card", while the new organisation of the guideline no longer hinges on that concept.
I've no good advise, I see that you work from acquired experience in the matter, more than I would have at this point in time. A minor thing, you mentioned "check whether category exists before creating a new one", now that's not exclusively "categorisation of people" of course (it could be in the general "categorisation" guidelines). But I understand you might want to repeat it in this one, while people might forget.
--Francis Schonken 13:53, 29 August 2005 (UTC)

Wikipedia:Categorization/Gender, race and sexuality

Obviously we should have categories about feminism, race activists, LGBT liberalists etc. That is not being debated here. People who have made important contributions for equal rights should obviously be recognized as such. The issue here is whether it's appropriate to classify everybody as such, e.g. "scientists by race", or if it's more appropriate to combine those into "scientists" since that is the more important trait. See Wikipedia talk:Categorization/Gender, race and sexuality Hiding talk 08:51, 1 September 2005 (UTC)